Orhan Pamuk is an author who’s received a lot of awards for his work. He’s known for writing in a fairly post-modern style, and some of his books include elements of surrealism and magical realism. A Strangeness In My My Mind is an exception to this rule, although it still has a few experimental parts. Sometimes, I’m a bit dubious about post-modern writers. A lot of the time, I think they regard style over substance – Brett Easton Ellis is one of the main culprits of that – but Orhan Pamuk is different. He’s the kind of writer who can make post-modern books seem more innovative than gimmicky. And that’s exactly what he does with A Strangeness In My Mind.
The main character is a person called Mevlut Karatas. At the start of the novel, he’s a relatively young person, and he’s eloping with a girl called Rayiha from the village which he was born in. After that, everything gets much more complicated, and Mevlut faces a lot of problems. The story is very much focused on him. In A Strangeness In My Mind, Istanbul is just as much of a main character as Mevlut. But one of them doesn’t make the other seem less interesting. Both the novel’s depiction of Istanbul over the years, and Mevlut’s transition from teenager to adult, are extremely engaging.
That’s where the book takes hold of you. For the first half, this is a novel about Istanbul. It describes the changing scenery, the political uprisings in Turkey, and the way the characters react to them.
In the second half of the book, Istanbul takes a step back and the characters become the most interesting thing. At this point, it becomes more like a family drama. But the book is still very Turkish – all the plot points are based around Turkish culture, and because of this it feels pretty authentic and engaging. Mevlut isn’t an inherently moral character. He has flaws just like the others, and the flaws are what make these characters so interesting.
This novel isn’t multi-layered in the way books like The Catcher In the Rye and Norwegian Wood are, which I think are pretty similar to A Strangeness In My Mind in some ways. It has the first-person character development of Salinger’s book, and the third-person nostalgia of Murakami’s. But it also succeeds where those books fail. It isn’t metaphorical in the way J.D salingers book is, or experimental in the way Murakami’s is. Instead of that, the book is authentic and engaging and keeps you turning the page despite it being over 600 pages long.
A Strangeness In My Mind is long, and it spans decades, but for anybody who’s a fan of coming-of-age or literary fiction, it’s well worth reading.
The book has a fairly simple story, but there’s no doubt that it’s an engaging one. In the end, the characters draw you into the book and because of that, it makes you care more about the ending. The book doesn’t do anything new or innovative, but it keeps you captivated from beginning to end. And really, that’s more important than being original.