“It was the happiest moment of my life, though I didn’t know it.”
I first read the Orhan Pamuk’s novel the Museum of Innocence in 2011. It is the tale of Kemal, the son of one of Istanbul’s richest families and his bordering on creepy love of Furun, who is, of course, from the wrong side of the tracks. I admit it’s not my favourite Pamuk novel, I mean Kemal is nothing short of a stalker (and a thief) as pathetically mopes around collecting (thieving) Furun’s used cigarette butts but Furun is no better with her desperation and sulking throughout most of the novel but regardless Pamuk’s writing is still a poetic, hypnotic story which draws you in (even if, like me, you had to put the book aside for a while). I’m moving on for those who have not yet read it so no spoilers here people.
While I was recently in Istanbul I wandered into the antique district of Çukurcuma where I inadvertently happened onto the actual “Museum of Innocence”. This interesting museum was conceived by Pamuk who collected items over the period of writing his novel to go hand in hand with his story.
Entering the three-storey building is like seeing fiction turned into reality. From the mesmerising installation of Furun’s cigarette butts to clothes and pieces of daily life from the 1950’s through to modern Istanbul it was an interesting reminder of a period that has been left behind.
It was a fascinating stop on my meandering through Çukurcuma but it was also a stop that made me feel infinitely sad. Sad for Kemal and I guess in some way sad for myself as well. We all have that lost love (well maybe not everyone) but for many of us, we had a Mr (or Miss) Big. I called mine Mr Mediocre (it took me years to realise that he wasn’t all that) and somewhere in the back of my wardrobe I do in fact still have a movie ticket from the first movie we went to (Dirty Dancing) and hidden in a book somewhere on my bookshelf (and no I don’t remember which book) is my only photo of him and I, circa 1993. A total of 12 years of my life for a love that is only a memory now. I don’t regret the way my life turned out but I do in some small way understand how the pathetic Kemal became so infatuated and destroyed his life over his love for Furun.
To anyone who is a fan of Orhun Pamuk and gets the opportunity to visit his museum, do yourself a favour. It is only small but it is truly charming and well worth getting lost in Çukurcuma with the intention of finding yourself here.
Çukurcuma also has so many tiny antique shops which, although out of my price range, were still fascinating to rummage through (and the Turkish tea that is offered as soon as you walk through the door was a blessing on that freezing January morning that I visited the area).
The future of museums is inside our own houses.
And if you haven’t read The Museum of Innocence grab a copy now from Amazon
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After reading the book some years ago, I also resolved to visit the museum – and still haven’t managed it. Your post may give me the spur I need…and I think we may also share an opinion on the book. 🙂
The book is still on my shelf with the book mark just shy of the half way stage. I very rarely give up on a book and I still feel guilty when I bump into it on my shelf. Maybe I should give it another go.
Oh I really struggled with that book. Found it very melancholy.
The museum is indeed quite quirky, but helps to know the book to understand the museum. I recall finishing the book before we left Istanbul and visiting the museum in 2013. I left a piece of my heart in that city. 😉
Actually, I’m a bit prejudiced against Orhan Pamuk 😉