TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr.
Februar 2010

Sektion 8.7. Das Kreuz mit dem Halbmond: Ethnische und religiöse Transformationen in europäischen Kontexten | The Crux of Islam in Europe: Ethnic and Religious Transformations in European Contexts
Sektionsleiter | Section Chair: Gregor Thuswaldner (Gordon College, Massachusetts)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

The Labyrinthine World, the Labyrinthine Text:
Orhan Pamuk’s narrative strategies and “Muslim Turk” Characters

A. Didem Uslu (Beykent University, İstanbul, Turkey)



In this paper, I would like to focus on “Turkey’s identity issues (problems?)” and my aim is to show that Turkey has its own ways and is different from “others,” meaning the east and the west in certain features. I would like to indicate how different Turkey is through the characters of the 2006 Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk’s novels.  

To start with, Orhan Pamuk, one of the well known novelists in Turkey, has experimented with modern, postmodern and mixed literary styles in his novels. His books are:

  1. Cevdet Bey ve Oğulları 1983 (Cevdet Bey and His Sons)
  2. Sessiz Ev, 1983 (The Silent House)
  3. Beyaz Kale, 1985 (White Castle, 1990)
  4. Kara Kitap, 1990 (Black Book, 1994)
  5. Yeni Hayat  1997 (New Life, 1997)
  6. Benim Adım Kırmızı, 1998 (My Name is Red, 2001)
  7. Kar, 2002 (Snow, 2002)

In order to define and explain the identity of the characters, I would like to categorize his novels according to their narrative time.


1. The “Ottoman Turk” characters: In three of his novels, the narrative time is as follows:

1.1. It is May 1591 in My Name is Red and17th century in The White Castle.

In both novels the location is İstanbul in the 16th century. In My Name is Red the Ottoman Sultan commissions a great book of miniatures to celebrate the thousandth year of the Islamic calendar. The illustrations are to be created by several well known miniaturists of the era and this should be kept a secret because the pictures are to be drawn in the western style with three-dimensional representations. According to the historical interpretation of Islam, three-dimensional representation is a heresy because a work of art cannot and should not replicate the world created by God. The novel concentrates on the differences between two-dimensional eastern representations and three-dimensional western illustrations. The tree speaking in the novel thanks Allah that it was not drawn according to “Frank traditions:” “I thank Allah that I, the humble tree before you, have not been drawn with such intent. And not because I fear that if I’d been thus depicted all the dogs in İstanbul would assume I was a real tree and piss on me: I don’t want to be a tree, I want to be its meaning” (Pamuk, 61).

The several miniaturists in the plot who are to draw parts of this picture have not seen the complete work and the rivalry between them is keen. When one of the miniaturists is murdered, Black, who is the protagonist of the novel, becomes the detective to find the murderer. He is asked to do so by his maternal uncle Enişte who was in charge of the commission to create the book. Black has returned to his hometown after a self-exile, partially caused by his broken heart over the marriage of his childhood sweetheart and cousin Şeküre, the daughter of Enişte. Black accepts his uncle’s wish in order to be close to Şeküre, whose husband has not returned from the war and is presumably dead. However when Enişte is murdered, Black has to find the murderers of both miniaturists. The question is whether the dead painter fell victim to professional rivalry or personal hatred. The murderer is possibly one of the other miniaturists and the clue is a miniature horse drawing with split nostrils, which is found in the possession of the victim.

The second novel with an Ottoman background, The White Castle, is the story of a young Italian scholar captured by Ottoman pirates while traveling from Venice to Naples. Forsaken at the slave market and bought by a Turkish Pasha, he is given to a Turkish scholar who resembles him as closely as a twin brother. The Venetian narrator of the novel feels shocked as he sees his double and says: “The resemblance between myself and the man who entered the room was incredible! It was me there… for that first instant this was what I thought” (Pamuk, 13). The Turkish scholar is eager to learn about the scientific and intellectual advancements of the West. As they share ideas and live together, their master-slave relation becomes so complex that at the end they exchange identities and the Turk leaves the empire while the Italian becomes a native.

