The Museum of Innocence is both a novel and an actual museum created by Nobel prize-winning writer Orhan Pamuk. It’s in a small three-story building in the Cihangır neighborhood on a street (Çukurcuma) known for its antique shops. I visited the museum one afternoon last week with my wife and a friend of ours.
That’s the museum from the outside; the red building. I’d show you pictures of the museum from the inside but you are forbidden from taking pictures inside. There is a handsome-looking book containing photos of all of the museums artifacts for sale in the museum bookshop…Here’s a picture of the street next to the museum.
The museum is an interesting concept. It contains thousands of items that Pamuk collected for the book. Items he had the characters use, or items that the characters would have come into contact with in some form, thereby creating a real-world still life of the novel. There are keys, soda bottles, commercials on old TVs, a dress, tea (there is always tea in Turkey), pieces of an automobile dashboard, photographs, and so on. It’s extensive. So extensive that one wall contains 4000 cigarette butts with notations under each of them, depicting what the character was thinking/feeling while smoking that particular cigarette.
I have not yet read The Museum of Innocence. (I have an ebook version on my Sony Reader right now.) The only books by Pamuk I have read are My Name Is Red and The Black Book. The former is excellent and I highly recommend it. Among the books in our apartment is a copy of My Name Is Red in English. I finished reading it a month or so ago.It’s a murder mystery set during the Ottoman Era involving a group of miniaturists. The miniaturists are grappling with their centuries-old techniques for painting giving way to the realistic depictions of the “Franks” in Italy and the West threatening to invade and change their art form.
The Black Book I read nearly a decade ago and I had to trudge through it. The stories seemed to just go on and on and I never quite connected with the characters.
Our friend Jim (a Fulbright Fellow who works in architecture and urban planning) pointed out that since Pamuk was trained as an architect that’s probably why he’s so wordy at times.
Also in the museum, on the top floor, are pages taken from Pamuk’s notebooks. They contain his early drafts and drawings for the novel, all on graph paper.
It’s such an unique museum. I haven’t encountered anything quite like it. I’d like to read the book and then come back.