Monday 14 October 2013

Pamuk, Orhan "Silent House"

Pamuk, Orhan "Silent House" (Turkish: Sessiz Ev) - 1983

Turkey in the late 20th century. Three siblings, a sister and two brothers, visit their grandmother who lives outside of Istanbul. Everyone seems to have their own problems. While everyone tries to solve their specific issues in their own special way - those who see the bigger issue, want to solve the bigger issue and we see especially the political upheaval of the time. Those with more personal problems reflect more on themselves, show their selfish side - stories of the past interfere with today's life.

The family is an unhappy one, and the story touches many different topics, there are different classes, different generation, the Orient and the Occident with Turkey's transition from one to the other, political extremes, like in most of Orhan Pamuk's novels, you have it all. There are the family members that are not among them anymore, there are political.

The story is told by alternating narrators, a kind of storytelling I particularly love. In listening to the different characters, we can see and understand each one of them better and can follow the story from many different aspects. Orhan Pamuk has a rare talent in that he is able to talk in all kinds of different voices, old people, young people, boring people, interesting people, active people, sick people. He makes every character stand on his own and it is easy to distinguish who is who.

The author has said that in each of the different characters is something about him, he was one of them at different times of his life. Interesting.

From the back cover:

"In an old mansion in Cennethisar, a former fishing village near Istanbul, an old widow Fatma awaits the annual summer visit of her grandchildren. She has lived in the village for decades, ever since her husband, an idealistic young doctor, first arrived to serve the poor fishermen. Now mostly bedridden, she is attended by her faithful servant Recep, a dwarf and the doctor's illegitimate son. They share memories, and grievances, of the early years, before Cennethisar became a high-class resort.

Her visiting grandchildren are Faruk, a dissipated failed historian; his sensitive leftist sister, Nilgun; and Metin, a high school student drawn to the fast life of the nouveaux riches, who dreams of going to America. But it is Recep's nephew Hassan, a high-school dropout, lately fallen in with right-wing nationalists, who will draw the visiting family into the growing political cataclysm issuing from Turkey's tumultuous century-long struggle for modernity."

I have read several other books by Orhan Pamuk which you can find here.

Orhan Pamuk "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006.

Orhan Pamuk received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 2005.

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.


  1. Will have to give this one a go, we lived in Turkey for a couple of years and still find it such a special place.

  2. Oh, lovely. I have an American friend who lived there and then I have Turkish friends who live there, of course. Have you read any of Orhan Pamuk's books? My favourite is probably Istanbul - Memories of a City but they are all great. If you want to see other books about Turkey or by Turkish authors, to to "labels" and find "Turkey or click here.

    I have always loved Turkey, one of two my best friends in school was Turkish and I'm still in touch with her today. I visited her while she lived in Istanbul and it was great. Would love to go back one day and will be able to now that our children have left school and we can go outside the summer holidays when it was too hot for me.

    Have a good day,