By Orhan Pamuk

A shimmering evocation, via turns intimate and panoramic, of 1 of the world’s nice towns, by means of its superior author. Orhan Pamuk used to be born in Istanbul and nonetheless lives within the relatives residence development the place his mom first held him in her hands. His portrait of his urban is hence additionally a self-portrait, refracted through reminiscence and the melancholy–or hüzün– that each one Istanbullus proportion: the disappointment that comes of residing amid the ruins of a misplaced empire.With cinematic fluidity, Pamuk strikes from his glamorous, unsatisfied mom and dad to the beautiful, decrepit mansions overlooking the Bosphorus; from the dawning of his self-consciousness to the writers and painters–both Turkish and foreign–who could form his awareness of his urban. Like Joyce’s Dublin and Borges’ Buenos Aires, Pamuk’s Istanbul is a successful stumble upon of position and sensibility, superbly written and immensely relocating.

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One afternoon, as I was threatening my bear in the usual way but also feeding him with a strange compassion, the door opened, and my father caught me with my underpants down. He closed the door just a bit more softly than he had opened it, and (even I could tell) with some respect. Until then, when he came home for lunch and a brief rest, he had been in the habit of coming in to give me a kiss before returning to work. I worried that I had done something wrong or, even worse, that I had done so for pleasure: It was then that the very idea of pleasure became poisoned.

Watching the pashas’ mansions burn to the ground, my family maintained a stony equanimity—much as we had done in the face of all those stories about crazy princes, opium addicts in the palace harem, children locked in attics, treacherous sultans’ daughters, and exiled or murdered pashas—and ultimately the decline and fall of the empire itself. As we in Nişantaşı saw it, the Republic had done away with the pashas, princes, and high officials, so the empty mansions they had left behind were only decrepit anomalies.

At least once in a lifetime, self-reflection leads us to examine the circumstances of our birth. Why were we born in this particular corner of the world, on this particular date? These families into which we were born, these countries and cities to which the lottery of life has assigned us—they expect love from us, and in the end we do love them from the bottom of our hearts; but did we perhaps deserve better? I sometimes think myself unlucky to have been born in an aging and impoverished city buried under the ashes of a ruined empire.

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