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A shimmering evocation, by turns intimate and panoramic, of one of the world’s great cities, by its foremost writer. Orhan Pamuk was born in Istanbul and still lives in the family apartment building where his mother first held him in her arms. His portrait of his city is thus also a self-portrait, refracted by memory and the melancholy–or–hüzün–that all Istanbullus share: A shimmering evocation, by turns intimate and panoramic, of one of the world’s great cities, by its foremost writer. Orhan Pamuk was born in Istanbul and still lives in the family apartment building where his mother first held him in her arms. His portrait of his city is thus also a self-portrait, refracted by memory and the melancholy–or–hüzün–that all Istanbullus share: the sadness that comes of living amid the ruins of a lost empire. With cinematic fluidity, Pamuk moves from his glamorous, unhappy parents to the gorgeous, decrepit mansions overlooking the Bosphorus; from the dawning of his self-consciousness to the writers and painters–both Turkish and foreign–who would shape his consciousness of his city. Like Joyce’s Dublin and Borges’ Buenos Aires, Pamuk’s Istanbul is a triumphant encounter of place and sensibility, beautifully written and immensely moving.


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A shimmering evocation, by turns intimate and panoramic, of one of the world’s great cities, by its foremost writer. Orhan Pamuk was born in Istanbul and still lives in the family apartment building where his mother first held him in her arms. His portrait of his city is thus also a self-portrait, refracted by memory and the melancholy–or–hüzün–that all Istanbullus share: A shimmering evocation, by turns intimate and panoramic, of one of the world’s great cities, by its foremost writer. Orhan Pamuk was born in Istanbul and still lives in the family apartment building where his mother first held him in her arms. His portrait of his city is thus also a self-portrait, refracted by memory and the melancholy–or–hüzün–that all Istanbullus share: the sadness that comes of living amid the ruins of a lost empire. With cinematic fluidity, Pamuk moves from his glamorous, unhappy parents to the gorgeous, decrepit mansions overlooking the Bosphorus; from the dawning of his self-consciousness to the writers and painters–both Turkish and foreign–who would shape his consciousness of his city. Like Joyce’s Dublin and Borges’ Buenos Aires, Pamuk’s Istanbul is a triumphant encounter of place and sensibility, beautifully written and immensely moving.

30 review for Istanbul: Memories and the City

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jayson

    (B+) 79% | Good Notes: An effective, inviting blend of history and memoir. Though the word "melancholy" is overused to the point of cliché. (B+) 79% | Good Notes: An effective, inviting blend of history and memoir. Though the word "melancholy" is overused to the point of cliché.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Pamuk was already one of my favourite authors when I read his memoir of his beloved city - Istanbul - in conjunction with a family vacation there. What an amazing reading experience that was! Imagine that old, old city, full of stories after centuries of human interaction, of cultural clashes and exchanges, of architectural wonders and wars of destruction. And then imagine one of its most talented writers, a storyteller with the power of 1001 nights, telling the story of the city from his person Pamuk was already one of my favourite authors when I read his memoir of his beloved city - Istanbul - in conjunction with a family vacation there. What an amazing reading experience that was! Imagine that old, old city, full of stories after centuries of human interaction, of cultural clashes and exchanges, of architectural wonders and wars of destruction. And then imagine one of its most talented writers, a storyteller with the power of 1001 nights, telling the story of the city from his personal angle, sharing his historical knowledge, his family history, and personal relationships, both fictional and real. Imagine walking the streets and recognising each cobblestone Pamuk mentions. Imagine going to the markets and taking in the colours and flavours of the spices that he describes, hearing the voices of the lively sellers and buyers, engaged in an everyday dialogue that you might not understand, but feel close to all of a sudden, as you have the voice of Pamuk in your head. Imagine feeling connected to a completely foreign world through the literary masterpiece of an author who knows how to cross the bridge between Asia and Europe, both literally and figuratively speaking! Imagine moving around that beautiful, powerful city with your own family while stepping into the living-room of Pamuk's childhood home, meeting his relatives from different generations. Imagine feeling the hüzün, the melancholy of Istanbul, almost as if it was possible to touch it physically, guided by Pamuk's experience of spiritual loss as a chain that links together a city in an eternal identity crisis: "For me it has always been a city of ruins and of end-of-empire melancholy. I’ve spent my life either battling with this melancholy or (like all İstanbullus) making it my own." Identity crisis as the defining element of identity itself - that is an idea only literature can explain and transmit, in conjunction with the black and white photographs of a fictional past glory and the experience of intense life carried out on the streets of modern Istanbul. As readable as Dickens' London tales and Zola's accounts of Paris, Pamuk gives his home town the best tribute possible: he invites literary travellers to participate in the imagination of its torn soul. Brilliant! I couldn't help seeing the city partially with the Scandinavian painter's eyes as well, seeing Zorn's painting of the Bosporus as a visual tribute to the melancholy beauty of local life that Pamuk celebrates. East meets West.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Istanbul, Hatıralar ve Şehir = Istanbul: Memories and the City, 2005, Orhan Pamuk Istanbul: Memories and the City is a largely autobiographical memoir by Orhan Pamuk that is deeply melancholic. It talks about the vast cultural change that has rocked Turkey – the unending battle between the modern and the receding past. It is also a eulogy to the lost joint family tradition. Most of all, it is a book about Bosphorus and Istanbul's history with the strait. It was translated into English by Maureen Istanbul, Hatıralar ve Şehir = Istanbul: Memories and the City, 2005, Orhan Pamuk Istanbul: Memories and the City is a largely autobiographical memoir by Orhan Pamuk that is deeply melancholic. It talks about the vast cultural change that has rocked Turkey – the unending battle between the modern and the receding past. It is also a eulogy to the lost joint family tradition. Most of all, it is a book about Bosphorus and Istanbul's history with the strait. It was translated into English by Maureen Freely in 2005. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و سوم ماه آوریل سال 2014 میلادی عنوان: استانبول خاطرات و شهر؛ نویسنده: اورهان پاموک؛ مترجم شهلا طهماسبی؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، نیلوفر، 1391، در 495ص؛ مصور، شابک 9789644484704؛ کتاب از متن انگلیسی با عنوان بالا ترجمه شده است، موضوع: نویسندگان ترک سرگذشتنامه، استانبول ترکیه، سیر و سیاحت - سده 20م کتاب «استانبول: شهر و خاطره‌ها»، یک خودزندگی‌نامه، اثری از «اورهان پاموک» است، که رگه‌هایی از مالیخولیا در آن دیده می‌شود؛ در این کتاب در مورد تغییرات فرهنگی گسترده در «ترکیه» سخن گفته می‌شود؛ «پاموک» این کتاب را هنگامی نوشتند، که افسردگی نزدیک بود سراسر روح و جسم وی را فراگیرد؛ در یک مصاحبه «پاموک» بیان کرد: نمی‌خواهم چندان به جزییاتی همانند: طلاق، مرگ پدر، مشکلات و دشواری‌های کاری، و از این قبیل، بپردازم، همه چیز بد پیش می‌رفت؛ گمان می‌کنم اگر ضعیف می‌بودم، افسردگی مرا فرامی‌گرفت؛ اما هر روز بیدار می‌شدم، یک دوش خنک می‌گرفتم، و به یادآوری، و نوشتن، مشغول می‌شدم، و به زیبایی و ظرافت کتاب بیشتر توجه می‌کردم؛ پایان نقل یادمانهای شخصی ایشان، با اشاره‌ هایی به دیگر نویسندگان «استانبول»، در هم آمیخته شده‌ است؛ یک فصل کامل از کتاب، به «آنتونی ایگناس ملینگ» هنرمند سده ی نوزدهم میلادی اختصاص یافته‌ است، که حکاکی و قلم زنی‌هایی در «قسطنطنیه» انجام داده بود؛ نویسندگان مورد علاقه «پاموک»، که الهام بخش او بوده‌ اند، و شخصیت‌های کتاب او را، تشکیل می‌دهند: «یحیی کمال بیاتلی (نام اصلی احمد آگاه)»، «رشات اکرم کوچو»، «عبدالهاک شیناسی هیسار»، و «احمد حمدی تن پینار» هستند؛ عکس‌های کتاب توسط عکاس ارمنی «آرا گولر (از معروف‌ترین عکاسان دنیا)» تهیه شده‌ است؛ پاموک برهان انتخاب او را، وجود جو مالیخولیایی و اندوهناک در آثارش بیان کرده است؛ تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 30/03/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    It is just lucky that I happened to read Menocal's Ornament of the World just before this, as it perfectly prepared me for the psychological labyrinth that is this book. It introduced me to a beautiful, helpful image for Pamuk's creation- the "memory palaces" and "memory gardens". This is not an introduction to Istanbul, it is a memory palace worthy of the wildest child's fantasies that haunt this tapestry. Perhaps John Adams, the minimalist composer, put it best when discussing his piece On the It is just lucky that I happened to read Menocal's Ornament of the World just before this, as it perfectly prepared me for the psychological labyrinth that is this book. It introduced me to a beautiful, helpful image for Pamuk's creation- the "memory palaces" and "memory gardens". This is not an introduction to Istanbul, it is a memory palace worthy of the wildest child's fantasies that haunt this tapestry. Perhaps John Adams, the minimalist composer, put it best when discussing his piece On the Transmigration of Souls, which was dedicated to 9/11, as he said: "I want to avoid words like 'requiem' or 'memorial' when describing this piece because they too easily suggest conventions that this piece doesn't share. If pressed, I'd probably call the piece a 'memory space.' It's a place where you can go and be alone with your thoughts and emotions. The link to a particular historical event - in this case to 9/11 - is there if you want to contemplate it. But I hope that the piece will summon human experience that goes beyond this particular event." Similarly, Orhan Pamuk is not writing a Decline and Fall of Istanbul, in a strict economic and political reactionary sense. It's much more than that. Pamuk chooses to depict the city in which he has lived all fifty years of his life through his own personal experience. This is an experience created out of the analysis and painting childhood memories, personal family tragedy and happiness, famous literary figures and creations, perspectives of newspapers, and reports of oddities. Added to this is descriptions of city-wide feelings, doings, and happenings, and most importantly, the concept of "huzun", a complicated, honorable, tenaciously held communal melancholy that Pamuk believes lies over the city, and of course- the endless big words East and West shoving their heads together in the midst of people just trying to live their lives. Pamuk deals with big questions that fascinate me, such as- How do you go on when all that you know has died?, Do you have to burn the past in order to live in the present?, What does this word "West" mean, and whom does it mean this to?, How do you deal with multiple identities that tear you apart?, What is the psychological effect of the generations who repress themselves in order to get along with the new power nations on the block and survive?, How do you live when all the legends have done it better?, What /is/ this attachment we have for certain places?, Who is allowed to have a "valid" perspective on a place, or a culture, and why do perspectives from certain sources produce such anger?.. etc. He also deals with questions on a smaller, more personal scale, which is why this is as much a personal psychological study as it is a national one- How do we become who we are?, Why must we be 'other', in order to see ourselves?, endless questions on personal identity and choice and conflicts with family, the past, the present, and the impossible future and trying to come up with choices that please or rebel against all. Pamuk shows us an Istanbul drenched in longing- a longing that it appears nobody knows how to solve, caught between so many poles that people's heads spin. It is a place covered in huzun- the melancholy stressed above that somehow people just cannot get rid of, nearly a century after the Ottoman empire fell. He describes its honorable nature, its communal nature, the complicated opinions people have towards the past and the Westernizing present and future. Anyone who has paid attention to Turkish politics should recognize the pull between East and West where what people think is "Western" is sometimes misunderstood, and what being "modern" really is. He shows us a tortured place where even beauty is full of pain. The Bosphorous is presented as an endless possibility, a soothing slice of heaven surrounding the city, a place to escape at the beginning of the book, and the author's complicated outlook morphs it into a source of threats and danger by the end. He shows us stark pictures of the poverty of the "wings" of Istanbul, and then writes tortured chapters arguing with 19th century western authors who praised the "picturesque" beauty of the broken down areas of the city. He shows us a place where people ape "Western" thought and ideas and dress, and look down on anyone who isn't European enough, and yet a place where the newspapers publish glowing accounts of the poor neighborhoods with romanticized accounts of people living "pure, Turkish, old fashioned" lives every year, and where the checkered Ottoman past is more openly celebrated each year. He writes a chapter on "Under Western Eyes," describing this conflict, and yet openly admits that it is Westerners who see the city the way that he does... and then he tortures himself about that too. ... Pamuk's city is, needless to say perhaps after all that, a place where nobody can be easy with themselves, where they are going, where they are, or where they came from. And in that way, I think, Pamuk is able to make a microcosm of our ever more complicated, globalized world, where the 19th century savior of identity, nationalism, is breaking down, and what will rise to replace it is so far uncertain. Therefore, I really don't care if you ever want to go to Istanbul or not, this book helped Orhan Pamuk win the Nobel Prize for a reason. I think that we would all be a little more patient with the world if everyone listened to what Pamuk has to say. PS: Whoever put this in the "Travel" section next to "Under the Tuscan Sun,"... EPIC FAIL.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mira

