Silent House

The politics of late 1970s Turkey are deafening in Silent House, Orhan Pamuk's second novel--originally published in 1983 but only now available in an English-language translation. In a crumbling mansion, an old woman lives with only her memories and a dwarf she hates for company. She is joined by her grandchildren when they visit for the summer: Faruk, a middle-aged historian with a failed marriage and a stalled career; Nilgun, a pretty young woman with communist sympathies; and Metin, a teenager who aspires to strike it rich in America's corporate industry.

The drama begins, and escalates, when Nilgun rejects the advances of Hasan, her poorer, nationalist cousin. With the tensions that have been mounting in Turkey between the nationalists and the communists, what could have been merely a failed romance becomes a catalyst for violence and tragedy. In this regard, Silent House is similar to Pamuk's novel Snow--a slow building of political tensions, made more volatile by history, that ultimately explode in violence. The difference is that Silent House is narrower in focus, with the family serving as a microcosm for Turkish society.

While this novel at times feels raw in comparison to Pamuk's later works, readers with an interest in the complexities of the Middle East will gain vital insight into the tumultuous shaping of a country. --Ilana Teitelbaum, book reviewer at the Huffington Post

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