27 Feb

“Then there is Siyamy Bey, who spent the last thirty years of his life collecting photographs of every ship to pass through the Bosphorus since the invention of photography, and who was kind enough to give me copies of the photographs of which he had doubles. I would like to acknowledge him here, first for providing the means to show my visitors the ships whose whistles I heard while thinking of Fusun, or walking through the city with her […]”

If you haven’t read Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence, you won’t of the magic contained in this phrase, quoted from a novel which tells the story of a love so uncommon and fascinating.

Obsession is the first ingredient. Kemal’s unrelenting fascination with Fusun and every little thing connected to her is implausible, but, given the rest of his actions and decisions, it is the only credible proof of his love, together with the ever increasing humiliation he endures because of it.

Time works in a peculiar way, suspended somewhere far away from the clock, turned by the flow of characters’ feelings like a gyroscope. Looking back on the whole story, I would say that, paradoxically, time is the only thing that Kemal (willpower and state of spirit completely out of his hands) can control is Time. He practices instinctively the secret art which Proust has sought his entire life a la recherché du temps perdu, yet he does it with the full refinement of an artist by mixing tastes, textures, flavors, images and sounds to alleviate his pain and fill the huge emptiness which only Fusun could fill in his life. This craft consists of small games like tasting her paintbrushes and smelling her pencils, reading emotions in the way she stubs 4 213 cigarette stubs over the course of eight years, stealing objects from her home and replacing them only to steal the new ones later on. While this fuels his obsession even further, it brings back slivers of the bliss experienced in the happiest days of his life, spent in adulterous love with her.

Painstaking attention for detail is the strongest tool in the entire book, charging feelings with true meaning and turning Istanbul into an equally magical backdrop that goes beyond simple geography and imagery, all the way to people’s habits, personal histories and the conflicting values of ‘old’ and modern, ‘Turkish’ and Western and especially Male and Female.

It is details which allow Kemal to extract ounces of lost time out of the smallest things. The last drop of tea left in an unwashed cup after Fusun’s lips have touched it MATTERS. She isn’t just the sum of her richly detailed features and mannerisms, but everything she thouches, breaks, uses, keeps or throws away, from the streets where she walks to the smallest cracked thimble. Remember the opening quote. If each and every little one of these entities wouldn’t painfully stand out for Kemal, he would be stripped of his magical powers over Time, just as the novel would be stripped of its unique magic, built out of all these three elements – obsession, Time and details – which would just not work if separated.

This book is an experience, it’s really hard to have major spoilers in one page, but I’ll stop here with the invitation to enjoy it yourself and to answer one question:

What ingredients would you use to brew and serve the greatest love story you could imagine?


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