Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Istanbul: Memories and the City (2003) | By Orhan Pamuk

The book that won Orhan Pamuk the Nobel Prize is a monotonous, according to some, but poetic portrait of Istanbul. Seen through the eyes of one of the most interesting modern Turkish intellectuals, the city of this book is a nostalgic version of the roaring, sparkling and dizzying metropolis straddling two continents.

On the one hand, this is a mosaic of many possible views of the city: from Theophile Gautier and Melling to the popular Turkish journalists of Atatürk’s era at its height. On the other hand, Istanbul is above all an autobiography. At the end of the day, that is the city in which Orhan Pamuk has always lived and which he has described in all of his works – from The Black Book to The New Life.

Even though Istanbul is not written in the fictional form Orhan Pamuk usually employs, it stays true to the logic of his remaining works, by presenting a mixture of philosophical considerations, fantasies, love, sadness and melancholic political and social reflections.

The book’s autobiographical elements offer an interesting insight into the life of the Europeanised Turkish elite in the second half of the twentieth century, and its attitude toward the religiosity that rushed into the city from the country’s interior. In this book, Orhan Pamuk describes the same problem he addressed in his novel Snow, but supports it with more factual and documentary evidence.

Readers' Comments:

"I loved this book - I purchased it in Stansted airport on my way to Northern Cyprus and started reading it as we flew to our scheduled stop-over at Istanbul airport for the regulation 45 minutes, frustratingly not able to get out of the plane, just catching a glimpse of the minarets and the bosphorus as we came in to land! Unlike some other readers who appear to have found this a monotonous read, I found it fascinating and Orhan Pamuk succeeded in evoking the era of his own upbringing in Istanbul. The nostalgia for the city of his childhood is overwhealming and the photographs and postcards which illustrate this biographical work add to the intense feeling he has for the place. I have not yet visited Istanbul but it is definitely on my list!

Now I have also read and thoroughly enjoyed The Museum of Innocence too, that desire to visit has increased!"
Rachel Markwick




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