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Silent House by Orhan Pamuk

Silent House (1983)

by Orhan Pamuk

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5491228,407 (3.5)8
Awaiting the arrival of her grandchildren in her home outside Istanbul, bed-ridden widow Fatma shares memories and grievances with her late husband's illegitimate son until his cousin, a right-wing nationalist, involves the family in the Turkish military coup of 1980.



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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Silent House, by Nobel Prize in Literature winner, Orhan Pamuk, is a dramatic and detailed story of a Turkish family bound by a dark history beginning in Cennethisar, a former village near Istanbul.

The novel is driven by its characters more so than its plot through a series of stream-of-conscious, inner forms of dialogue that recall sporadic memories and reveal the characters’ deeply rooted biases and fears.

There is Recep Efendi, a 55-year-old dwarf who resides in the Darvinğlu mansion as a servant and loyal caregiver to Fatma Karatash-Darvinğlu, a 90-year-old, bedridden grandmother whom he refers to as Madam.

And Fatma Darvinğlu , herself, a devout, religious, upper class woman whose age and obstinate beliefs chiselled her into a cold, proud, and bitter woman who punishes those around her due to her grief and disappointment in love, marriage, righteousness, and the inauthenticity of the modern world, which she misunderstands, fears, and loathes.

The two of them together, await the arrival of her now grown grandchildren for their annual summer visit at Shore Avenue, No. 12, Cennethisar: Faruk, recently divorced and an associate professor and avid historian whose love for the Gezbe archives and its contained past inspires him to want to write a story of no obvious connections or interpretations; Nilgun, a beautiful woman whose warm affection, intelligence and leftist beliefs bring her unwanted attention and danger; and Metin, who considers himself the most practical of his siblings and an intelligent tutor of mathematics whose talent to multiply any pair of two-digit numbers in his head ostracize him from his pretentious group of friends.

As the story slowly unravels, the reader learns about the grievances caused by Fatma’s ambitious and high-strung husband whose sole obsession to write and publish a scientific encyclopedia drives his marriage and finances to the ground.

This hunger for knowledge is eventually passed down to their son, Doğan, who aspired to be more like his father, became a direct administrator in the east, and signed up for politics. Much to Fatma’s opinion and dismay, like his father, he intrinsically felt responsible “for all the crimes and sins and injustice in [the] world,” at which point she wished he didn’t feel that way so that he would listen to her instead and not suffer, nor be agitated.

To read the rest of my review, you're more than welcome to visit my blog, The Bibliotaphe Closet:


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  ZaraD.Garcia-Alvarez | Jun 6, 2017 |
Sessiz Ev'de Orhan Pamuk, dağılmakta olan bir ailenin hikâyesi üzerinden Cumhuriyet ve modernleşme tarihimizin barındırdığı gizli çatışmaları ve şiddeti araştırıyor. Orhan Pamuk, yayımlanışından otuz yıl sonra bu yeni baskıda romana bölüm başlıkları koydu ve anlatıdaki bazı tekrarları ayıklayarak kitabı yeni okurlar için daha okunaklı hale getirdi.

Biri tarihçi, biri devrimci, biri de zengin olmayı aklına koymuş üç torun İstanbul yakınlarındaki Cennethisar kasabasındaki evinde babaannelerini ziyaret ederler. Dedelerinin yetmiş yıl önce siyasi sürgün olarak kasabaya geldiğinde yaptırdığı bu evde bir hafta kalırlar. Bu sürede, babaannelerinin doksan yıllık anılarla yüklü geçmişi ağır ağır aralanırken, dedenin Doğu ile Batı arasındaki uçurumu bir çırpıda kapatacağını sandığı büyük bir ansiklopediyi yazışı hatırlanır. Evde sessiz gözlemleriyle kuşaklar arasında köprü kuran tanıklar, bahçe duvarlarının ötesinde ise aile ile ilgilenen tutkulu gençlerin hareketleri vardır. Orhan Pamuk'un ikinci romanı olan Sessiz Ev, yayımlandığında büyük heyecanla karşılanmış, pek çok dile çevrilmiş ve ödüller almıştı.

"Pamuk'un gençlik dönemi şaheseri..."
-New York Review of Books-

"Önemli sorular soran değişik bir kitap - hem klasik hem modern. Çehov'un Vişne Bahçesi'ni hatırlatıyor."
-Le Monde-

"Orhan Pamuk, gerçek bir romanın işareti olan dilsel bir yoğunlukla, değişik açılar ve perspektiflerden bir olaylar dizisi kuruyor: Renkler, topografya, imgeler, zengin ayrıntılar..."
-Abidin Dino, Le Monde Diplomatique-
  Cagatay | Jun 13, 2016 |
SILENT HOUSE is the sort of book that provides plenty of fodder for conversation, but before I get around to that I need to say something about this translation, because it appears to be awful. The overall tone is "clumsy," and reading is like having a conversation with someone who might be very eloquent in their native tongue but is reduced to fourth-grade-level flailing in English. It's not up to the standards that I expect from Knopf, one of the few publishing imprints that still inspires any kind of romantic awe in me, let alone a Nobel Prize winning author whose previous books have completely transported me with their intelligence, subtlety, and emotional power.

Reading a translated book always requires a certain amount of blind faith; you have to trust that you're experiencing something like what the author originally wrote, and most of the time you can't do any kind of independent verification. Anyone who's ever tried translating knows that there's really no such thing as a perfect translation, which makes the illusion all the more crucial.

Wikipedia tells me that SILENT HOUSE was Pamuk's second book - was it written before his talents had really developed? Did the translator accurately reproduce a book with five alarmingly similar narrators, and do they read like childish simpletons in the original? If so, boy, has Orhan Pamuk grown as an author. If not? Then this translator screwed up, big time.

Alright. On to SILENT HOUSE. Three siblings visit their grandmother, Fatma, on a summer vacation. She lives in a crumbling old mansion not far from Istanbul, built before the area developed into a suburb for the very wealthy. The family belongs to the old elite, but badly diminished by time - the most recent patriarchs suffered from what could generously be called melancholy; less generously, a toxic combination of alcoholism and insanity. The grandchildren will be the last generation born into privilege unless one of them can turn things around...and none of the three are up to the task.

So we've got a story about an unhappy family, the generation gap, the class divide, Turkey's transition to a modern, more Westernized society. The dead but very present in spirit grandfather, Selahattin, fathered two children with a servant and his illegitimate family features in the book as well: his son Recep, a dwarf who lives and works in the house as a servant, and his grandson Hasan, a political extremist.

Every character in SILENT HOUSE is loathsome. And once I figured out that SILENT HOUSE is one of those books about awful people who do awful things, it was easy to predict how it would end: the one nice, sweet character dies tragically and senselessly.

I kept thinking that if this book weren't written by a Turk, no publisher would touch it with a ten-foot pole. The narrators include Hasan, who fantasizes about killing all the Communists and Atheists in Turkey, Metin, who fantasizes about emigrating to America so he can learn to build bombs, Fatma, who thinks science is evil, and then Salahattin and Faruk, both of whom consider scholarship to be little more than "copying down stuff that other people have already said." The book is filled with, I think, a deep contempt for all aspects of Turkish society - from the frivolous beach-goers to the hothead activists, the impotent scholars to the heartless conservatives.

And this is, again, where the problem of translation came in. Because Metin and Hasan, in particular, had very similar voices. Both teenage boys, both childish and irresponsible, both obsessed with girls they didn't know in the slightest. Both behaved very, very similarly toward these highly objectified women: falling "in love" after a second's glance, taking no interest in the girl's personality at all, becoming outright offended if the personality turned out not to conform to whatever ideal the boy preferred, becoming outraged if the girl rejected his advances. Both boys lacked any empathy, any self-awareness, but for quick flashes, like here, in Hasan's voice as he's watching a crowd of people on the beach and disapproving of the scantily dressed women:

"It's strange, sometimes I feel like doing something bad, then I feel ashamed, it's as if I want to hurt them a little so they'll notice me: that way, I would have punished them and nobody would give in to the devil and maybe they would only be afraid of me then. It's a feeling like this: we're in power and they're behaving properly because of it."

I feel like that could sound sort of astute and self aware or, as was more the case in my opinion, terrifyingly psychotic, depending on how it was translated. Were all the characters supposed to read like psychopaths, completely and utterly devoid of empathy? I can't tell! And keep in mind that these moments of insight from the characters are rarer than a reader of literary fiction might hope. The characters are unrelentingly shallow, and their musings are more along the lines of Metin's, here, as he fantasizes about how awesome life will be once he's rich:

"I'll be a heartless rich international playboy, pictured in the papers with the Countess de Roche-Whatever, and the next year, I'll live the life of a renowned Turkish physicist in America, Time magazine will catch us walking hand in hand in the Alps, me and Lady So-and-So, and when I come to Turkey on my private yacht to make a Blue Voyage, and you [the girl he's obsessed with; most of Metin's thoughts are addressed to her in the 2nd person] see me splashed across the front page of Hurriyet with my third wife -- the beautiful only daughter of a Mexican oil tycoon -- then, Ceylan, let's see if you don't say, I'm in love with Metin"

SILENT HOUSE deserves credit for showing how people with different worldviews work at cross-purposes, like ships passing in the night, never understanding one another, unable to communicate - unable to step back and take stock of what's gone wrong. It reduces all the great tectonic shifts in Turkish society to a collection of grudges, always secondary to the lowest drives of human nature: greed, lust, fear.

And it's curious for rendering the scholar, the writer, the most impotent of all. The most useless, the most pathetic - which is something extraordinary, in a cast of characters as pathetic as the one portrayed here. In SILENT HOUSE, writing is tantamount to giving up, to failure.

But getting to the interesting stuff in SILENT HOUSE takes a lot of digging and patience and tolerance. The translation is just so awkward, and - probably because I read an ARC from Edelweiss - the formatting was terrible, with words left out, strange punctuation, pages of dialogue mashed together without paragraph breaks, and one chapter still titled "TK". I can only recommend this to devoted fans, because anyone else will walk away from SILENT HOUSE with a poor opinion of Orhan Pamuk that he does not deserve.

( )
  MlleEhreen | Apr 3, 2013 |
Won on first reads in September....never recieved unfortunately :( ( )
  Shawna77 | Mar 31, 2013 |
This novel, although translated and released in English in 2012, was actually one of Pamuk's early works, originally published in 1983. It was interesting to read this early novel now, after having read almost all of his later works. There are glimmers of the masterful writer in this story, but it is nowhere near the eloquent, finely crafted quality of his current writing. Clearly, even from his earliest writing, Pamuk attempts to blend literary and political elements to convey through fiction, the political, social climate in Turkey at the time of significant events. I am just happy to have read his later, magnificent works. He is one of my all-time favorite authors! ( )
  hemlokgang | Jan 27, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pamuk, Orhanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Andac, MunewerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bockting, HansCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carpintero Ortega, RafaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dorleijn, MargreetTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Finn, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gür, DilekTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meier, GerhardÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Dinner is ready, Madam," I said. "Please come to the table."
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