The role of the Museum of Innocence in the literary oeuvre of Orhan Pamuk

  • Date: –17:00
  • Location: Engelska parken Sal 2-1077
  • Lecturer: Bernt Brendemoen (professor, Universitetet i Oslo)
  • Website
  • Organiser: Forum för turkiska studier
  • Contact person: Johan Heldt
  • Phone: 4711418
  • Föreläsning

The role and importance of material objects in Orhan Pamuk’s works show an increasing development from his first novels onwards, culminating in The Museum of Innocence (2008). Especially in The Black Book (1990), rooms and other scenes are meticulously described down to the tiniest details; in this respect Pamuk has used French 19th-century authors such as Balzac, Flaubert and not least Proust.

In Orhan Pamuk's The Black Book, certain objects are sometimes meticulously described, but they may also have an esoteric function, pointing to something beyond themselves. Besides, the theme “collectors and collections” plays a more and more important role in his novels, e.g. My Name is Red (1998) can be read as a novel about the Sultan’s collection of miniature paintings, since it contains descriptions of a lot of the paintings still found in the library of Topkapı Palace in Istanbul. At the same time, both The Black Book and My Name is Red are in themselves collections of Islamic stories and tales; in The Black Book stories about the search for one’s beloved, and in My Name is Red, stories about art and painting. The collector as such plays an important role in the autobiographical Istanbul – Memories and the City (2003), where the author draws a parallel between the collector and the writer of encyclopedias, and also writers in general. And all the objects Pamuk tells that he has collected during his nightly walks through the city in his youth, actually play an important role in The Museum of Innocence (2008), and also in the museum which is based in the book or, if we believe the author, which the book is based on. Another aspect I would like to take up in my contribution, is whether The Museum of Innocence has an underlying or hidden message, or if it is just an entertaining and elegantly conceived love story with an astonishing ending. In order to do that, I shall speak of the “messages” in Pamuk’s earlier books, one of which has to do with the possibility for a person to attain a pure personality, liberated from exterior influences, and the possible advantages such a pure personality would have. This same question also applies to culture: Would it be an advantage to have a pure Turkish (or Norwegian) culture, and would it at all be possible to find it? These are questions that are not clearly addressed in The Museum of Innocence. I think, however, that we can find a clue for an interpretation of The Museum of Innocence if we look at the two novels Pamuk wrote subsequently, i.e. The Strangeness in My Mind (2014) and The Red-Haired Woman (2016).

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