The Babsence Publication Reader’s Guide

By Orhan Pamuk

Category: Crime Mysteries | Suspense & Thriller
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“An extraordinary, tantalizing novel.” —The Nation


The introduction, discussion inquiries, suggested analysis, and also writer biography that follow are intended to enhance your group’s conversation about The Babsence Book, one of Orhan Pamuk’s the majority of brilliant and also intriguing novels, now in a brand-new translation by Maureen Freely.


In Istanbul, a lawyer called Galip comes house from job-related to discover his beloved wife Rüya—who is additionally his initially cousin—missing.

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She has actually taken no suitcases, and she has actually left a brief note that doesn’t say wright here she’s gone or why. Could she have left him for her ex-husband or Celâl, a popular newspaper columnist? Galip thinks Rüya should be through Celâl, because Celâl has disappeared as well. Hence begins an extravagantly playful tale that is both a murder mystery and an soaking up journey through Istanbul’s fabled previous and also its troubled existing. In its mind-bfinishing exploration of identification and also interpretation, memory and also love, The Black Book brings to mind the unforgettable metropolitan odysseys of Joyce and Proust.

Questions and also Topics for Discussion

1. The story opens up as Galip muses around his wife’s dreams, then moves directly into a long sequence of memories of his childhood, which introduces the family and also its background. The narrative does not move ago to the present until web page 12. Pamuk seems to suggest that both the previous and also the Celâl story are more necessary than Galip’s life in the current minute. How does the novel’s back-and-forth framework shape your reading suffer and your sense of Galip’s character?

2. Celâl never appears as a speaking character in the novel, yet his columns are crucial to expertise the mystery as well as the attractivity of his character for Rüya, Galip, and many type of others. Why is Celâl’s creating so appealing?

3. What is the significance of the underground mannequin museum described in chapter 6, “Bedii Usta’s Children” and visited by Galip in chapter 16? How is it pertained to the underworld shown in Virgil’s Aeneid or Dante’s Inferno? Why was Bedii Usta’s dream that he’d at some point watch his mannequins in shop home windows never fulfilled ?

4. In his column dubbed “The Eye” , Celâl writes, “We all have a second perboy hidden inside us, a dear frifinish to whom we whisper to our heart’s content, and also some of us also have actually a third” and “The eye was the man I wimelted to be” . Is it true that we live with the visibility of a suitable self—the person we wish to be—to whom we constantly compare ourselves? Is it additionally true that we involuntarily develop this being in our own imaginations? If Celâl is the person Galip wants to be, who is the perchild Celâl wants to be?

5. The whole household lived for a time in the City-of-Hearts Apartments, and also once a new building went up alongside theirs, an air shaft was created. This pit has actually powerful symbolic effects for Celâl and Galip; it is the place of lost objects, of memory, of the previous . How does Pamuk manage to make the pit resonate so profoundly with loss?

6. As Maureen Freely notes in her afterword, the story “takes area at one of the darkest moments of current Turkish history” and also “a brutal coup that will certainly finish ‘the anarchy’ is nine months away” . How is the nation’s political instance expressed in The Babsence Book? What component does Celâl play in the politics of the novel’s historic moment?

7. Like Proust’s Paris, Joyce’s Dublin, or Dickens’s London, Pamuk’s Istanbul is as a lot a state of mind as a geographical reality. How does Pamuk bring the city into the story, and also what role does it play in Galip’s and Celâl’s psychological worlds?

8. One of Pamuk’s noteworthy stylistic actions is his fondness for lists. See, for instance, the contents of Alâaddin’s shop , the things that have actually fallen into “the dark air shaft” between the buildings , the contents of Celâl’s desk , or the anonymous caller’s list of what Celâl has written about police stations: “so many kind of associations:—midnight blue, darkness, beatings, identification cards, the woes of being a citizen, rusting waterpipes, black shoes, starmuch less nights, scowling encounters, metaphysical inertia, misfortune, being a Turk, leaking faucets, and of course, death” . What is the result of these lists, via their frequently great juxtapositions, on the reading experience?

