A Strangeness in My Mind

A novel by Orhan Pamuk. Istanbul modernizes and grows up around Mevlut, who lives his life with an odd combination of intention and surrender. He goes to great effort to elope with a girl he has only seen once, but discovers that he was duped by the family and it is the wrong sister in his friend’s van. The novel wends it’s way through Mevlut’s life, an accumulation of details, neighbourhoods, family relationships, such that the passing of time is as much a surprise to the reader as it is to Mevlut himself. Throughout it all, Mevlut works in the trades of the rural people who come to the city, staying with this work for most of his life, as others make their way forward. There is something in these traditional occupations that Mevlut finds meaningful and important. He is serving needs not just for food and drink, but for a way of life that is passing, for the longings that he knows well, because he walks with them in the city each evening.

Right at the beginning of the book, Mevlut is identified by the narrator as the hero, but then follow such bizarre events and passive responses that it is hard to see Mevlut as the hero of anything, let alone his own life. It is only by watching over time, and coming to respect Mevlut’s perseverance, that the outlines of his particular form of heroism emerge — and it is well worth the wait!

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