After reading the opening sentence of the New Life, “I read a book one day and my whole life was changed,” I wondered whether reading The New Life itself was going to change my life.
This is the story of Osman, an engineering student, who becomes obsessed with a book and falls in love with a girl, Janan, who shares the same obsession. This novel is mainly the story of their journey through Turkey, going aimlessly from city to city, searching for this new life promised by the book.
At some point, as a reader, we doubt about their sanity, and we wonder what the real meaning of this mystical journey is? Is Pamuk the modern literary version of a whirling dervish looking for God or the meaning of life or one’s self like Sufis? Or does this new life is all about an identity crisis, like one of the favorite themes of Pamuk?
Could it be that Osman’s wandering represents Turkey and its tormented historical journey to reach a point where the never ending conflict and contradiction between the East and the West would finally reach an end?
Again, like all his other novels, the new life is not an easy read, but it is full of poetic philosophy and ambiguous dilemmas, and this was what I liked the most. Because I was tempted to put the book down every few pages, and like tasting a good wine, I had to ponder about the underlayer meaning of what I had just read.
In my case, as much as Pamuk has changed my life with each of his novels, I have to confess that I have also transformed his words because of my own particular point of view. The beauty of Pamuk’s work is that whatever conclusion any reader might reach, nothing in his work is ordinary. Each of us is going to read the book through our own eyes, and changing it because of who we are, as if each reader has to rewrite this whole journey … and this is Orhan Pamuk’s strength.