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Istanbul: Memories and the Cityby Orhan Pamuk
Synopses & Reviews
A portrait of one of the world's great cities by its foremost literary resident, Orhan Pamuk, author of the acclaimed novels Snow, and My Name Is Red, which won the 2003 IMPAC Dublin literary Award. Weaving history with observations of people, places, and art, Orhan Pamuk evokes the fabled city that has forged his imagination. Through the experiences of his eccentric family, he 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.
When the Pamuks move in 1953 from a communal Ottoman mansion to a modern apartment building, we see them work to understand what their increasingly Western way of life will bring, apart from freedom from Islamic law. Against the backdrop of ruined monuments, dilapidated villas, and teeming backstreets and waterways, we observe the cast of artists, journalists, and popular historians who would inform the city's evolving sense of itself. And we share with the daydreaming boy who would become this book's famous author the spectacle of dramas both public and private, the discovery of the great open-air theater that was and is Istanbul.
"Turkish novelist Pamuk (Snow) presents a breathtaking portrait of a city, an elegy for a dead civilization and a meditation on life's complicated intimacies. The author, born in 1952 into a rapidly fading bourgeois family in Istanbul, spins a masterful tale, moving from his fractured extended family, all living in a communal apartment building, out into the city and encompassing the entire Ottoman Empire. Pamuk sees the slow collapse of the once powerful empire hanging like a pall over the city and its citizens. Central to many Istanbul residents' character is the concept of hzn (melancholy). Istanbul's hzn, Pamuk writes, 'is a way of looking at life that... is ultimately as life affirming as it is negating.' His world apparently in permanent decline, Pamuk revels in the darkness and decay manifest around him. He minutely describes horrific accidents on the Bosphorus Strait and his own recurring fantasies of murder and mayhem. Throughout, Pamuk details the breakdown of his family: elders die, his parents fight and grow apart, and he must find his way in the world. This is a powerful, sometimes disturbing literary journey through the soul of a great city told by one of its great writers. 206 photos. (June 10) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
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
José Saramago was eighteen months old when he moved from the village of Azinhaga with his father and mother to live in Lisbon. But he would return to the village throughout his childhood and adolescence to stay with his maternal grandparents, illiterate peasants in the eyes of the outside world, but a fount of knowledge, affection, and authority to young José.
Shifting back and forth between childhood and his teenage years, between Azinhaga and Lisbon, this is a mosaic of memories, a simply told, affecting look back into the authors boyhood: the tragic death of his older brother at the age of four; his mother pawning the familys blankets every spring and buying them back in time for winter; his beloved grandparents bringing the weaker piglets into their bed on cold nights; and Saramagos early encounters with literature, from teaching himself to read by deciphering articles in the daily newspaper, to poring over an entertaining dialogue in a Portuguese-French conversation guide, not realizing that he was in fact reading a play by Molière.
Written with Saramagos characteristic wit and honesty, Small Memories traces the formation of an artist fascinated by words and stories from an early age and who emerged, against all odds, as one of the worlds most respected writers.
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.
About the Author
Orhan Pamuk is the author of six novels and the recipient of major Turkish and international literary awards. He is one of Europe's most prominent novelists, and his work has been translated into more than twenty languages. He lives in Istanbul.
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