BOOKS / istanbulogy / January 21, 2013

The Museum of Innocence

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THE SYMPOSIUM ON THE MUSEUM OF INNOCENCE

Finally 10 years after  Orhan Pamuk, Turkish Nobel Laureate  started writing the story of Kemal and Füsun, the museum, which bears the same name as the book, opened. Right after its opening, a symposium focusing on  the book, the museum and the interaction between the museum and the book was held at Mimar Sinan University, Fine Arts Academy. The symposium  hosted the contributors to the project, who shared their experience and the process itself with us. Also, as would be expected, writers, academics including historians and psychiatrists dissected the characters and the venues that the story takes place into pieces. Too much analysis,  and  too many theories, I believe, spoil all the pleasure one could get from the world of fiction. So the artists were there with the heart -and teethy smiles- and the writers with the mind.  As the last guest, Orhan Pamuk introduced his museum and the museum catalogue he recently released, which is far from  an ordinary museum  catalogue- I would call it a book in its own right actually. He was unable to disguise how excited he was. A child-like joy colored his face while he was talking about how the project proceeded. And anger when he was asked lousy questions. It is touching to witness people pursuing their passion so fiercely.

 

A book with fictional characters, a museum- a house, where these fictional characters ‘supposedly’ lived once upon a time and a museum catalogue, which offers more insight into the life of our fictional characters through their belongings displayed in 83 cabinets. What is next?

 

THE WRITER AS AN ARTIST
When you realize how much they have attended to tiny details, and get to see the whole picture, there emerges an artist right in front of you. An artist of the 21st century. An artist that balances the word with the image. You cannot help but appreciate the enormous effort that went into the project. During the symposium, I recalled another Turkish artist, Balkan Naci Islimyeli. A great Turkish artist, who I had the honour to work with for two years, during when I learnt what it means to be a true artist. Someone who is not confined by any genres. Someone who could create with anything at hand. Someone who dares when others fall silent. So I watched him telling us how his project came alive. Whether he was rearranging the lipstick traces on over 400 cigarette butts, or  experimenting with the music in the installments or  designing the earrings of his fictional character, Füsun, no matter what, he is an artist in his own right.  From the book to the museum, and then to the catalogue you wander in Pamuk’s mind only to be ever more dazzled by the world he unveils. A book with fictional characters, a museum- a house, where these fictional characters ‘supposedly’ lived once upon a time and a museum catalogue, which offers more insight into the life of our fictional characters through their belongings displayed in 83 cabinets. What is next?

 

THE MUSEUM OF INNOCENCE: THE BOOK & THE MUSEUM
The museum, dedicated to the love of his fictional characters, Kemal and Füsun of his book called the Museum of Innocence, actually serves as a contemporary Istanbul Museum, which the city lacks though standing still for more than 2,500 years. The characters flee  the fictional sphere and with the three-story house and all their belongings came alive and carve a place for themselves in the real world.

The boy and the girl meets in my neighborhood in the year I was born. He lives just a few hundred meters from where I live. When I have a look at the collection in the museum, the silverware used for the meals, the hot water bottle, the pictures of the neighborhood in the late 70s, pots used for cooking, matchboxes or whatever you name it, my mind says “They must have lived here among us. They cannot be fictional.” This is the strength and the magic of post-modernism; there is no clear-cut line between the reality and the fictional. Welcome to the world of Pamuk!  Before you visit the museum, try to find the time to read the book, which I would call it a tribute to Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. Kemal reminds me so much of Florentino whereas Füsun of Fermina in Marquez’ book. Füsun is so silent, so invisible and so evasive though Kemal is so possessed with him.

 

A good insight into Turkish mentality on love, sex, and honour; social classes; westernization process of the Republic; the concept of museum as a way of collecting, categorizing and displaying objects. 

 

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