Faber £18.99, Abrams £21.99

Silent House, By Orhan Pamuk
The Innocence of Objects, By Orhan Pamuk

Characters who make exhibitions of themselves

We must read Orhan Pamuk's second novel through the double veneer of time and translation. Is it strange for Turkey's only Nobel laureate to see a book he wrote half his lifetime ago belatedly appear in English? Does he read Silent House as though it is the work of another writer? Does he wince at the heavy influence of William Faulkner, wishing that he'd fleshed out his secondary characters or restrained the intensity of his five narrators' longings? Perhaps he admires its immediacy, topicality, early signs of the inventiveness and conviction that would later distinguish novels such as The Black Book and The Museum of Innocence.

In the summer of 1980, with Turkey on the brink of a military coup, Faruk, Nilgun and Metin visit Fatma, their 90-year-old grandmother, in the coastal village of Cennethisar. When she isn't hectoring Recep, the dwarf who is her servant and her late husband's illegitimate son, Fatma reflects on her past, which is bound up with her country's struggle with modernity. Pamuk probably knows Dark House was the working title for two of Faulkner's major works and, in this novel of competing voices, silence is figurative, secrets and shame shroud a crumbling mansion in "damp, deadly interior darkness".

Pamuk captures the melancholy of resorts which used to be ports, the tenuous world of beach shops, shabby bars, "Anatolian Nights" where the indigenous serve the entitled. "It's everywhere," a villager says as the air turns blue with television news of fighting between nationalists and communists. Nilgun sunbathes, reading Turgenev's Fathers and Sons, from which Silent House inherits its tense atmosphere of conflicting ideologies, watched by Recep's teenage nephew, Hasan. He runs with fascists, collecting protection money, daubing walls in graffiti. Vague, full of misdirected yearning, Hasan claims to love Nilgun but, as with Metin's infatuation with one of Cennethisar's seasonal nouveau riche, inflicts affection on her. Hasan imagines leading an uprising ("The television and newspapers will talk about me one day …") while Metin dreams of escaping to America, returning triumphant. Both answer rejection with violence.

In reminding us of the damage that young men can do, and dramatising dead men's legacies, Silent House examines literature's role in a traumatised society. In one of several soliloquies, we learn that Fatma's alcoholic husband made her sell her jewellery to fund his attempt at writing an encyclopedia: "So that the East, which has been slumbering for centuries, will wake up." The idea that writing can become an excuse for irresponsibility and vanity echoes through generations when Faruk, another raki-soaked intellectual, warns: "Stories are good for a laugh but not much else." At the end, however, Fatma remembers coveting a copy of Robinson Crusoe when she was a child. As her life recedes, she celebrates literature's capacity for return in what feels like an affirmation of the author's faith, in this book and the ones he will write.

The majority of the 74 chapters of The Innocence of Objects – the elegant catalogue from the Museum of Innocence that the author opened in Istanbul this year, and which takes its name from his 2008 novel – present relics of 20th-century Istanbul life, mini-essays and novel excerpts. This is the monument that Kemal, the narrator of The Museum of Innocence, used to commemorate his doomed affair with the beautiful Fusun. Pamuk says the objects, which he has spent three decades collecting, "talk among themselves, singing a different tune and moving beyond what was described in the novel". He discovers the "serendipitous nature of beauty" on a search which yields mementos of the everyday (4,213 cigarette butts), curiosities and kitsch, as well as Fusun's hairclips, pop bottle and half-eaten ice-cream.

The catalogue is an idiosyncratic supplement to Pamuk's oeuvre and a unique primer for visitors to Istanbul. It indicates that the museum, like the fiction, owes as much to patience as it does to inspiration. After questioning the worth of his endeavour, he finally concludes: "What I was doing was making me happy, so I should consider myself lucky." By honouring Kemal's desire to preserve lost love, Pamuk has created a record of delight.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk