The Black Book (1990 novel) Summary & Study Guide

Pamuk, Orhan
This Study Guide consists of approximately 71 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Black Book.
This section contains 1,022 words
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The Black Book (1990 novel) Summary & Study Guide Description

The Black Book (1990 novel) Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on The Black Book (1990 novel) by Pamuk, Orhan .

The following version of this book was used to create the guide: Pamuk, Orhan. The Black Book. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.

The Black Book is separated into 36 chapters, split into two parts. Every other chapter is a column from the Turkish newspaper, the Milliyet, written by the protagonist's cousin or the protagonist himself. Galip is the 33-year-old third-person limited narrator and protagonist.

Galip wakes up in his apartment in the Nişantaşi quarter of Istanbul beside Rüya, his wife and cousin. While she sleeps, Galip thinks about their extended family and youth growing up in the Heart-of-the-City Apartments. Rüya’s half-brother, Jelal, is a journalist who works for the Millyet. Galip inherited his law practice after his Uncle Melih started suffering from memory loss. The family shares a weekly meal at their Aunt Halé’s apartment, a tradition from when their family lived in the same building. After work, he discovers that Rüya is not at Aunt Halé’s. At their apartment, he finds a short note stating that she left him.

He lies to his family about Rüya’s absence and returns home. She did not leave an explanation or take much with her. They had been married for three years, and Rüya was a housewife who loved to read detective novels. Her first marriage was to a left-wing revolutionary. Galip begins searching for Rüya, hiding his identity and the fact she had left. He concludes that she returned to her ex-husband. He begins to search for them, while still hiding the truth with others.

Galip calls and visits the newspaper office, but Jelal is also missing. He is not worried, since Jelal has secret escape hideouts. Galip’s friend, İskender, wants to set up a BBC interview with Jelal. Galip speaks with journalists at Jelal’s office. They discuss how Jelal does not write original material, but retells stories, and that Galip could do it, too.

Galip visits the neighborhood where Rüya used to live. He finds that the ex-husband remarried and has completely changed his ideals. He has become a nationalist, and is now living his life so that he can choose his own identity and embrace the Turkish lifestyle.

Galip returns to Istanbul and wanders the streets. He solicits a sex worker who masquerades as a Turkish actress. He just wants to talk, using her as a placeholder for Rüya. He realizes that he changed during his search for Rüya. He becomes attracted to the woman and the two become intimate.

Galip runs into İskender and the BBC interviewers at a nightclub. They all take turns sharing stories while they drink. Two of the interviewers, a bargirl, a photographer, a waiter, a bald man, and Galip all share stories revolving around identity and love. They leave the club together, following the bald man, who is also looking for Jelal. The man takes them to an underground mannequin factory. While exploring, Galip discovers he is angry with Jelal. They visit a mosque that is slowly falling into the Golden Horn. Galip encounters Belkis, a neighbor and old schoolmate. In school, Belkis had a crush on Galip.

Galip spends the night on Belkis’ couch. When he wakes up, she has completely changed her appearance. Galip decides Rüya and Jelal are hiding together, and wants to find them. He believes that to find Jelal, he needs to use Jelal’s memories.

Galip finds one of the hideaways, Jelal’s childhood apartment in the Heart-of-the-City Apartments. He begins to wear Jelal’s clothes and sleep in his apartment. He rereads every one of Jelal’s articles to emulate his mindset.

A man calls for Jelal, but Galip avoids talking to him so he can try to find Rüya and Jelal. Galip learns about Hurufism and becomes inspired. He writes three articles immediately, signing Jelal’s name to them. The final three newspaper excerpts in the novel are Galip’s, not Jelal’s.

Galip thinks he is being followed and escapes back to Jelal’s apartment. He shares another phone call with the crazy fan, who tries to persuade him to meet. Galip hangs up on him, as he does not want to share the apartment’s location.

He next receives a phone call from Emine, Jelal’s former lover. She left her husband, believing that Jelal wanted her back. He discovers that the crazy fan is Emine’s husband, Mehmet, who wants to kill Jelal. Mehmet is the bald man from the club, and the person following Galip around Istanbul. He learns that Jelal betrayed his readers by making up nonsense they thought was real. They agree to meet at Aladdin’s store at 9 p.m., though Galip intends to only watch from afar.

He sets up a meeting with the BBC interviewers. He goes to Aladdin’s store, but nobody shows up. He goes to the meeting with the BBC people at the Pera Palas Hotel and masquerades as Jelal. He returns to Nişantaşi to find that Jelal was killed outside Aladdin’s store. Rüya is not there, so Galip tries fruitlessly to find her. In the morning, he learns that Rüya had also been killed.

Galip continues to write as Jelal, claiming that his cousin had written the articles before his death. He moves into the attic apartment and erases Rüya from his life, unable to cope with her death. At the end of the summer, there is a military coup. The new administration thoroughly investigates and interviews Galip. They decide that it was an old barber who was mocked in one of Jelal’s old articles. He is tried, sentenced, and hanged.

Galip continues to mourn for Rüya and live his life with his new identity. He thinks about how he and Rüya had promised to spend their seventy-third birthdays. All he wanted was for her to truly love him and not pine for a better life. The novel ends with Galip as narrator addressing the reader, explaining that writing is the only consolation for life.

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