Good Reading : February 2016
Every reader dreams of visiting and being enveloped by the world of a book that they deeply love. For fans of Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, this dream was transformed into reality in 2012 when the Nobel Prize-winning writer brought his 2008 novel, The Museum of Innocence, to life with a museum in Istanbul, that is dedicated to the book. The novel’s lead character, Kemal Basmaci, explores his infatuation with the beautiful Füsun, a shop assistant, by collecting trinkets that belong to her and items from her house. This collection becomes his life’s work – as other aspects of his world crumble around him. Simple details hidden in the collection describe intimate thoughts and emotions of the book’s protagonist. The museum manifests Kemal’s creation in the real world for visitors to explore, much like the museum in the book. Located in a 19th-century home in Çukurcuma, Istanbul, this four-floor living art piece sits alongside junk stores selling metal jugs and woven rugs. The first installation you see as you enter the ground floor of the building is an expansive wall of cigarette butts, 4213 to be exact, most of which bear Füsun’s lipstick marks and each inscribed with the exact day, time and circumstance of their smoking. Other pieces include a tricycle, lottery tickets, dozens of porcelain dogs and newspaper clippings of women with black lines covering their eyes – which in Istanbul means that they were associated with controversy or scandal. At the top of the museum sits a lonely bed, representing where Kamal slept in the last years of his life while he built the museum. It might be assumed that the museum was made possible due to the worldwide success of The Museum of Innocence, but Pamuk revealed that both the book and the museum were conceived hand in hand. While wr iting the book, Pamuk says, he adopted Kemal’s persona and visited junk shops across the world in search for Füsun’s items and other pieces that are reflected in each chapter of the book. Pamuk stresses that the museum is not about himself as an author but rather an extension of his literary work. He said in a 2012 article in The New York Times: ‘This is not Orhan Pamuk’s museum. Very little of me is here, and if it is, it is hidden. It’s like fiction.’ The novel is set in Istanbul’s upper class in the 1970s, a time when Pamuk was growing up in the elite neighbourhood of Nişantaşi. During this time the haute-bourgeoisie of Istanbul were attempting to define themselves by Western values. This was a difficult balancing act, because although they embraced Western culture, they also remained conservative in their principles. The novel explores the relationship between the upper and lower classes of Istanbul at this time of cultural change. Pamuk made an effort not to neglect this part of Istanbul’s history in the Museum of Innocence. Clocks, plastic bottles, electronics and clothing from the era are displayed GOOD READING FEBRUARY 2016 25 WRITER’S HOUSE Other pie ces include ... newspaper clippings of wome n with black lines covering the ir eyes – which in Istanbul means that they were associate d with controversy or scandal.
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