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A Strangeness In My Mind is a novel Orhan Pamuk has worked on for six years. It is the story of boza seller Mevlut, the woman to whom he wrote three years’ worth of love letters, and their life in Istanbul.
In the four decades between 1969 and 2012, Mevlut works a number of different jobs on the streets of Istanbul, from selling yoghurt and cooked rice, to guarding a car park. He observes many different kinds of people thronging the streets, he watches most of the city get demolished and re-built, and he sees migrants from Anatolia making a fortune; at the same time, he witnesses all of the transformative moments, political clashes, and military coups that shape the country. He always wonders what it is that separates him from everyone else – the source of that strangeness in his mind. But he never stops selling boza during winter evenings and trying to understand who his beloved really is.
What matters more in love: what we wish for, or what our fate has in store? Do our choices dictate whether we will be happy or not, or are these things determined by forces beyond our control?
A Strangeness In My Mind tries to answer these questions while portraying the tensions between urban life and family life, and the fury and helplessness of women inside their homes.
A Strangeness in My Mind is above all a love letter to the city in all its faded, messy, dusty glory ... A vast collection of characters, events, houses, food, objects that, the reader realises at the end of 600 pages, are summed up in the name Istanbul.
Pamuk is among that small group of Nobel laureates that you’re likely to read and enjoy ... Pamuk doesn’t simply write his novels, he inhabits them ... [his] novels are slow-cooked and rich: the longer you take over them, the more you’ll enjoy them.
A Strangeness in My Mind is the story of modern Istanbul, of how a decaying, mixed, cosmopolitan city has been massively expanded and transformed by poor migrants from Anatolia ... [a] warm and gently engrossing novel.
[W]ritten with humour, warmth and generosity, capturing the country's political upheaval and the extraordinariness of ordinary human life ... Do not be put off by the book's length: this is life-affirming storytelling at its finest and a dazzling portrait of the author's beloved Istanbul.'
It’s all beautifully done, suffused with a nostalgic light but also feeling angrier than many of Pamuk’s previous novels. Really A Strangeness in My Mind is a study of urban modernisation and a lament for a time before the single-mindedness of reformers such as Adnan Menderes, Turkey’s prime minister from 1950 to 1960 ... Now the developers are capitalist speculators rather than ideologues, Pamuk suggests, but their effect on the city and the lives of its inhabitants remains the same. What makes the novel so successful — and so urgent — is the way these changes are refracted through the lives of ordinary people like Mevlut, the everyday yet utterly compelling inhabitants of what Pamuk calls “the capital of the world”
Orhan Pamuk is becoming that rare author who writes his best books after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature ... Pamuk reminds me that the truly rewarding writers aren’t necessarily the ones we like immediately ... If you haven’t enjoyed Pamuk’s books in the past then A Strangeness in My Mind might well be the one that wins you over ... Prepare to fall in love with this everyman, this vendor of street-level history whose cry echoes down the years.
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