    It feels very odd to be writing this review now, sitting in a car on my way back home, feeling bored and tired for no particular reason. And out of nowhere this book- which I finished more than a month ago, and entirely gave up on ever being able to write a decent review about- comes to my mind unbidden, as though deeply connected with my present state of mind. This is going to be one of the most personal reviews I’ll ever write, but that’s merely because Istanbul: Memories and the City has aff It feels very odd to be writing this review now, sitting in a car on my way back home, feeling bored and tired for no particular reason. And out of nowhere this book- which I finished more than a month ago, and entirely gave up on ever being able to write a decent review about- comes to my mind unbidden, as though deeply connected with my present state of mind. This is going to be one of the most personal reviews I’ll ever write, but that’s merely because Istanbul: Memories and the City has affected me personally, more than any other book ever has. Therefore I’m not going to praise Pamuk’s literary skills or the eloquence of the language. Nor am I going to comment on the exquisite picture of Istanbul which many westerners have described and which the author himself reflects upon many a time throughout the whole book. Those aspects enchanted me well enough, and they do give this book a great deal of its charm, but not as much as the relationship Pamuk shares with his city does. I have to say that I’ve also chosen a very odd timing to read this memoir. The few past months have been very busy and offered me very little time to read, and yet (stubbornly I guess, and to the amusement of many of my friends) I carried this book everywhere I went to make use of stolen free moments. It took me long to finish, naturally, but as John Green eloquently puts it: ‘ As I read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once." The result was that I would read a few pages on the road, then find myself staring out of the window, watching many familiar objects as though for the first time. Has Jerusalem always been this beautiful? Has it always buzzed with noise and movement? I’d wonder sometimes. The magic in this book was that- while it offered nothing new except the details of Istanbul and its dark alleys which I’ve never been to- it reminded me to observe my own city with fresh eyes. As a painting, probably. Or a black and white sketch. Sometimes as a partner in an epic love story. Whatever it was, it helped me remember that familiarity does not necessarily guarantee perfect knowledge. That, in an earlier century, another person stood just like I did in a place he’d known since childhood, suddenly noticing something that has always been there but somehow at that particular moment felt new and unique. And why is that? Because he pretended to be a stranger, a “Westerner” in Pamuk’s case: ‘So whenever I sense the absence of Western eyes, I become my own Westerner.’ Ch.31 ‘I would begin to observe myself from the outside, as if in a dream.’ Ch.34 At moments I felt that I’ve never related more to an author, or to his seeking the picturesque and the poetic. At others I felt pity. Pity that such a brilliant writer could be lost, much too taken with the European take on Istanbul in his youth. And so I found it only understandable for him to wonder by the end of the book :“Why should we expect a city to cure us of our spiritual pains?”. Perhaps we shouldn't. The melancholy which invades the very soul of these memoirs stems from the city itself- its ruins and dilapidated palaces, from the attempt to modernize (along with westernize) Turkey, and bury the deeply rooted history. This specific sentence stopped me because it occurred to me upon reading it, that cities with ever changing and usually painful histories must have similar emotional atmospheres. This is probably why I loved Pamuk’s walks to the poor neighborhoods and the ruins more than anything else; they represented the sort of poetic escapism which this book offered me on so many occasions. And it made me wonder more than ever whether Pamuk intended those memoirs to be a record of his own actions and decisions, or a tribute to the city he loved yet in which he was ever restless and wandering. Reading this book, I was also reminded that stress teaches you to yearn for the unreachable, the unexpected. At least it taught me to. Reading under stress also gave this book a wholly different light from what I anticipated. Pamuk’s memoirs came as a stimulator for many feelings and urges instead of a stereotyped brochure about Istanbul’s charms. The more I read, the more I felt this irresistible urge to paint and write. I think that, during those busy months, I’ve had more sketches around me begging to be worked on, than I ever had in my free time. The chapter named “Painting Istanbul” only helped to ignite those yearnings, and to make me pray for some leisure. And like Pamuk, I felt that "painting allowed me to enter the scene on the canvas." The positive pointed out, I have to say that this book was far from perfect. I wasn’t truly interested in Pamuk’s physical fantasies or his religious upbringing- which he mentioned often and which I found irrelevant and distracting most of the time. The narration, though beautiful and imaginative, tended sometimes towards repetition. Over all, the few negative points aside, Pamuk’s memoirs will always stay with me, and remind me of a specific period in my life when I decided to study architecture (the very branch of study the author chose then soon after decided to abandon for writing), and when I re-established my long-term passion for painting (also a hobby the author chose to quit long ago). Istanbul: Memories and the City will always be one of my treasured reads.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk (1952-) is an autobiographical memoir. He speaks of his life growing up in Istanbul in an apartment complex housing several generations of the large extended Pamuk family. He recounts events starting from the age of four. He speaks of his family, his schooling and his first love. Events are not told in chronological order. His decision to quit his architectural studies at university is where the memoir ends. Having lived all these years in Istanbul Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk (1952-) is an autobiographical memoir. He speaks of his life growing up in Istanbul in an apartment complex housing several generations of the large extended Pamuk family. He recounts events starting from the age of four. He speaks of his family, his schooling and his first love. Events are not told in chronological order. His decision to quit his architectural studies at university is where the memoir ends. Having lived all these years in Istanbul and now writing this memoir in the very same house where he was born, he is deeply attached to the city. In writing of his life, he must write of the city too. Pamuk claims that the city exudes a communal melancholy (hüzün) caused by the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the new Republic under Ataturk. This led to a dramatic shift from old established Eastern beliefs to modern, liberal Western views. The melancholy is based on a nostalgia for what is lost and gone. He acknowledges that we are given his memories, his version of past events. He even admits that he has a tendency to exaggerate! While Pamuk describes in great detail the emotional turmoil he experienced growing up, he does not spend many lines describing Istanbul himself. He cites instead the works of others who have depicted the city—authors, poets, journalists and artists. He speaks of Gustave Flaubert, André Gide, Vitor Hugo, Knut Hamsun, Joseph Brodsky, and the two friends Gérard de Nerval and Théophile Gautier. A chapter is devoted to Antoine Ignace Melling--in the 1800s he made engravings of the city. The writings of acclaimed Turks, whose names I do not recognize and cannot spell, are discussed in length. I do wish Pamuk had himself described the physical attributes, the trees, the nature, the landscape, of the city. We are told the Bosporus is there outside the window. He gives us the names of streets and areas, but these mean nothing to me. Not the Bosporus, not the Golden Horn, nor are the streets and areas drawn so I can see them. Pamuk focuses all his attention upon the so-called communal melancholy that pervades the city. There is too much focus upon this one attribute of the city. Could not familial problems be at least partially the cause of the melancholy Orhan sensed during his youth?! His parents argued incessantly, his father was often not home and Orhan jealously competed with his elder brother for his mother’s affection. Orhan's family did not appreciate what he had written of them in this book. Learning about what others have written of Istanbul has been interesting. Learning what it was like to be raised in Istanbul when the Republic of Turkey was still a relatively new nation captured my interest too. Balancing politics and religion was definitely a challenge. These topics interest me. I am glad to have read the book. John Lee narrates the audiobook. He is a highly acclaimed English actor, voice actor and playwright. He reads clearly. I still had difficulty with the Turkish names. He reads in a sing-song manner. I don’t think his narration really fits this particular book. The narration I have given three stars. Maureen Freely has translated the book into English. **************** *Snow 1 star *Istanbul: Memories and the City 3 stars *Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities by Bettany Hughes 5 stars *Portrait of a Turkish Family by Irfan Orga 5 stars *Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières 5 stars

