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Istanbul: Memories and the Cityby Orhan Pamuk
Synopses & Reviews
A portrait, by turns intimate and panoramic, of one of the world's great cities, by its foremost man of letters, author of the acclaimed novels Snow and My Name Is Red.
Blending reminiscence with history; family photographs with portraits of poets and pashas; art criticism, metaphysical musing, and, now and again, a fanciful tale, Orhan Pamuk invents an ingenious form to evoke his lifelong home, the city that forged his imagination. He begins with his childhood among the eccentric extended Pamuk family in the dusty, carpeted, and hermetically sealed apartment building they shared. In this place came his first intimations of the melancholy awareness that binds all residents of his city together: that of living in the seat of ruined imperial glories, in a country trying to become "modern" at the dizzying crossroads of East and West. This elegiac communal spirit overhangs Pamuk's reflections as he introduces the writers and painters (among the latter, most particularly the German Antoine-Ignace Melling) through whose eyes he came to see Istanbul. Against a background of shattered monuments, neglected villas, ghostly backstreets, and, above all, the fabled waters of the Bosphorus, he presents the interplay of his budding sense of place with that of his predecessors. And he charts the evolution of a rich, sometimes macabre, imaginative life, which furnished a daydreaming boy refuge from family discord and inner turmoil, and which would continue to serve the famous writer he was to become. It was, and remains, a life fed by the changing microcosm of the apartment building and, even more, the beckoning kaleidoscope beyond its walls.
As much a portrait of the artist as a young man as it is an oneiric Joycean map of the city, Istanbul is a masterful evocation of its subject through the idiosyncrasies of direct experience as much as the power of myth — the dazzling book Pamuk was born to write.
"Delightful, profound, marvelously original....Pamuk tells the story of the city through the eyes of memory." The Washington Post Book World
"Far from a conventional appreciation of the city's natural and architectural splendors, Istanbul tells of an invisible melancholy and the way it acts on an imaginative young man, aggrieving him but pricking his creativity." The New York Times
"Brilliant....Pamuk insistently describes [a] dizzingly gorgeous, historically vibrant metropolis." Newsday
“A fascinating read for anyone who has even the slightest acquaintance with this fabled bridge between east and west.” The Economist
A shimmering evocation, by turns intimate and panoramic, of one of the worlds 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.
Weaving history with observations of people, places, and art, Pamuk shows Istanbul's transformation from the seat of faded imperial glory to the capital of a modern nation at the dizzying crossroads of East and West.
About the Author
Orhan Pamuk's novel My Name Is Red won the 2003 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages. He lives in Istanbul.
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