Thursday 2 March 2017

Pamuk, Orhan "Cevdet Bey and His Sons"

Pamuk, Orhan "Cevdet Bey and His Sons" (Turkish: Cevdet Bey ve Oğulları) - 1982

Orhan Pamuk is not only one of my favourite Turkish authors, he is also one of my favourite authors ever. He has a certain quality to talk about people and events that makes you believe you are right there with them. Whether it is about a murder in the middle ages (My Name is Red) or he tells us about his life (Istanbul), he brings Turkey and Islamism closer to us, he makes us understand a lot of things we wouldn't know without him.

In this book he tells the story of Cevdet, a merchant in Konstantinopel (now Istanbul) at the beginning of the last century. He describes his life in a vivid way and then moves on to the next generation, his sons and their friends in a pre-WWII Istanbul until he finally reaches his grandson in 1970. We follow the family Bey from the Ottoman Empire until their independence, the whole history of the 20th century. We read about the wars, Kemal Attatürk and his visions, the changes that go through the people of what we now call Turkey, the Sultans and their empire and how they got on with their new life. A story about a wealthy family but also about the people around them who were not so fortunate.

A great story by a great author.

From the back cover:

"The story of a small shop owner in Abdulhamid’s last years and one of the first Muslim merchants Cevdet Bey and his sons covers three generations from the beginning of the century to the present day, and it’s also the story of Turkish Republic’s private life. Through the adventures of a family which lives in Nişantaşı, it looks into the indoor lifestyles, the new life in apartments, big families that are becoming westernized, going shopping in Beyoğlu, listening to radio on Sunday afternoons..."

Books mentioned:
Balzac, Honoré de "Le Père Goriot" (Old Father Goriot/Vater Goriot" (Rastignac)
Karaosmanoğlu, Yakup Kadri "Ankara"
Stendhal "Le Rouge et le Noir" (The Red and The Black/Rot und Schwarz)

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.

You can read more about the books I read by one of my favourite authors here.

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. I would love to read Pamuk's first novel. I checked and don't see that it has been translated into English. I will keep watch for it.

    1. I know, it's weird. I was given the English title but can't find it on Goodreads or anywhere where they might sell it. Can't believe it hasn't been translated, though, if I find it, I'll let you know.

      Have you read any other books by Pamuk? I discovered him years ago and have loved every single book I erad by him. "Istanbul", his account of his city, is probably my favourite but it's not a novel, it's hard to choose there.

      Happy Reading,

    2. I have read Snow. I really liked it. I tried to read My Name Is Red but at the time I could not get going in it. I will try again. And I am very interested in Istanbul as well as several others.

    3. You won't regret it. Snow is lovely and a lot more than most of his other novels, My Name is Red is quite different. But still one of my favourites.

      The funniest thing, I have a Turkish friend who comes from Kar, the town that features in the novel. But I only met her after reading the book.

      Istanbul is a biography which I heartily recommend. I've been to the town and I recognized a lot of sites he describes.

      Happy Reading,