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Along with The World's Literature group, I have been reading a lot of books set in Turkey this year. Just check out what I've covered so far! One of the best known Turkish authors has to be Orhan Pamuk. I've only managed to read one book of his so far, but there are many more on my to-read list to get to. I actually think reading this autobiography/memoir first will add some understanding to any of his books that I read in the future. It covers his childhood in Istanbul, up through his coll Along with The World's Literature group, I have been reading a lot of books set in Turkey this year. Just check out what I've covered so far! One of the best known Turkish authors has to be Orhan Pamuk. I've only managed to read one book of his so far, but there are many more on my to-read list to get to. I actually think reading this autobiography/memoir first will add some understanding to any of his books that I read in the future. It covers his childhood in Istanbul, up through his college years and the moment he decides to become a writer. While this book came out in print in 2003, this audio edition was newly released by Random House in April. I had downloaded it but was listening to another book. Then this happened: I was already deeply interested in Turkey, even to the point of learning some of the language and the cuisine, but following the protests and police action in Twitter made me more interested in Istanbul. Of course, the Istanbul of this book is several decades ago, but you can see traces of a history that breeds an environment where clashes between groups are not exactly unexpected, where poverty and control have always been issues in the background. Pamuk suggests that the most beautiful view of the city is from afar. I'm not sure he really means it, because he continues to return to this concept of hüzün, or melancholy, that he claims is part of the daily lived aesthetic in the life of an Istanbullu. That those living in the city want to feel hüzün, and don't feel as alive without it. I know Pamuk has been criticized both by the government for not being religious enough and by the public for not being critical of the government enough, but this book makes it clear that he isn't all that interested in making a statement with his writing; he wants to describe. It makes so much sense now, to see his journey from painter to writer, to understand how this plays out in his writing. His descriptions of the black and white landscape of winter is central to Snow, the one book I've read. I've had dreams about the Bosphorus, a strait in Istanbul separating Asia from Europe. Even though I've never been there and don't have reason to dream of it, I can see why you would. His descriptions of living within view of the river, of the fires and the commerce, made me long for this place I've never experienced. The reader for the audiobook is John Lee, whose voice is very familiar to me as the reader for Ulysses. He does a good job with the pronunciation of Turkish names, but I kept expecting him to jump into "Hoopsa, boyaboy, hoopsa!" You know you listen to a lot of audiobooks when....

