Sunday, 14 January 2018

The Red - Haired Woman | Orhan Pamuk | This is not a Book Review

Deep bought this book and tried to show off by finishing it in three days or something. He asked me to read it because he wanted to discuss something about it with me, he said. So i read the book in three months. I liked it but did not like it also. Obsession with fathers and fatherhood is something i don't get. It's really not a thing for me. But the narrative technique used by Pamuk is something to take note of. That was what Deep wanted to talk about as well.

A portion from the cover of The Red - Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk [Free to modify and reuse with credits]

The first part is a first person narrative of a boy who has a father who abandoned him. But he is writing it after he grew up. He is looking back at the incidents, narrating a story from his past. It is about his relationship with Master Mahmut, the well digger, when he was a child. The simple manner in which their relationship is portrayed as growing is subtle and lovely.

Once, a shooting star traversed a sliver of sky still visible between the cypresses, and we both turned to each other at the same time, as if to say, Did you see that?
We gazed at the stars while walking up our hill and didn't talk at all. It was as if a crime had been committed, and since the countless stars and crickets around us had all witnessed it, we lowered our gaze and kept quiet. The cemetery owl greeted us from the black cypress.

However, it was not possible for me to dissolve in the relationship or relate to it much because frankly, i have no idea what fathers are like and what they do when they are with their children. But there is one part that i understood in it. It was the part in which the boy was getting jealous of Master Mahmut and also angry with him.This was possible for me because i have been there in my relationship with her. And when i see others get angry with her and jealous of her, i quickly understand what they are thinking.

What was behind this talk of blindness? How had the topic even come up? Was it to emphasize how dark it had been inside the well where Joseph was confined? I have asked myself this question countless times over the years. Why did that story upset me so much and make me so angry at Master Mahmut?
. . . Clearly some of these things had been tossed into dried-out wells for safekeeping, only to be forgotten as years and then centuries passed. Wasn't that strange? If you cared about something, something valuable, but then left it inside a well and forgot about it, what did it mean?

 The way he felt he should hide his encounter with the Red - Haired Woman

. . . I felt I had to protect this blissful thing within me from his anger. . .
Now here is an honest depiction of how men view sex as a means of establishing power

. . . sleeping with someone like the Red - Haired Woman had lifted my self-confidence to the point that I felt there was nothing I couldn't do. . .
And the explanations they weave in their mind to justify their patriarchy before hitting on a woman. Or trying to sleep with a woman. This one is to justify that it was okay that he had slept with the wife of a man he knew or was an acquaintance of.

It wasn't as if Turgay was my long time friend, anyway - I'd only met him three or four times, I reasoned. Besides, these rootless theater migrants who danced so suggestively and told vulgar tales to entertain soldiers did not exactly subscribe to wholesome family values. Who knows, maybe Turgay himself cheated on his wife with other women. Maybe they entertained each other with tales from their extramarital adventures. Maybe tomorrow the Red - Haired Woman would tell Turgay about her night with me. Maybe she wouldn't even do that and forget all about me instead.

And yeah, i discovered that someone else noticed points of view in dreams and had similar experiences like mine

. . . Sometimes in my dreams there was a third eye, and I would simultaneously watch Master Mahmut and observe my younger self watching him.
Description of the experience of digging inside the well:

. . . As long as I could see Master up there, I didn't feel alone underground. Every time he moved aside to empty the bucket, a small disk of sky was revealed. How perfectly blue it was! It was remote, like the world at the wrong end of a telescope, but it was beautiful. Until Master Mahmut reappeared, I stood immobile, staring up at the sky at the end of that concrete telescope.
Part II is narrated by the same person but is his life after he abandoned Master Mahmut in the well and fled for his home, like a criminal. His thoughts about what he had done and how he felt about it and the ways in which he tried to justify it.

. . . I was sure that he was still doggedly digging, like a persistent fruitworm burrowing its way through a gargantuan orange. 
Some nights I saw Master Mahmut in my dreams. He was still digging away, somewhere up in space on a colossal bluish sphere spinning slowly among the stars. That must mean he wasn't dead and that I need not feel so guilty. But it still hurt if I looked too closely at the planet he stood on. 
And I still thought of Master Mahmut: somewhere in the back of my mind, an ever-shrinking man was digging a well right through the core of the earth, and sometimes he entered my dreams in other guises and told me stories. 
Chaper 31 has the names of some films you can watch after reading this book.

Part III is titled The Red - Haired Woman and is told from the point of view of the Red - Haired Woman. Here is where it becomes complicated.

She narrates the story of her love relationship with Cem's father. There is a portion i liked for the similarity it bears with the Communists in Mallu Land (Kerala).

I used to discuss these matters with Akin, my son's future grandfather, back in my tenties when we were in love. He was always astonished to recall all the profanities boys learned in school and militar'y service, swear words I'd never even heard of when he mentioned them, commenting how "disgusting" they were and launching into a tirade on the "oppression of women," which he always ended with his assurances that no such obscenities would survive the establishment of a working-class utopia. I had only to be patient and stand behind our men while they prepared the revolution. . .

Now the Red - Haired Woman asks her son who is now in jail for having killed his father, Cem, to write the story that we just read. She believes that if it is written in a certain way, the judge will forgive him and give a favourable verdict. Here it reminded me of 'If On a Winter's Night a Traveller' by Italo Calvino. The writer is asking the read to choose and judge the characters. The last part took it father than required, in my opinion. The author - Orhan Pamuk - started making the characters speak his mind when he adopted the narrative technique.

. . . "I'm so happy to hear you're going to write your novel now, my darling boy!" I said. "You can put this picture on the cover when it is finished, and perhaps there may even be some room in there for you to write about your beautiful mother when she was young. See, this woman looks a bit like me. Of course you know best how your novel should start, but I think it ought to be sincere and mythical at the same time, like the monologues I used to delover at the end of our performances. It should be as credible as a true story, and as familiar as a myth. That way, everyone, not just the judge, will understand what you are trying to say. Remember: your father had always wanted to be a writer, too."

In the end when the Red - Haired Woman is suggesting the boy how to write the book, we also start to think if it wasn't her who wrote the whole thing to save her son or to tell this story. But since we also know that it was Pamuk who wrote all of it, we wonder why he did that. Why did he begin as if the story was being told by Cem, the man who gets killed by the end of the novel. It's not clear but is interesting. Otherwise, it is not a great read but is a good one. I lost interest when i learned that the revelation in the end was that the woman had slept with both the father and the son. It sounded like a male fantasy to me right there.

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