Silent House (1982) – Orhan PAMUK

I’m in a bit of a bind, so you’ll have to bear with me. The books that usually appear on this blog are the ones I’ve finished. I don’t put stuff up here about books I don’t finish, because, well, if you haven’t finished a book, there’s not really any point in reviewing it, right?

The bind is this. I have to review this book. I promised to read and review all the shortlisted titles on the Man Asian Longlist this year as part of the Shadow Jury. But I can’t finish Silent House. I just can’t.

I have tried. I have, since the beginning of the year, had it sat next to my bed as other, more interesting novels pass me by. I have, every few days, girdled my loins and opened the pages, in an attempt to penetrate a wall of text that simply isn’t going in.

I have made it through about 150 pages, which is about 120 pages more than I otherwise would have. I have no excuse, other than this: I now fully understand why English-speaking publishers waited thirty years to have this, Pamuk’s second novel, published.

Set in the dilapidated seaside village of Cennethisar, it tells the story of a family coming together under one house for the first time in years. The matriarch of the family who owns the house, Fatma, is living in the past, remembering her glory days when her husband, the town doctor, knew everyone and everything. Her helper, Recep, is the bastard son of her late husband, and also a dwarf. To say the two have a tense relationship would be an understatement. Despite his best attempts to provide her every need, the old woman cannot see past the fact that this man is the symbol of her husband’s infidelity, and refuses to acknowledge anything he does as a good thing.

The grandchildren that have arrived in the town see their grandmother as old and decrepit – which, in their defence, is the public appearance she has. This is perhaps the most interesting part of the novel – the fact that Fatma, in the chapters she narrates, seems to be still quite sharp and with-it, but hre outward physicality is failing her sharp mind. Certainly for the first half, though, nothing is really made of this, an angle that could have been pushed so much further.

Other chapters are narrated by Fatma’s grandchildren, including the dull-as-dishwater Faruk, an academic writing about some obscure part of history; Recap himself, who spends much of his personal time defending himself from people calling him names and otherwise being unkind; Hasan, the young student who seems to have fallen in with the wrong crowd – a crowd who go around threatening local shopkeepers to pay them protection money; and Metin, who, to be honest, I’m having trouble recalling.

It all seems so insignificant, which is ironic, considering the political undertones of Hanum’s activities, including his love for Nilgun, a self-proclaimed leftist. There’s so much potential there, but none of it comes to light. Well, maybe it does later, but I’m out.

Sorry, guys. I just didn’t get this one at all.

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3 thoughts on “Silent House (1982) – Orhan PAMUK

  1. Tony says:

    Well, there’s one I’ll be looking forward to for my IFFP Longlist reading then ;)

  2. winstonsdad says:

    ha ,I know what you mean it is a cacophony in places very full on ,but I did like it as well ,all the best stu

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