On the Nobel Prize winner

It is by pure happenstance that within the month I read something by Orhan Pamuk, this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. The Nobel Prize committee lauded the Turkish writer as one “who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures”.

I recently read Pamuk’s The New Life. I happened to pick it up in a bookstore in the Old City of Dubrovnik. Aside from the description on the back cover, the first sentence may rank among the best ever written: “I read a book one day and my whole life changed.”

Because the bookstore did not take Euros and I had no Croatian money, I didn’t buy it. Knowing Pamuk was Turkish, however, I made a point of buying the book in Istanbul, his native city. While I had planned to keep the book because of where I bought it, the fact Pamuk won the Nobel Prize less than a month later makes it that much more special.

The New Life almost defies description, which is why I have not yet posted a review of it. Inadequately summarized, the narrator, Orhan, is so affected by the book that he embarks on a search to enter the world it describes. Even before seeing The New Life, however, Pamuk’s novel Snow had been on my “you should pick this up” list for some time. My recent trip also generated interest in his Istanbul: Memories and the City. I intend to pick both up at the library later today.

Sometimes I sensed that the books I read in rapid succession had set up some sort of murmur among themselves, transforming my head into an orchestra pit where different musical instruments sounded out, and I would realize that I could endure this life because of these musicales going on in my head.

Orhan Pamuk, The New Life

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