The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist

Orhan Pamuk (Author) Nazim Dikbaş (Translator)


What happens within us when we read a novel? And how does a novel create its unique effects, so distinct from those of a painting, a film, or a poem? In this inspired, thoughtful, deeply personal book, Orhan Pamuk takes us into the worlds of the writer and the reader, revealing their intimate connections.

Pamuk draws on Friedrich Schiller's famous distinction between "naive" poets--who write spontaneously, serenely, unselfconsciously--and "sentimental" poets: those who are reflective, emotional, questioning, and alive to the artifice of the written word. Harking back to the beloved novels of his youth and ranging through the work of such writers as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Stendhal, Flaubert, Proust, Mann, and Naipaul, he explores the oscillation between the naive and the reflective, and the search for an equilibrium, that lie at the center of the novelist's craft. He ponders the novel's visual and sensual power--its ability to conjure landscapes so vivid they can make the here-and-now fade away. In the course of this exploration, he considers the elements of character, plot, time, and setting that compose the "sweet illusion" of the fictional world.

Anyone who has known the pleasure of becoming immersed in a novel will enjoy, and learn from, this perceptive book by one of the modern masters of the art.

Product Details

Harvard University Press
Publish Date
November 01, 2010
5.9 X 0.79 X 8.45 inches | 0.81 pounds
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About the Author

Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish novelist, is author of Snow, My Name Is Red, Istanbul, The Museum of Innocence, and other works. He was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature. More information on the author can be found at


Anyone who has read Pamuk's exquisite fiction will be interested in these essays on reading and the art of the novel.--William Kist"Cleveland Plain Dealer" (12/11/2010)
[This] recent collection of essays are the work of a writer at the height of his career.--Thomas Patrick Wisniewski"World Literature Today" (05/01/2011)
Taking his title and inspiration from Schiller's On Naive and Sentimental Poetry, Nobel Prize-winning Turkish novelist Pamuk dissects what happens when we read a novel. Making a distinction between naïve novelists, "unaware" of the novel's artificiality, and "sentimental" novelists (and readers) at the opposite end, who are "reflective," Pamuk is most interested in the "secret center" of literary novels, which is the wisdom they impart. Pamuk brings to the table firsthand knowledge regarding the centrality of character in the novel and how the novelist actually becomes the hero in the very act of writing. Readers, in their own symbiotic act of imagination, also inhabit the hero's character. And through that sense of identification with the hero's decisions and choices, Pamuk says, we learn that we can influence events...[The book] is a passionate amalgam of wonder and analysis.-- (10/04/2010)
Pamuk offers a striking interpretation of what goes on in the novelist's mind...In Pamuk's theory, the writing and reading of novels is one of humanity's great acts of optimism. This is what is meant by novelists and readers identifying with characters. To an extent that few other novelists can match, Pamuk is both a naive and sentimental novelist--and he desires readers who are the same way.-- (10/30/2010)
The power of Pamuk's short book lies less in his theorizing about the novel than in his professions of faith in it...Pamuk still believes that creating worlds is the novelist's real task and exploring them the best reason for reading fiction...To read in this way--almost desperately, in search of the wisdom and aid we need to navigate our own lives--often seems like a dying discipline. Pamuk's book is a reminder that, without this almost metaphysical faith, great fiction can't be truly appreciated or written.-- (12/01/2010)
A slender, strikingly handsome volume...Pamuk's nonfiction voice matches the narrating voice of his novels--grave, thoughtful, wry...His painstaking love for literature prevails.-- (12/12/2010)
Pamuk's lectures are perhaps best read as a string of brilliant aperçus rather than a systematic text on the art of writing (or reading) the novel. Though respectful of past masters, Pamuk takes exception with many of their conclusions, particularly Aspects of the Novel in which E.M. Forster posits the centrality of character. Instead, argues Pamuk, it is the world in which the protagonist moves that propels the novel: this interaction draws in the reader, who finds the novel emotively true even while knowing it is fiction. Pamuk draws on his own experience as a non-Western reader of Western novels and as a writer. Pamuk does not disappoint.-- (12/01/2010)
Supple and brilliant...One of the more formidable attempts by a practitioner to articulate a theory of the novel since E.M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel...This is an eccentric, sometimes almost solipsistic book about the novel, but it has such a dynamic sense of the life of fiction, and the way the novel makes us see the world, that it will be treasured by readers and writers.-- (03/01/2011)
Engaging, brilliant...Pamuk's The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist is charming, self-regarding, [and] dreamy.-- (03/12/2011)
Pamuk goes to the heart of what a novel is, how he and others write them, and how readers read them. Anyone interested in the humanities should read this book.-- (05/01/2011)