  8. 4 out of 5

    Usman Hickmath

    Major part of the book describes what some poets, journalists and painters have written or painted about Istanbul during 19th century. But, when I picked this one up after reading My Name is Red, the expectation was to know how Pamuk describes Istanbul and his life in that city, not what some 19th century unknown travellers and century old journalists with difficult names to pronounce had to say. There were some interesting chapters, but we do not buy a highly priced book, printed on quality pape Major part of the book describes what some poets, journalists and painters have written or painted about Istanbul during 19th century. But, when I picked this one up after reading My Name is Red, the expectation was to know how Pamuk describes Istanbul and his life in that city, not what some 19th century unknown travellers and century old journalists with difficult names to pronounce had to say. There were some interesting chapters, but we do not buy a highly priced book, printed on quality paper, packaged with a lovely cover and praised by many internationally acclaimed news papers only to read few chapters. If you have not read Pamuk's works yet -  recommend to read his other works before Istanbul: Or you may overlook some great works of a master.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dmitri

    "Notions of beauty or of the landscape of a city are inevitably intertwined with our memories." Orhan Pamuk, Nobel laureate, wrote this 2003 memoir of growing up in Istanbul in the 50's and 60's. He senses the loss of empire in the crumbling Ottoman houses around him, describing his large modern family home as a museum where western furnishings replaced traditional Turkish culture. His grandfather was a wealthy industrialist but his father was slowly losing the family fortune. As a boy his daydre "Notions of beauty or of the landscape of a city are inevitably intertwined with our memories." Orhan Pamuk, Nobel laureate, wrote this 2003 memoir of growing up in Istanbul in the 50's and 60's. He senses the loss of empire in the crumbling Ottoman houses around him, describing his large modern family home as a museum where western furnishings replaced traditional Turkish culture. His grandfather was a wealthy industrialist but his father was slowly losing the family fortune. As a boy his daydreams help him to escape from everyday life. Pamuk lived with an extended family in a private apartment building, with nannies, cooks and maids. He recalls his parents would argue and leave him with relatives. As respite from domestic troubles he falls into melancholy. 'Hüzün' in Turkish describes an emotional state of shared spiritual suffering. It becomes a theme of the book, using people and places to portray a formerly great Ottoman city in decline. His feeling of sadness projects on the city at large. Pamuk discusses four Turkish writers who tried to reconcile east and west, merging melancholia with modernism after WWI. An encyclopedist publishes illustrated city curiosities; a poet admires French fin de siecle literature; a novelist writes of the post-war ruins; a memoirist recreates a vanishing milieu. All lived in the neighborhood where he grew up and he imagines them crossing paths. Their stories appear unexpectedly as chance encounters often do. Pamuk recounts a litany of ills that afflicted the city in the 20th century, including population, poverty and pollution. In the quincentennial of the conquest of Istanbul Greek shops and churches were vandalized by Turkish nationalists. As a boy he contrasts his secular family with pious prayers of the poor, noting the rich need no help from God. After Ataturk's reforms religion was replaced with emptiness. His Ramadan fast lasts fifteen minutes before the feast ensues. Pamuk recalls post-war WWII class conciousness and social competition. People in his peer group aspire to be modern and western. Conversely westerners wish the city would stand still. He counts boats on the Bosphorus watching some go up in flames. Soviet warships rumble by in the night. The city is drawn to disasters large and small. Istanbullu's are sensitive to what foreigners feel. This portrait of city navel gazing reflects his idiosyncrasies as an author. Pamuk relates symmetry as the most important goal of a memoirist. At an early age he believed in another house like his lived another Orhan, a twin or a double. He grows up and attends college for architecture but stops going to his classes. He remains in his family home, reading and going for long walks. His father is absent until late and his mother stays up alone. This leads to arguments until she discovers another apartment where his father keeps a lover. Pamuk uses black and white photos from his family album to illustrate the book. There are also photos of Istanbul, views of rundown and empty mansions along the Bosphorus and wooden townhouses in the city burned out or abandoned. He includes artwork from the past, particularly Antoine-Ignace Melling, architect to Sultan Selim III in 1784-1802, a western artist as important to Istanbul as Piranesi was to Rome. Loss and nostalgia permeate the images he chooses. Pamuk later built the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul. It is housed in a former townhouse and is filled with everyday objects he collected from the city. Intriguingly it is tied to a novel of the same name, exhibiting real things from a fictional world. His projects are about the tension between east and west and the end of Turkish identity. The writing is conveyed well in translation but parts of this memoir can become too long winded and self indulgent.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Travelin

    There's really no nice way to say this. One of the deservedly obscure authors he spends a chapter praising is described as being some kind of pedophile. This isn't a pretend metaphor in Lolita, this is Pamuk's loving description of a nobody. If that's not enough, his best description of Istanbul, one of the largest cities today, and, more importantly, in history, is mopery about his apartment and decaying wooden houses near it. To spend a day in the tiny English section of a large bookstore and There's really no nice way to say this. One of the deservedly obscure authors he spends a chapter praising is described as being some kind of pedophile. This isn't a pretend metaphor in Lolita, this is Pamuk's loving description of a nobody. If that's not enough, his best description of Istanbul, one of the largest cities today, and, more importantly, in history, is mopery about his apartment and decaying wooden houses near it. To spend a day in the tiny English section of a large bookstore and see nothing but Pamuk writings everywhere put me in a decidedly bad mood. Original review: This book can feel so perfectly paced and intimate because he spends a lifetime sitting indoors bemoaning an Istanbul which, he says, doesn't exist anymore. How he can remain isolated in a busy city year after year says more about him, his non-Turkish background, wealthier heritage, self-centered habits, etc. than it probably does about Istanbul. I stopped reading just after he described his encyclopedic, unread and unwept literary heros, but regret avoiding Istanbul based on his descriptions. Turks don't seem to like him because of his comments about Armenians. His politics may sometimes have validity but he's mostly a spoiled man pretending to moan over himself. Have to say, finally: my edition was the second most beautifully designed and made paperback I've ever read, with paper, type faces and space of precisely the right weight

