The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Orhan Pamuk's Museum

I was recently struck by this article about Orhan Pamuk's new novel (noted by the excellent Literary Saloon). Apparently Pamuk has created an actual, physical museum alongside his writing of "The Museum of Innocence." 
Yes, "The Museum of Innocence" chronicles the love story of Kemal, an upper-class person, a person who is occasionally described as high-society. He is 30 years old in 1975 and chronicles his infatuation with a distant relative, a twice removed cousin, Fusun, an 18 year-old shop girl, but very beautiful. As sort of a compensation for his failure to get her hand, he collects everything he can get that Fusun touches, and in the end he makes a museum of the objects that their story is associated with.

My "Museum of Innocence" is a real museum too, which tries to pin down all these objects. I've been collecting things for this museum almost for six years. I bought a house which is actually where this part of the story has been taking place since about ten years ago. I converted it into a museum so the "Museum of Innocence" is both a museum and a novel.

The enjoyment of the novel and the enjoyment of the would-be museum are two entirely different things. The museum is not an illustration of the novel and the novel is not an explanation of the museum. They are two representations of one single story perhaps.

What a strange and lovely project, and how well suited it seems to the melancholy Pamuk. I've been a great admirer of his work for years. "My Name is Red" had sentences of jolting beauty, and I still remember reading "Snow," during a week in Istanbul--far from the snowy, Eastern town where the novel is set but close (so I felt) to the author's own Istanbul home and office. I think his Nobel acceptance speech should be read by everyone, and he also has some wonderful essays in the collection "Other Colors."
PostsUrsula Lindsey1 Comment