The Black Book Experience

Salma Masood



I didn’t consider writing this piece about The Black Book. I am in the middle of reading 1984 by George Orwell and I had decided to write about that book. But it so happens that now I am writing about Orhan Pamuk’s masterpiece. I read it almost 2 years ago when my cousin literally forced me to read it before any other book. It took me around 6 long months to complete it. I didn’t really understand a major portion of the book and I didn’t read many books afterwards, as I used to. Earlier I was thinking of this article as another college assignment and how to write 1000 words.

Even though it may seem that I am not speaking in good terms about The Black Book but it has been one of my most influential reads. If a book makes you change your point of view then its irrefutably a good read in my opinion. Unfortunately I don’t remember all parts of the novel but there are certain sections I clearly remember. Those parts keep recurring   to me in one circumstance or the other. When I say parts I mean this book does  not follow the usual scheme of one cover, one story.

The book was originally written in Turkish and has been translated to English by Maurleen Freely. Galip, a lawyer, is the protagonist who is looking for his wife, Ruya who has suddenly disappeared leaving behind just a note. Ruya is a detective novel lover. While explaining what Ruya was like Galip also shares that he is not a fan of detective novels. He says that the authors lay out clues for the characters throughout the plot. The detective doesn’t do any work on his own rather he is led by the writer to the conclusion. Unlike these stories Galip’s own story has no clue. He is the writer of his own story. This might be one of the reasons why it is difficult to get immersed in the book. The character doesn’t seem to know where he is going. There is no hope of finding a possible way out. In superhero movies, heroes can’t be defeated and they never die. This in a way spoils the experience as the audience already has an idea of the climax. In other stories the characters seem to find a solution to any kind of problems. This prompts the audience to confuse reality with fiction.  Such presumption makes all other stories seem ordinary.

Galip suspects his wife is with Jelal who a famous columnist and Ruya’s half-brother. He somehow ends up posing as him and living his life. He intended to find clues in his columns and started writing instead of him for the newspaper. If we think about it all of us want to be someone else. Galip  starts to look for signs in peoples’ faces to find clues. He sees so many different thing and even the faces of mannequins. Since then I have been obsessed with reading faces to see signs.

The columns come in as alternate chapters in the book. “When Bosphorus  Dries Up” written by Jelal is my favourite. He talks about how fast it is drying up now and soon people will find out what’s at the bottom. It will tell many stories of a civilisation and the river will no longer be a pleasant sight. People will avoid it. It reminds me of Jehlum. When Jehlum will dry up we might find out the elements that led to the fall of our society. We might even have to witness a red river bed soaked by the blood of thousands of innocent lives. We might stumble on the secrets that were not supposed to be found. People will realise their fallacies which led to this happening.

The author is also wary of the effect of westernization on his society. He fears that they are losing their own identity. Well, this is also pertinent to our society which is blindly following the concept of pseudo modernisation. Not only on the larger scale but on individual level too, most of the people are lost. They are walking on the wrong path, the path not meant for them and they are oblivious of their real identity. They have created infinite masks to hide their reality while their true faces have rotten behind these masks. It is not surprising that they have lost the choice of giving up the masquerade and have eventually ended up losing their identities.

Overall all the elements in the book are very philosophical. Philosophy is relevant in all times and everyone can interpret it in a manner that means something to them. The language used in the book is a little difficult but that is justified since it’s a translation and the essence of the book must be preserved. Using appropriate words so that message is not misinterpreted is the basic compulsion.

In addition to this the plot itself is not character heavy. Very few important characters keeps the focus of readers on track. More importantly the message of the book is what matters here and too many characters are more likely to be a distraction.

[spoiler alert] In the end Galip finds both of them murdered and nothing about the killer is revealed. Author does not talk about why they were murdered. Either he wants the readers to predict it or what I prefer to think is that it is not important. Galip’s investigation which got him into certain situations was just a facade to impart ideas of greater importance. Why did I choose to spoil it? Because in case you read it I want you to focus on the substantial ideas of the book rather than being curious to find out the end. He finds them as suddenly as they disappeared at the beginning.  I myself have decided to read this book again when I am ready to see the bigger picture that the Pamuk has attempted to draw.