In both novels, the narrative time is the end of the 16th century. The 17th century is the period of decline and destabilization (1566-1789) of the Ottoman empire, according to Justin McCarthy. The most important historical events of the era are the destabilization at the center, rebellions, decentralization in Ottoman Asia and the attempts at reform. In order to understand the “17th century Ottoman Turk” character, it may be a good idea to have a look into the origin of the “Turks.” There are lots of stories about the construction of “Turkish” identity but Justin McCarthy’s version will be summarized in the following paragraphs.

In the beginning of their recorded history, the “Turks” with slanted eyes were nomads. “Their original home was in Central Asia, in the vast grassland region that spreads north of Afghanistan and the Himalaya Mountains, west and northwest of China.” (McCarthy 3). “Battling against the Chinese and others, the Turks very early created ‘empires’ in central Asia and beyond” (4). This is in the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th centuries AD. With nomad raids the “Turks” attacked and invaded China and then the Middle East. They came into contact with Arab Muslims. McCarthy summarizes their religious beliefs as:  “The life of the Turks was greatly affected by communication with the Arab Muslims and with Persians who had converted to Islam. The Turks were not complete strangers to monotheistic religion, since a significant number had converted to Nestorian Christianity, which had been spread throughout Central Asia by missionaries. The Turks had also become Buddhists and Judaism had been the official religion of one large group of Turks, the Khazars. However, the greatest number of Turks followed what has been described as a ‘shamanistic’ religion. The Turks, led by holy men, or shamans worshipped or propitiated elemental forces of nature, believing that spirits lived among them in the earth and the skies. The spirits could be dangerous and needed to be appeased. Animals such as the wolf or bear were taken as totems. Nevertheless, over all the gods or natural forces was the one supreme God, Tanrı, who lived in the highest heavens” (6).

So the shaman Turks started their self-displacement in a labyrinthine world. “In the 10th century a large group of Turks known as the Oğuz inhabited the region of Central Asia north of Lake Balkhash. One clan of the Oğuz, the Seljuks (named after a prominent ancestor, Seljuk), moved south in the eleventh century towards the border of the Middle East in Transoxania” (McCarthy, 8). The Great Seljuks of Asia who had a short dynasty became the Seljuks of Anatolia and they established their power and identity when the Byzantine power was destroyed at Manziert at 1071. When the Seljuk Turks invaded Iran and Asia Minor, at the same time becoming Muslims, they became the hope of the old and centralized orthodox Islamic (Arab) empire. Yet, for the Anatolian Turks, religion meant the mixture of shamanism and Islam and thus the “Turks” established their own religion and clan identity. After the 13th century, the Oğuz clan became the essence of the Ottoman empire when it started conquering the neighboring Turkish clans. With the Ottoman conquest of the Arab world in the 15th century, the caliphate passed onto the Turks, who had secured their position, becoming the rulers of the Islamic world. (During the reign of sultan Selim I, the Arab world was conquered and during his son Süleyman the Magnificient’s reign, the Ottomans invaded the West.)

McCarthy explains the religious blend of “Turks” as follows: “The Holy Law of Islam, the Shari’ah which was drawn from the Muslim holy Book, the Quran, and the sayings and practices of the Prophet Muhammad, was to govern all human endeavor. Islamic scholars and judges applied the Holy Law to all aspects of life. Islam can thus be called a religion of laws.” However, “The nomads had their own laws, their traditions of authority, shamanistic beliefs, and a proclivity for mystical religion – all of which might have come into conflict with orthodox Islam. However, Islam showed a practical tolerance for the beliefs of new converts, expecting the descendants of the converts to become gradually more orthodox as generations passed. Moreover, the Muslim missionaries who converted the Turks were themselves not always orthodox” (7).

Starting with the 13th century, the “Turks of the Ottoman nation” or “the first Ottomans” mixed with a lot of other peoples and enlarged their labyrinth until their borders extended to a vast empire in the 16th and 17th centuries. The 17th century was the time of decline but it took 300 years for the Ottomans to accept that they were collapsing. Then came the problematic and tragic 19th century. It was tragic and problematic for the Ottomans but it was a time of progress and advancement in science and technology for Europe and USA, which were living through their progressive era.