  11. 4 out of 5

    Edita

    For me, a good day is a day like any other, when I have written one page well. Except for the hours I spend writing, life seems to me to be flawed, deficient, and senseless. Those who know me well understand how dependent I am on writing, tables, pens, and white paper, but they still urge me to 'take a bit of time off, do some travelling, enjoy life!' Those who know me even better understand that my greatest happiness is writing, so they tell me that nothing that keeps me far from writing, paper For me, a good day is a day like any other, when I have written one page well. Except for the hours I spend writing, life seems to me to be flawed, deficient, and senseless. Those who know me well understand how dependent I am on writing, tables, pens, and white paper, but they still urge me to 'take a bit of time off, do some travelling, enjoy life!' Those who know me even better understand that my greatest happiness is writing, so they tell me that nothing that keeps me far from writing, paper, and ink will ever do me any good. I am one of those rare happy creatures who have been able to do what they most desired, and who have been able to devote themselves to that task to the exclusion of all else.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Pamuk adds another layer to Istanbul’s proverbial description as “the bridge between east and west” by showing how the major Istanbul modernists – poet Yahya Kemal and novelist A.H. Tanpinar, new names to me, I have to follow up – derived a poetics of post-imperial ennui and urban decay from the melancholic image of their city recorded or dreamed by travelling French writers in the nineteenth century. “[T]he roots of our hüzün [urban melancholy] are European: the concept was first explored, expr Pamuk adds another layer to Istanbul’s proverbial description as “the bridge between east and west” by showing how the major Istanbul modernists – poet Yahya Kemal and novelist A.H. Tanpinar, new names to me, I have to follow up – derived a poetics of post-imperial ennui and urban decay from the melancholic image of their city recorded or dreamed by travelling French writers in the nineteenth century. “[T]he roots of our hüzün [urban melancholy] are European: the concept was first explored, expressed and poeticized in French,” he writes. And the nineteenth century French, the literary critics will tell you, were dealing with their own post-Napoleonic, post-imperial fatigue, and a Mal du siècle which made for what is called a “Late” Romanticism: dark, sexually anguished and routinely syphilitic (“The day the young writer corrects his first proofs he is as proud as the schoolboy who has just caught his first dose of the clap” - Baudelaire), as well as more perverse and pessimistic than the verdant and Liberty-extolling English variety (outcast, exiled, dark-locked Lord Byron being the founding hero, the revolting Satan for the French Romantics). I love that whole nervous crew; the Horror of Life Club, with their flamboyant despair and macabre brilliance (an 1874 entry of the Goncourt Journal begins, “Dinner at the Café Riche with Flaubert, Turgenev, Zola...We began a long discussion of the special aptitudes of writers suffering from constipation and diarrhea; and we went on to talk about the mechanics of the French language”). For such Istanbul visitors as Gautier, Nerval, and Flaubert melancholy was salutary and decadence authentic, the human norm. They relished the “Orient” for what they saw as its frank spectacles of violence and decay. Flaubert was especially taken with what he saw as the unworried kinship of pomp and squalor; writing a friend from Istanbul in November 1850, he marveled at the “splendid faces, iridescent existences that glisten and gleam, exceedingly various in their riches and robes, rich in filth, in their tatters and finery. And there beneath it all, the old immutable, perennial rascality.” – antiquity and authenticity in contrast to the European bourgeoisie’s fatuous conflation of moral and material progress, its aesthetics of engineering, its religion of convenience. When the Istanbul modernists, like all the other modernists, made their pilgrimages to the French wellsprings, they found their city already a literary image of melancholy – and just in time, what with Istanbul now the defunct capital of a fallen empire, poor, isolated, and afflicted by Westernizing republicans – a virulently progressive form of authoritarian bourgeois, in Pamuk’s picture – eager to raze the old Ottoman mansions and pour concrete Corbusian apartment blocks in their place. I thought of Baudelaire on the demolitions of medieval Paris – “the form of a city changes more quickly, alas! than the human heart.” My favorite sections of the book were those devoted to Istanbul writers. Kemal and Tanpinar had two interesting associates, bachelor flâneurs like themselves: the Proust-like recluse Abdülhak Şinasi Hisar, and the historian Reşat Ekrem Koçu, compiler of the lurid and idiosyncratic Istanbul Encyclopedia (its entries on Ottoman torture devices and techniques thrilled young Orhan) who lived alone amid ceiling-high piles of nineteenth century newspapers and archival scraps. I love the image of a coterie of urban dreamers engrossed by a city, people for whom the layered landscape of their 2,500 year old home is a complete cosmos, the inexhaustible ground for diverse passions – creative and curatorial, novelistic and antiquarian; sexual, architectural, philosophical. (I think of Joseph Cornell reading Mallarmé after a day rummaging in New York City’s junk shops.) Pamuk is, of course, one of these writers. I was deeply impressed to read that the composition of his latest novel, The Museum of Innocence, was preceded by two decades of collecting hundreds of objects that would “belong” to the characters and figure in the book. And then he opened a real museum to display the collection. Elif Batuman in the London Review of Books: The inspiration for the Museum of Innocence came to Pamuk in 1982, while he was having dinner with the last prince of the Ottoman dynasty. Exiled after the formation of the Turkish republic, the prince ended up in Alexandria and worked for decades at the Antoniadis Palace museum, first as a ticket collector and then as director. Now, back in Istanbul after a fifty-year exile, he needed a job. The guests discussed the delicate subject of employment for the straitened septuagenarian prince of a defunct empire. Someone said the Ihlamur Palace museum might need a guide: who better than the prince, who had lived there as a child? Pamuk was immediately taken by the idea of a man who outlives his era and becomes the guide to his own house-museum. He imagined how the prince would greet visitors – ‘Ladies and gentlemen! Seventy years ago, in this room, I sat with my aide-de-camp and studied mathematics!’ – before crossing the velvet cordon to sit once more at his childhood desk, demonstrating how he had held the pencil and ruler. Ten years later, Pamuk came up with an insane plan: to write a novel in the form of a museum catalogue, while simultaneously building the museum to which it referred. The plot of the novel would be fairly straightforward: over many years, an unhappy lover contrives to steal a large number of objects belonging to his unattainable beloved, after whose untimely death he proceeds to buy her family’s house and turn it into a museum. You might think that Pamuk’s first step, as a writer, would have been to start writing. In fact, his first step was to contact a real-estate agent. He needed to buy a house for his future heroine, Füsun. During the 1990s, Pamuk visited hundreds of properties, trying to imagine Füsun and her parents living in them. It was beyond his means to purchase a whole building in Nişantaşi, the posh neighbourhood inhabited by Kemal, the hero of the novel. He could afford a single floor in a stone building in the old Ottoman commercial centre of Galata, but then the remodelling would be difficult... For the next ten years, writing and shopping proceeded in a dialectical relationship. Pamuk would buy objects that caught his eye, and wait for the novel to ‘swallow’ them, demanding, in the process, the purchase of further objects. Occasionally an object refused to be swallowed, as happened with some carriage lanterns and an old gas meter. Pamuk published The Museum of Innocence in 2008. It resembles less a museum catalogue than a 600-page audio guide. A ticket printed in the back of each copy grants one free entry to the museum. By that point he had already acquired nearly all of Füsun’s belongings, so the museum could, in theory, have opened the next day. But Pamuk was worried about the example of Edouard Dujardin, the French writer sometimes credited with pioneering, in a largely forgotten text called Les Lauriers sont coupés, the stream of consciousness. Pamuk didn’t want to be Dujardin. He wanted to be Joyce. It wasn’t enough just to build the world’s first synergetic novel-museum. The museum had to be a thing of beauty. He hired a team of artists and curators and worked full time in the museum for several months, taking naps on Kemal’s bed in the attic. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n11/elif-bat...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    This is the second book by Pamuk that I have read. I would like to point out that it seems that this book should be read either before or after The Museum of Innocence because I found myself making it notes of where the novel and this memoir collide. I've never been to Istanbul, but now I want to go. What Pamuk does is not only describe his family but a city as a conflict between East and West. While it is not something that my own western city feels, it is somewhat akin to the feeling that Phila This is the second book by Pamuk that I have read. I would like to point out that it seems that this book should be read either before or after The Museum of Innocence because I found myself making it notes of where the novel and this memoir collide. I've never been to Istanbul, but now I want to go. What Pamuk does is not only describe his family but a city as a conflict between East and West. While it is not something that my own western city feels, it is somewhat akin to the feeling that Philadelphia has of being mashed between N.Y. and D.C. (Though in this day and age, it is a good thing that everyone forgets about us). The book is part biography and part meditation on culture and its feeling of lost youth and innocence carries though to The Museum of Innocence. There are some places in the novel where you will laugh out aloud, for example where Pamuk apolgies to everyone he imagined killing or dying. There are also some extremely moving passages, not just in describing his family, or the feeling of Istanbul, but his only place in society. I do wish, however, that more infromation about the pictures was given and I do wish that they had captions.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Were Orhan Pamuk active on Twitter back when he was writing Istanbul: Memories and the City he could have saved himself and his readers a great deal of time and frustration by simply distilling this work down to "Boo fucking hoo #firstworldproblems" and leaving it at that. Instead, we're left to slog through four hundred pages of angsty ennui which purport to represent the zeitgeist of a city that mourns the days it stood at the center of the world but in fact do little more than chronicle the th Were Orhan Pamuk active on Twitter back when he was writing Istanbul: Memories and the City he could have saved himself and his readers a great deal of time and frustration by simply distilling this work down to "Boo fucking hoo #firstworldproblems" and leaving it at that. Instead, we're left to slog through four hundred pages of angsty ennui which purport to represent the zeitgeist of a city that mourns the days it stood at the center of the world but in fact do little more than chronicle the thin complaints of a wealthy man who never manages to move out of his mother's house. It would be fine if melancholy simply pervaded Pamuk's memoirs as he spun tales of his youth, but there are almost no tales told here, just endless, smothering atmosphere that reminded me of nothing so much as the narrator in David Foster Wallace's "The Depressed Person." I took this with me to Turkey and was never so happy as when I finished and could dump it in the library of a B&B in Sirince and snag an Agatha Christie novel instead. Pretentious, self-indulgent, and almost laughably immature, Pamuk's "memoir" is best forgotten.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    This is a duel memoir, that of the author’s first twenty years of life and that of Istanbul during the same period. Pamuk has a poet’s voice. By that, I don’t mean that he uses flowery or metaphoric language, but rather that he has the ability to conjure the abstract into palpable form: the atmosphere of a neighborhood, the bonds in a family, the mood of a people. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book that lacked any plot or narrative tension. I must have been in just the right mood.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Hüzün does not just paralyze the inhabitants of Istanbul, it also gives them poetic license to be paralyzed. And likewise this is a deeply moving memoir of a life lived in Istanbul. The Turkish tradition of melancholy is brought to focus by accounts of the author's life in the city and bejeweled by haunting photographs. This is winding stroll the history -- the collapse of the Ottoman era -- and through memory. Pamuk's grandfather was was quite wealthy but his two sons apparently lacked financial Hüzün does not just paralyze the inhabitants of Istanbul, it also gives them poetic license to be paralyzed. And likewise this is a deeply moving memoir of a life lived in Istanbul. The Turkish tradition of melancholy is brought to focus by accounts of the author's life in the city and bejeweled by haunting photographs. This is winding stroll the history -- the collapse of the Ottoman era -- and through memory. Pamuk's grandfather was was quite wealthy but his two sons apparently lacked financial panache. This book is peculiar in that it is composed of short thematic chapters and there is a visible distance between such, even if a gestalt of sorts occurs. Each centers about an aspect of an earlier Istanbul or a theme from Pamuk's ancestry or childhood. There are allusions to a collector's zeal and maintaining these links to an earlier Istanbul. Postcards and popular encyclopedias earn a gold standard in the mind of the author. Straddling the East and West, Europe and Asia, Istanbul contends with an identity crisis. One that Pamuk iterates in his exploration of travel literature by Western authors : principally Nerval, Gautier and Flaubert, though Sam Clemons does receive a nod. The final twenty percent of the work appears to be culled from the analyst's couch. There are tensions with his siblings and parents, his move away from architecture, his thwarted first love and ultimately the desire to renounce his bourgeois upbringing by becoming an author. It is a measure of cliché, but there's an earnest edge to it, one that appears in perfect accord with moonlit walks alongside the Bosporus.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sidharth Vardhan

