Books: The Red-Haired Woman

Though the title of Orhan Pamuk's novel refers to a woman, it is about men. As for the title, the red-haired woman is the binding factor of these men, and the novelist is vindicated. A father has a vital role in shaping the lives of children. As a result, there are lives dedicated to rising up or above the legacies bestowed by their fathers. What about those unfortunate who don't have a towering father figure to compare himself. The absence of a father and hence the search for an equivalent form the motif.

To construct a story on the search for a guiding figure, Orhan Pamuk draws inspiration from two classics, Sophocles’s  Oedipus Rex and Ferdowsi's Shahnameh. He combines these literary works from two different cultures against the backdrop of Turkey to produce a story that deals with patricide and filicide. At first glance, this concoction might sound overwhelming. But Orhan's words, translated but retaining the original flavor, takes us on a brisk ride through events. As a result, the book is easy to read but lingers in you long after you have finished it.

The political and economic changes in Turkey plays in the background. For a reader who is the developing world, the past thirty years have redrawn the contours of the cities we live. The cities have grown sideways and upwards. As the cities changed, the ideologies and political outlooks also have transformed. Although this change happens in the background, it is quite visible for a reader like me who grew up in a developing country. It makes me wonder how does it resonate with someone on the other side namely who spent their life in a developed world.

As I stated early, it is a quick read but a slow burn as soon as you put the book down. There are a lot of taboo subjects in the book. I advise you to read a bit about the play and the poem on which this book is based before you take up the book. The prose is so beautiful that you will be enamored before it is too late to turn back.