Thursday, 13 June 2013

Den Svarta Boken / The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk (2.5/5)

First published: 1990
Original title: Kara Kitap
Original language: Turkish
Translation to Swedish by: Jan Verner-Carlsson
Page count: 410

GoodReads says: Galip is a lawyer living in Istanbul. His wife, the detective novel–loving Ruya, has disappeared. Could she have left him for her ex-husband or Celâl, a popular newspaper columnist? But Celâl, too, seems to have vanished. As Galip investigates, he finds himself assuming the enviable Celâl's identity, wearing his clothes, answering his phone calls, even writing his columns. Galip pursues every conceivable clue, but the nature of the mystery keeps changing, and when he receives a death threat, he begins to fear the worst.

I say: I read this in Swedish for uni, so any comments about the language may be specific for that translation. And I have many comments about the language and the prose.
Quite frankly, this bored me all the way through.

I don’t particularly like detective stories and having to suffer through something I otherwise would have tossed to the side due to uni made me resent this.

A lot.
The composition in flawless, I have to give Pamuk that. And the plot itself is interesting. What I took issue with was that I couldn’t get into the prose. The narrator, Galip, was so full of contradiction and neurosis, and was just so annoying that I didn’t want to follow him on his search for his wife. And then we have newspaper articles written by his uncle Celâl strewn in every other chapter that I found to be dull and conceited. Yes, this was the way Celâl wrote, but I hated it.

There were a few passages about Istanbul’s history that I thought were fascinating, and they are the only redeeming parts of the novel. Because even though we spent a lot of time discussing the novel and what it meant – and I feel like I need to stress that it is a very well-written piece of literature that is apparently already a modern classic in Turkey - I can’t get over how much I struggled to get through it.
So, despite the fact that I usually hammer on about how I prefer a well-written book with less plot over a poorly written book with a great plot, The Black Book throws that notion out the window. But then again, just because I novel I well-written doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s written in a style that I enjoy. So yeah, not my type of literature and therefore I was never destined to like it, and I think 2.5/5 gives a good enough idea of how I feel about it.

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