Frank's Reviews > The New Life

The New Life by Orhan Pamuk
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's review
May 28, 2011

really liked it

“I read a book one day and my whole life was changed.” Thus begins this book about a book — Turkish author Pamuk certainly is not the first to use that idea.

The protagonist, a civil engineering student at Technical University, picks up a book because he was attracted to the pretty girl who was reading it. His rapturous description of the book’s power seems facile at first, since no details are provided. Is the book about politics, religion, philosophy, what? How can one write this much about a book without disclosing at least a tidbit of its subject or contents?

This bothered me at first, however as the protagonists new life unfolds my complaint withered away in the strong light of Pamuk’s powerful storytelling. In chapter 2 the protagonist falls in love with the girl. His intense inner voice reminds me of a bourgeois Nabokovian character, while the plot is positively Borgesian, slowly enmeshing every tiny detail into a self-referential black hole. I was riveted by chapter 3, and found chapter 4, where our hero spends his life randomly taking busses from town to unplanned town finding rapture in bus accidents, uniquely moving and comforting. I laughed out loud on several occations.

The innundation of the east by western culture and merchandise; railroads vs busses; angels on caramel wrappers; comic books and circus tents; love, jealousy and time — these themes and much more make it a rich and enjoyable reading experience.
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