Friday, 26 August 2016

Istanbul: Memories Of A City by Orhan Pamuk

Istanbul: Memories Of A City by Orhan Pamuk
First published in Turkish in 2003 as İstanbul: Hatıralar ve Şehir. Translated into English by Maureen Freely in 2005. Canongate audiobook edition narrated by John Lee published in 2013.
One of my WorldReads from Turkey.
This one of the books I planned to read as part of the 2016 TBR Pile Reading Challenge.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the audiobook from Audible via /
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Purchased the audiobook from Audible

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'Turkey's greatest living novelist, Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, guides us through the monuments and lost paradises, dilapidated Ottoman villas, back streets, and waterways of Istanbul - the city of his birth and the home of his imagination.'

Istanbul: Memories Of A City wasn't how I expected it to be and I did find myself drifting away from the book at times, although being completely engrossed in other sections. Pamuk jumps from childhood memories to his thoughts on writings by mostly Western authors, to famous Istanbul characters, to the drift of the city over the past couple of centuries from the heights of the Ottoman Empire to relative global obscurity and creeping Westernisation. John Lee is a competent narrator with a good grasp of the various Turkish names.

I was surprised at Pamuk's assertions of so much post-Ottoman Istanbul history and life being only written about by Western tourists thereby leaving the city without its own voice. The crushing of minority groups within the traditional multicultural population as the nationalist Republic gained its feet however was depressingly familiar. Pamuk talks a lot about depression, melancholy and the wonderful Turkish word 'huzun' which describes a kind of national melancholy apparently felt across Istanbul as a result of continuously living in the ruins of the former great Empire. It sounds a beautifully romantic concept and I would have loved to have visited Istanbul at the time of the great French writers such as Andre Gide, when evidence of this epic and exotic history was still widespread. I wonder how much does remain now and how much has been irretrievably Westernised and globalised in the names of progress and profit.

I thought the anecdotes from Pamuk's childhood provided the most evocative moments of this book and I enjoyed picturing this 1950s and 1960s Istanbul. The importance of the Bosphorus river is clearly illustrated with Pamuk's artist eye picking out obscure details for his readers. At the time of writing, he had lived there for fifty years but also widely read authors who only visited so manages to see and portray Istanbul as both native and outsider providing a unique viewpoint.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Orhan Pamuk / Biographies and memoirs / Books from Turkey

No comments:

Post a Comment