mukikamu

The Armchair Traveler Club

ORHAN PAMUK: ISTANBUL

Posted by mukikamu on February 18, 2008

Orhan Pamuk‘s book about Istanbul is an odd book on this blog, for it is not about a travel experience, but about a personal journey and the spirit of the city where Pamuk lived all his life. I must admit, I lived in Turkey for three years when I was a child, so the book brought back familiar sceneries and was thought-provoking in a peculiar way. This personal attachment made it impossible to read as a curious traveler and I clinged to those details of everyday life that brought back my own memories. I was entertained by the realisation of how exotic Istanbul sometimes seems, yet how very same lives teenagers of the ’60s led all over the world. The book also revived my own experiences about the part of Turkish soul that can not hide the hurtful disappointment caused by the fall of a majestic empire, but which is trying to cope with republicanism and westernization. Even, the obsession with fire-watching shows how the Turkish nation accepts its destiny of having to constantly rebuild from scratch. They feel weary, but -as I sometimes feel the book lacks to mention – still push forward. (If Pamuk would be acquainted with Hungarian mentality he would cheer up. Any Hungarian facing their difficulties and the ‘weltschmerz’ of a beaten history, would instantly fall into self-pity. We would declare things hopeless, before we would ever consider trying to do anything about it.) Pamuk writes extensively about various travel writers who visited Istanbul in the past and shaped the city’s image, as well as of his much admired, fellow Istanbul-based writers. The volume is therefore a uniquely mutant book that mixes personal memories with essays about the history and literary heritage of the city. 

Oh, and I forgot to mention; Istanbul is a book of a Nobel prize winner. Not that it makes any difference, but there are some who care for marketing.

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