1.2. In Cevdet Bey and His Sons, the narrative time is 1908, 1937/38 and 1970s respectively.

In the novel Cevdet Bey and His Sons, which is a saga about a provincial family moving to İstanbul, the plot opens with the Ottomans and passes on to the republican times.

The 19th century was the time of the collapse of the Ottoman empire and the European empires were ready to take their share from the “sick man of Europe.” The vast and decentralized Ottoman Empire consisted roughly of the Balkans, Anatolia and most of the Arab world. In the Asiatic provinces, the majority of the population was Muslim with significant Christian and Jewish minorities. In the Balkans, the majority was mostly Christians. “These religious divisions within the population were important because the empire, at least in theory, was an Islamic empire, ruled on the basis of religious law. It used to be the accepted truth that the Ottoman Empire knew no distinction between religion and state, but modern research tends to emphasize the extent to which the Ottomans did separate politics and religion, at least in practice. Theoretically, the holy law of Islam ruled supreme in the empire, but in practice by the eighteenth century it had been confined to matters of family law and ownership. Public, and especially criminal law was based on the secular decrees of the sultans, called örf or kanun” (Zürcher, 10).

In the novel Cevdet Bey and His Sons, the narrative time of the first phase of the novel is the chaotic days during the second constitutional period (1908-1918). Mr. Cevdet is the provincial merchant who marries an Ottoman pasha’s daughter from İstanbul and his brother is one of the “Young Turks” who were the idealists and reformers born to intellectual and well-to-do families and had attended the new secular schools. The provincial Cevdet’s marriage is more or less a marriage of convenience whereas the brother suffering from tuberculosis lives with a self sacrificing Armenian woman. So the provincial man prospers economically and socially, deepening his roots in the capital when he gets married, but the idealist and nihilist brother dies. Cevdet’s ambitions lie in erasing his provinciality and in surviving among non-Muslim merchants since the non-Muslims were the only rich class. Mr. Cevdet’s fears and doubts about trading among non-Muslims are narrated very clearly in the chapter called “Muslim and Tradesman” (Pamuk, 15-16).

Erik J. Zürcher divides the last century of the Ottomans into 3 periods (3):

  1. “The period from French revolutionary wars to the end of the 1830s saw the growing economic incorporation of the Balkan provinces and the emergence of Greek traders as a dominant factor.” During this period, the Ottoman empire had a much closer involvement in British and Russian politics. It was the time of the emergence of the first nationalist movements and the first serious attempts at reforms in a Western mould.
  2. The period from “the end of the 1830s to the mid-1870s” was “the time of the British economic and political hegemony.” This is the period of the “ongoing (at least on paper) far-reaching reforms in the realms of law, education, finance and government institutions, starting with the Reform Edict of 1839; the replacing of the palace by the bureaucracy as the center of power, the start of the Ottoman constitutional movement and beginnings of a Muslim reaction against the privileged position of Christians; the period ended with a deep economic and political crisis in the years 1873-8”.
  3. “The period from the mid-1870’s to the constitutional revolution of 1908 saw much slower economic expansion....”

Cevdet, who lives during third phase, becomes a well-to-do merchant among the wealthy Christians and Jews, however his ill brother struggles in his dreams to reform and better his country. The Young Ottomans were the men brought up in European ways and they were willing to impose their western ways from the top. With the beginning of the 20th century the Ottoman empire was in the panic and agony of a fast collapsing. The main reason was that all the Christian minorities of the Ottoman empire demanded nationalism with their connections to Europe and the remaining peoples had to gather and construct a national identity, an umbrella identity called “Turk.”

In his novels Orhan Pamuk deals with the very essential and climactic periods of the Ottoman/Turkish Republic history: all his characters are in search of new horizons in a labyrinthine world of East/West and Christian/Islam. Yet, they are mostly dissatisfied with their country, their nation-state and their culture, feeling squeezed between the East and the West. For instance, the provincial merchant Cevdet Bey’s urbanite son Refik searches for a dream he can not name accurately. This rich engineer’s son neglects his family, visiting for months an engineer friend working at an eastern construction site of the young republic, and at other times he wanders around İstanbul dreaming of ways to better his country.