    The sufi poets often compare their love for God to that of legendary lovers like Laila-Majnu and Heer-Ranjha for each other. This love which is just a painful longing (all those love stories are of star crossed lovers) for something worth annihilating oneself for - is called 'Huzun'. Despite its being melancholic, they still prefer having it - having an unrequited love is better than having none. Writers, the ones I like, often have little such love for God. Some of them seem to searching for suc The sufi poets often compare their love for God to that of legendary lovers like Laila-Majnu and Heer-Ranjha for each other. This love which is just a painful longing (all those love stories are of star crossed lovers) for something worth annihilating oneself for - is called 'Huzun'. Despite its being melancholic, they still prefer having it - having an unrequited love is better than having none. Writers, the ones I like, often have little such love for God. Some of them seem to searching for such subjects aimlessly. Some seem to attach it to places and times - the best examples in this regard are One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in times of Cholera by Marquez (both yearning for a Latin America of older times) Midnight's children (India) and Shalimar the Clown (Kashmir) by Salman Rushdi and Watermark (Venice) by Joseph Brodesky. Pamuk's Istanbul is now added to the list. As he looks back longingly to his childhood memories, he finds it paralleled in Istanbul's longing for older times. A city that seems to be proud of its ruins and is yet desperate for modernisation, Istanbul has the paradoxical life of many other cities of East. Besides being a memoir, this book is also a very experimental travel guide which doesn't describe the big monuments but describes what it is to live in it - the beautiful views it sometimes creates and the forgotten streets.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cortney

    This was not, first of all, the book I espected it to be. It was not truly an autobiography of the author, who gave nothing at all away, at least in the context of the west (perhaps it would shock conservative Turks that he apparently had a sexual relationship with a girl as a young man, but I don't know what Turkish mores are, so I shouldn't judge) and gave away little in terms of the city that he was supposedly also biographying. It gave tantalising hints of things, and there were potential th This was not, first of all, the book I espected it to be. It was not truly an autobiography of the author, who gave nothing at all away, at least in the context of the west (perhaps it would shock conservative Turks that he apparently had a sexual relationship with a girl as a young man, but I don't know what Turkish mores are, so I shouldn't judge) and gave away little in terms of the city that he was supposedly also biographying. It gave tantalising hints of things, and there were potential threads to follow, but overall, I felt that it wasn't worth the read. The book contains pictures, but since none of them are captioned it is impossible to know why the author chose them, what point they illustrate in many cases, or who is in them in the case of the occasional family photo. It might be a very good book in the larger context of Turkish works, but I don't feel that it's very good in my context.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    A beautiful memoir and nostalgic look at Istanbul, this book is very readable and poetic. It is also an autobiography of the author's childhood and the emergence of his desire to be a writer and how that is tied to his sense of melancholy. Literary references abound and helped me appreciate the uniqueness of Istanbul and its part in history. It is probably a must for the next time I get to Istanbul with the time and luxury to explore and dream like Orhan. A beautiful memoir and nostalgic look at Istanbul, this book is very readable and poetic. It is also an autobiography of the author's childhood and the emergence of his desire to be a writer and how that is tied to his sense of melancholy. Literary references abound and helped me appreciate the uniqueness of Istanbul and its part in history. It is probably a must for the next time I get to Istanbul with the time and luxury to explore and dream like Orhan.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Irwan

    The most enchanting thing about this book is its symmetry. He opens with a statement that from a very young age he suspected that somewhere in the streets of Istanbul, there lived another Orhan so much like him that he could pass for his twin, even his double. In the last chapter, his father apparently led a double life just like in his imagination. Pamuk manages to intermingle the story about Istanbul and himself - reflecting each other along the way. The writing style is mostly visual - his tr The most enchanting thing about this book is its symmetry. He opens with a statement that from a very young age he suspected that somewhere in the streets of Istanbul, there lived another Orhan so much like him that he could pass for his twin, even his double. In the last chapter, his father apparently led a double life just like in his imagination. Pamuk manages to intermingle the story about Istanbul and himself - reflecting each other along the way. The writing style is mostly visual - his trademark - and of course when it comes to sensitive or personal facts, he would be cheeky enough to sort of hide it from the readers, certainly without compromising the dramatic effect nor the reading pleasure. This intricate prose taught me about "huzün" - the collective melancholia of istanbul and its people, being a former high civilization plummeted into poverty and defeat. It also taught me about the radical westernism who wish Turkey to be uprooted from its traditions and history. Yet reflectively, this two elements are those playing with his own life. Reading his lamentation, I am so glad I am not in his shoes. Picked up this book after reading his later book "Other Colours" mentioning that this book has disturbed his relationship with his mother. Found the answer in the final chapter which I consider very impressive, leading to his current life choice. Strangely enough, I don't feel encouraged to visit Istanbul at all. ---- Addition: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/703e6e8a-b8... "I had written most of Istanbul by then. But I kept finding details that I should have put in my book. What I came to realise – what I had learned, through heartbreak, while I was working on the book – was that to write a memoir is not to review all of one’s memories, preserving each in turn, but to forget almost all of them, creating instead a story from those memories that refuse to go away."