9. Galip decides that “whatever before meaning a perkid discovered in the human being, he discovered by chance” , yet his search via Celâl’s papers, photographs, and also columns, and Celâl’s examine of encounters, ancient mystical texts, and so on, present he believes meaning is to be uncovered via deliberate seeking. Which of these philosophies seem to be correct? Does the novel’s opening epigraph from Ibn’ Arabi melted any type of light on this question?

10. Rüya’s name implies dream or fantasy; it’s likewise the name of the cinema in Beyoglu . How is the totality phenomenon of movie-going and movie star worship provided in the story?

11. Pamuk has actually a great deal of fun via various other messages and also authors, both genuine and also imagined, throughout The Black Book. For instance, the thirteenth-century Sufi mystic and also poet Celâlettin Rumi to whom the story refers many kind of times has actually the same name as Celâl. One of the later on poets that carried on the heritage of Rumi and also the Divan institution was Sheikh Galip, who is quoted in the epigraph to chapter 9 and also somewhere else. What purpose carry out these historic numbers serve in the story? What is the nature of Celâl’s interest in Islamic mysticism and his obsession through the partnership in between Rumi and also the Shams of Tabriz ?

12. Reflecting on his marriage, Galip says, “Throughout the 3 years they invested together, it was Rüya . . . who’d appeared haunted by the life, the joys and pleasures that had slipped past her grasp” . Elsewbelow he mentions “the bottomless well of Rüya’s indifference” . What kind of a perboy does Rüya seem to be? Why can she have married Galip? What motivates her to join Celâl in his go back to “the garden of memory”?

13. What is the “disastrous message” that Galip is lastly able to review in his own confront, and also why does the realization of this “truth” cause him such sadness ?

14. “Galip had actually once told Rüya that the only detective book he’d ever before desire to review would certainly be the one in which not even the author knew the murderer’s identity” . Is The Black Book such a book? If “eextremely detail in a detective novel served a purpose”—that purpose being to carry out the hints around the villain—does The Black Book likewise carry out whatever we need to understand to number out that the killer is?

15. The Babsence Book alludes not just to a number of eminent Western modernist functions, but also to classics of Islamic literature such as the twelfth-century Persian masterpiece, Attar’s The Conference of the Birds, the late eighteenth-century Ottoman romance Beauty and Love by Sheikh Galip, and Celâlettin Rumi’s extravagant encyclopedic narrative Mathnawi. What perform you think are Pamuk’s intentions in referring to the canon of Islamic literature?


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What is the relationship in between memory and also identity, and why is the reality that Celâl is shedding his memory so vital to what happens in the story? Celâl’s colleague Nesati says, “It’s not just his memory Celâl Bey has shed it’s his past—and also this was his last attach with his nation. It’s no accident he deserve to no longer write” . Does Pamuk’s occupational imply that he would certainly agree through this statement of Nesati?

17. What challenges does the book current for the non-Turkish reader? How could The Babsence Book be transposed to an Amerihave the right to city and also an Amerihave the right to cultural and historical context? Is tright here a novel you have actually check out that does something comparable with American culture, background, and also identity?

18. The Black Book plays through the acquainted concept that sacred publications, favor the Koran or the Holy bible, contain mysteries that have to be taken. In provoking the require for interpretation, the novel suggests, they are not unchoose detective fiction, or maps of cities: all provide clues that will bring the diligent reader closer to a preferred goal—the presence of God, the solution to an enigma, the end of a journey. How convincing is Pamuk’s parallel between religious stories and also fictional ones? For whom can this parallel be taken into consideration blasphemous?

19. Galip finds a poem that defines a “far-off golden age” in which “activity and also definition were one and also the exact same. Heaven was on earth, and the points we kept in our homes were one with our dreams” . How does this “heaven,” in which eincredibly object, eincredibly word, means only itself, compare with the civilization in which Galip lives? What is appropriate around having no distance in between a authorize and also its meaning, in between stories and also reality?

20. Who is F. M. Üçüncü? The journalist Nesati says he was “a real-life perchild,” an army officer that was a reader of the paper, who then disshowed up, and also turned up aacquire, “as bald as an egg,” “babbling around signs and omens” . Keep in mind additionally that the weapon provided in the murder was a gun “of the kind issued to reexhausted army personnel” . Is he the murderer?