In the Silent House, the old grandmother Fatma who is looked after by her late husband’s bastard dwarf son continually remembers her husband, the exiled Ottoman pasha, the patriarch of the household. She recalls her husband’s adultery and futile efforts to finish the encyclopedia he is writing in pain and agony. The old woman’s recollections are also full of her late son who was a disillusioned and dissatisfied state official. Another concern is her elderly grandson who is an associate professor, running after a dream to write a very important book just like his despotic grandfather. This grandson (living during the narrative time of the novel) mourns over a divorced wife and neglects his sister because of his alcohol addiction and contempt. At the end of the novel he loses his precious manuscript and his sister dies because of his neglect, while his brother, who is a student at an American college (just like Pamuk himself), lives an irresponsible life with his wealthy and pretentious friends. The cursed silent house leaves no happy memory at the end. In the last lines of the novel, Fatma who remains lonely in her hateful and silent mansion, hears her husband’s voice, advising her to read life as though reading a book for the second time (Pamuk, 311).

During the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Christian Ottomans and resident foreigners in the empire enjoyed aman (mercy), a safe conduct under Islamic law. “... in the eighteenth and especially in the nineteenth century more and more local Christians (mostly Greeks and Armenians but also Maronites and others) were granted the status of subject of a foreign power through the acquisition of a berat (decree of appointment) from the Ottoman government. They from then on fell under the capitulations of that power and with the growing strength of the european powers gained an ever-growing advantage over the sultan’s Muslim subjects. At the same time, the influence of the foreign powers increased further because of the growth in the number of their subjects in the Levant” (Zürcher, 11).

With the Reform Edict of 1839 the position of Christians became even more privileged. “Within the Armenian and Greek communities the emerging commercial bourgeoisie was getting richer and more self-confident” (Zürcher, 61). Tanzimat statesmen created new secular laws and institutions to replace the traditional kanun system, mainly where the changing position of the foreigners in the empire or the Ottoman Christians demanded it (61). The Ottoman laws and institutions were secularized along with those of Christian millets. As Mc Carthy puts it: “The Ottoman Empire had its own traditional type of ‘nationalism,’ the millet system. Indeed, the term millet is often translated into English as ‘nation.’ However, the Ottoman nations were religious, not ethnic, groups.” (McCarthy, 205). 

When the Christians and Jews of the Ottoman Empire received a privileged position, the remaining peoples had to look into their own history to combat the prejudices of Europeans. The government of the Committee Union and Progress (İttihat ve Terakki), which took power in 1908-9, was affected by the ideas of Ziya Gökalp (McCarthy, 209). (It is ironic that at that time, Ziya Gökalp was the theorist of “Turkish nationalism” although he was a Kurd himself). It seems very funny when nowadays some “Turkish” intellectuals and Turkey’s American and European allies believe that “‘Turkish nationalism’” intensified during the collapse of the empire, but it was not until the creation of the Turkish Republic that it can be said to have triumphed” as Zürcher too claims. As Christians and Jews got their privileges, other ethnic groups in the empire were largely untouched by European-style nationalism: and thus the Arabs, the Bosnians, the Albanians, the Circassians, The Turkmenians, the Kurds, almost all Muslims called themselves “Turks.” In the same way, the Turkish Republic accepted the Ottoman differentiation of identity based on religious differences, calling all Muslims “Turks.”


2. The “Republican Turk” characters

The second phase of the novel Cevdet Bey and His Sons narrates the story of the last days of the founding father Atatürk. This period, which witnessed the establishment of the new nation by the military “Turks” of the Ottoman Army, is nowadays called “the days of the Kemalist-one party state” (1925-45). Some “Turkish,” American and European intellectuals and politicians claim that the Turkish Republic was and is threatened and challenged by the Turkish military. However, they are forgetting that the Turkish Republic was founded by military intellectuals and that when the democracy and unity of the nation is threatened because of a relatively young, inexperienced and weak parliamentary system, (or because of cultural nationalism or due to internal/external provocation) they feel responsible for protecting the whole nation-state.

