Tag Archives: Istanbul

More on Istanbul and Orhan Pamuk

Istanbul Memories and the CityAfter my visit to Istanbul last autumn, I was very happy that a friend lent me this book by Orhan Pamuk. I had very much enjoyed The Museum of Innocence but not so much My Name Is Red, both also by Pamuk, so I was doubly curious about Istanbul, Memories and the City, translated by Maureen Freely.

I found it a little strange. It combines elements of an author’s memoir (some events in his childhood and youth are recorded and family tensions are sketched), an alternative tourist commercial (“This is my dilapidated city that doesn’t know what it is any more. It’s super authentic and you’ll understand it if you’re sensitive and cultured enough”) and introspection.

Perhaps the format confused me a little: the book is a series of chapters providing one way of looking at the city, which might be “The Joy and Monotony of School”, “Resat Ekrem Koçu’s Collection of Facts and Curiosities: The Istanbul Encyclopedia” or “The Rich”.

The often used Turkish word “hüzün” (melancholy) is explained but, unless I missed something, the word “meyhane” (a restaurant or bar where alcohol is consumed) is not. Also, and this is my fault, not the author’s, I had to check Wikipedia to remind myself of the tensions in Turkey in the seventies and eighties, which are an important element of the book’s background. IMG_0650

And yet, tucked away in there is some thoughtful self analysis, like in the opening chapter, “Another Orhan”, where Pamuk presents his ghostly “twin”, the doppelgänger he says has lived with him all his life.There are also repeated references to the impressions Istanbul left on Western artists, authors and poets, notably French ones. Orhan Pamuk describes what they report but he doesn’t really comment. Likewise when he introduces us to Turkish men of letters.

I also enjoyed Pamuk’s description of the joy he experienced in the creative act of drawing and painting, before he turned to writing (and I “award” him extra points for liking Raoul Dufy), the wry comment on one aspect of Old Istanbul that has survived: the packs of wild dogs, glimpses of the terrible and beautiful thing that was the destruction by fire of countless fine wooden houses and the author’s romance as a young man with the Black Rose.

Overall, my feeling is that Orhan Pamuk made a better job of communicating a feel for Istanbul and indeed for a man’s life story in what is to me the “tidier” form of the novel, in The Museum of Innocence. As he is known primarily as a novelist, that surely makes sense?
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Somewhere in Istanbul …

It was time to change the photo on this blog. Our fabulous summer of 2013 family holiday in the US has finally been replaced by our fabulous 25th-anniversary-of-living-together long weekend in Istanbul last October, in terms of the number of photos of fantastic places taken per day of visit.. This particular photo is of somewhere near our hotel, I forget even the district name and can’t be bothered to check Google Maps just now.

A gorgeous city, with beautiful tiles and mosaics everywhere. Hagia Sofia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Rüstem Pasha Mosque, Chora Church, the bazaar, the streets, and that’s just the man-made stuff. I haven’t mentioned the people or the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn or the food or …

the museum of innocenceI read The Museum of Innocence by Ohran Pamuk, a recommendation from my Mum, while and after I was there. There’s not a lot to say about that book except that I loved it. It definitely has a dream like quality and it literally entrances you. It’s the life story of man, with an almost exclusive focus on the great love of his life. It was a very different reading experience for me with My Name Is Red which left me a little cold. The writing style seemed so different, notwithstanding the different setting (time wise, from memory My Name Is Red is set in 16th century Istanbul, whereas The Museum of Innocence is also set in Istanbul, but mostly in the – nineteen – seventies), that I thought I should check whether they had been translated by the same person.My  name is red They haven’t but as I don’t read Turkish, I have no idea whether the translation styles were different or whether the original texts’ were.

My Name Is Red purported to be a bit of a mystery novel, but I felt it was mysterious in unintentional ways… It should have had all the ingredients that would in theory make a good book for me: it was about a manuscript, there were reflections on art and religion and freedom, snapshots of a fabled city at the height of its power and influence, but the details are now all hazy and I remember that it left me feeling puzzled, not in a very satisfying way.The Museum of Innocence, on the other hand, was just like gliding on the Bosphorus, with all the time in the world to take in what lies on either side of the Strait…

A friend has now lent me  Istanbul, Memories and the City. I’m really curious about it.