Orhan Pamuk was yet to dream up his Museum of Innocence when he wrote Silent House. The atmospheric museum in a dark-red Istanbul townhouse, which I visited before it opened last spring, was conceived as a companion to his eighth novel – written after he won the Nobel Prize in 2006. Yet a stroll among its cabinets, which contain artful memorabilia evoking dilapidated seaside villas, Bosphorus ferry crossings, family drives in convertibles and bucolic picnics, also sets the scene for his second novel, published in Turkish in 1983. Despite its belated appearance in English (French publishers were quicker off the mark), this is a funny and technically brilliant early work that points towards many of Pamuk’s mature preoccupations.
Like The Museum of Innocence (2008), Silent House recalls the era and milieu of Pamuk’s youth in the 1970s. But its setting in the summer of 1980, weeks before the military coup of 12 September, lends trivial events an ominous irony. The 1980 coup curtailed the lethal street violence between