A pink taxi

A pink taxi

June 13, 2011

Two Turkish Artists

My husband teased me today: "you are going to write about the only two Turkish artists you know and compare them?"

I am nearly half-way through Pamuk's  "The Museum of Innocence" and I have lost pleasure in the reading, no longer escaping in its reverie, but toiling through the melancholic feelings of the narrator.I continue to read because I still respect the writer, despite my boredom. I am to blame because I selected his least complex novel, an attempt for him to trivialize literature and write a romantic story.

I can't help comparing him to Fitzgerald and his idle aristocratic characters or Francoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse because of the innate melancholy of the story. Somehow those short novellas allowed for the blues. This hefty novel, which short chapters I first appreciated, now seems replete and soaking in a thick sauce of indigestible melancholy!

Of course, I base my imagery on the acquaintance I have with Istanbul and the year I spent attempting to learn Pamuk's language. Had I pursued the difficult Turkish language, I would have resorted to reading it in its original. I even wonder whether I should have read it in French translation. Somewhere, I do suspect it may be lost in translation.

The only other Turkish reference I have is that of the art of Nazif Topcuoglu. His photography is centered around the image of the Lolita, a Nabokov reference that predictably has also touched Pamuk. Here the theme is developed with originality and somptuosity like the Sabines and Nymphs that ornate European parks.

When I look at a Nazif Topcuoglu photograph, The Virgin Suicides immediately comes to mind, two young girls having a pomegrenate fight, knife in hand and white blouses tainted in red. Or the one featuring the very large mantle piece  and the multitude of girls, dressed in the brightest colors, splattered all over the floor, as if in angelic ectasy.

Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence lacks that energy, vigor and controversy. It may describe Istanbul of the 1970s, but it should have been written with the vigor of our new century.


  1. Yasmine has taken me on her journey with her, and I too am reading Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence – I, however, live in Cairo, and the revolution aside, the society of 1970s Istanbul offers many similarities to that of present day Cairo. From an economic perspective the Turkish model is very much one that Egyptians emulate and hope to be able to repeat. I am curiously, and with much enjoyment, reading the book. I am approaching it very lightly and slowly, reading a chapter at a time, and digesting. I have managed to overlook the somewhat self indulgent style of the narrator, excusing it as a mirror & reflection of his surroundings, and due to my own surroundings I find the book quite amusing – in a black sort of way. I am curious to see the development of the characters & the writing as the book moves to the present day – expectant that there has been maturity & expansion of thought over the years of transition, hopeful that Egypt too will be able to grow as a people.

  2. Pamuk writes about the Middle East of the the 40's and 50's,so he meets the imagination of those who live in Beirut,Cairo or Teheran.You can get a stomach ache reading Snow or nostalgic if you read Istanbul.Innocence could have easily been a black and white Egyptian drama of the 50's,though Turkish TV soaps have recently been dubbed into Arabic,and will overtake the original Arabic dramas which will be introduced soon in Ramadhan.

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