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The White Castle
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Focus on Turkey 2013-14 > novel: THE WHITE CASTLE by Orhan Pamuk

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Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) I know this isn't on the official list, but I picked it up to read since it was rather slim. Has anyone else read it?


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3620 comments Jenny wrote: "I know this isn't on the official list, but I picked it up to read since it was rather slim. Has anyone else read it?"

Definitely deserves a place on the group bookshelf. Pamuk wrote about fifteen books so far.


Silver I just started reading this book. Pamuk has become one of my favorite authors. I think thus far this is an interesting story about West meets East, and seeing the coming together, and sharing of minds, and ideas between two people of vastly different religions, cultures, background etc..

I am curious as to the significance of the resemblance between Hoja and the narrator. Does this illustrate the way that in spite of our many differences we are still the same?


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3620 comments Silver wrote: "...I think thus far this is an interesting story about West meets East..."

Currently, I'm beginning The Time Regulation Institute about whose author Pamuk humbly says, "is undoubtedly the most remarkable author in modern Turkish literature." The theme with The White Castle is similar. I love exotic mysteries and would like to read and reply on The White Castle.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) The ending was a puzzle to me so I'm looking forward to discussing the spoilery stuff. I liked learning more (in the background) about the 17th century, where learning and discovery was such an important value. Possibly more interesting than being a pirate! But wow, if you can be both....


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3620 comments I'm starting this novel. From the cover description, commentators compare it to "as colorful and intricately patterned as a Turkish prayer rug" (Byatt), "magic realism" (WSJ), and "introspection" (TNY).

"16th-century prayer rug from Anatolia"
16th-century prayer rug from Anatolia

Magic Realism: Modern Word < Margin

Introspection: The Writing Site

The Story
Faruk Darvinoglu recounts the first-person narrative story of a discovered manuscript. It's set around the era of Köprülü Mehmed Pasha (Grand Vizier 1656-1651) and of Mehmet IV (Sultan of the Ottoman empire 1648 -1687)


Sheila | 15 comments I read Orhan Pamuk's White Castle fairly recently and reviewed it. I found it was fairly heavy going in some places and flowed well in others - a bit of a mixed bag.


message 8: by Betty (last edited Feb 11, 2014 04:48PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3620 comments Sheila wrote: "I read Orhan Pamuk's White Castle fairly recently and reviewed it. I found it was fairly heavy going in some places and flowed well in others - a bit of a mixed bag."

In the backgrounds of Pamuk's Snow, My Name Is Red, and others are history in the making, but the reader tends to be mostly aware of the characters, dialogue, setting, and plots. The earlier novel The White Castle from the mid-80s affects me like the late-90s ...Red, the latter probably with better craftsmanship; both are colorful (illuminated miniatures; fireworks) by contrast to the extended wintry gray of Snow. It's in the technology of fireworks, in the captured Venetian narrator's claim to know astronomy, engineering, and scientific subjects and to teach them to Hoja that bring into view the historical background. New scientific, technical, and geographical information enter Istanbul by way of people, trade, and translations.

The earth was understood...

Tezkireci Köse...

Ebubekir Ed-Dimaşkî


Sheila | 15 comments Asma, I am looking forward to reading his other books. I started Snow years back but life interrupted so will have to begin again. It is still on my to be read shelf.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3620 comments Sheila, I finished the narrated part 'Why I Am What I Am" of The White Castle, pages without dialogue about self-analysis, Hoja and the narrator's mind games as a prelude to exchanging identities.

Re: Snow, the late-twentieth-century setting is like that of The Museum of Innocence. Though the former is set in remote, western Turkey and the latter in the city life of Istanbul, Pamuk's books are cultural with theater, films, art, politics, history, community.


message 11: by Betty (last edited Feb 16, 2014 05:24PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3620 comments The concept of identity, especially from the Venetian's p.o.v., reaches a high point in the final paragraph of ch 7. Hoja is part of a procession passing by, and the Venetian among the bystanders,
"...I should be by his side, I was Hoja's very self! I had become separated from my real self and was seeing myself from the outside, just as in the nightmares I often had. I didn't even want to learn the identity of this other person I was inside of; I only wanted, while I fearfully watched my self pass by without recognizing me, to rejoin him as soon as I could."
It will be an intrigue to find out where this real-self-seeking-another-body leads in the second half of the novel.


message 12: by Betty (last edited Feb 22, 2014 12:04PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3620 comments Concise yet accurate, bringing together this novel's amorphous threads in long-ago, exotic Istanbul, enotes. One item to add is the Hoja as fulcrum between the distant Sultan of the palace and the Venetian observer of city life, at least before the ending. In the final chapters, the Venetian takes Hoja's place at court, keeping company with the Sultan. Unlike Hoja's regard of the Sultan as only interested in hunting, the Venetian regards Mehmet IV as intellectually curious about scientific questions. But, the seventeenth century is still full of reading omens in nature.


