three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
32-Jan-Feb-2008
By: 
Orhan Pamuk
user_rating: 
0

Essays and a Story

A-Other ColorsIn the 75 essays, musings, sketches, speeches, and anecdotes collected here, Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk provides a detailed picture of his literary origins and inspirations. He discusses his love for Istanbul and for Turkey, a troubled country rich in history and culture that straddles the frontier where East meets West. He also explores the nature of the novel, which he considers the West's greatest contribution to civilization, as well as his passion for reading and the authors who shaped his literary sensibilities-Borges, Dostoevsky, Nabokov, Camus, Gide, and Faulkner. Writing on such wide-ranging topics as Islam, the roots of terrorism, childhood memories, family, and fatherhood, Pamuk offers a glimpse of the man behind the novels and the Nobel Prize.
Knopf. 448 pages. $27.95. ISBN: 0307266753

Baltimore Sun 4 of 5 Stars
"There's literally and literarily everything including the kitchen sink in this collection; the breadth and variety of the pieces makes it utterly compelling. ... Other Colors is an autobiography in essays and tales, a book for writers and readers that is never less than captivating." Victoria A. Brownworth

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Mostly what this collection gives us, by swiveling the lens from the window out toward the Bosporus to the man taking it in, is a chance to savor one of the inimitable literary storytellers of our time, who-to borrow a phrase from Marilynne Robinson's novel Housekeeping-is set upon a 'resurrection of the ordinary.' . . . Whether he's writing wistfully about Andre Gide as the hero of Turkish intellectuals (though Gide himself wrote scathingly about Turkey), or recalling how he used to collect Coca-Cola cans as a boy, from the trash cans of expat Americans, Pamuk is taking the world we thought we knew and making it fresh and alive." Pico Iyer

Chicago Sun-Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"If you've read Snow, My Name Is Red, The White Castle, or The Black Book you'll want to mine Other Colors for all the fascinating nuggets it contains about Pamuk's life, attitudes, beliefs and work. But if you're coming to Pamuk for the first time, start with the novels." John Cruickshank

Denver Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Other Colors: Essays and a Story is, for the most part, a fascinating glimpse into his Turkey, and Turkishness, the sources of his novels and his ideas about literature. ... His lighter essays, on topics like wristwatches, dogs and his daughter, are negligible." Merritt Moseley

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Best of all, in a collection whose essays include some that are tedious or vague, are samples of Pamuk's imaginative writing. There is a lovely set of quicksilver Istanbul sketches: barbers, the solitude of street food (an escape from the gregarious ponderousness of family meals), giving up smoking ('I no longer feel the chemical craving . . . I just miss my old self'), and his young daughter (a portrait he illustrates with touching Thurber-like drawings)." Richard Eder

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Mr. Pamuk devotes two essays to the big quake [of Istanbul in 1999]. They are among the best in a grab bag that includes wispy throwaway newspaper sketches, prefaces to a variety of classic and modern novels (including his own), his Nobel acceptance speech, several political essays and a short story." William Grimes

San Francisco Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The best thing one can say about Freely's translation is that it doesn't read like a translation. ... The basic idea is there, and Freely's sentence sounds more natural in English than Pamuk's, yet something important is lost." Michael McGaha

Critical Summary

The Baltimore Sun describes 2006 Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk's latest work as "part diary, part travelogue, part confession, part writer's guide to the galaxy, part political tract, part spiritual journey, part paean to the beauty of language and the configuration of words." Though critics agreed that the pieces were uneven, they were completely divided over which essays were the best. They also differed over Maureen Freely's translation: some praised her smooth, conversational rendering, while others considered it too loose. Other Colors is not intended as an introduction to Pamuk's work. Readers who have appreciated his brilliant, powerful fiction will enjoy peeking behind the curtain, but those unfamiliar with his work should start with one of his novels.

Also by the Author

My Name Is Red (2001): Shortly after a master miniaturist is commissioned to illustrate a book for the sultan of the Ottoman Empire, he is found dead at the bottom of a well. Set in the 16th century, this nontraditional murder mystery won praise for its compelling plot and its fascinating period detail.

Snow (2004): Ka, a Turkish poet living in exile in Germany, takes a job as a reporter and journeys to the Turkish city of Kars to investigate the bizarre suicides of several young women. Aided by an old flame, he witnesses firsthand the clash between East and West. ( 3.5 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2004)