About a year ago we had the great pleasure of attending a panel discussion featuring Orhan Pamuk, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature. We took our seats at the New Yorker magazine’s lecture series, and because I had read his novel Snow, I was expecting someone quite dour and grim.
Instead he was hugely entertaining and funny as he talked about literature and his latest project, creating a museum to replicate one he had invented for his 2008 novel, The Museum of Innocence.
Writes Gareth Harris in the September 2010 Art Newspaper, “Turkey’s most famous living novelist is holding a pair of dentures in a room packed with ephemera reflecting everyday Turkish life of the past three decades. Orhan Pamuk, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2006 and author of My Name is Red (1998) and Snow (2002), is standing among a sea of objects—sewing machines, clocks, soda-bottle tops, buttons, lottery tickets, china dogs, birdcages, cigarette lighters and false teeth—that will soon go on display in The Museum of Innocence, a four-storey building in the Çukurcuma neighbourhood, central Istanbul. This venue, not just a chamber of curiosities, is the real-life incarnation of the museum painstakingly assembled and detailed in his book The Museum of Innocence (2008).”
I expect that, for someone who has read the novel, the museum experience will be both delightful and unnerving. I know I felt delighted and unnerved years ago after reading a nonfiction book about a Rhode Island community and then trying to reconcile the characters who had seemed so real with the people who had been described. Storybook characters coming to life. At first the real people seem shadows. Then as you get to know them, the storybook characters become the shadows, superficially imagined imitations.
April 30, 2012, update here.