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Wednesday, May 1

The Museum of Innocence

There is a promise in every book you read, there is splendour to be found in every page and emotion in every character you encounter. There is a journey to take in every novel and a shred of your soul that you leave among the closed pages. The Turkish laureate of The Nobel Prize, Orhan Pamuk has made his fictional museum that inspired his novel, The Museum of Innocence, a reality. His book instantly captures the spirit and imagination of the reader, gently drawing him into a world of lost love and shattered dreams.

L'amour fou is every's writer favourite subject at a certain moment in his literary life and it is the driving force that shapes the life of Kemal, the main character in Orhan Pamuk's The Museum of Innocence. The novel masterly explores the erotic obsession of a young man who, besotted with a shop girl, spends more than 8 years of his life, chasing her around Istanbul. Kemal, a 30 years old rich man, meets Fusun, an 18-year old distant cousin, a few weeks before he is to be engaged with Sibel, a woman of the same social status. Kemal discovers that he is madly in love with Fusun, and for the next 44 days until the Hilton engagement party, they make love every day between 2 and 4 PM in the Merhamet Apartments. As the days go by, their love grows deeper, leaving an imprint on their bodies and souls, creating a bond that makes them realise that they cannot live without one another or love any other person. However, Kemal proceeds with his formal engagement and after the party, Fusun and her parents vanish into thin air. From that time on, Kemal spends almost 9 years, longing for her, waiting for Fusun to return to him, gathering small objects that soothe his heartache and remind him of her.

The first part of the book is a vivid depiction of Kemal's easy, sparkling, idle life when although engaged to Sibel, he indulges himself in the pleasure of loving Fusun every day, for 44 days. The engagement party, colourful and luxurious, puts an end to his affair with Fusun who disappears without trace. Kemal's agony begins when he realises she is the only woman he has ever loved and the one he truly wants as a wife, so he spends the next 6 months, desperately searching for Fusun. After breaking off with Sibel, his turmoil and anguish come to a sudden end when he gets a letter from Fusun, inviting him to their house in Cukurcuma, a poor neighbourhood of Istanbul. He is shocked to find her married to a film writer and totally ignorant of his feelings. So he spends the next eight years, having dinner with Fusun, her husband and her parents or going out with them, as the rich cousin willing to invest money in Fusun's husband's projects. During all this time, his obsession with collecting tokens and personal objects from Fusun's house deepens, giving birth to the idea of creating a Museum of Innocence.

Although tiresome and saddening, thoroughly detailed, Kemal' s love for Fusun grows from mere infatuation to blazing flame, eventually turning into a deep love, doubled by his perseverance and determination. He is a man with a mind of his own, whose suffering and patience are at length described by Orhan Pamuk, a writer whose female characters are one-dimensional, portrayed only by the men in the book; they lack depth and their only purpose is to help define the male personalities. In terms of social themes, the novel portrays the change of the Turkish society over the years, its struggle between modernism and traditional values, its political coups and Western influence, its sheer decadence and its rooted values. It is a world that fiercely judges young women who have sex before marriage, that values virginity and the submissive female ways.

The novel is more than a confession of a lovelorn, it goes beyond the boundaries of romantic literature, it is an experiment that Orhan Pamuk created in his attempt to capture the passage of time. There is a ticket printed in every copy of his The Museum of Innocence, that is good for one free admission to the museum in Istanbul. So the journey the reader starts by unravelling the love story of the 728 pages, keeps living in the steps of every visitor who enterthis personal museum -of cups, cigarette butts, china dogs, hair clips, even a quince grater, pictures- where time stood still, since Kemal's idea was to create “the greatest happiness a museum can bring: to see Time turning into Space.” However, Kemal's attempt to capture the lost past in the little representations of Fusun's memory did not help him create a future with the woman he loved. It is an unwritten rule that all tales of this ephemeral amour fou are short-lived, unrequited and sorrowful. But then again, who would like to find, in a book or a movie, the comforts of domestic life that keep the heart safe and the spirit dormant?