Library@Kendriya Vidyalaya Pattom

Where Minds meet and Ideas pop up !

Black Book by Orhan Pamuk


The Black Book


Orhan Pamuk

Reviewed by Richard Marcus
Published May 05, 2007

Available in our Library
Call No. 823 PAM-B

Welcome to Istanbul, the magical, mystical portal to the East. What once was the home to an empire that sprawled from the Caspian Sea to Spain and the Atlantic Ocean now sits like a bride in her boudoir awaiting an answer from her latest suitor. Turkey has applied for membership in the European Union, but there has been a lot of foot-dragging over their human rights record. Part of the problem centres around the author of this book being threatened with imprisonment for writing what the government referred to as anti-Turkish sentiment. Turkey has long walked a line between the East and the West that she once both ruled with an iron fist. When the borders of the Ottoman Empire retracted back to modern Turkey with the loss of the Middle East at the end of World War I, Istanbul once more became the end of Europe and the beginning of the mysterious East.

Today we know of Turkey as the fiercely secular state, where the populace protests if the government even gives the appearance of merging church and state. How much different is the Istanbul of today from the Istanbul of the 1990s when Orhan Pamuk first wrote The Black Book? You might as well ask how much has the city changed since the times of the Crusades or later when the Saracens of the Ottoman Empire pushed the infidels back to where they came from.
Istanbul always strikes me as one of the timeless cities, with nooks and crannies where the dust of history lays thick, shoulder to shoulder with cars of chrome and bright paint. The Black Book in a new translation reissued by the Vintage International imprint of Random House makes that more than clear, as the city is more than just a setting, and becomes a character in her own right.

A brief synopsis of the story is deceptive in its simplicity; the lead character Galip, finds a nineteen-word message from his wife declaring she’s left him. At the same time her older stepbrother, the famous newspaper columnist Celal has also disappeared. Have they vanished together or is their joint vanishing act nothing more than a bizarre coincidence?

Galip’s search for Ruya takes on all the attributes of the cheap detective novels she loves and he despises. Chasing down the ghosts of her past, her leftist existence with her ex-husband leads him onto the trail of secret utopian societies. That they may have only existed in the minds of those who wrote about them in pamphlets and broadsides simply adds to the surreal quality with which he has imbibed the search. Through it all, he plays out a charade to sustain the illusion that she has not left him, but is home sick in bed.

His step brother-in-law must have had an inkling that he was going to miss work because he left a file of stories for them to run on a daily basis during his absence. However, Galip quickly recognises they have been published before and wonders at Celal not having taken the time to create new articles. If Celal is not present in the story of the novel, he is very present on the pages as a character through his writings. Every second chapter is an article written by Celal that takes us on guided tours of the author’s favourite locations, his city of Istanbul, and the streets of his own mind and emotions. Identity has been prevalent in his mind, the identity of the city and his own, as we can tell from the stories that he has chosen to have the newspaper publish while he is “off.”

Whether the stories tell about his early life and meeting with established columnists who share their secrets with him, or giving a guided tour of an imaginarily flooded Istanbul down to the details of where the corpses are buried, they are about quests for identity. Will Istanbul ever make up her mind to be of the East or of the West? Will she succumb to the blandishments and lure of Europe with her bright lights and movie stars, or will she stay the city where you can only buy what’s been made in Turkey, and the commonest car on the streets is a 57 Chevrolet?

The identity is more than just idle speculation in journalist’s daily column in The Black Book — it is the primary focus of Mr. Pamuk’s novel. Was the job Celal, or was he the job? For a writer, is there a difference anyway?

Galip takes on the role of concerned husband to cover up the disappearance of his wife from their families, the role of detective in a mystery story when he is trying to track down her whereabouts, and finally he become Celal by starting to write his columns. By assuming Celal’s identity, he is able to carry off the deception through being able to write in the same style. Is this a case of the clothes making the man, or is there more to it than meets the eye?

If anyone has any doubts about why Orhan Pamuk was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, and questioned the result as being more about politics than talent, reading this book will set your mind at rest. Only very rarely have I read a work of any sort where I’m left with my jaw hanging open because of the seemingly effortless way in which the words follow each other on the page. Even though the book was translated into English, his talent for orchestrating thoughts and words into sentences that are works of art is still obvious and astounding. He creates phrases like a musician will write music; not only do they sound pleasant to the ear, but they touch your heart, and make you think. He shows his true artistry in how he orchestrates them into a whole.

