13 juni 2007

Vragen van An De Vos voor de Ankara meeting

Here are two very urgent questions. - Why does Pamuk feel the need to *elaborate* on the genesis of the White Castle, the intertextuality in the book... - Is the Pamuk way of telling a story indebted to an oral or 'Eastern' way of telling? An De Vos

Module 'De witte vesting'

Intercultural Reading: Suggestions for Discussing Orhan Pamuk, The White Castle By Annemie Leysen As the READCOM project also includes Turkish partners, it was decided that each participating partner of the project would read and discuss a book by the 2006 Nobel Prize winning Turkish author, Orhan Pamuk. The Flemish Reading Circle chose to read and to discuss The White Castle, as this novel is the most accessible for a non-Turkish and dual audience of young readers and adults. Aims and objectives To get acquainted with Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish Nobel Prize winning author To get acquainted with Turkish political and cultural history of the Ottoman Empire To discover cultural differences and similarities between East and West by reading a Turkish novel To explore the theme of the doppelgänger Duration 90 minutes Materials · Copies of Orhan Pamuk, The White Castle · www.orhanpamuk.net · Interviews with Orhan Pamuk · (Historic) map of Turkey · Internet Activities and strategies Expressing personal reading experiences Discussing style and content of the novel Discussing the themes ‘East-meets-West’, ‘identity’ and ‘impersonation’ Creative activities 1 Reading experience 1.1Experience of reality Possible questions for discussion: · Can you compare something in the plot with something you have seen, read, heard before · Is this a realistic story, based on historic facts, in your opinion? Or would you rather call it a fable/a tale. Why? · Have you read stories or novels about exchanging identities before? · Have you been in Turkey? If so, do the atmosphere and the setting in this book remind you of what you have seen or heard of contemporary Turkey? · Turkey is a possible European Community Member State. What do you know about the ongoing discussion about the membership? · Pamuk is a controversial author in Turkey, because of his political statements. Would you call The White Castle a political novel? 1.2Talking about personal reading experiences (personal level) Possible questions for discussion General · Which adjectives would best describe your reactions to the book? (e.g.: sad/happy; interested/bored; moved/indifferent; difficult/easy to understand…) · Which parts of the novel did you like best? · Try to summarize in one sentence what the novel is about. · Which is, in your opinion, the crucial sentence/passage in the book? Can you explain why? Compare your choice with the choice of your group members and discuss the differences/ similarities. Specific Subject/theme · Did you find the subjects/themes (East-West; Doppelgänger; impersonation) of the book interesting? · Were the subjects/themes well developed? · Did you have sufficient historic or literary knowledge to understand the novel? Would you advise readers to find information about Turkish political history or literary motives before reading the book? · Did the novel arouse your interest in these themes? · Would the information below on the Ottoman Empire be helpful for a better understanding of the novel? [Britannica Concise Encyclopedia- Ottoman Empire Former empire centred in Anatolia. It was named for Osman I (1259 – 1326), a Turkish Muslim prince in Bithynia who conquered neighbouring regions once held by the Seljuq dynasty and founded his own ruling line c. 1300. Ottoman troops first invaded Europe in 1345, sweeping through the Balkans. Though defeated by Timur in 1402, by 1453 the Ottomans, under Mehmed II (the Conquerer), had destroyed the Byzantine Empire and captured its capital, Constantinople (now Istanbul), which henceforth served as the Ottoman capital. Under Selim I (r. 1512 – 20) and his son Süleyman I (the Magnificent; 1520 – 66), the Ottoman Empire reached its greatest peak. Süleyman took control of parts of Persia, most of Arabia, and large sections of Hungary and the Balkans. By the early 16th century the Ottomans had also defeated the Mamluk dynasty in Syria and Egypt; and their navy under Barbarossa soon seized control of much of the Barbary Coast. Beginning with Selim, the Ottoman sultans also held the title of caliph, the spiritual head of Islam. Ottoman power began to decline in the late 16th century. Ottoman forces repeatedly besieged Vienna. After their final effort at taking the Austrian capital failed (1683), that and subsequent losses led them to relinquish Hungary in 1699. Corruption and decadence gradually undermined the government. In the late 17th and 18th centuries the Russo-Turkish Wars and wars with Austria and Poland further weakened the empire, which in the 19th century came to be called the "sick man of Europe." Most of its remaining European territory was lost in the Balkan Wars (1912 – 13). It sided with Germany in World War I (1914 – 18); postwar treaties dissolved the empire, and in 1922 the sultanate was abolished by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who proclaimed the Republic of Turkey the following year.] Events · Which was the most important event in the novel, in your opinion? Why? · Did any events described in the novel make you think? · Did you have to fill in gaps in the novel? Did the author leave a lot to your imagination? Did you find that interesting/annoying? Characterization · Are the main characters (the Venetian student and the Hoja; the Sultan) in the book recognisable? · Are they credible; do you believe in them? · How do you feel about the exchange of identity between the narrator and his master? · Have you ever had such a look-alike or ‘alter ego’ experience? How did that affect you? Structure · Is there a clear plot in the book? Or is there a mixture of several stories? · Can you appreciate that? · The story is told through the eyes of the Venetian slave. How does that affect your reading experience? · Whom did you most sympathise with (master or slave)? · What do you think of the ending? Did you find it surprising? Does everything fall in its place? Do you like the way the book ends? Why/ why not? Time/setting · Is the time (17th century) in which the story is situated of any relevance/importance? Is time well described? · Is the setting in which the story is situated (Constantinople/Istanbul) important? Is it well described? Language · Did you find the text difficult to read? If so, why was that? · Did you find the narrative style too long-winded, bombastic, lengthy? Or did you find it to the point, straightforward, suggestive, well chosen…? Explain. · Does Orhan Pamuk’s narrative style differ from the literary styles you are used to? · Does the language match with the characters and the subject? 