The narrative time in the second phase of the novel Cevdet Bey and His Sons is 1936-7, just before Atatürk’s death. Cevdet’s two sons, the engineer and the merchant, feel the stress of living in the East and the West. They think they are totally westernized but feel disillusioned when they can not live up to their imagined standards. The new nation is forged but the problems are still at hand. During the nation building process, Refik ignores his family while his brother Osman, who is married and has children enjoys a western style modernized patriarchy of the nation as he has a secret affair with a woman. In this respect, under the influence of European modernization, the “Turks” seem to have forgotten their shaman roots which respected the female gender as much as the male.


3. The “Islamic Turk” characters

After the 1960s, ideas from the east found a comfortable place in a still troubled democracy. Waves of ideologies sometimes came from the west and sometimes from the east but the new Islamist ideology gained strength and a voice within the 1990s.

Pamuk’s Silent House covers ten days of May 1980. The story takes place just before the military coup. This is the time of the third republic, according to Erik Zürcher, 1960 being the second republic. M. Hakan Yavuz in his  book Islamic Political Identity in Turkey claims: “In the 1980s, the weakening of the nation-state in Turkey created new opportunities for Islamic movements to construct their own autonomous social, political and, cultural spaces” (5). I agree with him, since the military take-over brought peace to avoid social riots and violence, but it made way for new social problems. However Yavuz goes on to say “Thus, the state controlled, “top-down” westernization aims and the Islamic, “bottom-up” emancipation process have come into conflict over the type of society they seek to create, over the goals of modernity itself” (5). I do not agree with this idea because the war of independence was a dream for a whole people of Bosnians, Macedonians, Bulgarians, Arabs, Kurds, Albanians, Turkmens, Circassians, and all others. Besides, the Islamic movement is a global and not a regional or national “bottom-up” movement. Turkey, just like the German politics and Verfassungsschutz, clarifies the distinction between Islam (the religion) and Islamism (political Islam, the ideology) very clearly. As Werner Schiffauer stresses, “the first generation in the community dreamed of Islamizing Turkey in the 1980s and 1990s. These dreams referred to a rather vague vision of establishing a ‘just society’ on the basis of an Islamic moral order” (Modood, 99).

With the new Turkish Republic, the Sufi orders of the Ottoman empire were banned in accordance with revolution principles, and the Turkish Muslim Reformation was easily and comfortably accepted since the Islamic scholars and priests had taken part in the parliament of the republic along with the ethnic representatives. Yet any kind of extremist action or idea was frowned upon during the first quarter of the republican years since it was the celebration time of secularization and national integration after World War I and the victory of independence. Hence, religion was pushed into the background in social life, becoming a spiritual and ethical entity of private life. For 18 years, the five-times-call for prayer from the minaret was in Turkish but then it was changed into the Arabic language all over again.

The 1923 Revolution followed the necessities of the nation-state during the modernist period when the world started changing so abruptly. Turkey is not the only one facing the difficulties of the global paradox in which conflicts between localism and globalism, between orthodoxy and heterodoxy and universalism and particularism have arisen. Nowadays, with a postmodern world, the concept of nation-state has come to be questioned, challenged and sometimes turned into a scape-goat. The new ideologies have come to discuss the “hegemonic state ideology” which is believed to involve survelliance, control and standardization. Political Islam is nowadays presented as the counterideology to the state, which is claimed to be “an authoritarian hegemony.” In order to recreate an Ottoman-Islamic culture, these political Islamic intellectuals are trying to redefine their postmodern discourse in issues such as human rights, personal autonomy, nationalism, secularism, feminism, democracy, then in liberal market and others. Sweeping away the private traditional Islamic identity, the new Islamic political identity can be Janus-faced in a lot of areas, since it wants to be modern and progressive on the one hand, and conservative and strict, in various societal moral codes, on the other. With its communal way of living it challenges individualism. It arises because of the weak ideological basis and discourse of the leftist wing in Turkey.

