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Showing 1-10 of 109 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 173 reviews
on July 2, 2013
As I read this book, nearly giving up several times, I kept asking, "Does the world really need another novel about a man obsessed with an unobtainable woman? Didn't Proust and Nabokov cover that ground pretty well?"

And those two did it with style; Pamuk (or is it just his narrator?) has the flattest, least enchanting style imaginable. Just try to find an interesting metaphor or captivating turn of phrase in this book! The only element that really kept me going was the museum references, which at first I took to be the one literary conceit of the book, but gradually realized was meant literally--the guy really did plan to build a museum to memorialize his love.

But finally I was glad to have finished the novel just to have that last sentence rear up and reward me with a slap me in the face (No no no! Do NOT jump ahead and read that final sentence! It will give you a shock that makes you reconsider the entire five hundred and some pages that preceded it, and it will--or should, I think--give you a final thrill of deja-vu equal to that at the end of "In Search of Lost Time"). Still, I think the dang thing could have been shortened by a couple of hundred pages without losing much of importance.

I now have Pamuk's picture book, "The Innocence of Objects" to look forward to. It promises to be quite a bit more riveting than the novel. (At least it has pictures.)

Just one other note: the author provides a glossary of names at the end. Much more helpful would have been a guide to Turkish pronunciation and an explanation of letters that don't appear in our alphabet, such as the i with no dot in Tarik's name and elsewhere.
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on December 20, 2013
This is an enjoyable read that is very smoothly narrated, with an easy-going quality. The story is divided into numerous small segments that serve well as digestible bite-size chunks, each one a temptation to read the next. Structurally it is also flawed, however- it drags on too long and could be improved by the ommission of four or five chapters of extraneous detail that go nowhere and contribute little to the plot. The author documents every detail of Turkish domestic life in the 1970's with the zeal of a curator, but goes slightly overboard. Despite this he manages to hold the tension right through to the final denouement, with his appealing and delightful evocation of romantic feeling.

The tragic ending is far too predictable though, and it follows an age-old literary pattern: love is elusive, brief and crowned by death. For once it would have been so much more satisfying to let love continue into old age.

Pamuk parodies lovesickness and the cult of virginity to ridiculous levels. We are expected to believe that a wealthy and succesful 30 yr old man would obsess to the point of pursuing his lost love for 8 years without even a hint of reciprocation or encouragement from her; that he is ecstatic to ceremoniously rub himself down in the hint of scent lingering on her discarded cigarette butts; we are asked to accept that she spends 8 years in a marriage that is never consummated.

Given that Pamuk humorously chooses to resort to such an unoriginal formula, it strikes me that we are probably being asked to view this tale in light of its wider concepts. The heroine Fusun, while adorable, is essentially a powerless figure. Her charm lies in her non-threatening girlish cuteness, her attractiveness in the somewhat inept lack of threat she presents to the patriarchy. Reliant on her looks and the favours of men to get ahead, she is also continually trapped, hampered and subtly controlled by men. In a male-dominated society still repressed by islamic tradition, she can find no way to self-development, self-expression or self-realisation. Her only escape, therefore, her only means of taking control of her own life, is ultimately suicide, and that becomes the most powerful action she undertakes.

Despite the absurd review from the Washington post on the front cover "with this book he literally puts love in our hands!"- this book does not depict love, but selfish obsession. The protagonist, Kemal, lives entirely for his own gratification and never puts the interests of his "beloved" first. A self-absorbed and pampered young man from a priveleged background, he never really gains the readers sympathy and while much of the intimacy is touchingly worded, it still reads like a parody of a sixteenth century chivalric romance. Ultimately Fusun is objectified for her beauty and in the final pages there is a strong sense of her being just another trophy, a prized possesion to be collected and looked at. It is almost as if the author is unaware of having created this final impression.
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on January 28, 2011
Let me preface my review by admitting that I am a huge sucker for well written romance stories, even ones that may lack the literary genius that define masterpieces. This potentially contributed to the mesmerizing experience I had from reading this book. That said, Orhan Pamuk is a great writer who demonstrates an uncanny ability to put out beautiful and poignant literatures, as evident in all his previous work. I had the pleasure to listen to his talk at the New Yorker Festival last year where he talked about the experience of writing his book. As fascinating and hilarious as his speech was, I don't think he was able to convey what readers should be expecting in Museum of Innocence.