1.3Literary Analysis (technical level, connected to personal reading experience) Thematic - Theme of identity and of the Doppelgänger The idea of impersonation, of becoming somebody else, often crops up in Pamuk’s fiction. Pamuk explains it as follows in an interview: “It’s a very personal thing. I have a very competitive brother who is only eighteen months older than me. In a way, he was my father- my Freudian father, so to speak. It was he who became my alter ego, the representation of authority. On the other hand, we also had a competitive and brotherly comradeship. A very complicated relationship. (…) I felt jealousy towards him, and he was jealous of me too. He was the reasonable and responsible person. (…) While I was paying attention to games, he paid attention to rules. And I fancied being him, that kind of thing. Envy, jealousy,- these are heartfelt themes for me. (…) I’m not saying I’m a victim of jealousy. But this is the galaxy of nerve points that I try to deal with all the time. And of course, in the end, it becomes the subject matter of all my stories. In ‘The White Castle’, for instance, the almost sadomasochistic relationship between the two main characters is based on my relationship with my brother.” · Can you recognize any of Pamuk’s comments above in the relationship between the Hoja and the narrator? · How would you describe the relationship between the two main characters? · What would the Hoja be jealous of? · Would you call the relationship between the main characters ‘sadomasochistic’? If so, can you give some examples? · From the beginning and throughout the novel it is suggested that the narrator and the Hoja will exchange identities. Can you find examples of these hints in the book? · The ‘White Castle’ in the Carpation Mountains, that the sultan’s army tries unsuccessfully to storm, is situated in Doppio. Do you think the name of that location has a symbolic meaning? · Who is going to Italy, in the end, and who is staying behind in Turkey, in your opinion? Is there a clear answer to that question? · At the end of the novel, the sultan says to the Hoja: ‘Was it not the best proof that men everywhere were identical with one another that they could take each other’s place?’ How do you understand this quote? - East-meets-West Orhan Pamuk in an interview: “ The theme of impersonation is reflected in the fragility Turkey feels when faced with Western culture. After writing ‘The White Castle’, I realised that this jealousy – the anxiety about being influenced by someone else – resembles Turkey’s position when it looks west. You know, aspiring to become Westernized and then being accused of not being authentic enough. Trying to grab the spirit of Europe and then feeling guilty about the imitative drive. The ups and downs of this mood are reminiscent of the relationship between competitive brothers.” · The Hoja seems obsessed with mastering the European culture, techniques and sciences: his Italian slave has to instruct him in astronomy, medicine, engineering, mathematics, ‘everything that was taught in my country.’ How would you explain that obsession? · The American critic Christopher Lehmann-Haupt described The White Castle as an ‘Antidote for East-West despair’. ‘There occurs a transcending blending between what Mr.Pamuk apparently sees as the too inner-directed West and the too outer-directed Middle-East.’ Do you agree with that statement? Can you find examples of that duality in the novel? · In the novel, two characters lose their own autonomous identities and merge into one. Can this be understood as a symbol for overcoming the national differences between the Turkish and the European culture? · The reactions to the plague that is sweeping Istanbul are very different. How do the sultan and the Hoja react to it? What does the narrator want to do about it? Do these reactions tell us something about the contrasts between Islamism and Western rationalism? · Is the ‘Western’ education the Hoja organizes in school and in the private tutoring of the young sultan successful? Does it tell you something about the differences between East and West? (prognostication versus science…) · The ultimate military weapon, a product of Western engineering, invented by the Hoja, gets caught in the mud during the siege of the White Castle in the Carpathians, in the Christian Europe. What does this fiasco tell you? · The context of The White Castle is the glorious period of the Ottoman Empire. Do you think this is a relevant choice? · The White Castle has been described by a critic as emphasising ‘on the artificial character of national and personal identity’. Discuss this statement. Point of view · The story is told from the point of view of the Venetian slave. What effect did that choice have on your reading experience? · Could the story be told from the point of view of the Hoja? Would that make it a completely different story? · Who is the narrator at the end of the novel, in your opinion? What makes you think so? Structure · In what way does the author inform his readers? Does the reader have an advantage/disadvantage as to his/her knowledge of events? · Which techniques does the author use to create tension? What is the effect? · What is the function of chapter 11 (the last chapter was, according to the narrator, added 16 years after finishing the book)? Characterisation · Are the characters of the slave and the Hoja round or flat? (Are they types or do they change in the course of the narration?) · Can you make a portrait of one of the characters? Did Orhan Pamuk give the reader a clear view of the physical appearance of his characters? · How would you describe the ambivalent relationship between the Hoja and the slave? Can you discover changes in it throughout the novel? · Give three adjectives that describe the main characters. · Have you noticed any changes in the characters as they grow older? Time and Space · Did the author tell the story in a chronological order? Did he use flashbacks or flash forwards? · What effect did that choice have on your reading experience? · What effect does the description of the Oriental setting have on the story? How did the author reach that effect? · How many years are described in this novel? Style · Describe the most important characteristics of the style in this book. · Does the author have a typical style? In what way? (suggestive/descriptive/ cryptic/ elaborate…) · What does the image of ‘the white castle’ stand for, in your opinion? Could you find other images in the novel? · Ohran Pamuk, like his characters, is obsessed with narrative. Near the end of the novel his narrator asks: ‘Wasn’t inventing and listening to diverting stories the pleasantest part of life?’ Did you find the stories in the novel ‘diverting’? Media Bring reviews of the book you found on the Internet and indicate where you agree/disagree with the reviewer. Give arguments! Try to find the report of the Nobel Prize Jury 2006. Do you agree with the arguments? Would this book be good material for a film? (possibilities; problems?) Compare this book to films, series on the same subject, theme… Look for an interview with the author of the book (newspaper, internet, television…). How does it help you to understand the book? Look for information on the Turkish culture. How does that help for a better understanding of the book? Find websites with information on Orhan Pamuk. Give your opinion on the quality of the websites (content, presentation). Get in touch with other readers (students) who read the same book (on the internet). React to their comments. Start a conversation about the book via the internet (via any communication network). Discuss themes, quality… Creative activities Give comments on the cover of the book. Does it tell you a lot about the content? Is it well done? Design an alternative cover for the book that reflects the main themes. Identify with one of the characters of the book and react to a particular situation. Write it down or roleplay it The White Castle has an open ending. Write a short chapter as a sequel to the book or as an alternative ending to chapter 11. Rewrite a scene of the book from the point of view of the Hoja or the sultan. Which film actor would be perfect in the role of the Venetian slave/ the Hoja? Why would you choose him? Make a news item on the book or on the controversial author Orhan Pamuk. Film it on videotape and show it to the other participants. Put five objects in a box that could be linked to the book. The link should be indirect, suggestive… Choose music that relates to the book. Bring it to the reading session and explain your choice. Read an extract from The Double by F.Dostoevsky and try to find similarities/differences. Crossover Which elements in the book will appeal to young adult/to adult readers? Why? What makes this book rather difficult to read for young readers? (Content? Style and structure?…) Why would this book be more/less attractive to adult readers? Annemie Leysen

