I haven’t read any Pamuk since the novel that pushed him into the nobel prize–the wonderful Snow, so thought I’d give The White Castle (1984?) a try. What a very odd book.
The premise is that a Venetian soldier is captured by Turkish troops in the 18th century. He is made a slave to a man to whom he bears such a close resemblance that people sometimes have a hard time telling them apart. His master is a consultant to the sultan–something of a soothsayer, astrologer-astronomer, and builder of a great weapon to which he devotes hours and hours. He wants ideas from his slave. He wants to hear every detail of his life in Venice. When the slave has no more to tell, he makes stuff up. Soon neither slave nor master knows reality from illusion. Sometimes they substitute for one another in appearances before the sultan.
The whole thing is a complex experiment in reality-illusion-identity-confusion. Could be intriguing. Trouble is it’s repetitious and without momentum. You’d expect to sympathize with this slave who longs for escape–or does he? But you don’t Sympathize instead for the poor reader trying to keep up with his circular thinking and narration.
Very disappointing. Should have re-read Snow instead.