The White Castle, by Orhan Pamuk

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Two stars, read in September 2018.

I planned on two stars throughout the book and then was tempted to do more based on the last few pages—two and a half stars if not three—but for now, I can’t bring myself to rate it any higher. It’s only 145 pages but took forever to read, because the process was just not an enjoyable one. If I hadn’t been reading it for a reading challenge, I would have given it up out of boredom.

There ended up being some interesting philosophical exploration, and the plot is a great one—Italian scholar in the 17th century is captured and sold in a Turkish slave market, spends the rest of his life in a weird unequal partnership with a man who looks enough like him to be his twin, inventing weapons and stories for the child sultan—but I found the characters very unlikable.

They’re obsessed with the concept of identity, of how a person can ever really know themselves, and yet for all their years of constant introspection and self-examination, they don’t seem to learn or grow in any way. The selves they’re so obsessed with are entirely superficial; everything’s about their appearance, as if the fact that they look alike is really all it takes to make them the same person, and they never reach a single thought beyond the surface of the mirror. Pretty boring stuff.

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