De witte vesting

De witte vesting - Orhan Pamuk Ook ik moet toegeven dat het me moeite koste om De witte vesting te lezen. Ik grijp al niet gemakkelijk naar historische romans en zeker niet als deze zich afspelen in "donkere tijden". En donker, somber, deprimerend zijn nu net de woorden die in me opkomen als ik aan dit boek denk. Van de donkere slavenkerkers verhuist het hoofdpersonage naar het huis van de Hodja, dat mij erg benauwd overkomt. Deels omdat hij er dag in dag uit opgesloten zit, alleen of met de Hodja, wiens frustratie over de vermeende westerse voorsprong op wetenschappelijk gebied voortdurend in de lucht hangt. Maar vooral omdat Hodja en slaaf daar wel erg duistere spelletjes spelen met elkaar en elkaar op de duur gek maken. Aan de "waarom ben ik ik" sessies en aan de Hodja die zijn slaaf tijdens de periode van de pest voortdurend op de huid zit, kunnen ze geen van beiden ontkomen. Vanaf dan begint het verhaal steeds meer te cirkelen rond het thema van identiteitsverwisseling, op zo'n manier dat ik er zelf behoorlijk gedesoriënteerd van geraakte. Dat dit verhaal leidde tot een nederlaag met een gedrochtelijk donker wapen in een somber en mistig moeras, kwam helemaal niet als een verrassing. Het verbaasde me zelfs dat het verhaal daarna nog verder ging en dat nog beschreven werd hoe ze lang en gelukkig elkaars leven verder leidden. Het is opmerkelijk dat de Hodja de ptolemaeische sterrenkunde bestudeerde. Dit terwijl de heliocentrische sterrenkunde toch al zijn intrede gedaan had (Copernicus (1473 – 1543) en Kepler (1571 – 1630)) en er toch meer dan één vage allusie op verwacht kon worden. Anderzijds leefde ook in de tijd van Kepler de controverse tussen astrologie en astronomie enorm. Horoscopen en toekomstvoorspellingen spelen ook in dit verhaal een belangrijke rol (vb. hoe de slaaf de interesse van de Padisja hiervoor uitbuit). Op wetenschappelijk gebied moet dit een erg boeiende periode geweest zijn, jammer dat dit in De witte vesting niet zo wordt overgebracht. Dit sombere verhaal is erg traag en uitgesponnen geschreven en humor of lichtere passages zitten er niet in. Dit maakte dat de draad niet al te zeer verliezen en het boek uitlezen tot het einde toch echt wel een inspanning was. Marleen Van Cleemput


