THE BLACK BOOK by Orhan Pamuk beats the idea of identity to death starting on the first page and continuing on to the very last page wherein the narrator has fully assumed another’s life role. Every possible angle of identity lost, identity found, identity changed is explored.
The narrator, Galip, is a lawyer whose wife (and also his cousin)Ruya, as the story begins, has left him. He suspects she has run off with her older half-brother, Celal, a famous newspaper columnist who has also disappeared. The bulk of the book alternates chapters on him trying to find his wife and/or Celal and chapters that are Celal’s newspaper columns which in a twist are soon written by Galip who also commandeers one of Celal’s apartment.
The pseudo-columns are the weakest parts of this book. They are I believe meant to show Galip gradually becoming Celal (maybe he was Celal all along) and they mirror Galip’s mental state but in and of themselves but they are often long-winded and dull.
Better are the chapters that show how easily and firmly Galip fits into Celal’s life. In addition to the newspaper column and the apartment, he also answers the phone as Celal and starts up a series of conversations with a potential stalker, someone who might have a grudge against Celal.
This is the second novel I’ve read by Pamuk the first being THE MUSEUM OF INNOCENCE my review is here http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-museum-of-innocence-by-orhan-pamuk.html. Despite the ending feeling rushed, I liked this one better as it said everything that is possible to be said on identity, a subject near and dear to my heart which I often tackle in my poetry. It’s exhausting in that regard as it is for us as we keep our own fronts up creating our own public identities which may or may not be who we really are.