cover image The New Life

The New Life

Orhan Pamuk. Farrar Straus Giroux, $24 (275pp) ISBN 978-0-374-22129-4

With its fusion of literary elegance and incisive political commentary, Pamuk's previous novel, The Black Book, drew comparisons to the works of Salman Rushdie and Don DeLillo. Here, he confirms that talent, brilliantly chronicling his hapless hero's search for love, revenge and life beyond the postmodern novel. Narrator Osman, a university student in Istanbul, lays a spell on the reader with the opening words: ""I read a book one day and my whole life was changed.'' Like a liberating enchantment, the book opens doors in his mind that allow him to glimpse both international conspiracy and the possibility of eternal love. The book mysteriously links him to the ethereally beautiful Janan, and together they embark upon a search for Mehmet, whom Osman unsuccessfully rivals for Janan's affections and who seems to have special access to the hidden worlds the book conjures up. Osman and Janan ride buses haphazardly across the Turkish landscape, and soon they are joined in their search by the eccentric Dr. Fine, whose pursuit is driven by a belief that the ""new life"" written in the book is a mortal threat to the vitality of the East. Combining a timely critique of the relationship between reading and cultural identity with a timeless and moving narrative of the search for happiness, Pamuk's novel has a headlong intensity, a mesmerizing prose style and the dreamlike quality of a vision. (Apr.)