The Museum of Innocence

The Museum of Innocence

Book - 2009
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It is 1975, a perfect spring in Istanbul. Kemal, scion of one of the city's wealthiest families, is about to become engaged to Sibel, daughter of another prominent family, when he encounters Fusun, a beautiful shopgirl and a distant relation. Thus begins an obsessive but tragic love affair that will transform itself into a compulsive collection of objects--a museum of one man's broken heart--that chronicle Kemal's lovelorn progress and his afflicted heart's reactions.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.
Edition: First North American edition.
ISBN: 9780307266767
Branch Call Number: F
Characteristics: xi, 535 pages : illustrations, map ; 25 cm
Additional Contributors: Freely, Maureen 1952-


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Apr 08, 2018

The story was long and drawn out, but so was Kemal's wait. Having failed to recognize and acknowledge true love when it chanced upon him, at an inconvenient moment, when he later understands he succumbs to his situation and a long long waiting game. When happiness arrives, so does tragedy. He realizes he will never recover to love again. Often ponderous, I am lucky to be a very fast reader! Old Turkish traditions collide with the ways from the west.

Nov 22, 2014

Would have benefited greatly from an editor. There's really about 200 pages of story here, not 530.

Jul 10, 2014

Boring. Infatuation that wouldn't end.

Jan 22, 2014

Exceedingly tedious story of self absorbed obsession. I found myself skimming over the pages after about page 150…searching for a story. I found the level of obsession disturbing.

JoanOlivia Dec 30, 2013

This is a fascinating, enthralling, obsessively compelling read -- about the unrelenting euphoric agony of obsessive love. In the vivid and startling descriptions of the city, Istanbul can be virtually seen, felt, heard, and smelled.

Jul 28, 2012

Art and life: here the two overlap. Like all accounts of obsessive love, the interest is primarily in the eyes of the obsessor... to a point. I hit a point 1/3 of the way in or so when I just wanted to shake the protagonist: Snap out of it!! But that would obviate the premise of the book. After some admittedly slow going in the middle, toward the end it opens up and turns into something surprising, quite beautiful, and moving - as if Pamuk need those hundreds of pages of set-up. Closing the book, I was devastated. That's not too strong a word: for the next two days I didn't feel like reading anything else; the book had worked its magic. Now, only to go to Istanbul and see the actual Museum!

Apr 30, 2012

I gave this book 200 pages, but finally quit. Part of the problem was the narrator: just too whiny, narcissistic. The book would have been better served by a third-person narrator. The other characters are not fully fleshed out; they give the impression of being seen through a scrim. And for all the author's emphasis on upper-middle class life in Istanbul in the '70's, we get little sense of the conflicting forces at work. The book is well written and beautifully translated; I would have appreciated some help on how Turkish names are pronounced. All in all, though, it suffers from a lack of dramatization

Nov 10, 2010

I loved the Museum of Innocence for the details of lower middle class Turkish family's lifestyle in Istanbul. Whereas Orhan Pamuk himself is from upper middle class upbringing. It is amazing that how he could know all the details.

The obsessed lover's plan to forget the girl including division of the streets of Istanbul as forbidden, semi-forbidden and free zones is hilarious. Alas, all his plans to forget the girl turn into finding the girl. His plot to invite the young girl's family to his own engagement with another girl by erasing one of the business associates' name from the party list foreshadows that he will never forget this girl.

I read the book in its original language. I only hope that the sarcasm he conveys in describing the lifestyle and human relations be equally conveyed in translation.

Feb 28, 2010

extremely well written and love the setting in Istanbul but can only handle so many pages of heartbreaking infatuation with a women you can never have. Gave up after 300 pages and 50 pages of speed reading.

Feb 18, 2010

Before The Museum of Innocence, the only other Pamuk I'd read was Istanbul, his wistful and somewhat depressing memoir and cultural history of the city. I appreciated the craft of Istanbul, but it was ponderous going at times. There are definitely connections between Istanbul and The Museum of Innocence, and not just in the detailed portrait of the colourful and exotic city. At several points throughout the book, I was ready to conclude that The Museum of Innocence just might be the wistfulness and inwardness of Pamuk's memoir taken to a verging-on-satirical extreme. Long after leaving the last page of this book, and probably when I revisit and re-read it, I suspect I'll still be debating how satirical and self-absorbed versus heartfelt this book's protagonist is meant to be.

Wealthy thirtysomething Kemal Basmaci is engaged to an accomplished woman his age. They are both members of prominent Istanbul families and travel in Westernized society circles. By chance, Kemal encounters a beautiful young shopgirl, Fusun, who is both a distant relative and at 18, at an almost Lolitaesque distance from him in age. He pursues her, they embark on a brief but passionate affair, and when they part, Kemal remains and in fact grows increasingly obsessed with and depressed about losing the young woman. After trying half-heartedly to reconcile with his fiance, he decides to abandon her and his high society life to attempt an unusual and protracted wooing of Fusun, venturing into her lower middle class neighbourhood and life and becoming intimately entangled in but also welcomed into her family's day-to-day life.

Is Kemal heroically and self-effacingly devoted to Fusun, or unnaturally obsessed with some crazed notion of her as a romantic ideal? Is he passionately in love with the real Fusun, or is he just mired in a form of self-absorption in which Fusun is some wildly distorted romantic icon? Is his increasingly compulsive hoarding of any and all objects associated with his beloved a creative and all-encompassing tribute, or a warped form of romantic kleptomania?

The painstaking detail with which Kemal catalogues his devotion/obsession makes this over 500-page novel engrossing at times, wearying at other times. However, in its last scenes, Pamuk skillfully pulls the book together with an elucidating and validating refocus on Kemal's obsession, along with a charming switch in voice.

The apotheosis of Kemal's love for Fusun takes the form of a museum. To further inspire and inform his mission, Kemal wanders the world visiting and researching museums of every shape, size and subject matter, from the sublime to the ridiculous, perhaps skewed to the ridiculous. However, in even the most obscure and overwrought collections and forms of tribute, Kemal finds justification for his passion, and the account of his travels and explorations is surprisingly moving. When he gets to Sir John Soane's Museum in London, England, I was convinced, having recently had the privilege to view firsthand a place in which obsession, obsessive collecting and curating, and uncommon passions are made so memorably and claustrophically real.

Perhaps the following is a spoiler ... At the very end, Orhan Pamuk inserts himself in witty fashion as a character in the book. The change in voice is a bit of a relief after such a long, emotional journey with the protagonist, and allows the reader to step back with some measure of objectivity from this feverish story.


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Feb 18, 2010

One could gather up anything and everything, with wit and acumen, out of a positive need to collect all objects connecting us to our most beloved, every aspect of their being, and even in the absence of a house, a proper museum, the poetry of our collection would be home enough for its objects.


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