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Since his boyhood in a poor village in Central Anatolia, Mevlut Karata has fantasized about what his life would become. Not getting as far in school as he d hoped, at the age of twelve he comes to Istanbul the center of the world and is immediately enthralled by both the old city that is disappearing and the new one that is fast being built. He follows his father s trade, selling boza (a traditional mildly alcoholic Turkish drink) on the street, and hoping to become rich, like other villagers who have settled the desolate hills outside the booming metropolis. But luck never seems to be on Mevlut s side. As he watches his relations settle down and make their fortunes, he spends three years writing love letters to a girl he saw just once at a wedding, only to elope by mistake with her sister. And though he grows to cherish his wife and the family they have, he stumbles toward middle age in a series of jobs leading nowhere. His sense of missing something leads him sometimes to the politics of his friends and intermittently to the teachings of a charismatic religious guide. But every evening, without fail, Mevlut still wanders the streets of Istanbul, selling boza and wondering at the strangeness in his mind, the sensation that makes him feel different from everyone else, until fortune conspires once more to let him understand at last what it is he has always yearned for.
Told from different perspectives by a host of beguiling characters, A Strangeness in My Mind is a modern epic of coming of age in a great city, a brilliant tableau of life among the newcomers who have changed the face of Istanbul over the past fifty years. Here is a mesmerizing story of human longing, sure to take its place among Pamuk s finest achievements."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-08-24
- Reviewer: Staff
This mesmerizing ninth novel from Nobel laureate Pamuk () is a sweeping epic chronicling Istanbul's metamorphosis from 1969 to 2012, as seen through the eyes of humble rural Anatolian migrant workers who come to the increasingly teeming metropolis in search of new opportunities in love and commerce. Though relayed through different points of view, the fable-like story's chief protagonist is the ruminative Mevlut Karatas, son of a cantankerous peddler of yogurt and boza (a thick, fermented wheat drink), who carries on his father's trade despite its fading popularity. The book includes a dip into Mevlut's childhood in Central Anatolia and his move to Istanbul with his father when he is 12. He later meets the beautiful Samiha at a wedding and is tricked by his cousin into eloping with Samiha's less attractive older sister, Rayiha. Mevlut and Rayiha have a happy marriage nonetheless and raise two daughters as he tries to gain a foothold in business. Mevlut's progression from naïve, perpetually searching wanderer to a more fulfilled and wizened soul, despite his mostly unsuccessful attempts at getting a leg up financially, is laid bare. His walkabouts and skirmishes with his family are engrossing, but what really stands out is Pamuk's treatment of Istanbul's evolution into a noisy, corrupt, and modernized city. This is a thoroughly immersive journey through the arteries of Pamuk's culturally rich yet politically volatile and class- and gender-divided homeland.