Orhan Pamuk is the author of seven novels and the recipient of major Turkish and international literary awards. He is one of Europe's most prominent novelists, and his work has been translated into twenty-six languages. He lives in Istanbul.
The third novel by the well-known Turkish writer recounts the life of a young Italian Christian taken captive at sea by the Ottoman Turks in the 17th century. Through his intelligence he is treated quite favorably as a slave and spends his days in Istanbul doing research for the Pasha and young Sultan under the sponsorship of a learned man, whom he hauntingly resembles. A slow, unmoving book that lacks substance or well-developed characters, it ironically concludes in the closing chapters with the author's comment, ``I have now come to the end of my book. Perhaps discerning readers, deciding my story was actually finished long ago, have already tossed it aside.''-- Paula I. Nielson, Loyola Marymount Univ. Lib., Los Angeles
One of Turkey's foremost novelists explores the ambivalent relationship between master and slave in this elegant, postmodernist twist on the theme of the doppelganger. During the 17th century, a young Italian is captured by the Turkish fleet and brought to Istanbul, where he becomes the slave of an erudite man who could pass for his twin. The Hoja , or master, is convinced that the Italian youth's European education is superior to his own and he becomes the young man's pupil. Once the Hoja perceives the superficiality of the young man's knowledge, however, he insists that the slave tell him more, demanding details of his double's upbringing. When this, too, becomes tiresome, the slave confesses to real and imagined sins for which he is beaten. As their relationship changes over the years, with each alternating domination, the author deftly plays the mirror-image characters against each other. To aid the Ottoman sultan in his war against the Poles, the two develop a fantastical war machine. Its disastrous failure in battle proves their undoing. The reader is left guessing at the ultimate fate of the Hoya and the slave, while at the same time admiring Pamuk's skillfully constructed paradoxes. (Apr.)