Nights of Plague

Knopf. Oct. 2022. 704p. tr. from Turkish by Ekin Oklap. ISBN 9780525656890. $32.50. F
Set mostly in the early 1900s on the imaginary Ottoman island of Mingheria, this effusively detailed and abundantly readable new work from Nobel Prize winner Pamuk deals with timely issues of plague and quarantine, nationalism and dissolution of empire. Princess Pakize, confined her whole life with her deposed sultan father, is traveling to China with her new husband, Prince Consort Doctor Nuri Bey, as part of an Ottoman delegation. When they stop at Mingheria, quarantine doctor Nuri rushes to help Bonkowski Pasha, the Sultan’s Royal Chemist, when bubonic plague is discovered. With Bonkowski’s murder, Nuri joins Governor Sami Pasha and native Mingherian major Kâmil to enforce countermeasures even as warships from the Western powers circle to keep the pestilence in. While the island’s Greek Orthodox community of mostly wealthy merchants generally accepts quarantine or flees, the Turkish Muslim community has fewer resources and, disastrously, resists the imposed Lysol-and-lime procedures. A murkily motivated attack on the government leads to an unexpected declaration of independence. The entire story is narrated by a descendant of Pakize and Nuri who considers herself Mingherian, but as Pamuk cannily reveals in an extended epilogue, nationalism does not necessarily mean freedom.
VERDICT Big reading with contemporary import; highly recommended.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing