03 May 2007

The White Castle

The White Castle is Orhan Pamuk's first novel. Part of the reason why I was interested in it was its beautiful cover. Another reason is its first page suggesting Pamuk's affinity with Kafka, Borges, and Calvino -- all of whom are my revered authors. It's a story set in the exciting Renaissance world of new knowledge and frontier transgressions. Reading this book is like enjoying good poetry -- beautiful sentiments and landscapes are conjured up.

The theme of the double is the main focus in this novel, with its Italian protagonist captured and sent to Turkey to meet his Turkish double. Both learn the culture and way of life of each other. Of course Pamuk plays upon the notions of the East and the West here with the spatial symbolism of Turkey and Italy as two distinct geographical spaces. (Of course this might remind some of Mann's Death in Venice, in which Italy is perceived as 'the Other' of the West -- so it must be emphasized here that all these geographical differences are relative, depending upon the eyes of the beholder.)

Desire, gaze, and projection all are influential and vital to the development of the main character and his double. One depends upon the other, so much so that if there's no double, one's own identity is cast into doubt. So the concept of static, unique identity which can stand on its own is severely questioned in this narrative. I read this whilst we're on Songkran holiday in Petchaburi and of course it was a good read by the beach.

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