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The White Castle

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  10,559 ratings  ·  796 reviews
From a Turkish writer who has been compared with Borges, Nabokov, and DeLillo comes a dazzling novel that is at once a captivating work of historical fiction and a sinuous treatise on the enigma of identity and the relations between East and West.
In the 17th century, a young Italian scholar sailing from Venice to Naples is taken prisoner and delivered to Constantinople. T
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Paperback, 161 pages
Published July 26th 2000 by Faber and Faber (first published 1985)
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Average rating 3.45  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,559 ratings  ·  796 reviews


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Ian "Marvin" Graye
A Short Start

I started reading this novel, because it was Pamuk's shortest and although I liked the subject matter of his other novels, I was worried I might bite off more than I could chew (I am the sort of person who must finish a book once I've started it, even if I hate it). So this was a taster for me.

From A to B Inevitably

I think it is fair to say that what happens at the end is inevitable. His craftsmanship lies in how he achieves it.

There is a moment towards the end of the book when th
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Paola
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, nobel, asia
Warning: you have to relax to read this book, just let go and let it take you where it wants.

This is a novel on identity: the plot really does not matter (is this the defining feature of good literature?), the crucial point is how two individuals actually become one, to the point that we no longer know ourselves who is whom.
Is the Italian slave really taking the place of his "hoja" (i.e. master, according to Adam Shatz in the London Review of Books), are they really swapping lives as previousl
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7jane
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to 7jane by: my mother
This book starts with a foreword from a (made-up) finder who found the story in an archive - and who gives the book its 'dedication to-'.... I kind of like books that start like this. Anyway, the story seems to be partly fact, partly fiction, a story of 1600s Istanbul where two similar-looking men form a strange friendship.
The author is the one half of this, remaining nameless throughout, an Italian who was captured and sold to slavery by pirates, finally owned by Hoca (a title, no real name fo
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Reem Ghabbany
"He did not want to think about how terrible the world would be if men spoke always of themselves, of their own peculiarities if their books and their stories were always about this"

I don't know how to write a review for such a book!
I'm sure it deserves more than 3 stars cause it's a unique and one of a kind story but I haven't enjoyed it that much
The ending was vague as were the characters
sometimes I thought the character Hoja was mentally disturbed and sometimes I thought he was a genius.
as f
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Mattia Ravasi
Apr 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Po4dQ...
Featured in my Top 20 Books I Read in 2017

It'll make you feel wonderfully sinister. A dreamy, absorbing novel that's very dense but immensely captivating - on par with the weirdest fiction of Calvino, Borges or Hoffmann.
Ksenia
Sep 04, 2017 rated it liked it
"The White Castle is a colorful and intricately patterned triumph of the imagination." - said the annotation. But I don't see The White Castle as a triumph. It's good but nothing more.
Pamuk tells us a story about a slave who inspite all diffuculties and troubles took his place in the turkish society of masters and a master who seemed to be insane and genious at the same time. They are similar like brothers and their mind had become similar, too. Knowledge of the Slave became a part of Hoja. Hoj
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Al Bità
Nov 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lavinia
May 14, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, fiction
Pamuk’s talent for storytelling is definitely unquestionable. Well, OK, you can disagree, I don’t care.
I loved the setting; it was basically the main criteria for choosing the book (I’d probably need to mention the reader-friendly length, as well). I loved the plot (the double / the identical twin, the capacity of exchanging not only identities, but also memories, ideas and beliefs), the framing device, the (unreliable) 1st person narrative, the mind games and the twisted relationship / brutal
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Jelena
Sep 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, this was unexpected. And, to be honest, I had no valid argument to expect what I expected, but still… Somehow I thought this would be a plot-based story or a novella focusing on a particular, specific event. Maybe the beginning just slightly reminded me of “Devil’s Yard” (I. Andrić).

In the 17th century, after a pirate raid, a young Venetian intellectual is brought to Istanbul as a prisoner and begins living in a Hoca’s home shortly after that. The nature of his captivity though is not to
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Helmisade
I was surprised at how easy and fast this was to read. Until I got to the end, I mean. Then I felt that I should start over and read it again, because I was sure I missed something. You tricked me, Mr.Pamuk! And I liked it!