21. The Black Book is pertained to via concepts of national identity and memory. Looking at the “ordinary” Turks in the mannequin museum, Galip realizes “Once upon a time, they had lived all together, and their lives had actually had actually definition, however then, for some unknown reason, they had shed that meaning, just as they’d likewise shed their memories. . . . They felt the helpmuch less pain known only by those who have lost their houses, their countries, their past, their background. . . . Their only hope wregarding soptimal trying to remember the trick . . . to hand themselves over to God, to wait in patient silence for the hour of eternity” . What are the forces that cause such a loss of memory and identity? How does a culture concerned be unrecognizable to itself? Has American society experienced a comparable loss?

22. By analysis stories, The Babsence Book tells us, we obtain to inhalittle bit the mind and also life of someone else; yet we likewise proccasion ourselves from being ourselves. Is it much better to embellish one’s life via stories, or to attempt, as the Ottomale Prince in Galip’s story did , to eradicate them in order to be oneself? Do reading and creating doom us to live in a collection of illusions, or is it in the finish, as Galip concludes, “the just consolation” ?


It was just by writing publications that I came to a fuller understanding of the problems of authenticity (as in My Name Is Red and also The Black Book) and the difficulties of life on the perimeter (as in Snow and Istanbul). For me, to be a writer is to acexpertise the trick wounds that we bring inside us. . . . My confidence originates from the belief that all people resemble one various other, that others carry wounds prefer mine—that they will certainly therefore understand also. All true literature rises from this childish, hopeful certainty that all people resemble one one more.   For discussion   1.     Have Pamuk’s publications changed your perceptions of Turkey? What insights do they market right into the country’s background and also area in the world? 2.     Have his publications given you a deeper expertise of the Muslim world? Have they transformed your opinion about the existing case in the Middle East and also various other parts of the human being wright here Islam is the leading religion? Have you come to be more or less sympathetic?3.     Pamuk’s novels array over a large span of time, from the sixteenth century (My Name Is Red) to the present day (Snow). Compare your reactions to the historical novels and the contemporary works. Which perform you like and also why?4.     In these publications what affect perform the tensions between Eastern and also Western beliefs and custom-mades have actually on individual stays, on the relationships in between classes and ethnic teams, or on political debates? What contending ideological backgrounds (or means of thinking) impact the characters’ actions and emotional responses? Consider the ethical, religious, and social situations individuals confront and also exactly how they settle them.5.     Scurrently is prechallenged by epigraphs from Robert Browning, Stendahl, Dostoevskies, and also Joseph Conrad. How does each of them use not just to Snow, yet also to the other Pamuk publications you have read? Citing particular passages, just how would certainly you characterize the author’s feelings around Western perspectives towards the Muslim world?6.     What function execute perceptions—or misperceptions—about Islamic regulation and religious personalizeds play in the presumptions Westerners make about Muslims? Are there current controversies in the United States or Europe that assistance your view?7.     Do Pamuk’s depictions of the relationships in between guys and also womales conform to your impressions of romance, marriage, and also family members life in a Muslim society? How are women presented in the historical novels? In what means carry out the womales in the novels set in the current (or in the recent past) embody both typical female roles and also the new avenues they have to expush their opinions and act on their beliefs?8.     Istanbul opens through an essay around Pamuk’s feelings as a kid that “somewhere in the highways of Istanbul . . . there lived an additional Orhan so a lot like me that he could pass for my own twin, also my double” (web page 3). Many kind of reviewers, consisting of John Updike, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, and also Charles McGrath, have composed around what McGrath calls “an enduring Pamuk preoccupation: the idea of doubleness or split identity” (New York Times, October 13, 2006). Can you discover examples of doubleness in the books you have read, and also if so, what execute these include to the story? What insights carry out they disclose around Pamuk’s very own feeling of identity?9.     What methods does Pamuk use to carry his characters, real and also fictional, to life? How perform his descriptions of settings, manners, and other day-to-day details enhance the portraits he creates? What use does he make of humor, exaggeration, and other stylistic flourishes in his depictions of particular situations, conversations, musings, and also arguments?10.     