Istanbul: Memories and the City

Author: Orhan Pamuk
Year: 2004
Genre: Memoir

Orhan Pamuk is a lifelong resident of Istanbul, and in this book he tells both the city's history and his own. It's a terribly difficult book for me to write about because there's a lot going on: he doesn't just write a history of Istanbul, but also a history of Istanbul writers and painters (both Turkish and Western), of himself as an Istanbullu, of himself as an Istanbul writer and painter, of certain buildings or classes of building or times of day that he finds evocative, of the different moods that these buildings and times of day evoke. There's a lengthy discussion of hüzün, which is a peculiar sort of Turkish melancholy that the residents of a city can feel collectively because of the knowledge that they have been the capital of three empires but are now marginalized and impoverished.

And, there are the times when Pamuk addresses himself directly to the audience and hints at his deeper purpose in telling the story. That purpose, as I understood it, is to describe the artistic lives of Orhan Pamuk and of Istanbul, but through tangential stories that show their richness as well as their deep interconnections.

Reading this book is like listening to the ramblings of your favorite uncle, if your favorite uncle were Turkish, and a Nobel-winning novelist.


Bg anon said...

Wow for a moment I wondered if it was really you Daniel.

Are you keeping tabs on Kragujevac?
Its 42 degrees today and Zastava workers are demanding a break in their working hours...

Daniel said...

Yes, it's me, back to my decadent Western ways. I haven't been keeping close tabs on KG but I did read about the scandal at the law faculty.

We haven't had such hot weather here, but we did have a warm winter. Unseasonable weather always makes me feel guilty because of global warming.

Hope all is well in Belgrade!