The best part about this book was the exploration of identity. What does it mean, when I say who I am? What makes me me and not someone else? Not something I want to think about all the time, but excellent thoughts to spin around in the early hours of the morning.

Slightly besi
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KeyÇîya Çalî
Oct 03, 2017 rated it liked it
If you want To know the differences between a Western mind and an Ottoman mind read this book
Maybe this is the reason of our backwardness in east
Chul-hyun Ahn
Nov 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Are we really so different from one another? Why am I not the magnificent white castle that sits on top of the hill but a rusty, creaking and nonsensical monstrosity wrought in hopes of "proving things to them", stuck in mud and sinking to its death with poor, accidental participants in it? Why can't I be you? If I knew who you were, where you come from and what you thought of while eating lunch with your family on an idle summer day of your youth? Are there really things to be found inside ones ...more
Hend
Feb 03, 2012 rated it did not like it
i didn't like it, but may be because i expected a lot from it as a historical novel...
it was boring for me, i leave it several times,but finally i finished it...
Marci
Jul 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
I'll be honest, I was pretty bored and disappointed.
rr
I wanted to love this book, and it seems uncomfortably unintellectual for me to say that I have mixed feelings about it. Much of the time I felt like I was reading through a haze which had the added effect of slowing all action down. The end of the novel I first found vexing in the extreme--I spent the whole rest of the day after I finished it in a snit. But I've made my peace with it, and I understand (I think) why it may have done what it did. In the end, I'm glad I read it, but I didn't entir ...more
Felek
Dec 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 Stars!
At night we'd spend most of our time waiting, waiting for the wind or the snow to stop, waiting for the last cries of the peddlers passing by in the street late at night, for the fire to die down so we could put more wood in the stove...
I learned that life was to be enjoyed rather than merely endured!
The book was a little repetitive, but interesting. Hoja (I couldn't stand him) reminded me of the character "Olive" in "my name is red".
Shovelmonkey1
Jun 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Herkes
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: Orhan Pamuk Bey kitaplar
Shelves: turkey, read-in-2011
The White Castle, or Beyaz Kale as it was first printed in Turkish is a book which looks long and hard at the idea of personal identity. The narrator asks "Of what importance is it who a man is? The important thing is what we have done and will do." This Kafka-esque statement eloquently sums up the essence of the two main characters, the Hoja (teacher) and his Italian slave. Throughout their time together slave and master are caught in a tussle over their identities.

Both recognise the similarit
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Lisa (Harmonybites)
Orhan Pamuk has won the Nobel Prize for literature and is supposed to be the premier man of letters in contemporary Turkey. However, I noted that more than one person on my friends' list on Goodreads was less than enthused with his books. Thus, instead of reading his more famous My Name is Red or Snow, I deliberately chose the slimmest volume on the shelf for my introduction--The White Castle--a mere 161 pages--yet this couldn't hold me even that far.

Set in seventeenth century Turkey, it's the f
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Wayne
Feb 23, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: wanting something a bit different
Recommended to Wayne by: the writer's nationality and reputation
This charming novella in style and size and subject matter became a dreary haul too soon.
The relationship between the poor Italian slave and his neurotic look-alike Turkish master just became tedious and repetitive. Although I eventually tried to gallop towards the end it seemed to grow ever distant.

HOWEVER (wonderful word that!!),the last chapters were moving.
And the poor Turk's determination to prove that one's enemies are thoroughly evil...so much like the recent Coalition of the Willing and
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Ayu Palar
Sep 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
It's always interesting to know how authors improve from their first novel to their last one. I first encountered Pamuk's world of words through My Name is Red, and after several novels, I finally got in touch with his debut novel, The White Castle. I have to say that his father was completely right when he said his son would get a Nobel prize someday. Pamuk got the natural talent to be one of the most memorable writers in the world.

In The White Castle, there are seeds that would bloom in My Na
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Vicky
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
In 1961 while writing"The Rhetoric of Fiction" Wayne C. Booth coined the phrase "unreliable narrator."This book surely has one but,such is the genius of author,Orhan Pamuk,I had no idea until nearing the end of the story!