Pamuk employs many of the literary tools connected with postmodern-day and experimental fiction. (McGrath, for example, notes his use of “narratives within narratives, texts that come alive, labyrinths of indicators and also symbols . . .”). In what methods perform his publications echo Italo Calvino’s allegorical fantasies? What execute they share with the works of Jorge Luis Borges and other magical realists? What aspects of his literary style can be traced to previously masters of innovative fiction favor Kafka and also Nabokov?11.     In an essay on the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa in Other Colors, Pamuk writes, “It is clear . . . that tbelow is a sort of narrative novel that is certain to the countries of the Third World. Its originality has less to execute with the writer’s place than via the fact that he knows he is creating much from the world’s literary centers and also he feels this distance inside himself” (web page 168). Discuss exactly how this manifests itself in Pamuk’s own works, as well as the functions of Vargas Llosa and other authors writing from the Third World. Are there artistic benefits to living and writing “far from the world’s literary centers”?12.     Pamuk writes in Istanbul of authors that left their homelands—Conrad, Nabokov, Naipaul: “Their imagicountries were fed by exile, a nourishment attracted not with roots, yet via rootlessness” (web page 6). If you have read the works of these writers, or various other authors in exile, carry out you agree that their publications reflect—in style or in content—the impacts of living in a brand-new, foreign culture? To what level is Pamuk’s writing rooted in the storyinforming heritages of Eastern cultures? In what ways does it present the affect of his beforehand exposure to Western literary works, his participation in international literary circles, and also his longtime association via American academia?13.     Regardless of the many kind of distinctions in between the cultures Pamuk explains and our very own, why carry out his characters and also their habits resonant through contemporary English-speaking readers? Are there facets of Turkish mores that make it challenging to sympathize or communicate through the personalities in the novels? Do these factors likewise affect your reactions to his autobiographical pieces, literary criticism, and also social monitorings in both Other Colors and Istanbul?14.     How does Pamuk’s personal history, as well as the pseveral some novels, mirror the complicated background of Turkey? Consider such topics as: the decline and dissolution of the as soon as powerful Ottomale Empire; the sweeping alters initiated by Atatürk in the 1920s; the conflicting desires to maintain Turkey’s distinctive heritage and also to become more active in the global community; and the rise of fundamentalist Islam throughout Center East this day.15.     In discussing the importance of novels, Pamuk states, “Modern cultures, tribes, and countries perform their deepest thinking about themselves by analysis novels; with analysis novels, they are able to argue around who they are” (Other Colors, web page 233). Do you agree? What have the right to novels provide that nonfiction books and also other media perform not?   Suggestions for even more reading Paul Auster, The New York Trilogy; Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions; Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities; Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss; Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground; Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum; Franz Kafka, The Castle; James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Milan Kundera, Immortality; Naguib Mahfouz, The Cairo Trilogy; Gabriel García Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera; Vladimir Nabokov, Ada; V. S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River; Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past   Pamuk’s functions are obtainable in Vintage paperback editions (detailed right here in order of their initially translation into English): The White Castle; The New Life; My Name Is Red; The Black Book; Snow; Istanbul; Other Colors; The Museum of Innocence (For a finish list of accessible analysis group guides, and to authorize up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit

About this Author

Orhan Pamuk’s occupational has actually been interpreted right into even more than thirty langueras. He lives in Istanbul.

Suggested Reading

Farid ud-Din Attar, The Conference of the Birds and also The Arabian Nights; Jorge Luis Borges, Everything and also Nothing and also The Aleph and Other Stories; Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler; Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland; Joseph Conrad, “The Secret Sharer”; Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Grand also Inquisitor; Seyh Galip, Beauty and also Love; Jachild Goodwin, Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottomale Empire; Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley; Kazuo Ishiguro, The Unconsoled; James Joyce, Ulysses; Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time; Micvital Spillane, One Lonely Night; Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire; Kabir Helminski, editor, The Rumi Collection; Salmale Rushdie, Midnight’s Children.