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ayu Palar

    About a year ago, when I was brainstorming the topic for my master’s thesis, I stumbled upon the idea of space and identity relationship. Since then, I’ve always been interested in how space and place can affect the formation of one’s self. Reading Istanbul has strengthened that particular idea. Not only describing the physical condition of Istanbul, Orhan Pamuk also wrote about his love-hate relationship with the city. Istanbul isn’t just his home; it is the city that always inspires him. I app About a year ago, when I was brainstorming the topic for my master’s thesis, I stumbled upon the idea of space and identity relationship. Since then, I’ve always been interested in how space and place can affect the formation of one’s self. Reading Istanbul has strengthened that particular idea. Not only describing the physical condition of Istanbul, Orhan Pamuk also wrote about his love-hate relationship with the city. Istanbul isn’t just his home; it is the city that always inspires him. I appreciate Pamuk’s honesty in this memoir. In a frank way, he shares how the Istanbullus are trapped between the two worlds, the so called West and East. Pamuk has been raised in a Western way, by which he encountered many great authors that influence him. Yet it saddens him how westernization indirectly leads to poverty. Not all aspects of Istanbul are ready for modernization. However, in some parts, Pamuk’s honesty annoys me a bit. He talks about his unhappy family, and I have to say that there are parts that make me think he is unfair to his mother. I hardly remember any sentence that says something positive about his mother, besides her beauty. On the other hand, my most favourite chapter is the one about religion. Pamuk’s attitude towards religion at the same time represents the ambiguity that most Istanbullus have to face. West in mind, yet East in heart. It’s also interesting that he imagines God as a woman, different with the general image of God that people often have. Istanbul is written passionately and along with Other Colours, I have to put this in my favourite shelf. Istanbul is a bittersweet love song to a city, composed by one of the greatest living authors the world currently has. Meanwhile, Istanbul, stay there. I’ll come to you one day.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ava

    English version my first Orhan Pamuk's and not my taste at all. It's a mixture of autobiography, history, literature and endless self pitty . English version my first Orhan Pamuk's and not my taste at all. It's a mixture of autobiography, history, literature and endless self pitty .

  23. 5 out of 5

    Doris

    Dearest community dearest friends I am a book enthusiast I like talking about them in my spare time,writing less.I am no writer. Unfortunately this site is much too btilliant and i can say almost professional , in any case for me.What can I say about the books facing you_Nothing much or very far off the mark. This book for instance I have read , appreciate it for its quality of honesty facing the childhood in one's beloved city., The book is an image of growing up , considering the city with curio Dearest community dearest friends I am a book enthusiast I like talking about them in my spare time,writing less.I am no writer. Unfortunately this site is much too btilliant and i can say almost professional , in any case for me.What can I say about the books facing you_Nothing much or very far off the mark. This book for instance I have read , appreciate it for its quality of honesty facing the childhood in one's beloved city., The book is an image of growing up , considering the city with curiosity, love wonder, undestending, calm tranquility in front of its past and present,in front of its strivings and deceptions, about men and women living there and leaving their mark on the city horizons. He said Istanbul is a sad city, the city with a sad face. All grand cities are sad, all persons who have lived are sad. That's because they have lived curiously and intensely and loved it Like Baudelaire in Spleen de Paris ot Les fleurs du Mal , in his Parisian landscapes - those that live, like Sphinx , feel memories opened and unopened of past centuries, only to be gleaned at, and loved for this well of surprises. One can guess at the perfumes of Istanbul and be caught in their vortex. It is a city of dreams, where one has his memories to lean and reflect on. Creative individuals, whether poets or painters, haunt the landscapes of their beloved cities, past or present, in search of stories for inspiration which imprint on their minds as a song a tableau, like Parisean tablueaux or Spleen de Paris. No wonder Baudelaire dedicated his Spleen to his friend and painter. Orhan Pamuk wanted to be a painter, had the vocation but painting his hard for living Better to be a popular novelist. Love is so exacting and the city demands constant revalue from Orhan, as a writer and author but not only from himbut from all those wholived and have lived in the ciity. It is the cityof sad people, people with long faces Pamuk's itiniary through Istanboul follows the course of his life movement, together as its history markings convering by way of adlthood and love to maturity, with Istanbul on its fore, with its people grappling in it Love and vocation are so linked in this confession, witnessing both an epoch and beyond. Love and vocation strenghthen love of the city like a constant returning point, like a hub where one return, like a haven. This is a book of one native city but also a book of an epoch of the emerging writer,one that has learn to love. This book isa life buoy of the man an inididual having talent for saying things about the universe he mows best. It is creed, his growing to maturity and his acceptance of himself as the inhabitant of this world Love is a basis in this travalogue through the city but also with personal touches of an autobiogrephy, Istanbul he knows best both literary, culturally, family-like civilisation like dispersing in by memorable figures who made Istanbul in however their personal way because they were its citizens and loved the city. This is ,my last review on this lovely site. I have found out a site less brillant than GR but the one which is more suitable to me. So long and keep well Ce livre, comme recits de Pamuk est un temoignage de l'homme conscient de sa vie et de son entourage. Il a maitrise son travail d'ecriture, son point de vue,l'a aiguise a l'aide de son interieur en lui ,cet amour qu'il porte pour la ville et ses habitants. Il les a compris dans leurs deceptions et leurs aspirations. Il les sait differents mais il les croit surpris et indecis devant l'histoire. Ils sont riches par leurs temoignages - il les comprend dans la solitude du choix historique et present. Mais il comprend, c'est la vie et l'homme est ainsi , il tourne son regard ailleurs ou vers le passe. Et le present leur echappe, qui est le necessaire C'est beau livre,facile a lire et comme ceux d'Orhan , emouvants Soyez joyeux et bien portants devant le livre de votre destin

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kyriakos Sorokkou

    A few thoughts of mine, while reading this book: İstanbul / Κωνσταντινούπολη yalı / γιαλός köfte / κεφτές Karagöz and Hacivat / Καραγκιόζης και Χατζηαβάτης puşt/ πούστης Greek and Turkish language have many things in common. Greeks and Turks have more things in common that differences but it's always the differences that are visible on the surface. anyway Pamuk's Istanbul is (as described in the book) a melancholic city, a grey city, a city caught between the west and the east, a city I wish to visit A few thoughts of mine, while reading this book: İstanbul / Κωνσταντινούπολη yalı / γιαλός köfte / κεφτές Karagöz and Hacivat / Καραγκιόζης και Χατζηαβάτης puşt/ πούστης Greek and Turkish language have many things in common. Greeks and Turks have more things in common that differences but it's always the differences that are visible on the surface. anyway Pamuk's Istanbul is (as described in the book) a melancholic city, a grey city, a city caught between the west and the east, a city I wish to visit more than ever now thanks to this book (but I don't know if I will dare to go now with all this instability going on) This book is a biography of the city (during a 100 hundred year span from the 1850's - 1970's) This book is also an autobiography of the author from infancy up to the moment he decided to be an author (early 1970's) The only drawback is that the black/and white images don't have captions so I didn't know what I was looking at, most of the time. I believe the captions were left out intentionally to create a feeling of mystery. This book contains anecdotes from travellers and authors from the west who visited Istanbul (Gautier, Flaubert etc), painters and native authors and photographers. Of course this is Pamuk so don't expect a linear progress or a certain city's travelogue / travel writing. It's different and this is why I really liked it!

  25. 4 out of 5

    acompassforbooks

    Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk is the right book for those who want to get close to the culture of the city through a poetic narration and an array of beautiful black and white pictures which can reveal its hidden spots and soul. Pamuk give us an evocative reading of the city. A reading which is both personal and illustrative and where melancholy plays a fundament role along with the vital energy and the will of exploring.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Myles

