Mehmet, Pamuk, Jelal, Galip, me?
Tuesday the 13th
In part II of The Black Book, Galip writes three columns in the style of Jelal and delivers them to Milliyet. Which of the columns that are reprinted in the book are by Galip? Certainly chapter 31, "The Story Goes Through the Looking Glass," is; and I thought chapter 29, "I Turned Out to be the Hero" might be as well.
It was fun to read "The Story Goes Through the Looking Glass" this evening right after I had read Victoria Rowe Holbrook's introduction to Love and Beauty, and understand more of the references. I expect I will need to read the book yet another time...
Sunday the 4th
It seems clear that the story of Layla and Majnun is understood as an allegory for the believer's unquenchable thirst for God. But I'm having trouble getting this line of meaning out of the story itself... I'm about midway through, and Majnun's friend Nawfal has led his army against Layla's tribe, seeking to capture her and lay waste--
Like lion’s claws the
spears tore breasts and limbs, the arrows drank
the sap of life with wide open beaks like birds of
prey; and proud heroes, heads severed from
trunks, lay down for the sleep of eternity.
Majnun renounces the quest a few pages later but Nawfal is about to go on the attack again, mustering up reserves... and I'm thinking, how the hell does this fit into the allegory? The gore is nice and vivid in an epic-poetry sort of way.
"Love is Fire and I am Wood" makes no mention of Nawfal, it seems strange to me to ignore such a central character.
Update turns out my confusion was based on a confusion between Nizami's epic romance and the underlying story. (See comments.)
Saturday the third
While I am reading The Black Book I'm developing something of an interest in Rumi and by extension in Sufi. Here are a couple of links I've tracked down that seem like worthwhile further reading.
More as I find it.
Also -- I updated the Pamuk Bibliography with link to an essay by Saniye Çancı Çalışaneller, "Doppelgänger in Orhan Pamuk’s
The Black Book".
when it clicks: Orhan Pamuk is the author who taught me to identify with his narrator! (A lesson which has turned out to be really valuable in general as a way of reading.) This is exactly the story that he's telling about Galip's experience in The Black Book.
Monday, January 29th
...[A]ny Turk who passionately loves a masterpiece from the West which remains unread by his compatriots begins after a while to believe in all sincerity that not only does he love reading the book, but that he has written it himself.
--The Black Book
Sunday, January 28th
I decided to make a second try at reading Pamuk's The Black Book. I'm reading Güneli Gün's translation this time. (Thanks for the recommendation go to Badger of the lamented Orbis Quintus and also to Michael McGaha.)
It's been a long enough time that I have forgotten the text and the story in all but the very broadest strokes, from time to time I am recognizing a passage. I ought to review my notes from last time. I remember finding it difficult to wade through, and am not having that experience now, which can probably be taken (broadly) as evidence in support of Gün's translation being a better one...
I've started trying to read the chapters which are written by Jelal* as if I were in Galip's head, in the course of the story -- I think that is the intent, when for example the narrator says,
Working in the taxi's top light, Galip marked Jelal's column all over with numbers, signs, and letters, but he still didn't get anywhere.
The idea is that the reader should carry this image and others like it into reading the next chapter, which will be a column of Jelal's (viz. "The Kiss"). Is this asking much of the reader? I don't think I noticed this pattern last time I read the book.
Don't quite understand Galip's thinking that Jelal's columns (which he knows are reprints of old columns) would contain a clue abut Rüya's present whereabouts. (If I'm understanding right that that's why he's poring over the column and marking it up.)
In the middle of reading the previous Jelal column ("The Eye", which I think is one of the columns Galip had borrowed out of his cousin's collection of clips), I had the thought that the older relative (forget now which) who in a previous chapter criticized Jelal's columns as too long had a real point, that that could have been edited pretty brutally without losing much of value.
* Prefer this spelling, which Gün is using, to Celâl; Freely's rendering while accurate made me double-take "selal/jelal" every time I ran across it.
Sunday, May 10th, 2009
I just made a fun, pleasant discovery; looking back at the Orhan Pamuk interview I was reading last night, I wanted to check whether the Paris Review had published a copy of it on the web. Turns out they did [PDF], and what's more it contains reproductions of a few pages of Pamuk's manuscript notes for The Black Book. Beautiful!
Sunday, July 27th, 2008
Well this is a little surprising: in discussing the translations of The Black Book, McGaha very strongly recommends Güneli Gün's translation over Freely's later reworking. Wow! I didn't know much about Gün's translation besides that I'd heard it was unreadable -- and I know I had a lot of trouble with her translation of
The Black BookThe New Life. But McGaha's recommendation, and his side-by-side comparison of the two treatments of the first paragraph, makes me want to find out more.
Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008
But Galip is insane.
(I'm stretching, stretching these last two chapters of the Black Book because I just don't want the story to end!)
--The Modesto Kid
I've become very attached to the following reading of the events portrayed in The Black Book. It seems like it might be susceptible to an Occam's Razor argument.
- In Chapter 19 ("Signs of the City"), Galip goes insane.
- The second half of the book takes place in a different reality than the first; that is to say, Galip's insanity has the effect of moving him into a different world. What is happening in the old reality of the first half is not really germane to the discussion.
I'm not sure what this gets me -- I don't want to say, the events described in the second half of the book are the flow of our reality, because they seem so rooted in paranoia; and I also don't want to say, they are Galip's fevered hallucinations as he lies on a hospital bed in "the reality outside the story", because that seems banal to me.
Later, when he himself went over to Aunt Hâle's, he looked at the great purple flowers on her dress and saw that they were printed on a background that was the exact same shade of pistachio green. Was this a coincidence, or the strange leftover from thirty-five years ago, or a reminder that this world, like the gardens of memory, still shimmered with magic?
Pamuk's interjection in the last chapter ("But I Who Write") is a stroke of genius. We the readers are allowed, encouraged, to privilege our own readings of the novel's events over what the author intended. This passage moves me to tears:
That night, Galip saw Rüya among the baby dolls in Alâaddin's shop. She had not yet died. Like the dolls around her, she was blinking and she was breathing, but only just; she was waiting for Galip, but he was late; he just couldn't manage to get there; he just stood there at his window in the City-of-Hearts Apartments, staring at Alâaddin's shop in the distance, watching the light stream from its window onto the snow-covered pavement as tears rolled from his eyes.
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