Book Review – The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk

From helping dig a well to creating a valuable property company, this story charts the progress of Cem set to the backdrop of the expansion of Istanbul. Cem and his wife Ayse can’t have children and yet they’re obsessed with the stories of Oedipus and Rostam and Sohrab, even naming their property company Sohrab. The success of his company is the beginning of the end for Cem as he advertises his company himself and these adverts are seen by a son he never knew he had, the result of a one-night stand with the Red-Haired Woman of the title during his well apprenticeship.

Cem does have a secret, relating to the well and his mentor Master Mahmut, who had a genius for creating wells where there seemed to be no water. Cem doesn’t share this secret with anyone but ultimately finds he never had anything to worry about.

Cem’s secret doesn’t hurt him, but the son he never knew about does, in contrast to Oedipus and the legend of Rostam and Sohrab.

I feel no sympathy with Cem: he abandons someone when they needed him most – much like his own father did to Cem – and embraces a Western lifestyle, whilst claiming not to be secular. Personally, I think the rise and fall of Cem mirrors the history of Istanbul, a city now embracing the ways of the West, but suffering and diluting its own history and culture as a result.

Published by Julian Worker

Julian was born in Leicester, attended school in Yorkshire, and university in Liverpool. He has been to 94 countries and territories and intends to make the 100 when travel is easier. He writes travel books, murder / mysteries and absurd fiction. His sense of humour is distilled from The Marx Brothers, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Midsomer Murders. His latest book is about a Buddhist cat who tries to help his squirrel friend fly further from a children's slide.

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