News

Turkish Nobel Laureate Pamuk's Museum of Innocence Parallels Book

Nobel-winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk during a news conference before the opening of the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul April 27, 2012.
Nobel-winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk during a news conference before the opening of the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul April 27, 2012.
Dorian Jones

Cataloging Turkey's history during the turbulent times of the 1960s and 1970s, and paralleling a recent book by Turkey's Nobel laureate, Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul's Museum of Innocence opened this week.

Pamuk said his Museum of Innocence is unique - dedicated to the fictional lives and times of his characters, Kemal and Fusun, from his similarly named novel.

"We try [to] recapture the atmosphere of the novel, combined with the melancholy Istanbul of the '60s and '70s, and try to produce a space of nostalgia and strangeness, all embedded in real and ordinary life objects," he said.

Nearly two decades in the making, the museum, housed in a 19th-century house, consists of 83 displays paralleling the book's 83 chapters.

As in his novel, in which Pamuk appears as a protagonist, much of the material on display belongs to the writer.

"I used my personal photos and objects disguised as being my protagonist's things. They are not easily identifiable, so the Museum of Innocence - just like the novel - is about the line between fiction and reality. The whole art of novel is about readers asking to themselves did the author really live this or did he imagine this? More or less, I did the same thing with the museum."

A journalist inspects artifacts from an exhibit at the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul, Turkey, April 27, 2012.
A journalist inspects artifacts from an exhibit at the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul, Turkey, April 27, 2012.

The eclectic museum appears to be a hit among visitors.

"It's so beautiful. It's the reflection of Pamuk's internal life, and emotional life, as well as the characters written in the book. And the other thing, it's so unique," said one visitor to the museum.

Pamuk's rise to international literary success is built on his ability to portray, through his characters, Istanbul's melancholy - a former imperial capital that has fallen on hard times.

But the location of the museum tells a new story - that of the transformation of Istanbul. When Pamuk bought the building 15 years ago, the area was dilapidated and poor. Today it is fast becoming the most trendy part of city, with its art galleries and matching high-priced real estate.

"The first Turkish readers, the new generation," said Pamuk, "my Istanbul is much more fun. It is not sad and melancholy. I agree with them. But don't be misled by the happy 1 million in the center of town, and looking at the Bosporus. Istanbul is 13 million. There are hundreds of thousands of jobless in the periphery of town who are still poor."

Politics in Turkey also has changed since the era depicted in the museum. Much of the time it was under the shadow of military rule. One of the protagonists in Pamuk's Museum of Innocence is tortured and spends years in jail.

Today it is the military generals who are on trial for past coups and alleged coup plots. Pamuk himself was a target of the alleged plotters, who prosecutors claim wanted to assassinate him for his outspoken liberal views.

When asked if he is optimistic about Turkey's future, he remains guarded.

"I [am] happy that those soldiers, who prepared all those military coups, who tortured and disrespected intellectuals and people of this country, are at least being investigated. It has to be done for an open liberal democratic society. But at the same time, I am sad and pessimistic about so many journalists in jail," said Pamuk.

According to human rights groups, more than 100 journalists are in jail in Turkey. The government disputes the numbers. But for Pamuk, observers say, the new Turkey is treating him well. The Nobel prize winner is no longer making headlines for being persecuted by the government, but rather for his success. His museum already is being heralded in the Turkish media as another important achievement.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs