The New Life by Orhan Pamuk is a book that I can’t stand it, but I love it. Sometimes at the same time, but mostly at separate times and different parts of the book.
Maybe it was the out of body experience the character has while reading a book that has changed his entire life. Nothing will ever be the same. I knew that the book would have an impact on me and from that early page or two, I assumed a positive one.
The first time I read, I plugged through and got to page a hundred. Not quite half way. Not a thick tome. Just chewy. No carbs. No sugar. No gluten. No meat. What else is there that tastes good but we’re not supposed to eat anymore? Lots and lots of fibers. words that I had never heard of before or used in such a manner. I reminded myself that this was a translation. Maybe if I were to read the work in the original. I remind myself that I have a hard enough time with English. Today I told a class that my English was so bad in high school I had to major in English to get it right. I’m so much better than I had been.
One hundred pages and I didn’t have a clue what I had just read. There was this 22-year-old Architecture student who still lived with his mom. He discovered a book. By a hundred pages, I thought that by then, I’d know the name of the book. He becomes entranced by this book that he thinks was written just for him; that the words on the page were his words, his story.
He starts traveling on buses, going day after day getting on and off buses haphazardly. And then he’s in bus versus cement truck disaster and sees death and destruction. He steals the wallet of his dead seatmate.
He continues this lifestyle. After many bus rides, there’s always another crash with more death.
Not knowing his name or where he lives and some of the jargon distracted me and I couldn’t follow the text. I’d read it, but it didn’t seem like it was written in English any more; it wasn’t written in a language I could comprehend. That’s when I opted to start again. I don’t think I have given up on two many books in my life. One or two. I know that eventually in this lifetime, I will finish Great Expectations. I promise.
When I started The New Life again, I took it paragraph by paragraph. I had fun writing passages. I’m sure I had more fun than my friend Bex who got copied text into emails. Even when she didn’t say anything, make a comment or a question, I sent her more passages. Sometimes I wrote them to myself.
I’ve always done this since I first began to write. If I didn’t understand something, I would copy it down. When I learned how to type, typing things was a multifaceted event. If I wanted to practice typing, especially speed, I would copy books. And it gave me something to do. And it helped me understand things I didn’t understand. Maybe that’s why I have journaled most of my life. I write things down in order for me to understand it later on.
While reading the book the second time, I absorbed more of the story and the plot took off in my head. Reading is almost like flying, but the conditions have to be just right. Any noise and I can’t ever get off the ground.
On the second time around, I picked up how critical it was to find the person who showed him the book; it was a happenstance; she had her hands full, so she put her book down on the table he just happened to be sitting at and he just happened to ghet a book at the title. She walked off. He went back to his teach and didn’t think anything off it, at least that’s my interpretation.
The second time of the mystery man become infatuated with the book, I was surprised he didn’t have to be hospitalized for third degree burns; the radiance and blistering incandescence from the glow of the book dazzled him so. Blinding.
A fleeting look at the cover of a book that I hadn’t read would not stick to my brain, but this young man not only remembered the book name long enough to buy it at the corner store, but he remembered where he first saw it and the color of the young woman’s hair who had once held her own copy.
Adventure to find her. He becomes obsessed, though he doesn’t really know the meaning of that word until he finds her and then loses her again. What’s the typical plot: Boy meets girl. boy loses girl. boy finds girl again.
In less than a hundred pages, he meets the girl, loses her, finds her, loses her again. There’s still another hundred or so, the losing and finding could go on a few more times.
Now, I will say that the book warns me that since the book contains death and violence, I wasn’t quite ready for the frequency of the violence and death.
When the boy finds Janen, the girl, he insists he talk to someone who has read the book, to see if their lives were turned upside down as his. She kisses him on the mouth; he’d never been kissed before. You would think that if the book turned him upside down, the kiss would have turned him right side up. This just got him turned upside down even more. In love with a book. In love with a girl he didn’t even have a name for. Maybe that’s why I don’t know his name. Just a thought.
She asks him if he would talk to her boyfriend; her boyfriend used to be a believer, but upon taking the trip suggested in the book, he came back without his faith. He warned the younger lad to not waste his time; all he will see is destruction and death. We’ve both been warned, though he only once.
And then they disappear into class. The main character loses track of both of them; he tries to forget that the man warned him that he could be killed for reading such a book. How can a book kill me, he thought, but that was when he was just an architectural student.
A short while later, he just happens to look out a window when he catches a lookof the young woman and the man without faith; he remembers the color of her coat. I just remembered that it was December. I don’t know if it’s cold in the Middle East. Another clue I should have given you earlier.
He watches from a closed window the two characters look like they are having a fight. Earlier the author helped the plot along by showing a man with a plastic bag in his hand across the way; nothing unusual; earlier in the book, I was told that everyone in this country carried around plastic bags; never told me why. In this particular case, it was a convenient way to hold a gun. The gun that was used to shoot the man without faith. Shot him twice, dropped the plastic bag, and bounded into the park. After two readings, I picked up the image of the assassin running “like a clown through the park.” children and dogs chased him as he playfully ran through the park. No one was chasing him. Well, the kid infatuated with the dead guy’s girl friend took chase. But by the time he got to where the shooting happened, nothing was there. No body. No blood. No girlfriend. Not even a plastic bag.
I was so wrong about how many times he loses the girl, unless the fact that she never saw him or if she never really was there, the loss might not count.
He searches frantically for them. No one heard anything. No hospitals had a gunshut wound; they had everything else, described somewhat graphically. He searches campus around and around; he stops going to classes. Structural physics. How does that apply to his new life? Maybe more than he realizes. He finds out from her friends, who he just happens to remember who she hung out with, a part of him reader’s aren’t shown. He goes to her house; her parents are worried, but they don’t want to call the police and figure she’s a smart girl; she can handle herself; she’s probably being used in a political game of chess. I wonder why they are afraid of the police officers? After the guy witnessed the shooting, he ran past the police officers. I didn’t notice the first time I read.
By this time, the guy has stopped eating for the most part and no longer sleeps; he decides that he must take a lot of buses to find the world that he read about in the book.
In a mere page or two, he’s already been on his trek for three weeks. Of and on of busses, never stopping, sleeping on buses; eating food that people sell on busses. On page 44, he has a revelation. He’s watching a love story on a little screen above the bus driver’s head; the characters aren’t kissing like the entire bus is expecting. The kid starts to feel “overwhelmed by an astonishingly powerful feeling of incompleteness, of apprehension and expectation.”
(Sounds like some of my days as a substitute teacher.)
One paragraph later, he happens to be in a bad wreck. It is here the author starts to lose me again. Right before the accident, the character is looking at the movie and listening to the silence on the bus while the tv characters don’t kiss. He compares the silence to the coronation of a King, the moment when the crown is placed and a pair of wings are released over the royal scene. Not being English or from any country that has royalty, this wouldn’t be the image that would pop inside my head.
At the exact time he’s feeling panic, the bus collapses like bellows; everyone in the front rows, aside from the young bus driver, have disappeared. “Disintegrated into smithereens and disappeared.”
Sleep deprivation and a concussion might have caused him to say this,
“It must have been this that I had been looking for; it was what I wanted. How aware I was of what I discovered in my heart! Peace, sleep, death, time! I was both here and there, in peace and waging a bloody war, insomniac as a restless ghost and also interminably somnolent, present in an eternal night and also in time that flowed away inexorably.”
I think I need to eat something with sugar or fat to go with the fiber. I’ll be back later.