The idea for this museum in Beyoğlu, Istanbul, based on Orhan Pamuk’s novel The Museum of Innocence, was conceived at the same time as the idea for the book. They simultaneously came into thought in the 1990s, and the novel was published in 2008 while the museum was opened in 2012.
For those of you unfamiliar with the novel of the same name, all I will say is read it, as I don’t want to tell you more for fear of spoiling the experience. What I will provide are my impressions of this exhibition covering four floors of this five storey house that was once home to the actual Keskin family.
The entry way is covered by the Spiral of Time, a floor design representing Pamuk’s view of memory. The golden dots that form the spiral are moments in time, which seen as a whole provide a pleasing and calming image. Unlike Aristotle who thought of time as a line joining moments which became the present, Pamuk sees the story as a line joining the objects described in the novel. When time is linear, the overall memory can be one of disappointment, but when it is understood as a series of moments, some joyous, some less so, the final memory is one that can be treasured.
I walk up the creaking wooden stairs, gliding my hand up the darkly burnished rail, and stop when I hear a bird tweeting. Slightly above me I see a tiny window, half open and complete with a curtain blowing in the breeze. There is a miniature canary in its cage, whittering happily away, and from outside I can hear simit sellers calling out their wares and the more distant the honking of car and ferry horns. I am immediately transported back outside to the streets of Istanbul, nostalgic for a lost past I am too young to have known.
This level, and the ones above, are crammed with artefacts that are proof of Kemal’s love for Füsun, souvenirs of his lost love. Everywhere I look there are references to sights, sounds and smells that relate to the story, but more significantly, quintessential symbols of Istanbul and Turkish life more generally.
Here, in no particular order, is what I remember most from the museum.
“Of all the traditions that say Turkey to me, the use of lemon cologne is the earliest and strongest memory I will always have”.
The agony of love is this...
Movie memorabilia – Kurban
Raki and Attitudes to women
The cigarette wall contains 4213 cigarette butts collected by Kemal. Each butt tells a story of his longing for Füsun.
I was very moved by my visit to the Museum of Innocence, and seeing a visual interpretation of Orhan Pamuk’s writings. I’ve read all his book, and while I enjoyed The Museum of Innocence, the book which speaks to me most is Istanbul: Memories and the City. It reads like a sorrowful missive to a long lost love, full of melancholy and yearning for the one who remains imprinted on his soul. Füsun is Kemal’s Istanbul.
I have been greatly inspired by Orhan Pamuk’s work so if you’d like to read my account of the way Istanbul feels to me, click here