cover image The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist

The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist

Orhan Pamuk, trans, from the Turkish by Nazim Dikbas. Harvard Univ., $22.95 (234p) ISBN 978-0-674-05076-1

Taking his title and inspiration from Schiller's "On Naive and Sentimental Poetry," Nobel Prize–winning Turkish novelist Pamuk (The Museum of Innocence) dissects what happens when we read a novel. Making a distinction between naïve novelists, "unaware" of the novel's artificiality, and "sentimental" novelists (and readers) at the opposite end, who are "reflective," Pamuk is most interested in the "secret center" of literary novels, which is the wisdom they impart. Pamuk brings to the table firsthand knowledge regarding the centrality of character in the novel and how the novelist actually becomes the hero in the very act of writing. Readers, in their own symbiotic act of imagination, also inhabit the hero's character. And through that sense of identification with the hero's decisions and choices, Pamuk says, we learn that we can influence events. Reading novels in his youth, he writes, "I felt a breathtaking sense of freedom and self-confidence." Based on Pamuk's Norton Lectures, the book has some inevitable repetition, but is a passionate amalgam of wonder and analysis. (Nov.)