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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the greatest that a historical novel can offer
I have wanted to read something by this author for some time. He came recommended as a truly unique voice, with the additional interest of being a Turk steeped in the mores and traditions of his country and yet able to view them with some satirical distance.

SO I was very happy to discover this volume and was not disappointed. It is a first-rate historical...
Published on 30 Aug 2011 by rob crawford

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars white castle
I like Orhan Pamuk's writing but I am not liking this book so far. perhaps because I do not know the historical background. though it is going to take a lot of time.
Published 3 months ago by Nancy Wilson


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the greatest that a historical novel can offer, 30 Aug 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The White Castle (Paperback)
I have wanted to read something by this author for some time. He came recommended as a truly unique voice, with the additional interest of being a Turk steeped in the mores and traditions of his country and yet able to view them with some satirical distance.

SO I was very happy to discover this volume and was not disappointed. It is a first-rate historical novel set in the Ottoman Empire during the beginning of the Enlightenment in Europe. Without giving away any secrets, the plot follows a young Venetian university graduate who is enslaved and given to a Turkish savant, who wishes to learn from him as much as he can. From the most horrible humiliations and labor, the young Venetian rises to the top of Ottoman society, all the time battling to maintain an identity independent from his owner.

The historical details are fascinating and often very funny. The reader witnesses the limits of proto-science in a more of less Medieval Islamic culture, which is viewed as half magic but also as full of potential power. Then there is the Ottoman court, in which the slave and his owner become key players through guile and some scientific accomplishments, in particular during the plague. The intrigues are full of tension and mystery, a world glimpsed but not wholly explained in a perfect balance of novelistic art.

Finally, there is the inter-play between slave and owner, a conflict that is brutal and terrifying and yet a rare treat for the reader. The psychology of this conflict, I found, is extremely profound and realistic, showing the effect that each had on the other as the years passed. It is also full of surprises.

Highest recommendation.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An important new voice for Turkey, 21 May 2009
By 
Mutt (Ankara, Turkey) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The White Castle (Paperback)
Future Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk draws heavily on his own highly competitive relationship with his smarter older brother for this curious little musing on the nature of identity that updates the classic tale of "The Prince and the Pauper" to Istanbul in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire for a slim but painfully engaging first novel from a fresh young voice before he became mired in the twisted politics of his homeland.

The bland narrator, an Italian scholar captured and brought to Turkey as a slave, brings a unique perspective to this rarefied milieu as he is drawn into an uncomfortable and almost sadomasochistic relationship with his equally uninspiring master, a wannabe Turkish intellectual, and the two set out to outdo and even undo each other in reinvigorating the sick man of Europe with the latest in 17th century scientific advancements.

The novel provides little atmosphere and no dialogue in its often-discomforting recreation of Ottoman era Istanbul that merely serves as a cipher for an exploration of Turkey's search for identity from Atatürk to Erdošan that has seen it seek to impersonate modern Europe in an increasingly ill-conceived search for a place in the modern world that the debut novelist seems unable to either condone or condemn because he is an integral part of it.

At first I didn't know quite what I would do with the book other than read it over and over again.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Whats it all about?, 17 May 2003
By 
Elizabeth Taylor (France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The White Castle (Paperback)
The central character of this novel is an italian who is captured by pirates and taken to Constantinople where he is sold as a slave. The individual he is sold to just happens to look phyiscally very much like him and moreover his principle interest in his slave is to extract from him his western education. The main bulk of the novel is the close quarters contact between the two men, mainly as the turk (who is somewhat connected to the court of the sultan) tries to come up with new ideas, or simply ponder how a clock works, what is the nature of evil. There are pages and pages of the two men simply testing each other out psychologically, sharing ideas, trying to learn all one about the other, trying to outdo one another, in a way courting one another. During this time its not at all clear who is the slave and who is the master, and, being so similar physically whether they are functioning as one or two people. The writing is very interesting told like a fairy story however I am not really sure having turned the last page what the book was about. To me its a story of a foreigner who becomes so completely absorbed in this adopted land and that almost no trace is left of the young italian captured at sea, of individuality and what happens if you live so closely in an unequal relationship (the italian is the slave and his life is determined by the master or is the master too influenced by the slave?) or maybe its simply a fairy-story of an italian who is captured and leads an interesting life in Turkey, I'm not really sure.
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3.0 out of 5 stars white castle, 25 April 2014
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This review is from: The White Castle (Kindle Edition)
I like Orhan Pamuk's writing but I am not liking this book so far. perhaps because I do not know the historical background. though it is going to take a lot of time.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A let down!, 25 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The White Castle (Kindle Edition)
Have read Orhan Pamuk's books and this one is boring in comparison, very disappointed as it could have been a good story.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Blurred lines, 18 May 2008
This review is from: The White Castle (Paperback)
How refreshing to read something that gives a real sense of the blurred lines that always existed between Christian Europe and the Islamic world. This book is clearly a clever metaphor for those identities which flow into each other. I read the book on a recent trip to Istanbul and it made the time there sing!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, evocative and troubling: a study of identity and individuality, 29 July 2007
This review is from: The White Castle (Paperback)
In The White Castle Orhan Pamuk, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006, has produced another spelling-bindingly atmospheric novel of duplicity, identity and ambition.

Between the slim covers, one finds a powerful tale of displacement and humanity. A young and youthful scholar is snatched by pirates as he travels between Venice and Naples. Taken against his will to Istanbul, he is sold into slavery and only rescued from a lifetime of decline and slave labour when his owner finds he can help in the pursuit for scientific and intellectual advances. Over time the relationship between slave and master becomes increasingly complex, transforming the slave into teacher and mentor and at yet at times subversive rebel. Slave and owner find themselves caught up in the military ambitions of a medieval Turkish sultan, binding them closer, almost confusing their identities, and yet ultimately driving them apart. The desire for home waxes and wanes but whose home is it and where is it? Italy or Turkey?

