A Strangeness in My Mind

A novel

Publisher: Vintage Canada
From one of our greatest, a panoramic new novel, his first sinceMuseum of Innocence, bringing us into Istanbul's underground through the eyes of a struggling street vendor.


It is the 1990s in Istanbul, and although there were once thousands of boza vendors walking the frozen streets of the city, Mevlut now cuts a lonely figure on snowy winter nights. Falling deeply into debt, and desperate to marry off his incompetent son and satisfy his mistress, Mevlut turns to his old friend Ferhat, who collects payments on electric bills. The partners traverse the back streets of middle class neighbourhoods and shantytowns, venture into flats, shops and restaurants of the poor, relishing their power to punish cheaters and collect bribes. The dangers of Istanbul's underbelly eventually catch up with Mevlut, and he is attacked by a pack of dogs, hospitalized, robbed by bandits, and beaten and threatened at every turn. Istanbul is exposed as a city with a rich and dynamic underground culture which seeps into its secular business centres and mainstream society. Mevlut serves as a flighty guide, occasionally attuned to the city's nuances, but with a wild imagination and instincts tainted by desperation.

PRAISE FOR

Shortlisted for the 2017 International Dublin Literary Award
Winner of the 2016 Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award for Foreign Literature
Longlisted for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize


“[A] magical literary offering.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer

“As Pamuk follows his believably flawed protagonist and a teeming cast of supporting players across five decades, Turkey’s turbulent politics provide a thrumming undercurrent of unease. Rich, complex, and pulsing with urban life: one of this gifted writer’s best.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“[A] love letter to modern Turkey, and above all to the city of Istanbul. . . . [O]ne of Pamuk’s most enjoyable novels and an ideal place to begin for readers who want to get to know him.” —Adam Kirsch, The Washington Post
 
“Pamuk’s novel grapples playfully with forty years of history in the culturally tumultuous city of Istanbul.” —The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

“[A]t once epic and intimateA Strangeness in My Mind is always limned by the emotional richness, slippery melancholy and empathy that Pamuk, in his unique way, brings to bear on his narrative. . . . A Strangeness in My Mind is an achievement on a colossal scale.” —Hindustan Times

“Woven through the pages is the author’s deep fondness for the city of Istanbul and a keen ability to articulate the tensions between old and new, urban and rural, traditional and modern. . . . [A] rich and compelling tapestry. . . . While the story is narrated in the third person and is focused on Mevlut, the voices of various characters break into the narrative and expand the story from their own perspective. In many hands this could be a wonky device—but not with Pamuk. Rather, it is a delightful approach taken with a deft touch.” —Winnipeg Free Press

[A]nother reminder of Pamuk’s brilliance in storytelling. . . . Pamuk’s concerns in A Strangeness in My Mind . . . have a unique universal appeal. . . . Pamuk has already proved what a great miniaturist he is in earlier novels. . . . Here, too, his eye for detail cannot be ignored. . . . Pamuk is at his best in this masterly portrayal of an artless man’s struggle to be nothing more than himself—to be happy, honest and open.” —The Times of India

[T]his novel is of gripping relevance to anyone who wants to understand either the sociopolitical landscape of Turkey or sociopolitical landscapes more generally. . . . The book pumped me up about the possibilities of the novel—the way that it can do a kind of work that social analysis and even history, with its limited access to private life and unspoken desires, can’t: namely, tracing the relationship between large-scale historical change and the thoughts and feelings that fill a given person’s head at any given moment. I found it as head-exploding as War and Peace, and more comforting. It gave me a window onto a part of human experience, and a part of Istanbul’s geography, that I thought I didn’t and couldn’t understand.” —Elif Batuman, The New Yorker

His writing is more beautiful than ever . . . infused with warmth, wit and gentle pathos. . . . [A] marvel of storytelling. . . . This is by far Pamuk’s most joyous novel. . . . [Imbues] the reader with the profound love and pride they feel for the city of Istanbul.” —The New Indian Express

“As in much of his work, here Pamuk attempts to define what happiness looks like, and how moments of joy are shaped by fate and intention. But what defines the novel, and what makes it so timely for the Turkey of today, is the rift between the public and private opinions of Pamuk’s characters, whether they are talking politics or family matters.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“[T]he novel is overwhelmingly sweet, with a constant dose of humour and positivity sprinkled all across. In fact, if you are new to Pamuk, then it’s advised you pick this book first, instead of other novels which have made the Turkish novelist what he is today. It will introduce you to the glorious aspects of the ‘Pamukian’ style of novel. . . . And if you have already read Pamuk, then do read this one too. The master storyteller may still surprise you.” —India Today 

“[A] beautifully woven tale of grinding poverty. . . . Like all Pamuk’s work, A Strangeness in My Mind is part love song to Istanbul.” —Capital City Weekly 

“[A] glorious and teeming everyman epic. . . . A Strangeness in My Mind is a pensive, intimate, critical.” —The Boston Globe

“Pamuk seems to be our sole literary guide to the conflicts and quandaries of Turkish political, social and religious life. . . . With Pamuk’s new novel I was . . . filled with admiration and respect.” —The Sydney Morning Herald

“[Pamuk] taps into a new vein of tenderness. . . . [F]or all the losses and sorrows Pamuk’s characters endure, A Strangeness in My Mind is poignant rather than desolate, in keeping with the indefatigable spirit of its flawed but lovable hero.” —Los Angeles Times 

“It’s hard not to be won over when you can feel [Pamuk] usher his creations onstage and give each a turn at the microphone. . . . It is Pamuk’s boundless compassion that makes the life of a struggling street vendor become, on the page, as monumental and as worthy of our attention as a sultan’s.” —Anthony Marra, San Francisco Chronicle 

“[Pamuk’s] most accessible novel yet. . . . There is perhaps no more honest form of human expression than the cry of a boza seller, and if you listen closely enough to this novel, you may discover a secret history of Istanbul in Mevlut’s song.” —New Republic
 
“Pamuk’s profound love for his city, Istanbul, is the life force in this intricately detailed and patterned fairy-tale-like novel. . . . Pamuk, a deeply compassionate and poetic writer, illuminates ‘dreadful and dazzling’ Istanbul’s violent upheavals and ceaseless metamorphosis, women’s struggles for freedom, and the strange vicissitudes of love.” —Booklist (starred review) 
 
Orhan Pamuk is becoming that rare author who writes his best books after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. . . . When I learned three years ago that Pamuk was writing a long novel about forty years of history, witnessed through the eyes of an Istanbul street vendor, the prospect sounded as delicious as a glass of Turkish tea. Now I’m pleased to report that the results are magnificent. If you haven’t enjoyed Pamuk’s books in the past then A Strangeness in My Mind might well be the one that wins you over. . . . Prepare to fall in love with this everyman, this vendor of street-level history whose cry echoes down the years.” —The Independent

“[A] mesmerizing ninth novel. . . . [A] thoroughly immersive journey through the arteries of Pamuk’s culturally rich yet politically volatile and class- and gender-divided homeland.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)