Each little movement — conversation, descriptive passage, monologue, and so on — flows and interlocks with those around it until it builds to its crescendo and then subsides to the final denouement. This is no half-hazard arrangement that meanders around carelessly without concern for theme and plot. It may seem casual and relaxed in places, but don’t be fooled by that. The reality is as different from that as night and day.

As some music can be played as background while you do other things, there are books that involve no effort to read and make no lasting impression. Then there are the ones demanding your full attention to be properly appreciated, but the return is transportation to new worlds of delight and wonder. The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk is one such book. No matter what your nationality, you won’t want to deny yourself the pleasure of reading this book.


Filed under: Book of the week, , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

कृपया हिंदी में पढ़ें

Live updates

Library@KV Pattom


Welcome to the official Library blog of Kendriya Vidyalaya Pattom, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, launched in September 2007.

6 Million Hits and counting..

Thank you all for making this blog a great success.

You are the visitor, No

  • 6,561,193 hits

Upcoming Events

No upcoming events

Visit your Library

Browse Books and Periodicals. Read Newspapers. Pick a New Book from the ‘New Arrivals’ rack. Search the Internet and the OPAC. Refer for assignments and projects. Suggest a book. Ask a question.Write your comments. And more…Visit the Library Today itself. You are most welcome.

KVS Innovation and Experimentation Award 2011 & 2016

"Library Junction" and "Face a Book Challenge" have won the KVS Innovation and Experimentation Award in 2011 and 2016 respectively.

All India Competition on Innovative Practices and Experiments in Education for Schools and Teacher Education Institutions 2010-’11

'Library Junction' won the "All India Competition on Innovative Practices and Experiments in Education for Schools and Teacher Education Institutions 2010-'11" conducted by NCERT.

Website of the Week

Telephone Reference

+91 9447699724 (Librarian)

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,845 other followers

Ask your Librarian

Subscribe SMS updates

Send: ON Library_KVPattom to 9870807070


RSS This day in History

  • Pompey defeated by Julius Caesar at the Battle of Pharsalus: 9 August 48 - This Day in History
    During the Roman Civil War of 49–45 , Julius Caesar's troops on this day in 48 decisively defeated the army of Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalus, causing Pompey to flee to Egypt, where he was subsequently murdered.More Events on this day:1945: The second atomic bomb dropped on Japan by the United States in World War II struck the city of Nagasaki.1 […]
  • Amedeo Avogadro: Biography of the Day
    Amedeo AvogadroBorn this day in 1776, Amedeo Avogadro of Italy showed that, under controlled conditions of temperature and pressure, equal volumes of gases contain an equal number of molecules—what became known as Avogadro's law.
  • Concise Encyclopedia Book and CD-ROM: Special Price from The Britannica Store
    For RSS subscribers The Britannica Store presents a special 20% discount on the Concise Encyclopedia and free CD-ROM. This thoroughly revised and expanded edition of Britannica's most popular publication worldwide is a one-volume encyclopedia containing 28,000 articles accompanied by colorful photographs, diagrams, maps, and flags. The Britannica Concis […]

Library Bookmark

InfoLit India: Information Literacy Project for Young Learners

<!– Global site tag (gtag.js) – Google Analytics –>

window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
gtag(‘js’, new Date());

gtag(‘config’, ‘UA-110661763-1’);

<!– Global site tag (gtag.js) – Google Analytics –>

window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
gtag(‘js’, new Date());

gtag(‘config’, ‘UA-11842201-1’);




Real time News on Kendriya Vidyalayas on the web

Little Open Library (LOLib)

Tools for Every Teacher (TET)

KV Pattom in Media

FaB Best Performers 2017-’18

Meera Nair & Kalyani Santhosh

Face a Book Challenge

e-reading hub @ Your Library

Follow Us on Twitter

Learn anything freely with Khan Academy Library of Content

A free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.

Interactive challenges, assessments, and videos, on any topic of your interest.

Child Line (1098)

CHILDLINE 1098 service is a 24 hour free emergency phone outreach service for children in need of care and protection.

CBSE Toll Free Tele/Online Helpline

Students can call 1800 11 8004 from any part of the country. The operators will answer general queries and also connect them to the counselors for psychological counseling. The helpline will be operational from 08 a.m to 10 p.m. On-line counseling on:

Population Stabilization in India Toll Free Helpline

Dial 1800-11-6555 for expert advice on reproductive, maternal and child health; adolescent and sexual health; and family planning.

Kendriya Vidyalaya (Shift-I)
Thiruvananthapuram-695 004
Kerala India

Mail: librarykvpattom at

%d bloggers like this: