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