Both plot and players develop slowly, affording Pamuk the luxury to explore the relationship between slave and master, and the nature of individuality and identity, fully and to a very satisfying if troubling conclusion.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mysterious scrutiny of cultural-individual identity., 21 Jan 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The White Castle (Paperback)
The setting is historical, protagonists almost unreal due to a combination of historical irrelevance and a romantic mystery. But the subject matter is chillingly contemporary: who am I?
A state serving Ottoman 'augur', and an Italian slave captured by Turkish pirates start a life together, whose physical resemblance to each other is a symbolic trigger for a bizarre and cunning andventure into the mysteries of their own minds as well as each other's. The background of the novel provides very interesting and valuable insight into the psycho-sociological reasons behind the difference between eastern and western cultures. In the meantime, we explore the concepts of 'self' and 'identity' which results in a paradoxical realisation that these concepts are as fragile and volatile as our own life stories. One of the most interesting books I have ever read; a novel as fascinatingly intellectual as it is entertaining and easy to read due to the incredibly direct and frank style of one of the great authors of our time.
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18 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pamuk's First Novel is a Disappointment, 4 May 2005
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The White Castle (Paperback)
Like many others in my book group, I had been looking forward to finally reading something by Pamuk. And like most of my book group, I was fairly disappointed by this short early novel from him. Originally published in Turkey in 1985, the story is prefaced by an introduction in which one Faruk Darvinoglu purports to have discovered the manuscript in a dusty archive. He then goes on to explain that parts of the story can be historically corroborated, but much of it can't. This should immediately alert the reader not to take everything in the book as it comes. Even more so if the reader knows that Darvinoglu is the protagonist of Pamuk's earlier book The House of Silence. Such intertextual tricks immediately bring to mind the works of Calvino, Borges, and their ilk.
The basic plot is very straightforward: in the mid 17th-century, a young Venetian gentleman is captured by Turkish raiders and sold into slavery to an aspiring Turkish scholar who happens to look just like him. The two men then spend the next few decades cloistered together, engaged in various psuedo-intellectual investigations of astronomy, biology, engineering, and so on. These bring them to the attention of the Sultan (based on Mehmet IV), whose patronage waxes and wanes, culminating in a lengthy attempt to construct a powerful war machine. Along the way, their claustrophobic relationship swings back and forth, and is interrupted by an outbreak of the plague, whose outcome they are tasked with predicting. The book concludes with a brief section which will challenge the reader's assumptions and calls into question everything that comes before it. Namely, are there two characters or are they just manifestations of two aspects of a single person?
This all unfolds at a glacial pace, and the two "characters" are mere ciphers. Their clashing of wills and ideas take up page after page, but the reader is always told about the conflict rather than shown it, and this makes for disengaging reading. Pamuk seems much less interested in storytelling or characters than in grand themes such as the nature of identity, the collision of cultures, and the very nature of reality. But none of these are addressed in a way that is particularly fresh or interesting. The tension between East and West is handled in a fairly superficial manner, as the Turkish master is obsessed with Western advances in science and technology, while the Sultan has a credulous appetite for tall tales and soothsayers. This all comes across as a rather ambivalent satire of the fluidity of Turkish national character. In the end, this is not a particularly good introduction to major modern writer whom many have compared to Eco, Calvino, Borges, Kafka, and Kundera. However, readers who enjoy highly ambiguous works about self-identity with unreliable narrators may find this a satisfying read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Adventures to Orhan Pamuk's White Castle, 9 Aug 2007
By 
Herman Norford "Keen Reader" (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The White Castle (Paperback)
The White Castle is the first novel by Orhan Pamuk that I have read. I guess I read it out of cruriosity because Pamuk won the 2006 nobel prize for literature instead of the novelist I was hoping would win it. I therefore suppose I came to the novel with my mind clouded with the thought: what is it about Pamuk's work that enabled him to win the 2006 nobel prize?

Having read The White Castle and gained some understanding of its method and themes, I have to say it is not a novel I would now pick up and read a second time. I found it narrative pace too slow and the relationship between the unnamed narrator and the character who turns out to be his master was somewhat unbelievable.

I won't labour a summary, save to say that the nameless narrator is kidnapped by a Turkish fleet whilst sailing from Venice to Naples. He is eventually sold into slavery - his master becomes Hoja a look a like wannabe scientist. It could be said that the narrator then embarks upon a series of adventures with Hoja.

It is through these adventures that the novel comes alive with some powerful personal and political themes. It is also through these themes that I gained a glimpse as to why Pamuk probably won the Nobel prize for literature.

On the one hand, the novel touches on personal issues such as identity, the relationship between master and slave, and the loss of home and loved ones. On the other hand, the novel is a political allegory exploring issues such as contact between different cultures, the brutality of the state, corruption, the relationship between ruler and the ruled in a non democratic state, and what motivates those in power. For a novel of 145 pages that is very ambitious.

In some ways this book is what I would call a playful novel. For example, it revels in ambiguity about the identity of the two leading characters, and it touches upon the issue of what it is to write and publish a book. The book starts with a preface where in 1982 someone by the name of Faruk Darvinoglu discovers the manuscript of this seventeenth century novel, in the twentieth century , and decides to publish it.

Although I would not call The White Castle a great novel and as stated above would not want to read it a second time, it is nonetheless an ambitious first novel and an intriguing read. It has certainly stimulated me to read more of Pamuk.
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The White Castle (Faber Firsts)
The White Castle (Faber Firsts) by Orhan Pamuk (Paperback - 7 May 2009)
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