Book Review

The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist by Orhan Pamuk

Photo on 14-11-2013 at 12.41 #4

This  little book, collected from a series of lectures Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk gave in 2009, is an interesting text exploring one writer’s attitude towards the composition and the reading of novels.

He writes with keen interest about the similarities and differences between novels and landscape paintings, between novels and museums, between nineteenth-century European novels and the global, varied genre that the form now is. He explores/exposes his influences, he lists what he sees as the significant points in the development of the Novel, and he expounds in quite some detail his key point: that every novel has a “centre”, and it is the locating of this that gives both the reader and the writer a true sense of satisfaction.

Genre novels, he writes, have an obvious centre – they deal with one aspect of life, and they deal with it in a formulaic way. Great literary novels, however, engage with a lot, or something very complex. He cites Moby Dick – what begins as a novel about whaling becomes a novel about obsession and madness and revenge becomes a novel about human psychology becomes a novel about the immateriality and unimportance of every living thing that has ever existed. A wide centre, rather than a specific one, but wide and deep, not wide and shallow.

The book is written in a somewhat informal way, is not too academic, and is informative without being dry. If you like Pamuk and/or books about writing, it’s certainly worth a read.

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