THE MUSEUM OF INNOCENCE by Orhan Pamuk

Book Quote:

“Happiness means being close to the one you love, that’s all.”

Book Review:

Review by Helen Ditouras  (OCT 7, 2010)

I don’t know why I resisted Orhan Pamuk all of these years, but one thing’s for sure – I now can’t live without him. I remember the critical acclaim that followed Pamuk in 2005 after the release of Snow, but even with a Nobel Prize under his belt, I was hardly swayed. That may have had something to do with my obsessive relationship with Philip Roth during that time – after all, I’m a loyal gal. And this Pamuk guy was not going to take me away from the legendary Zuckermans and Kepeshes of modern Jewish fiction.

This was all before a few months ago when I stumbled across a review of Pamuk’s literary masterpiece, The Museum of Innocence. The premise of the novel immediately had me fixated: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy spends the next eight years of his life…sitting in a living room with girl, her husband, and her parents, watching Turkish serials and the evening news, night after night. Now that’s what hooked me: the utter devotion and sacrifice that boy made just to see his beloved, day after day, for eight torturous years, with hardly any affirmation from his object of affection.

Speaking of objects, what Kemal, our love-struck narrator of this brilliant, 560-page novel does manage to do, is become a collector of sorts. Unable to recapture the love of his beautiful, distant-relation, Fusun, (who incidentally marries another man after severing ties with our narrator), Kemal begins to secretly collect items from Fusun, ranging from an earring, to a cigarette butt. And this collection begins to grow into a private, perpetual museum which Kemal cherishes and worships like a Marian shrine.

If I seem evasive, it’s because I don’t wish to give away too much of this melancholy tale of love and obsession in Turkey, circa 1970s. And how could I, anyway? This novel is a grand accomplishment for Pamuk, who allegedly worked on this project for ten years. Filled with images of modern Istanbul, with references to Turkish film, fashion, and soda pop, each page is a tender, nostalgic homage to a city now utterly transformed. Pamuk’s desire to seize these memories go well beyond the confines of his novel: this year, at some undisclosed date, the official Museum of Innocence will open to the Turkish public in the town of Cukurcuma, where much of the story unfolds. Fans of his novel will have an opportunity to visit the museum, and see first-hand, the very objects that Pamuk meticulously records throughout the book. For a sneak peak of these objects, see this slideshow.

As this review comes to an end, I have a confession to make. I can’t get over The Museum of Innocence. I think about it…all the time. It haunts me – like Wong Kar Wai’s similar magnum opus, the movie In the Mood for Love. Filled with lingering reminiscence, clandestine love, and most importantly, an era now vanished, the two works are almost companion pieces. There is something cinematic about Pamuk’s novel that begins on the front dust jacket and ends on the final page. I remember holding this giant of a book for the first time and being completely enthralled by the image before me: a group of young, Turkish adults, in a 1950s convertible car, all smiling. And I knew at that moment that this image was akin to a Lynchian smoke-screen – these were not happy people on a joyride. As you soon discover within the first chapter, the main characters of this novel are tormented but hopeful, destitute but euphoric, all because of a few moments of bliss that forever mark their lives.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-5from 64 readers
PUBLISHER: Vintage; Reprint edition (October 5, 2010)
REVIEWER: Helen Ditouras
AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK? YES! Start Reading Now!
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Orphan PamukWikipedia page on Orhan Pamuk
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and ExcerptMore on the physical  Museum of Innocence
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:

And our review of:

Bibliography:

Nonfiction:


October 7, 2010 · Judi Clark · One Comment
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Literary, Middle East, Nobel Prize for Literature, Reading Guide, Translated, Turkey, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

One Response

  1. dougbrun - October 15, 2010

    Helen ~ Thanks for your review. Like you, I too have avoided Pamuk. Though fancying myself a “serious” reader, I, with guilt, make that confession. Though, unlike you, I haven’t, despite immersing myself in the tales of Zuckerman and his ilk, felt myself bethrothed to brother Roth. (I know, to complete my confession, that I miss something serious there…) Forgive me, Father (or is that mother?) for I have sinned….

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