Everything is straightforward at first.Pamuk introduces the main story as one he found in an old trunk in a forgotten archive in Gebze,Turkey, in which he used to "rummage"for a week each summer.It stood out amidst an array of old goverment documents bound in a "dreamlike blue"
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
In my year of reading Turkish literature, I knew I should get through more of Pamuk. A few questions always cross my mind when reading Pamuk: 1) Am I understanding the nuance of the language as he wrote it in Turkish or is something lost in translation? and 2) Is this really the same Pamuk?

So far, every Pamuk I read is different in style, setting, and tone. This one is set in the 17th century, with an Italian noble being taken by Turkish pirates (well, Ottoman, really) and taken into the servic
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Bettie
Aug 10, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bettie by: swapped for number9dream - sandybanks
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aziza
Feb 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
The plot of The White Castle seems simple enough: During the seventeenth century, a Venetian is kidnapped by Turkish raiders and sold into slavery to a Turkish scholar who oddly enough looks a lot like him. The two men start studying biology, astronomy, and engineering together, and even try to construct a powerful weapon for the Sultan. Tellingly, the latter seems more interested in legends and soothe-saying than in modern inventions and advances. The novel ends questioning the protagonist as w ...more
Gaby
Jul 18, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
While reading "The White Castle" I was thinking I’d give 3 stars, but the more I think about it, the more I realize even saying that “it was ok” would be a lie. Had it not been such a short book, I probably wouldn’t have managed to read to the end. It’s an interesting story (if you suspend your disbelief regarding doppelgangers) and it has a good ending, but it dragged at parts and the narration was all over the place. The characters’ relationship should have been complex and compelling but inst ...more
Chris_P
I think this was not the appropriate time for me to read this book. While I was reading it I wasn't really interested, though I somehow knew that it should interest me. When I reached the end, I was sure. You know how sometimes you can't fully appreciate something, while at another time you know you would have. It just wasn't the right time.
Eleanor
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is like a wonderful labyrinth, or a hall of mirrors. What is real? What is imagined? Can we ever know the truth of something or someone?

In a word: brilliant.
Mike
Jul 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
After reading “My Name is Red”, I knew that I would be reading more by Mr. Pamuk. So, in preparation for a multi-week trip overseas, I scoped out the volumes in the local library branch. In a way, “The White Castle” was pre-selected both for size (light, good form factor for reading in planes, trains, and hotels) and for holding my interest (I read the blurbs on the books that were available). Usually, I won’t do such pre-screening other than to look at the cover. (You’d be surprised how many de ...more
Camille Tesch
Jun 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
I expected more from a book that won the pulitzer prize. As I read it, I kept thinking of the prince and the pauper. While it has some elements of that, it's more about identity and what makes us who we are and different or the same as other people. I thought the writing was well done, but I didn't like the characters. There is too much going on about how the main characters think they're better than the common masses. There's talk about science and becoming scholars, but the characters are all ...more
Laura
Feb 08, 2017 rated it liked it
I found it fairly engaging. It relied heavily on the idea of the doppelganger. I found it really interesting that the narrator and his double both had their flaws and good attributes instead of one being the darker or evil one.

Although the novel isn't long I did find the concept tediously drawn out about 3/4 of the way through.
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Orhan Pamuk was born in Istanbul in 1952 and grew up in a large family similar to those which he describes in his novels Cevdet Bey and His Sons and The Black Book, in the wealthy westernised district of Nisantasi. As he writes in his autobiographical book Istanbul, from his childhood until the age of 22 he devoted himself largely to painting and dreamed of becoming an artist. After graduating fro ...more
“في تلك الأيام ربما كانت هذهِ هي الطريقة الوحيدة التي يفهم بها أحدنا الآخر: كان كل منّا لا يبالي بالآخر.” 19 likes
“You cannot embark on life, that one-off coach ride, once again when it is over,
but if you have a book in your hand, no matter how complex or difficult, when you have finished it, you can, if you wish, go back to the beginning, read it again, and thus understand that which is difficult and, with it, understand life as well.”
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