August 31, 2012

Orhan Pamuk on His Museum of Innocence in Istanbul

Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk explains why he built a museum dedicated to the glory and tragedy of one fictional couple’s love.

The idea of the “Museum of Innocence” was already fully formed in my mind by the late 1990s: to create a novel and a museum that would tell the story of two Istanbul families—one wealthy, the other lower middle class—and of their children’s obsessive romance. The novel was going to revolve around a wealthy man who falls in love with his poorer cousin in 1970s Istanbul, where sexual intimacy outside of marriage was taboo even among the richest, most Westernized bourgeoisie. This young woman, the beautiful daughter of a retired history teacher and a seamstress, reciprocates her wealthy relation’s love partly because she is looking for a way to leave behind her job as a shop girl and become a film star, but also because she is genuinely in love with him. The novel’s wealthy protagonist, in love with his cousin, soothes his despair by collecting everything that his beloved has touched, and as their sad story nears its end, he decides that all these things must be displayed in a museum. I think that if museums, like novels, were to focus more on private and personal stories, they would be better able to bring out our collective humanity.

Read more on News Week: Orhan Pamuk on His Museum of Innocence in Istanbul

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