From a Turkish writer who has been compared with Borges, Nabokov, and DeLillo comes a dazzling novel that is at once a captivating work of historical fiction and a sinuous treatise on the enigma of identity and the relations between East and West. In the 17th century, a young Italian scholar sailing from Venice to Naples is taken prisoner and delivered to Constantinople. There he falls into the custody of a scholar known as Hoja--"master"--a man who is his exact double. In the years that follow, the slave instructs his master in Western science and technology, from medicine to pyrotechnics. But Hoja wants to know more: why he and his captive are the persons they are and whether, given knowledge of each other's most intimate secrets, they could actually exchange identities. Set in a world of magnificent scholarship and terrifying savagery, The White Castle is a colorful and intricately patterned triumph of the imagination. Translated from the Turkish by Victoria Holbrook.
One of Turkey's foremost novelists explores the ambivalent relationship between master and slave in this elegant, postmodernist twist on the theme of the doppelganger. During the 17th century, a young Italian is captured by the Turkish fleet and brought to Istanbul, where he becomes the slave of an erudite man who could pass for his twin. The Hoja , or master, is convinced that the Italian youth's European education is superior to his own and he becomes the young man's pupil. Once the Hoja perceives the superficiality of the young man's knowledge, however, he insists that the slave tell him more, demanding details of his double's upbringing. When this, too, becomes tiresome, the slave confesses to real and imagined sins for which he is beaten. As their relationship changes over the years, with each alternating domination, the author deftly plays the mirror-image characters against each other. To aid the Ottoman sultan in his war against the Poles, the two develop a fantastical war machine. Its disastrous failure in battle proves their undoing. The reader is left guessing at the ultimate fate of the Hoya and the slave, while at the same time admiring Pamuk's skillfully constructed paradoxes.