Orhan Pamuk presents a disturbing look at the pandemic

Orhan Pamuk (Istanbul, Turkey, 1952): Nobel Prize for Literature 2006, author of the novels Cevdet Bey and sons (1982), the house of silence (1983), the white castle (1985), the black book (1990), The new life (nineteen ninety five), my name is Red (1998), Snow (2002), the museum of innocence (2008), a strange feeling (2014) and The woman with the red hair (2016); as well as the Istanbul non-fiction volumes. City and memories (2005) and My father’s suitcase (2006), in addition to the collection of essays Other colors (1999). Books translated into more than forty languages.

The long-awaited novel arrives in Mexico the nights of the plague (Random House Literature, 2022): the accredited Turkish narrator places the plot on the fictional island of Minger —an entity of the Ottoman Empire, located ‘somewhere’ in the Mediterranean between Crete and Cyprus—. Year 1901: a plague epidemic besieges the island, in the midst of conflicts between Orthodox and Muslims. Presence of the bubonic plague that has come from China with millions of deaths throughout Asia.

The sultan commissions the chief of health to visit the place to confirm the plague outbreak and take measures to quell it. But the disease spreads: a strict quarantine is declared: the farms of the sick are burned; total closure of businesses; suppression of all commercial and labor activities; and confinement of families. The regent’s ineptitude and the community’s refusal of prohibitive bans, coupled with Muslim opposition to confinement, lead to an uncontrollable spread of the plague with an unstoppable balance of deaths.

“This novel had to reach Mexican readers, its publication was necessary, after two years of a pandemic that left significant consequences in our country with more than 300,000 deaths. This book is destined to become one of the great classics on pandemics, Pamuk delves into historical plagues. The reader has before his eyes an exciting and epic story where sedition and crime coexist with aspirations for freedom, love and superhuman episodes. This edition is one of Random House’s biggest bets for this and the coming years”, he expressed in an interview with The reasonthe editor María Fernanda Álvarez Pérez.

This newspaper spoke by telephone with the Cuban novelist, playwright, essayist, poet and academic, Antón Arrufat, a specialist in Medieval Literature and a scholar of the work of Orhan Pamuk. “This new novel by the Turkish writer: an elegant and endearing literary conjunction that masterfully draws how obscurantism and obfuscation can become terrible factors in the face of circumstances of such uncertainty as a pandemic,” said the author of the novel. The box is closed.

Does it seem that human gestures of perplexity in the face of misfortune are repeated? Readers enter this novel into seemingly alien and distant cultural manifestations, but discover human manifestations similar to those we witnessed in the Covid-19 pandemic. In the background of ideologies, languages ​​or religious devotions, an analogy coexists in the objections and responses to the unfortunate and the apocalyptic.

Are there direct references to the classic literature on pandemics? Pamuk himself has stated that he worked on the writing of the novel for five years and that he carried out rigorous research and reading of novels and stories that deal with pandemics. The way I see it, it seems very latent Plague Year Diaryby Daniel Defoe, and likewise Plagueby Albert Camus.

Novel of more than 700 pages, which can ‘scare’ readers? Lthe nights of the plague it is written in a direct way and with an easily accessible temporal order. It is 732 joyous pages that captivate by revealing many things that we experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic. Pamuk takes advantage of and warns in a subtle way, about the continuous cornering of the dominant ‘traditionalisms’ in nationalist practices that mark inhuman dividing lines and disdain the fight for human rights.

Orhan Pamuk

  • Born: June 7, 1952, in Istanbul
  • Other books: The house of silence, The black book, The new life and The museum of innocence, among others
the nights of the plague

  • Author: Orhan Pamuk
  • Genre: Novel
  • Publisher: Random House, 2022

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Orhan Pamuk presents a disturbing look at the pandemic