Orhan Pamuk’s eighth book in English translation feels a little overdue
Time Out Bahrain staff
4/5 Faber & Faber Orhan Pamuk’s eighth book in English translation feels a little overdue: the English translation of Snow came out in 2004. The intervening period has hardly been dull for Pamuk. In 2005 he was charged under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code for ‘insulting Turkishness’ (his ‘crime’ was to broach the perennially sensitive subject of the nation’s actions towards its Armenian community in World War I, in an interview with a Swiss newspaper), while the following year the Istanbul author received the Nobel prize for literature, with judges praising him for making his city ‘an indispensable literary territory equal to Dostoevsky’s St Petersburg or Proust’s Paris’.
The Museum of Innocence continues his absorption in Istanbul. The novel is a study in all-consuming love that begins with a chance encounter between Kemal, the son of a wealthy Istanbul family, and Füsun, a beautiful distant relation, and chronicles the events that flow from that meeting. Unable to forget their brief affair, Kemal begins to collect objects connected with her, stealing many of them from her family home. Readers, in a curious though effective narrative device, are invited to inspect these objects as if walking around a museum.
There is an intriguing blurring of the boundaries between fact and fiction at work here. At the same time that he began writing the book, Pamuk started putting together an actual Museum of Innocence, which will open this year and which the author intends as a ‘poetic and documentary representation’ of Istanbul’s culture from the ’50s to today. Pamuk has pointed out that the museum is not an illustration of the novel, nor vice versa, but concedes they may be ‘two representations of one single story’. Pamuk has created two museums, both of which, in their different ways, will help to celebrate the cultural richness and profound melancholy of his home city. Julian Halliburton