message 13: by Betty (last edited Feb 22, 2014 04:18PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3620 comments I listened to only one of the episodes of Ottoman History Podcast and I expect to listen to several more, including Ottoman history of science, Translating Pamuk, Venice, Ottoman alchemy, Evliya Çelebi, etc, related to The White Castle's setting. In fact, Celebi the seventeenth-century traveler, etc., shares stories with the narrator toward the end.


message 14: by Betty (last edited Feb 22, 2014 09:26PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3620 comments Reading the synopsis of The White Castle in the new Wikipedia advanc.io format, I came across an explanation of the longtime, closely shared, physically similar identity between Hoja the ostensible Master (pre-modern science) and the scientifically trained, captured Venetian narrator (early-modern science), as a depiction of Hegel's master-slave theory of relationship (link in the ...Castle article). How Hoja's and the narrator's relationship develops remains open to interpretation. What the Venetian brings to Hoja are scientific developments, such as the heliocentric theory, which Hoja requests to learn. Except that Hoja reclaims the narrator who's flees to an island during the bubonic plague, the appellation of master/slave is more titular than actually practiced in the story, as the two characters become socially interchangeable. Whether Hoja or the Venetian is morally superior to the other depends on what activities you look at and how much importance you place on them. Hoja's violent, irrational, self-serving ways are pretty grim compared with the observant, selfless, infidel narrator.


message 15: by Betty (last edited Feb 23, 2014 01:59PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3620 comments The narrative's reference to its title The White Castle does not enter the narrative until the penultimate chapter 10, when the Sultan and his troops, Hoja, and the Venetian head to Edirne on the western border but cannot overtake its Doppio Castle from the Poles.
"It was at the top of a high hill, its towers streaming with flags were caught by the faint red glow of the setting sun, and it was white; purest white and beautiful. I didn't know why I thought that one could see such a beautiful and unattainable thing only in a dream. In that dream you would run along a road twisting through a dark forest, straining to reach the bright day of that hilltop, that ivory edifice; as if there were a grand ball going on which you wanted to join in, a chance for happiness you did not want to miss, but although you expected to reach the end of the road at any moment, it would never end...I thought of the road that had led us here. It was as if everything were as perfect as the view of that pure white castle with birds flying over its towers, as perfect as the darkening rocky cliff of the slope and the still, black forest. I knew now that many of the things I'd experienced for years as coincidence had been inevitable, that our soldiers would never be able to reach the white towers of the castle, and that Hoja was thinking the same thing."
Quite a lingering way to come toward finishing a novel; but rather, there's still space for a climactic event in the relationship between Hoja and the Venetian, the Venetian and the Sultan, and in the Venetian's life. The latter tells this story when around seventy.


Sheila | 15 comments Yes Asma I noticed that as well. It left me wondering why Pamuk entitled his book the White Castle - what do you think?


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3620 comments Sheila wrote: "Yes Asma I noticed that as well. It left me wondering why Pamuk entitled his book the White Castle - what do you think?"

Sheila, I am in the midst of Pamuk's The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist, in which the author talks about the experience of reading novels in 'What our minds do when we read novels'. A good novel reflects a knowledge of real life but neither the writer nor reader will necessarily discover its secret center.
"Gradually I began to see the fundamental knowledge that the center of the novel presented--knowledge about what kind of place the world was, and about the nature of life, not only in the center but everywhere in the novel. This was perhaps because each sentence of a good novel evokes in us a sense of the profound, essential knowledge of what it means to exist in this world, and the nature of that sense. I also learned that our journey in this world, the life we spend in cities, streets, houses, rooms, and nature, consists of nothing but a search for a secret meaning which may or may not exist."
Hoja does not find the "secret meaning" through interrogating villagers, the Sultan's army and weapons do not acquire the castle through violence, and the Sultan eventually grieves over the dead, hunted animals. These characters become jaded by their fruitless acts. The narrator (and his perceived counterpart Hoja) clearly sees the inevitability of past and future events, not by an endowment of supernatural knowledge, rather by consciousness of surrounding events and by self-consciousness of his part in events. There are the many explanatory, contrived stories the two main characters tell to others to save their lives. I can't say whether the narrator finds the secret center (he does marry and have children) as there's one remaining short chapter of The White Castle to read.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3620 comments Read the final chapter. The Venetian is apprehensive about his disguise unmasked. He plays it as cool, avoids obnoxious courtiers, and is as conscientious as an actor in a role in the details he provides to Evliya Çelebi.


Lucinda | 16 comments Hi! Just finished the novel yesterday, and already I feel like I need to reread it to rethink the assumptions I was making in the process of reading it the first time :) That last chapter really threw me for a loop... I definitely think he wants to leave the reader questioning the reality of the whole narrative and who has constructed it.

This book makes me want to start a mini-project on doppelganger novels, there are so many interesting themes that they deal with. Definitely 18th & 19th century philosophical debates, like Asma mentioned, but all kinds of potential for Freudian interpretations as well (if you are into that sort of thing).

Then there is the interesting shifts between magic and science, and East and West, Fantasy/ Reality that Pamuk plays with, but to say anything intelligible about that stuff I would definitely need to reread the book. Definitely think I will be purchasing this for future rereading.


Lucinda | 16 comments Asma wrote: "Sheila wrote: "Yes Asma I noticed that as well. It left me wondering why Pamuk entitled his book the White Castle - what do you think?"

Sheila, I am in the midst of Pamuk's [book:The Naive and th..."


So fascinating Asma! "a search for secret meaning which may or may not exist" - wow! So is he saying then that the process of searching is valuable in and of itself regardless of outcome?
For the failed interrogations my reading of it was that Hoja had a theory of what defined the essence of the 'other' but his attempts to prove it through the interrogations in the end undermined or undid his theory, so there is no essential other.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3620 comments Lucinda wrote: "Hi! Just finished the novel yesterday, and already I feel like I need to reread it to rethink the assumptions I was making in the process of reading it the first time :) That last chapter really t..."

Pamuk is a mental writer, getting inside his characters' minds, allowing the reader to experience the story from the viewpoint of the main character, like the narrator in The White Castle and in The Museum of Innocence. I find little of the so-called normal in Pamuk's heroes and heroines. But, the heroes are survivors, so the story is a romance, with exotic settings also. In the later novel ...Red the narrator of the thoughts may be puzzlingly anonymous.


Lucinda | 16 comments Asma wrote: "Lucinda wrote: "Hi! Just finished the novel yesterday, and already I feel like I need to reread it to rethink the assumptions I was making in the process of reading it the first time :) That last ..."

yes, he definitely is a new addition to my list of favorite authors who write about the interior lives of their characters :). Dostoyevsky is still my number one for that though... Which reminds me, Dostoyevsky also has a doppelganger novel, The Double. I haven't read it though, have you?
Anyhow I intend to read as much of Pamuk as I can find (in English translation - which seems to be a lot of what he has written, no?).
Thanks for all your great comments posted earlier - there is so much to think about in this book, it really was a great, and challenging, read.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3620 comments Lucinda wrote: "...For the failed interrogations my reading of it was that Hoja had a theory of what defined the essence of the 'other' but his attempts to prove it through the interrogations in the end undermined or undid his theory, so there is no essential other."

I'm uncertain at present about the theory of other, whether a character contains within himself an alter ego, so that he can say that his alter ego did it. In The White Castle. Hoja and the Venetian begin as physically resembling each other. Over the years of their sharing knowledge and skills, they come to think the same thoughts to the point of their becoming indistinguishable to other characters. Many personal facts about one of them is known to the other. Yet the two for all intents and purposes are essentially not the same person, though they exchange their exterior lives. Hoja and the Venetian feel differently about the Sultan's capabilities. The trek to Edirne illustrates their different temperaments (their different essences): Hoja develops the cannon and initiates the interrogations; while the Renaissance Venetian meditates on the castle's beauty and half-heartedly participates in Hoja's inhumanity. So, the two male characters essentially are not exactly the same even though they look out for each other's interests and come up with the identical solution at the end. The quizzical story enables the final spoof of their disguises.


Lucinda | 16 comments Asma wrote: "Lucinda wrote: "...For the failed interrogations my reading of it was that Hoja had a theory of what defined the essence of the 'other' but his attempts to prove it through the interrogations in th..."

yes, I was thinking while reading the book that Pamuk mixes the two approaches to the doppelganger theme, as being a) the " second self", whose similarity to you (or to your sense of who you think you are) creates a crisis of identity, and b) the opposite of one's self , who, by looking like you creates havoc or other tragic consequences in your life.

The differences and similarities between the two are maybe interesting to think about in light of Freudian psychology and/ or postmodern theories about the fragmented self, but I am not very knowledgeable about that stuff. It would definitely be an interesting project to dissect this novel for how he outlines the differences and similarities and what they might mean. Also, from my reading, they are not entirely consistent throughout the novel either. lol, I am sure someone has probably written a thesis about it at some university somewhere. :)


Lucinda | 16 comments tee hee - there is a thesis out there I am sure of it! And here is an academic article whose argument is beautifully bizarre
http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFD...
And another one by the same author, who must be some kind of expert on the novel
http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFD...
:D


Sheila | 15 comments Lucinda and Asma, I have been following your discussions about self,identity and other with interest. I feel Pamuk's book warrants really close reading and second readings (but mine has now been returned to the library) so I am not surprised that there are academic treatises written on it. And yu have certainly wetted my appetite to read some of his other works.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3620 comments Sheila wrote: "Lucinda and Asma, I have been following your discussions about self,identity and other with interest. I feel Pamuk's book warrants really close reading and second readings (but mine has now been re..."

I'm surrounded by so many books, it's daunting to be clear on which are borrowed, which are owned, and of the latter, which are on ebook, and which ebook source.

Having read, yes, The White Castle, might not the conversation between Lucinda and Asma resemble that between the Venetian and Hoja, in which identities but not essences blur? No, but it's a thought.


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