With the impact of the Cold War era, the Khomeni regime in Iran, the influence of petroleum wealth Arabic countries and after then the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkey witnessed the gradual emergence of a cultural Islamic movement and then a political Islamic movement and subsequently a socioeconomic Islamic movement. This conservative and man-centered movement constructed itself in education and on women, i.e., in the headscarf issue. Some intellectuals and academics in Turkey nowadays believe that the political Islamic social movements are promoting a democratic and pluralistic society.

In the novel Snow, the plot time is the 1990s and the plot revolves around a fictitous military intervention into the Islamic activities in an eastern city Kars. Although the Islamist movement had started silently and secretly during the 1950s, the 1990s was the time when the headscarf issue became the most important matter on the Turkish political agenda. 1996 was an interesting time when Necmettin Erbakan and Tansu Çiller, a pro-Islamic prime minister, took office together with the Europhile-secularist party leader in a coalition.

In her review of the novel Snow in The New Work Times Book Review, the Canadian Margaret Atwood says, “Cut off from by the snow, Ka wanders through a decaying city haunted by its glorious former selves: there are architectural remnants of the vast Ottoman Empire; the grand Armenian church stands empty, testifying to the massacre of its worshippers; there are ghosts of Russian rulers and their lavish celebrations, and pictures of Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic and instigator of a ruthless “modernization” campaign, which included-not incidentally-a ban on headscarves.” First of all, Atatürk did not force the peoples of Anatolia into modernization and secularization: the mixed ethnic peoples were ready (and thirsty) for national unity and a new revival of nation building. The principles of Atatürk were grasped at once. But Ms Atwood can criticize various other points concerning the peoples of Anatolia. For example, with so many attempts, starting with the 16th century, these people still can not achieve reforms. Coming to the issue of headscarves, covering the head completely without showing one string of the hair, is a political movement under the influence of Islamic countries. This is the war for the construction of a new “Turkish” identity. When I read the novel Snow when it was first released, I never felt that I was reading a book about Turkish society. It seemed like a story from some Latin-American author where some religious fundamentalists (terrorist groups) are struggling against the South American military.

In the Black Book, the narrative time is the end of the 1980s but while the characters are secular citizens of the Turkish Republic, Pamuk’s concern this time is not specifically with sociology or history but with experimenting with a new trend in literature. The story has layers which go deep into the eastern heritage of the peoples of Anatolia, with the Sufi teachings in the newspaper columns. As Galip follows the threads, he comes across the mystic roads of the Anatolian past. Likewise, New Life is a detective story and the search of a twenty-two-year old university student who enjoys a fantastic journey after reading adventure books. He travels to provincial places, survives traffic accidents and becomes involved in paranoiac political conspiracies. The novel concentrates on popular Turkish issues but the characters are timeless beings. The novel is the search for the writer of the New Book, his lost girl friend and her lover. The identities get mixed up and overlap as the narrator sees the New Book in the hand of the girl he loves and tries to find the world of the book. In fact the girl had borrowed it from a boy friend who uses the name of the narrator. The panorama of Turkish life becomes the journey itself.

Coming to the argument of Muslim Europe or Euro-Islam, Nezar Al Sayyad points out that “Turkey, on the other hand, is a country which has labored for a little less than a century to distance itself from its Asian geography and Islamic heritage. Its desire, in so doing, can be described more as an attempt to escape or deny its own history. Turkey adopted a European-style democracy in form but not in content” (AlSayyad, 16). First of all, Turkey did not distance itself from her Asian geography. Neither did she neglect her Islamic heritage. Besides,

she does not have to stick to “European styles.” Another point is whether one can talk about one kind of “European way.” The only thing that happened was that an Islamic heritage was enriched in private life. I agree with Al Sayyad that Turkey is an “in-between” place but I do not want to believe that “Turkey has historically a troubled relationship in the European imagination, as it is tied to memories of the Ottoman threat to Christiendom, fears of Islamic revival, and resentment against Turkish migration” (16). Besides, I can not believe that there is a “European position which is blocking Turkish membership to European Union” with the claim that Turkey is not authentically Europe. Instead of talking about a clash of civilizations, a multicultural Europe, with collaboration and sharing, will bring us all towards peace because it is a historical fact that there are Muslim citizens in Europe and there are similar issues concerning the adaptation of these new citizens.

