Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Silent House-Orhan Pamuk and Robert Finn (translator)

Silent House

Orhan Pamuk and Robert Finn (translator)

Knopf, Oct 9 2012, $26.95

ISBN: 9780307700285

In 1980 acrimonious nonagenarian widow Fatma Darvinoglu waits for the annual summer visit of her adult grandchildren when they invade her dilapidated home in Cennethisar near Istanbul. She has lived in exile there since she married her foolish late husband Selahattin when she was a teen as Fatma has observed the fishing village turning into a posh resort town. His obsession with writing the definitive encyclopedia proving God is a supernatural myth while science only matters alienated the country’s leadership seven decades ago.

Adding to her rage towards the idiot she married, he had affairs proven by her servants Recep the dwarf and his crippled brother Ismail; while the latter’s son Hasan belongs to a nationalist gang of bullies. The only thing Selahattin did right was to drink himself to death; as did their son Dogan. Of the grandchildren, Faruk has failed as a historian but appears to be a chip off the male blocks as he heads towards drinking to death; Nilgun the only female considers joining the Communist Party; and the youngest adolescent Metin angrily envies his wealthy peers who can afford endless alcohol and drugs.

This is a mesmerizing look at the conflict between modernization (west) and tradition (east) in identifying what Turkey was, is and will be. The eight family members are different personalities but she in common for the most part a depressed outlook overwhelmed by the burden of life yet do so diversely so that the reader obtains a sort of 380 degree glimpse of a country pulled in opposite directions. Fans will appreciate this engaging but dark look at Turkey during a critical period.

Harriet Klausner

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