The Museum of Innocence – Orhan Pamuk

Erenst Hemingway


I bought this book new at a bookshop in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil (and left if in quite a sorry state since it got caught in a downpour when I was camping on the Rio Negro).

I read it right through a trip across Brazil and enjoyed it for the memories it brought back from various visits to Istanbul. Reading Pamuk’s ‘My Name is Red’ a few years ago I had struggled to find anything of the Istanbul I knew and loved. In ‘The Museum of Innocence’ however he manages to evoke a sense of place magnificently and every page is permeated with vivid images of the city.

The book traces a thirty year love affair (mostly unrequited) that the hero has with the beautiful Fusun. There are some poignant insights into Istanbullu culture – “…I was able to discover all the awkwardness and pleasure of a stroll through Istanbul in the company of a beautiful woman whose head was uncovered” – but some sections are painfully long, drawn-out and pseudo intellectual.

“Museums are not museums,” the writer informs us, “they are just galleries when the collections are removed.” You don’t say!

One of the unforgivable sins that the celebrated writer commits in this book though is his sudden appearance on the set: “…this is how I came to search out the esteemed Orhan Pamuk….I had also heard that he was a man lovingly devoted to his work who took storytelling seriously.”

Then there are the long, long chapters when the hero spent an interminable (for us) 8 years watching TV in the heroine’s front room. Apparently Pamuk wrote the book in two sessions between 2001 and 2002 and then again between 2003 and 2008.

I am a fairly fast reader but I feel like it took me almost as long to finish it. I was still reading it when my Brazil trip came to an end. I continued reading it in Spain, then UK, then into another trip in Ghana. I left it in my room at Mole Hotel, Mole National Park, Ghana.

 

Kitbaggers book project – travel literature on speed.

Have you ever handled a classic paperback and wondered where it’s been and whose hands it passed through? Do you love the well-handled look of a book that’s obviously seen decades of serious mileage through places you might only have imagined?

This project was conceived long ago through a conversation (in San Jose, Costa Rica) between a group of friends who’d wondered about these same things and thought it would be interesting to try to trace the history of just a few random books that we read on the road.

More than just a review – this is also the story of a single adventurous copy that’s probably still out there touring the world somewhere. Let us know if you find it.

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