Constructed as a cantata for many voices, the novel allows each character to tell his or her portion of Mevlut’s unfolding story. Born in a poor village in the province of Konya, around 700 miles south-east of Istanbul, in 1957, Mevlut leaves his home 12 years later and follows his father to Istanbul.

There begins a succession of failed attempts at schooling, small businesses and political engagements. On a visit to the house of acquaintances, Mevlut falls in love with a 13-year-old girl. Over three long years, he writes her love letters, which he entrusts to her brother, saying he wants to marry her. At last, the brother arranges an elopement. All is set for the couple to flee, but, just before boarding the train, Mevlut discovers that the girl the brother has brought with him is not the one Mevlut had fallen in love with, but her older sister. Mevlut says nothing, accepts his fate and attempts to understand the new love that is born from the trickery. His attitude is not one of resignation, but of gratitude for unexpected gifts. Mevlut’s life is one of ongoing generous recognition and marveling acceptance of such revelations.

‘A Strangeness in My Mind’, Pamuk’s title comes from Wordsworth; the line is followed by: “A feeling that I was not for that hour, / Nor for that place.” This state of being is also Mevlut’s: not a saint but a wilful outsider, a stranger to the greed and selfishness prevalent in his society.

A Strangeness in My Mind is almost just such an encyclopedia: a vast collection of characters, events, houses, food, objects that, the reader realizes at the end of 600 pages, are summed up in the name Istanbul. So what are you waiting for? Rush to the nearest library and grab a copy to discover a love of a different kind.

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