- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (July 11, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1400033888
- ISBN-13: 978-1400033881
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 167 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Istanbul: Memories and the City Paperback – July 11, 2006
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Delightful, profound, marvelously original. . . . Pamuk tells the story of the city through the eyes of memory." –The Washington Post Book World"Far from a conventional appreciation of the city's natural and architectural splendors, Istanbul tells of an invisible melancholy and the way it acts on an imaginative young man, aggrieving him but pricking his creativity." –The New York Times"Brilliant. . . . Pamuk insistently discribes a]dizzingly gorgeous, historically vibrant metropolis." –Newsday “A fascinating read for anyone who has even the slightest acquaintance with this fabled bridge between east and west.” –The Economist
From the Inside Flap
A portrait, by turns intimate and panoramic, of one of the world's great cities, by its foremost man of letters, author of the acclaimed novels "Snow and "My Name Is Red.
Blending reminiscence with history; family photographs with portraits of poets and pashas; art criticism, metaphysical musing, and, now and again, a fanciful tale, Orhan Pamuk invents an ingenious form to evoke his lifelong home, the city that forged his imagination. He begins with his childhood among the eccentric extended Pamuk family in the dusty, carpeted, and hermetically sealed apartment building they shared. In this place came his first intimations of the melancholy awareness that binds all residents of his city together: that of living in the seat of ruined imperial glories, in a country trying to become "modern" at the dizzying crossroads of East and West. This elegiac communal spirit overhangs Pamuk's reflections as he introduces the writers and painters (among the latter, most particularly the German Antoine-Ignace Melling) through whose eyes he came to see Istanbul. Against a background of shattered monuments, neglected villas, ghostly backstreets, and, above all, the fabled waters of the Bosphorus, he presents the interplay of his budding sense of place with that of his predecessors. And he charts the evolution of a rich, sometimes macabre, imaginative life, which furnished a daydreaming boy refuge from family discord and inner turmoil, and which would continue to serve the famous writer he was to become. It was, and remains, a life fed by the changing microcosm of the apartment building and, even more, the beckoning kaleidoscope beyond its walls.
As much a portrait of the artist as a young manas it is an oneiric Joycean map of the city, "Istanbul is a masterful evocation of its subject through the idiosyncrasies of direct experience as much as the power of myth--the dazzling book Pamuk was born to write.
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Something of this bleeds through Pamuk’s continually apologetic and ever dissatisfied view of the post-Ottoman Istanbul of his youth and yearnings, and a persistent conflict with the notions of “modernity” and “westernization”, as if these were some sort of extra-terrestrial invasion. His self-pity knows no end. How could “My Name is Red”, so brilliant, have emerged from the same pen as “Istanbul”, which instead of lauding a unique city, spends endless pages deploring the sights, sounds, scents and scenes that make it so remarkable. Am I just another Westerner, cradling my taste for the exotic? Forgive my outrage. Like India, or Mexico, or Uzbekistan, or Peru—you name it—this is not a world that was, it is a world that still is, but different. It changed. Everything changes. One century flows into another, conquests vanish in burocracy, pinnacles becomes nadirs, the unique degenerates, and when has it ever been different?
Our author, however, finally relents, if just a notch. He, and I, like Pierre Lotí in his time, find Eyüp enchanting. But then, I am a westerner, entranced by the charm of this distant neighborhood, nestled at the very end of the Golden Horn. Pamuk makes us feel guilty for even turning to look at it.
Pamuk presents the City of Istanbul as seen through Western European photographs, paintings, and travel writings from the nineteenth century, and from Istanbul artists and writers, including journalists, a century later, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, as well as from his own experience of walking all over its different neighborhoods. He sees the neighborhoods falling into ruin, the mansions along the Bosphorus burning to the ground one after another, and his own family’s fortunes gradually crumbling. Against this decline and loss of pride, he sets his early love for painting, begun with a wish for praise and developing into joy of self-expression, and then reveals how he eventually chose to write instead.
This book is hard to read straight through because of all the interweaving ideas, stories, and themes. But various chapters, images and passages echo and invite rereading, and as I reread, I love the book more and more. I only wish I could enlarge some of the photographs to see them in more detail.