Monday, May 7, 2012

The Museum of Innocence

I am not a great shopper.

Slow, indecisive and  then later regretful...I am happy just to peruse,delight and leave.

But put me in a bookstore anywhere in the world and I come out laden!

In Istanbul, I emerged from the small densely stocked book shop onto the busy street in Galata, with a bag laden with 'Turkish delights'. Orhan Pamuk, Elif Shafak and Ahmet Handi Tanipar had all found their way into my shopping bag.

So, when my mother and sister decided to visit Istanbul I was excited to tell them about Orhan Pamuk, Turkey's Nobel prize winning writer whose memoirs 'Istanbul, memories of a city' had so deeply moved me.

Like Pamuk I felt the 'huzun' in Istanbul, the melancholy that permeates this beautiful city, trapped as it is between a golden, quite extraordinary past and a crumbling present. The sense of disorientation in a city of faded grandeur balancing precariously between Islam and the West.

In Beyoglu, Pamuk has finally achieved the living embodiment of his novel, 'The Museum Of Innocence' which tells the story of the obsessive love Kemel, a wealthy businessman has for Fusun, a lowly shop assistant.The novel traces this single minded passion over 30 years starting in 1975. Kemel's obsession becomes more and more bizaare and self destructive as he creates an actual 'museum' to his lost love, collecting whatever he can find that is in any way connected to the short-lived love affair they once shared.

"It was the happiest moment of life", Kemel recalls of their affair "though I didn't know it. Had I known, had I cherished this gift, would everything have turned out differently? Yes, if I had recognized this instant of perfect happiness, I would have held it fast and never let it slip away. It took a few seconds , perhaps, for that luminous state to to enfold me, suffusing me with the deepest peace, but it seemed to last hours, even years. In that moment, on the afternoon of Monday, May 26, 1975, at about quarter to three, just as we found ourselves to be beyond sin and guilt so too did the world seem to have been released from gravity and time."

In a magical example of life imitating art, Pamuk has finally inaugurated an actual 'The Museum of Innocence' in which he has recreated the temple of obsessive love, created by Kemel for the object of his desire. It is the gilded cage Kemel so longed to trap Fusun within.

Here you will find all the excruciating minutiae of their daily lives, navigating their crossed paths from ticket stubs to locks of hair, serviettes with a trace of lipstick to the forbidden, now empty wine bottles from which they imbibed.

'Real museums are places where time is transformed into space'. Kemel tells the reader, and here Pamuk has achieved just that.

"When we lose people we love, we should never disturb their souls, whether living or dead", Kemel advices, "instead we should find consolation in an object that reminds you of them, something...I don't know...even an earring"

xxx elle

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