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Istanbul: Memories and the City Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 7, 2005
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Dust jacket has surface wear, spine faded, some creasing at head and tail of spine. Hardcover book is lightly faded at top edge. Previous owner's name stamped inside front cover. Text is clean and unmarked.
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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.