A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk (Man Booker International Prize Long List)

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Being the Adventures and Dreams of Mevlut Karatas, a seller of Boza, and of His Friends, and Also a Portrait of Life in Istanbul Between 1979 and 2012 from Many Different Points of View.

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I had never heard of the beverage called boza before, let alone of a street vendor who sells it calling out, “Booo-za!” Even the intonation of his voice can make all the difference between who answers his call to purchase a glass, or perhaps a kilo, and who doesn’t.

Mevlut is humble and good, hard-working and innocent. He doesn’t know his cousin Suleyman will trick him when he elopes with whom he believes is Samiha. The letters that Mevlut has written for three years, expressively declaring his love for her beautiful eyes, have been delivered to her older sister, Rayiha, instead.

Upon seeing his bride’s face in a moment of bright light after their carefully planned escape, he is as surprised as Jacob when he realizes he had been duped into marrying Leah rather than his beloved Rachel.

“He had no clear understanding of how he had been tricked, no memory of how he’d arrived at this moment, and so the strangeness in his mind became a part of the trap he had fallen into.”

Throughout the novel we come across these recurrent themes: the strangeness in the mind, the life of the working class in Istanbul, and the question of fate. In particular, is the person we marry the one who was meant for us?

I felt a deep sense of simpatico with Mevlut, who questions his thoughts by calling them a strangeness in his mind.

“There’s a strangeness in my mind,” said Mevlut. “No matter what I do, I feel completely alone in this world.”

And of course, we are ultimately alone. But this story of Mevlut and Rayiha, her beautiful sister Samiha, their relatives and friends, bring to light how interdependent we are on one another. It makes me examine my own life to see where things have worked for good without even knowing they would turn out that way.

Find other thoughts from Stu here.

A Strangeness in My Mind by Orham Pamuk
Published October 20, 2015
624 pages

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18 comments

    1. Like all the others on the Man Booker International Prize long list, it is a book about which I will be thinking for a long time. These novels are anything but trite or quick; they examine the very stuff of which life is made.

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  1. I didn’t know what this book was about until now. I quite like the sound of it. But, poor Mevlut – being tricked into marrying the wrong woman. I feel the need to find out how he makes the best of this situation!
    Have you read any others by Pamuk?

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    1. I have read Snow, which I highly recommend, and most of the Museum of Innocence which started out great and came to a screeching halt of redundancy
      for me. But you are so right in being intrigued about the love relationships here, which do not disappoint. I hope you have a chance to read it and tell me what you think.

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  2. I tried to read one of his earlier books a while back and couldn’t get into it but I really like the premise of this one and I think this feels like it might be a good one to take up and discover this writer. Great review!

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    1. My favorite of Pamuk’s books is Snow; if you tried The Museum of Innocence I don’t blame you for bogging down. But, this one, while long, is definitely worth the read. And ultimately, for me, I found it a love story.

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  3. I loved both Snow and The Museum, and now, after reading your lines, I am even more intrigued sbout reading this one… If only I had the time tight now…

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    1. Oh, I surely understand about the lack of time! Spring break is almostmgonenfor me, and I had so hoped to finish more than three of the Man Booker long list. When you do have time, I know you will like this one. It’s a meaningful story, and it taught me more about Istanbul.

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  4. Did you ever read Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge? It is another story of marrying “the wrong woman,” but it is based on a true story. A bad movie was made of it – don’t bother with that.

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    1. I don’t believe I have ever read Elizabeth Goudge, but the idea of marrying the “wrong” person intrigues me. Marriage in general intrigues me, actually, with all its complexities of joy and sorrow.

      Liked by 1 person

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