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The New Life

I read a book one day and my whole life was changed.

With that hokum-slash-truism, the novel begins the story about Osman, a young student who became obsessed about a book, as well as those who have read it, looking for some sorts of answers, common threads, and comparisons to how the book affects their lives and gives the possibility of a new life (a sentiment shared by many readers, I’m sure).

He begins tracking Janan, whom he first saw the book being held by, and her friend/lover Mehmet, believing that they know something about the world of the book, but both of them soon disappear. Leaving his home (and his past life?), Osman embarks on aimless bus trips fraught with many fatal yet nonchalantly-written accidents (that may or may not be a bit much to some readers). He found Janan, and together they search for Mehmet in metaphorical, dreamlike coach rides, encountering darkly comical Dr. Fine with his hired “watches” that seeks to annihilate the book and its corrupting influence (I might turn potential readers off with that sentence, but it’s not that simplistic, my brain just refuses to write a better review) and uncovering the truths behind the grandeur signs of fates, hopes and dreams he had obsessively associated with and projected into the book, along with Janan.

The New Life is rather similar to The Black Book, although generally Pamuk is one of those writers whose works are permeated by similar characters — downbeat writers/artist/thinkers/drifters, beautiful, elusive woman — and themes — unrequited love, lost hope, east vs. west, disillusionment, identity, art — but he has the skills to whip these ingredients with the right amount of local culture & history, melancholy and humour into novels that work on different levels but ultimately hard to put down.

Also available by the same author:
My Name is Red (Faber, English)
The Black Book (Faber, English)
Snow (Faber, English)
The White Castle (Serambi, Bahasa Indonesia)

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Founding director, c2o library & collabtive. Currently also working in Singapore as a Research Associate at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS). Opinions are hers, and do not represent/reflect her employer(s), institution(s), or anyone else with whom she may be remotely affiliated.

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