The New Life

by Orhan Pamuk

Other authorsGuneli Gun (Translator)
Hardcover, 1997





Farrar, Straus and Giroux, (1997)


A novel on Turkey featuring a group of students infatuated with a book. One of them has even abandoned his studies to make copies by hand so others can share it. It is never made clear what the book contains, but while the young are enthusiastic their elders think the contents are degenerate, another example of foreign influence ruining the country.

User reviews

LibraryThing member jwhenderson
This is my least favorite of Pamuk's novels, but I have not read them all so I will continue since I have enjoyed the others much more than The New Life. The story is like a nightmare with a book causing more trouble than any book I have ever read. A young man, Osman, reads a book that changes his life. He falls in love with Janan (“soulmate”), who has arranged his finding the book as if by chance as part of her plot to restore her lover Mehmet’s faith in the very same book, one to which he had introduced her once upon a time. This is “The New Life,” the cult book, or sacred text. The story takes the reader on a wild ride, yet it has redeeming features including the very fine writing of Orhan Pamuk.… (more)
LibraryThing member Katong
Wonderful beginning - - a fantastically gripping opening 30 pages. And it's deliciously meta- as it's about someone beginning to read a book. For me, New Life is the key to Pamuk's later work, as you see more clearly the almost recursive yet open-ended narrative loops or movements that tantalize in Snow and Red. Not that I'm diligent enough to really study this, but it's this feeling of movement, returning, repeating, looping inwards and outwards that is so intriguing in Pamuk.… (more)
LibraryThing member whernanm
Hard to follow as most of the things that happen take place in Osman's (the narrator) head. Sometimes it is hard to understand what is real and what is not. The narrator as well as some other boys his age are influenced by a book in such a dramatic way that it changes their destiny. The narrator leaves his home and sets out to experience the dualism between love and hatred and life and death in the search of more people who have been changed by the book. He ends back home, setting down and dying at the moment of trying to close the circle once opened with his departure from home.… (more)
LibraryThing member ilprinze
It's been a few hours since I finished reading the last page of Orhan Pamuk's The New Life, and I feel like I know everything, and that there's nothing to know. On the surface, the book is a post-modern mess. As you read through the first few chapters, you start questioning the honesty and genuineness of the narrator. I don't think many will disagree with the absurdity of someone declaring that reading a book changed one's life, and then going on a nonsensical journey to seek the truth in that book, only to end up committing a crime to eliminate his lover's previous partner.

The plot itself has still not sunk in for me but I'll give it a go. A young boy (Osman) reads a book that influences him strongly. At college, he meets a beautiful girl (Janan) who introduces him to her partner (Mehmet) who has read the same book. Osman then witnesses the assassination of Mehmet, which no one else seems to notice. This raises Osman's suspicions of a wider conspiracy so he goes to find Janan, and together they embark on an indefinite journey around Turkey to meet people who are involved with the book. While they are journeying, they watch Western movies on buses, and witnesses many brutal accidents. Somehow, they end up in a town where a man by the name of Doctor Fine lives. Doctor Fine believes that his son (Mehmet - the same Mehmet?) died as a result of him reading the book. So to stop this 'conspiracy', he appoints several spies (all with codenames of brands of watches) to find, monitor, and assassinate all those who read the book. At the same time, while reading all the reports written by the spies to Doctor Fine, Osman realises that Mehmet had not died. So to rid the world of Mehmet and ensure that Janan does not meet him again, Osman goes on his own quest to kill Mehmet, which he does mid-way through the novel. The novel ends many years later, when Osman goes back to his main mission to find out what the book means.

Underlying the absurd storyline are themes that are often considered Pamuk's trademarks such as the issue of East vs. West. The main characters in the book spend a lot of time on buses watching replays of Western movies. Is this perhaps, Pamuk telling us that we (as Middle Eastern people) spend most of our lives in vehicles controlled by others, while we passively watch the West develop and create for itself a core identity? Throughout the novel, the identify theme is reinforced in other ways. For example, there are several references to products and brands that change from being 'local' to 'mass-produced'. There are also times where the narrator travels from dark little towns, and returns to the lands of billboards, burgers, and Coca-Cola. On a metaphysical level, perhaps this all means that what we're reading is not really a story about a young delusional man who falls in love with a girl and then goes on a mission to kill her former lover. What Pamuk is trying to say is that Turkey is so lost in the middle of modernisation and Westernisation that it has really assassinated itself despite all the attempts of maintaining its ancient identity. One particular quote that has stayed with me from the book is to the effect of - if maintaining old things to keep our identity is called enlightenment, then flea markets should be full of it!

At times, it felt like Pamuk was talking to us directly, telling us how he likes to read books and how prefers to write. These passages become more apparent towards the end of the book, where there is a noticeable jump in time from when the narrator was a teenager to 'now' - where he is married and has a daughter. I personally found these passages engaging, but there was a sense of detachment that came with them as there was a subtle shift in voice from a confused and irritated narrator to a calm, and focused voice.

Despite the changing circumstances of being 'normal' again, the narrator goes on a final road-trip, which brings the books to its morbid conclusion.

Overall, this is a book that you could read if you wanted to have a deep and meaningful discussion with someone about the meaning behind the words, or if you have an interest in the issues of identity and absurdity. It's a short read, but by no means a light one.
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LibraryThing member MayaP
A book of two halves.

The first part was rather slow and confusing but with something indefinable, a lyric quality, the sense of something unfolding, a promise of better things – that urged me to carry on and I’m glad I did because the second half, in which Osman, the protagonist, searches for the meaning of life, thinks he may have found it, kills the man who seems to have found it, loses it again, finds it again, loses it again, and finally… *

Is quite astonishing.

There is no big reveal, no explosive finish, it’s a slow burn but a beautiful one. I intend to read it again, in six months time or so, I think it’s a book that will improve a great deal on a repeat run.

The writing is poetic, romantic, colourful, delicious. The story - it’s not a page turner, but it’s very well worth the effort of reading.

*I’m not going to spoil the ending, read it and see for yourself.
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LibraryThing member Paulagraph
I first read The New Life cerca 1997 or 1998 and fell in love with it then. I "won" the novel in an English Dept. Xmas party book exchange. The new prof of postcolonial lit (among other areas of expertise), Lisa Nakamura, at Sonoma State University was my "anonymous" gift-giver. I was prompted to reread the novel recently after a friend who read it with her book group admitted she found the writing (style)clunky and unsatisfying. (I had suggested the novel to them). One can admire Pamuk's novel through the looking-glass of postmodernism or postcolonialism or one can simply enjoy it as a surreal kind-of sort-of road novel cum romance cum Bildingsroman. Set in "modern" Turkey, where the existential mode of transport for young seekers is neither the railroads of the European Lost Generation nor the automobile of 50's and forward American youth, but the bus. On the Road here means On the Bus and it is on board that life, love, death, politics and philosophy play themselves out.… (more)
LibraryThing member lynnytisc
An obscure book by the author that cynically tries to find the meaning of life in an unremarkable life.
LibraryThing member kishields
Puzzling, difficult but ultimately satisfying story (sort of) of a young man's journey to find love and meaning in his life after an intense encounter with a magical (or was it?) book. Unlike anything else I've ever read, the book is beautiful at times, a bit dull and inscrutable at others, but comes together at the end in a very convincing end to the philosophical journey. A book I will think about for some time to come.… (more)
LibraryThing member Sumit_Nangia
Thanks Garvit for lending this one :)


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