Turkish Labyrinth

The Black Book
By Orhan Pamuk, translated by Maureen Freely

Faber & Faber


Orhan Pamuk first came to international notice with the English translation of The White Castle. The Black Book, his latest translated work, is a 400-page mystery novel cum psycho-social ana­tomy of Turkey. Quotations on the jacket vie to use the most superlatives. The Observer says, “It is up there with the best of Calvino, Eco, Borges and Marques.”

The Black Book is the story of Galip, who is deserted apparently without any reason by his enigmatic wife, Rüya, and is unable to find her reclusive brother, Jelal. His search for them in the murky underground of Istanbul is less revelatory that the pathways of his psyche. Narrative chapters by Galip alternate mysteriously with newspaper columns by Jelal which become integral with solving their disappearance.

Pamuk’s perception is wonderfully fresh and he depicts the workings of the Turkish mind with care. Though some American colloquialisms jar, Güneli Gün’s translation* retains much of the lengthy musical fluency of the original.

Maureen Freely’s subsequent translation of The Black Book is available from the Cornucopia bookstore.

Other Highlights from Cornucopia 11
  • Bright Orange

    Tracing the history of this beautiful fruit is like reading a fairy tale. It spans continents and cultures like no other fruit, from its presumed natural habitat in the foothills of the Himalayas to the scented paradise gardens of the eastern Mediterranean and the orange groves of California.
    More cookery features

  • Vintners of Tokat

    The bunch of Narince grapes Ali Riza Diren is holding in his Anatolian vineyard (illustrated in this vintage issue of Cornucopia) is the raw material of a well kept secret. Tokat’s is an ancient wine, and its production was revived by Ali Riza’s father, to the delight of ambassadors and the approval of a Sotheby’s connoisseur.


  • Churches of the Rock

    High on the central Anatolian plateau, the craggy undulations of Cappadocia’s volcanic landscape conceal a silent world: countless Byzantine sancturies and cathedrals lovingly hollowed from the rock. David Barchard finds two valleys undisturbed since the Dark Ages. Photographs by Sigurd Kranendonk


  • Divan Inspiration

    Amasya, Tokat and Merzifon were once on the trade routes to China, centres of scholarship and commerce. Today they are secluded enclaves of traditional pleasures. John Carswell enjoys a feast of delicate architecture and heady wines. Photographs by Simon Upton


  • House of Great Illusions

    Hidden among the concrete blocks of Teşvikiye is a magnificent mansion riddled with mystery. Masquerading as a Venetian palazzo, Tozan House has disappearing passages, secret stairs and eccentricities it shares with its creator

  • The snowdrop treat

    When Mike Read, the plant conservation officer for Fauna and Flora International (FFI), uncovered a large illegal trade in wild bulbs from Turkey in the 1980s, he and his colleagues were greatly concerned…



  • Aphrodite’s Domain

    The finest school of sculpture in all antiquity was in Aphrodisias. Above the valleys of the Meander in Turkey’s Aegean hinterland, this favourite city of the Emperor Augustus remained largely unknown until the photographer Ara Güler brought it to the attention of the Princeton scholar Kenan T Erim in 1959. Here Ara Güler returns to the city and John Julius Norwich recalls Professor Erim and his first impressions of the sculptures that took his breath away.

  • Lake Shore Drive

    The Mosque of Esrefoğlu in Beyşehır, is one of the most beautiful in Anatolia. Built in 1298, it recalls earlier Central Asian traditions. Wooden columns with carved capitals support the splendid roof.


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Issue 11, 1996 Anatolia Rediscovered
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