Thursday, October 28, 2010

The New Life...


I have just finished reading Orhan Pamuk's The New Life. Wow. The blurb on the cover warned me that is was like a cross between Borges and The Usual Suspects, but I don't think I was quite prepared for the actualisation of such a claim.

Let me start by saying it was brilliant, pensive and disturbing. You are taken on a journey with the narrator that you may find yourself not wanting to be on. The book is philosophical, it questions the meaning of life, memories, how to live well, what is love... etc. etc. But is also pursues darker pathways, sketching realities that I wasn't always ready for. It is not scary per say, but obsessive, unbalanced and neurotic.

I always find it difficult when I am torn between liking the character and emphasising with them and at the same time knowing that they are disturbed and that their behaviour is not excusable (like Dexter). In terms of the Borges comparison, at times it feels as if he has consumed Borges' back catalogue and assimilated it into his subconscious. Akin to Borges' tale Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote, or intertextuality theories of "authorship" - as Roland Bathes argued:

"A text is... a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations... The writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one of them."

That does not detract from the effectiveness of the novel and Pamuk's unique writing style. While it reminded me of Borges, it is like nothing I have ever read before. Part road novel, mystical and pathological thriller with magic realist leanings - like the ability to step outside "normal" reality like a Murakami novel or even a Kurt Vonnegut novel - Pamuk's book is clever, reflective, not graphic and yet, unsettling and disturbing. But, certainly worth reading.

Have you read anything by Pamuk, Vonnegut, Murakami or Borges?

1 comment:

  1. I've read Borges and Vonnegut, but I only have vague impressions of their work now. I find it too hard to empathise with characters that are just plain immoral, but this sure sounds like an interesting book.

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