Jim's Reviews > The White Castle

The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk
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's review
Dec 02, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: 20th-century-lit
Read from December 02 to 04, 2010

This is a curious little novel about two virtual physical doubles who happen to meet by accident: One is an Italian scholar captured by Turkish ships on the Mediterranean and sold as a slave, and the other is the Turk called only Hoja who buys him. We never learn the Italian's name, because he always speaks in the first person. Hoja becomes a confidant of the young sultan and collaborates with the narrator in coming up with predictions, stories, weapons -- whatever the sultan wants. Although the Italian is well aware that they resemble each other closely, Hoja does not appear to.

From Hoja, the Italian learns that the Turks appear to have no knowledge of science, which they thought of as odd compartments in the head which arrived there by a mysterious process. What the author, Orhan Pamuk, neglects to mention, but which I learned from reading Lord Kinross's The Ottoman Centuries, there were no printed books in Turkey until the 18th century -- and this book is set in the 17th century. All Turkish books were copied by hand, whereas the Italian had access to some two hundred years of printed scholarship.

This is the second book by Pamuk I have read -- the first being My Name Is Red -- and both have this questing comparison between the Eastern and Western mind as their main subject. In White Castle, the emphasis is on science; in My Name Is Red, on art (particularly on the Koranic injunction to not reproduce the human figure in art).

Pamuk is acutely conscious of qualitative differences between the Turkish and Western minds. Not only are the compartments different, but also what's stuffed inside of them.
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Reading Progress

12/02/2010 page 33
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Justeenetta (new)

Justeenetta or any representations in art, or any art except (beautiful) architecture, & (beautiful) clothing.
puto has a very gould doubles short novel in his collection of 3 (?)
think I'll put the red book on my to read list.


message 2: by Justeenetta (new)

Justeenetta the caputo novella is called "Standing In". it's set in connecticut. a man comming home by train for his mother's funeral, meets a woman duridng a train problem, stopped on the line for awhile, & he discovers he's the double of her lost adopted son, he's lower middle class, she upper, it spins out not as one would expect.


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