The adventure of the “Turks” starts from central Asia and ends in Europe. The Ottoman Empire was a medieval sovereignty that lasted until the 20th century. The shaman peoples of the steppes were converted to Islam and in time they blended and synthesized this religious heritage in Asia Minor, establishing a nation state after the collapse of the empire. Anatolian culture is very rich with both western and eastern influences.

Under the influence of European modernist, postmodernist and orientalist ideas, Orhan Pamuk’s characters consider themselves “losers,” but not in the western sense, because they are successful and well-to-do. On the one hand, they are dissatisfied and restless and on the other hard they are melancholic, inactive and uncreative. They search for something meaningful in their lives, even though they seem to have everything a human being needs. They miss being westerners and pity or accuse themselves for being easterners. Yet they never realize that they are drifters, bored of life and that they are inactive Hamlets. In almost all his novels, the male characters suffer from the pains of being stuck between the West and the East. Their agony is the in-betweenness of Turks as westerners and as easterners. This is their postmodern destiny and their melancholy.

Galip, in the Black Book, is pursuing his wife and cousin as he travels through new paths to the mystical Anatolia. That’s why his journey is not a physical one. He mentally travels and tries to explore his country. In My Name is Red, Kara marries the widow Şeküre enthusiastically in the middle of the novel but he cannot attain happiness fully. What he gets at the end is only to find the murderer. I think Pamuk is quite pessimistic with his characters. However, viewed from a positive perspective, it is interesting to trace how migration, immigration and transnational connections have changed the “Turks”, their cultural life, and even their physiognomy. Through stories of history, new intercultural spaces and practices had emerged for the peoples called “Turks.” Turks have long been diasporic subjects, people in exile, people on the roads or in transit from elsewhere. They are accustomed to the fluidity of physical and metaphysical borderlines. Thus, it may be difficult to fulfill and attain multiculturalism all over the world, but it is not a dream, especially for the grandchildren of the Ottomans.

Works Cited

  1. Al Sayyad, Nezar and Castells Manuel, Muslim Europe and Euro-Islam. Politics, Culture and Citizensihp in the Age of Globalization, Lexington Books, 2002.
  2. Atwood, Margaret, “Headscarves To Die For,” The New York Times Book Review, 25.08.2004.
  3. Mc Carthy, Justin, The Ottoman Turks. An Introductory History to 1923, London and New York: Longman, 1997.
  4. Pamuk, Orhan, Kar, 2002 (Snow, 2002)
  5. Pamuk, Orhan, Cevdet Bey ve Oğulları (Cevdet Bey and His Sons), Can Yayınları LTD. Şti., 1983.
  6. Pamuk, Orhan, My Name is Red, London: Faber and Faber Limited, 2001.
  7. Pamuk, Orhan, Sessiz Ev, (The Silent House) Can Yayınları LTD. Şti., 1983.
  8. Pamuk, Orhan, The White Castle, Manchester: Carcanet Press Ltd, 1990.
  9. Tariq Modood, Anna Tirandafyllidou and Ricard Zapata-Barrero, Multiculturalism, Muslims and Citizenship. A European Approach, Routledge, 2006.
  10. Yavuz, Hakan M. Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, Oxford University Press, 2003.
  11. Zürcher, Erik, Turkey. A Modern History, New York: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 1993.

8.7. Das Kreuz mit dem Halbmond: Ethnische und religiöse Transformationen in europäischen Kontexten | The Crux of Islam in Europe: Ethnic and Religious Transformations in European Contexts

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For quotation purposes:
A. Didem Uslu: The Labyrinthine World, the Labyrinthine Text: Orhan Pamuk’s narrative strategies and “Muslim Turk” Characters - In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 17/2008. WWW:

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