The latest on books and the arts

RSS

Culture Vulture: reviews round-up

We assess the critics' verdict on Pamuk and Bolaño

Writing in the Financial Times, Ian Irvine describes Orhan Pamuk's new novel, The Museum of Innocence, as "a work concerning romantic love worthy to stand in the company of Lolita, Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina . . . As in life, the tragedy flows from the collision of romantic love with the conventions of society . . . It also presents a snapshot of a particular moment in Turkey's changing moral climate."

But for James Urquhart in the Independent, such close anatomy of an affair "has a stultifying effect on Pamuk's elegantly phrased, eloquently translated, but massive and slow-paced new novel". Of greater interest is the book's "underlying theme of the relative position of men and women in Turkey, and the conflict of modern, liberal lifestyles with a traditional society only thinly overlaid by Atatürk's secularism".

Peter Kemp in the Sunday Times agrees: "As a study of emotional and sexual attachment, the novel fails to grip. Where it does exert a hold is in its enthralment with Istanbul . . . it adds another engrossing dimension to [Pamuk's] continual fictional exploration, documentation and celebration of Turkishness."

Roberto Bolaño's Nazi Literature in the Americas is certainly ambitious, but is it a novel? For Peter Parker, writing in the Sunday Times, the answer is probably not: "Conceived as an encyclopedia of imaginary writers, it consists of 32 short biographies . . . all this adds up to a solidly imagined world, but the result is less a novel than an elaborate jeu d'esprit."

Lewis Jones of the Sunday Telegraph found it "among the oddest novels I have read . . . One's credulity may be strained by some of the more outlandish details . . . [but] one is hooked by the humorous and disquieting weirdness of the enterprise . . . If you like magic realism, you will enjoy Bolaño, who takes it to new levels of tricksiness."

To find out the NS verdict on these two books, pick up a copy of Thursday's magazine.