Museum of Innocence is a love story that alludes to much more. It is said that this is Pamuk's first novel about love (I disagree). The story is centered on Kemal's experience of encountering his love Fusun, as an almost married man, losing her and trying to win her back. Almost the entire story is told from his perspective because he represents multiple oppressive forces that existed in Turkish society in the 70s and 80s, despite his own resentment of these forces. The story is divided into short chapters with titles that convey metaphysical inquiries about love and happiness in the most colloquial and at times cliché language. The writing itself is rather poetic but contains a greater dose of realism than Snow. The storyline is punctuated with breathtaking imageries. Kemal's obsession with Fusun, manifested through his fetish of collecting the objects with associations with Fusun, is absurd by nature but made real and even what somewhat sensible by Pamuk. (The actual museum, which Pamuk has been organization is scheduled to open this year in Istanbul and all objects mentioned in the book will be on display)

When reading this book, I cannot help but be reminded of three other novels - Lolita, Anna Karenina, The English Patient. One of the major theme found in Museum of Innocence is the exactly the central theme in Lolita - the objectification of the object of desire. HH's lust of Lo and Kemal's persistence pursuit of Fusun are so similar in that they are both characterized by fetishism. The Istanbul society, the setting of Museum Innocence is not much different from the one Tolstoy described in painstaking details in of St. Petersburg society in Anna Karenina. Pamuk gave the same level of attention to detail to the inanimate objects in Museum of Innocence as Tolstoy did in AK. But writing in a more modern and tender prose, reading Museum of Innocence is more similar to reading the English Patient than to the tediousness of reading Tolstoy.

I read the Museum of Innocence after having gone a long period without reading much fiction. It is a tremendous pleasure and I was completely immersed in the story that by the time I got off the train and arrived at work, I cannot stop thinking about the story. It is a long book but Pamuk will pull you through quickly. I cannot claim this as a literary masterpiece at this point but it is definitely a great read.
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on March 11, 2017
I purchased this book because it was read by John Lee. John Lee (as usual) is a brilliant narrator as he is so easy to listen to. He keeps you engaged and his multi-lingual talents are outstanding. I had never read anything by Orhan Pamuk and I was interested in learning something about life in Turkey. While I did learn quite a bit about Turkey in the 1970s and 80s, the story proved to be a great disappointment. The book was written in the first person of Kemal Bey, the fictional son of a wealthy businessman in Istanbul. The beginning is interesting, and the end of the novel picks up some steam. Most of the book is slow and I found Kemal Bey's character to be annoying at times. It would have been interesting to have heard how Fusun felt as she was silent for most of the novel. The concept of the author creating a physical museum with items found in everyday life in Turkey and then creating a novel to include many of them is very clever. I give Orhan Pamuk credit for his creativity on that level. I only wish that the story had not been so slow and one-dimensional at times.
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on January 1, 2017
I read this as a school requirement for my study abroad to Turkey. It was good as opposed to a traditional history book. I liked the book, but it ran a bit slow, was really obsessive and came off creepy. All of the characters were really annoying and hard to relate to. Kinda of an affair no one would want to be apart of. I am still open to reading some of his other works though because my teacher said this wasn't the style of all his books. I did visit the actual Museum of Innocence while I was in Turkey which was interesting just because its weird. A man wrote a fictional work and then spent time finding actual objects to create a museum with including hundreds of cigarette butts. If you read the book its worth it to go to the museum while you are in Turkey.
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on February 27, 2017
One of the most well written books I've ever laid my eyes on, but it broke my heart and somehow, strangely, makes me happy that it is broken. Words cannot express the mix of emotions I have after reading this. All I can say is I have rarely been so emotionally connected, engaged and absorbed into a story as I have this one. Never had I experienced such a cast of fictional characters who have me convinced that they are not fictional at all. They are real and even if they are not, they are real to me. I fell in love with Fusun and am already planning a trip to Istanbul this summer to meet her. Because of this, I am giddy as a schoolboy who thinks he just saw his crush wink back.
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on December 10, 2015
This book captures something very weird so very beautifully. Although the story and the details can be summed up in a few pages, Mr. Pamuk's brilliant writing makes you appreciate how we can draw it out for so many hundreds of pages. There are entire chapters that are fascinating. There is repetition, there is similarity and he goes on and on and one. And I can understand some people may not like that. But I LOVED it. It was a great read. This book is definitely obsessive just like Kemal was obsessed with Fusun. Phenomenal writing. AND definitely get the Objects of Innocence companion book. You don't need to but its a great way to see some of the most mundane and yet amazing things Mr. Pamuk has put into the actual museum in Istanbul.
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on May 4, 2017
PAMUK IS THE GREATEST.
A different kind of book from Pamuk's earlier ones, but enchanting and evocative. A book to read slowly and savor.
I loved it.
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on January 21, 2015
A lot of love obsession. Yes, influences of Proust, maybe Goethe like "Werther" (I kind of forgot that, it's been tens of years since I have read that).
Some background descriptions and information about the political and social landscape of Turkey in the 70's and 80'.
But, for my taste, a lot of obsession with a love gone wrong for a very beautiful and young woman. Maybe I adopted now in my thinking the philosophy of the 21-st century, that, if you suffer deeply about something, you, as a person, have to recoup and try to live a normal life.
Maybe I am wrong.........
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on December 15, 2009
With a tip of his hat to two of his literary heroes - Nabokov and Proust - Orhan Pamuk takes on the themes of erotic obsession and memory in his latest book, written in a lyrical style that is ideally suited to his romantic tale. What makes this novel so memorable and enjoyable to read is Pamuk's wit in telling the story and his affection for the characters. These endearing characters include Fusun, the object of desire for the protagonist (Kemal), as well as virtually the entire cast - which includes the city of Istanbul circa 1970s/80s, a ramshackle but charming place that is integral to the mood of the story.