TIRZA TiRza lezen is me goed bevallen. een meeslepend verhaal dat je een hele tijd in de ban kan houden. prachtige nietszeggende dialogen tussen dochter en vader, tussen Jörgen en echtgenote (die overigens geen naam krijgt toebedeeld). Het lijkt allemaal zo luchtig, maar eigenlijk is het allemaal bijzonder zwaar. Grappige dialogen tussen echtgenote en Hofmeester, niet echt verbaal agressief, wel tragisch en beschavend. Hoever kan je gaan in je gedrag en handelingen, hoe ver reiken de mogelijkheden om de duivelse gedachten te verbannen en niet tot daden te doen overgaan. In ieder van ons schuilt een moordenaar. Hoe getroubleerd / aangetast kan een mensenziel zijn ? Hoe verdorven is onze maatschappij ? Is leven slechts een illusie ? Het hele gezin gaat gebukt onder de “terreur” van Hofmeester. Een ongetwijfeld wijs man die zijn daden welbepaald afhandelt, maar hier en daar toch struikelt. Niet altijd volhardt in de dingen, terwijl het moorden dan weer wel een harde daad van wild en weldoordacht terreur is. Zijn lot in andermans handen geven. Knap was het wisselen van hand vasthouden met Kaisa. In de “township” werd hij geleid door haar en niet omgekeerd. Hofmeester is ook hard tegenover het “vreemde” / “andere” in de westerse samenleving : huurder, Atta. Langs de andere kant is hij milder als hij in Namibië rondtrekt. Woorden – zinnen kloppen en zorgen voor de juiste tragiek en dramatiek. Hele boek tot afreis naar Namibië is een heel lang voorspel. Boeiend. Er gebeurt op zich weinig, maar dat deert niet. Slot in Namibïe mocht best langer en was wat teveel van hot naar her (letterlijk in de reis). in het begin komt de terugkeer van de echtgenote ongelegen. Jörgen Hofmeester is slachtoffer en heeft zich de hele tijd goed gehouden. Maar hoe meer het verhaal vordert enig minpunt : aantal kleine zaken die snel afgehandeld werden (affaire esther – huurders – bezoek moeder Kaisa) maar eigenlijk komt alles wel terug op het einde. Als hij telkens weer verklaart dat hij wilt verdwijnen, de liefde heeft afgezworen. behoefte om zichzelf weg te cijferen als ouder (aanvang boek) / behoefte om te verdwijnen (einde boek) Danny Theuwis

01 juni 2007

Verwachitngen niet ingelost

Eindelijk zou ik eens een boek van Pamuk lezen! Een historische roman waarin een slaafgemaakte Venetiaanse intellectueel geconfronteerd wordt met de Islamcultuur van het oosten en onder druk wordt gezet zijn geloof af te vallen. Ja, dat ligt mij wel. Dacht ik. Maar al na enkele pagina’s zat ik daar met de handen in het haar, want wat was dat nu voor een boek? Een stijl die helemaal de mijne niet is, vol eindeloze vergelijkingen en beschrijvingen, nergens eens een houvast van duidelijkheid, met van die ongrijpbare personages. Alles bij elkaar: een weinig voldoeninggevende leeservaring. Met veel moeite en discipline lukte het me dan toch om de eindpagina te halen. En ja, de Oost-West confrontatie, de inwisselbaarheid van identiteiten, het psychologische spel tussen slaaf en meester, technologische ontwikkelingen, allemaal onderwerpen die me op zich zouden boeien, maar niet in de vorm die de witte vesting kreeg. Klinkt allemaal wat dramatisch. Maar nee, hoor, ben al bij al erg blij dat ik een boek van Pamuk heb gelezen. Frederika