January 23, 2011

The City of Our Soul


ORHAN Pamuk’s lyrical ode to his home city, Istanbul: Memories and the City, is mesmerising. In recounting his youth there, Pamuk dazzlingly describes several fascinating facets of his beloved birthplace.

The 2006 Nobel Laureate admits, however, that the city depicted in many of his books does not resemble contemporary Istanbul. Instead, his portrayals are reminiscent of the Istanbul both of his youth in the 1970s and the Ottoman-era legacy.

Pamuk is not ashamed to acknowledge that his city defines him. Neither is he discomfited by it. He returns in his work to the sights, sounds and smells of his place of birth over and over again, revelling in its multi-dimensional character laid down through the centuries.

In a place caught not only between East and West, but also between a glorious past and an uncertain present, the prolific author never runs out of material. Much as he adores his city, though, he does not shy away from criticising it, often courting controversy and censure in the process.

Writers such as Pamuk, in their passion for their craft, leave no corner unexplored, no scene unpainted. Most significantly, they seem to eat, breathe and live their cities - giving as much back to these places as they extract from them.

Read more on theStar Online: The City of Our Soul

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