Istanbul - Memories of a City by Orhan Pamuk

(Turkish Title: Istanbul - Hatiralar ve Sehir) - 2003

Reviewed by Marianne from "Let's Read"

I have been to Istanbul in 1984 and was very impressed with the city. This is not my first book by Orhan Pamuk and will certainly not be my last, I love his style, I love his thoughts, I love the way he describes his opinions and his surroundings.

If I hadn’t loved Istanbul already, I certainly would so now. Orhan Pamuk wanted to be a painter, I’m glad he became a writer who painted beautiful stories and a beautiful description of his home town. History, culture, life in Turkey, he mentions everything worth mentioning, he describes a city that is so alive, you feel you almost walk with him in those cobbled streets, look over the Bosporus and see all those ships passing by, you can almost smell the different smells you can find in this city between East and West.

I think the information, that the author wanted to be a painter is very important because it highly influences his writing and the objects of his writing. Like in "My Name is Red" where the painting itself was more or less the major character, Orhan Pamuk now describes his whole city as art, the kind of art you feel when you're there.

Nothing escapes him, not the big stories nor the little ones, neither the internationally well-known buildings nor the back streets and the "ordinary people" living there. He takes us on many walks through his home town. A love letter to a city.

If Istanbul is considered the bridge between East and West, Orhan Pamuk should be declared the ambassador between the two worlds.

Whether you don’t know anything about Istanbul, or you love it, or if you always wanted to know more about the only town that is situated on two continents, read this book. The author certainly deserves the Nobel Prize for this.

From the back cover: "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."

His novels are just as great.

Orhan Pamuk "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006.

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.

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