Thursday, September 24, 2009

The White Castle

The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk

I wanted to like The White Castle more than I actually did, which is why I think it took me so long to finish the book despite its relatively short length.

There's a bit of metanarrative: the story does not stand on its own. The novel begins with some text about a contemporary researcher coming across this obscure 17th century manuscript, which he is now bringing to light.

The novel is primarily concerned with two characters: Him (the unnamed narrator), an Italian Christian captured at sea by a group of Ottoman Turks, and Hoja, the Turk who becomes his master. The two look eerily alike and are similar in many ways despite their mutual hatred* of each other. Pamuk uses these facts to explore identity and sense of self.

The White Castle is a very slow read without a lot of narrative thrust. I quite liked this line from somewhere near the end of the book: "I have now come to the end of my book. Perhaps discerning readers, deciding my story was actually finished long ago, have already tossed it aside." Very tongue-in-cheek, but quite apropos.

* theirs is truly a love-hate relationship

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