    Before I read Orhan Pamuk's Istanbul several of my friends told me how much fun they had visiting the city with its historical palaces and fabulous mosques. I wanted to visit the street markets and the seasides. I've read enough history about Byzantium and the Ottomans to whet my interest in the ruins of empires gone by. But Pamuk has painted such a grim, dirty, and poor city that it left me wondering if my friends visited the same town. Dirt and crumbling mansions. Crashing pollution. Fires. Hob Before I read Orhan Pamuk's Istanbul several of my friends told me how much fun they had visiting the city with its historical palaces and fabulous mosques. I wanted to visit the street markets and the seasides. I've read enough history about Byzantium and the Ottomans to whet my interest in the ruins of empires gone by. But Pamuk has painted such a grim, dirty, and poor city that it left me wondering if my friends visited the same town. Dirt and crumbling mansions. Crashing pollution. Fires. Hobos and homeless. Antiquated buildings and transportation. Old ferries. Old men in skull caps and chattering aunties. Civic corruption. My goodness. This could be Naples. Or Detroit. It seems the national passion is melancholy. Too much east and not enough west. Maybe, too much crappy west and not enough appreciation of east. Is this a place I want to visit? Maybe. There is so much humour and self loathing in the book to warrant a second look. As if maybe Pamuk is making a little fun at himself. It is certainly well worth the read about Turkish poets and novelists and historians. About how French writers and artists viewed the city from the vantage point of the 19th century. And about how Pamuk traces his own development as a writer. Pamuk and I are different type of people, although we are similar in age. He drastically tried to leave his identity as a middle class Istanbulu (I love that word) to blossom as a writer. Like him as a teenager I roamed the streets and went for walks that lasted for hours. For him it meant becoming a writer. For me it meant becoming nothing. I fell under the spell of a turn of the century novel called The Man Without Qualities. It struck me that abandoning the preconceptions of who I was or who I ought to be gave me the freedom to discover much more about life. Sans judgements. Sans status. Sans expectations. I became a carpenter, an accountant, a forensic auditor, a retailer, a historian, an actor. Anything and nothing. I stopped writing when I stopped having anything of meaning to say. In that nothingness came freedom. I wonder if becoming a writer has given Pamuk freedom. I wonder if he has forgiven his father for being a lecher.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    A book that makes me want to visit Istanbul just to walk around and see the sights that Pamuk describes and develops in this book. Reading his prose is an experience of “painterly” writing, where you cannot help but have a vivid image in your head of the surroundings and atmosphere conjured up with the words. But it is also a portrait of a sensitive young boy coming of age in a place and time where the borders between worlds are unpredictable. Not only are the Western and Eastern worlds in confl A book that makes me want to visit Istanbul just to walk around and see the sights that Pamuk describes and develops in this book. Reading his prose is an experience of “painterly” writing, where you cannot help but have a vivid image in your head of the surroundings and atmosphere conjured up with the words. But it is also a portrait of a sensitive young boy coming of age in a place and time where the borders between worlds are unpredictable. Not only are the Western and Eastern worlds in conflict, but also the world of family secrets and respectability. This was my introduction to the author’s writing and he’s jumped onto my favorite author list as a result. I’m anticipating reading his other books, especially his fiction.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Omama.

    Sad melancholy. Nostalgic melancholy. Angry melancholy. Evil melancholy. Delicious melancholy. Artistic melancholy. The melancholy of tantalizing mirage of a great city. By the end, you would have experienced every shade of melancholy, which would engulf you and consume you, with a painful feeling of so destined to lose in life and in love, a poetic confusion, a nothingness.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Overmark

    I first met Pamuk in "The Black Book" many moons ago. From the way he described his Istanbul neighborhood I instantly knew he would be a keeper. Memories and the city is offering you a trip down a lot of Istanbul´s memory lanes, some long forgotten and only kept alive in literature and paintings and some brought to life through Pamuk´s childhood memories. There are a lot of photos in my edition and though a paperback edition does not offer the same visual satisfaction as a coffee table edition it a I first met Pamuk in "The Black Book" many moons ago. From the way he described his Istanbul neighborhood I instantly knew he would be a keeper. Memories and the city is offering you a trip down a lot of Istanbul´s memory lanes, some long forgotten and only kept alive in literature and paintings and some brought to life through Pamuk´s childhood memories. There are a lot of photos in my edition and though a paperback edition does not offer the same visual satisfaction as a coffee table edition it adds considerable to the reading experience.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ingy

    (Sorry for the English.. This was originally written for the book discussion here ) **** This is a very rich book.. Rich in emotions, sadness, life, even references! It takes you deep into the streets of Istanbul, the real Istanbul, not tourist's Istanbul.. It will make you fall in love with Bosphorus, and feel the great attachment of the people of Istanbul to it.. Like it's somehow the main pillar or their very own existence.. I really understood this "dependence" feeling that author was talking a (Sorry for the English.. This was originally written for the book discussion here ) **** This is a very rich book.. Rich in emotions, sadness, life, even references! It takes you deep into the streets of Istanbul, the real Istanbul, not tourist's Istanbul.. It will make you fall in love with Bosphorus, and feel the great attachment of the people of Istanbul to it.. Like it's somehow the main pillar or their very own existence.. I really understood this "dependence" feeling that author was talking about, it's like what Egyptians feel about the Nile.. I really liked the "honesty" of the writer.. the way he exposes everything he witnessed in his society, and himself without trying to "beautify" anything.. Many people talk about the "identity crisis" Turkish must have.. Are they Westerners, or Easterners, or simply Turkish?... This confusion, you can feel it in the city, the buildings, the sadness.. And it's not an identity crisis as it's a kind of a "longing to the best, but feeling nostalgic about the past"... I don't know.. I don't think I can ever express it better than the author himself who took over 400 pages to try to describe this very special "thing" about his city! And then, reflecting this beautifully on himself.. Each of the Chapters gave me something to think of.. A part of the story, before it all come together at the end to lead the a certain ending.. So let me tell you what I picked up all the way as the story goes... **** I loved the chapter "Black and White".. It's so poetic, so much nostalgia.. I love it when the city imprints a certain vision in your mind.. especially one that is so dramatic. The Author dedicated tow chapter to talk about Bosphorus.. They are fantastic! With all the paintings about the city that Pamuk describes.. It's great.. I'm trying to keep track of all of the paintings and painters he mentioned.. I'll try hard.. The tenth chapter "Sadness".. It's like he's describing the state of my city, "Cairo". I think all cities with ancient glory that faded away have the same state.. 19th chapter: "Conquest or decline? The Turkification of Constantinople" This is a very interesting chapter, and it reminds me of the old say that history is always biased.. If you say "conquest" it means you're pro-Ottoman, but if you say "decline" then you're pro- Greek/ Western civilization.. There is no "objective term" to describe such a major historic event.. 20th chapter: "Religion".. It was very funny to see the author version of "God" :D And very interesting to see how religion falls in the hierarchy of priorities in republican Turkey.. It's very interesting for me in particular as a Muslim in a Muslim society, to see what other courses did other societies choose. And last but not least.. 21st chapter: "The rich".. And as much as this chapter was funny in some parts, it was also painful in other parts.. to see all these once part of powerful ruling families in an empire that dominated almost half the globe, now poor, fighting each other, and struggling just to survive.. They are the perfect incarnation of the real fall of the Ottoman Empire. Another chapter that touched me deeply, the 25th: where he talks about the "western" view to th city.. This is another common thing with my city, in a way.. We too care about how others see us.. I find it so sad! But what struck me the most was his talk about the poor neighborhoods in Istanbul (chapter 27).. And how those who don't live in it see them beautiful despite all the poverty.. I don't know why, but misery and filthy buildings can be appealing to those who don't actually live in such places.. Then, came "First Love" is a heart- breaking chapter.. You can feel the author's sadness as he writes about it even now.. It's the only chapter that has no photographers of Istanbul, and almost no photos at all except for one painting that is essential for this chapter... **** The last chapter was kind of a psychological epic! The struggle of the writer with himself and the social ordinary views, or even clichees (embodied in the mother, the broken mother) the views about life, future, love, even career.. Views that are the result of the "melancholia" and tough life of the people, or should I say, of Istanbul itself... And the simplicity of the decision the author took, in one sentence, that was in fact not simple at all, but the result of a really hard struggle... By the end of the book, things starts to fall into their places.. All events of the life of the young Orhan (the book ends at the time Orhan was 19 years old) and his memories; the stories of Istanbul and its streets that in time the reader starts to feel so familiar with it, and feels like he is living in this place; the fist love, the first heart-break; all of this, at last, start to come together into one last epic chapter that leads to the end.. Or should I say, the beginning? **** As I said, it's a very "rich" book.. It's not just a man talking about his memories.. It's a life story beautifully entangled with the story of a city.. And cities can tell the most beautiful stories...

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