Here's the gist of the plot: Kemal, the privileged son of a wealthy businessman, begins an affair with Fusun, a beautiful shop clerk, at the same time that preparations are under way for his engagement to Sibel, a sophisticated woman of the upper classes. The 40-page chapter on the engagement party, which is a showcase of brilliant social comedy, sets in motion the dissolution of both the planned wedding and Kemal's relationship with Fusun.

Kemal withdraws from the world - distancing himself from his family and friends, neglecting his job and sneaking to the apartment where he and Fusun had their affair, where he surrounds himself with various mementos that remind him of Fusun. What happens next is a bit stunning. The reader learns that Kemal re-establishes ties with Fusun by constantly visiting her and her family for "innocent" family dinners, about four times a week over an eight-year period. This lengthy middle portion of the book is told thematically rather than chronologically, and you start to feel a bit disoriented and lost in time as Pamuk devotes entire chapters to various aspects of Kemal's obsession - such as Fusun's facial expressions and 4,213 cigarette stubs that he collects.

You get the distinct impression that Kemal is wasting his life and squandering his privileged social position (Kemal guiltily points out that the well-off are a tiny minority in Istanbul). But is he wasting his life? Pamuk anticipates all of our doubts and objections. There's no denying that the middle section of this novel drags badly in spots as Pamuk dissects every aspect of Kemal's feelings for Fusun. But Pamuk's witty approach to his story (the social comedy reminded me of Proust, and the depiction of the Istanbul film industry is hilarious), his beautiful language and his love for his characters ultimately carry the day. The description of the "Museum of Innocence" that Kemal establishes is moving as well. Although I found this challenging book well worth the effort, the slow pace and repetitive nature of the plot will not be for everyone. If you're new to Pamuk, you should probably start with "Istanbul," his wonderful memoir about growing up in that fabulous city on the Bosphorus.

One final note: according to the New York Times, Orhan Pamuk plans to open a museum in his home town of Istanbul, featuring items corresponding to each of the book's 83 chapters. Pamuk himself makes an appearance early on and at the end of the novel.
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