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Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk (2003)


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Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
This is an interesting read! When I studied Hagia Sophia in school, its beauty imprinted my heart! Turkey has always been a mystical land of the Great Eastern Culture and symbolized to me Constantinople's conquests and his architectural vision that made Istanbul one of the best cities during the Roman Empire.
The cover art is sheer beauty! The warm, fuzzy yellow catches the eye first and immediately touches the heart. This is my first Orhan Pamuk book and I am in total awe of this wonderful writer. His melancholic verses on his city and childhood, dreams and magic, walks through the city made me peep into my childhood memories and all those fascinating walks through the by-lanes of Mumbai. Every word of his resonated with my memories of Mumbai- the city I love so much. Perhaps, sometimes its difficult to understand how people fall in love with cultures or cities or Urban Spaces(such an architectural term I use here!), however, people with passion for art and history and especially, ones who dream endlessly easily move through stone-walls and crumbling facades to glass cubes of uncomfortable realities!
Every moment I read through the writer's Bosphorus walks, those historical references drove me into a parallel world of my own, making me travel that era! When he writes about the river's silent witness to centuries of change, it takes me back to Mumbai's history. How mesmerising it is that another city's history and culture ignited awe and pride in my heart!
Somewhere he writes- If the city speaks of defeat, destruction, deprivation, melancholy and poverty, the Bosphorus sings of life, pleasure and happiness. Istanbul draws its strength from the Bosphorus.
When I read his poetic verses on the Bosphorus, I couldn't help but imagine the Ganges or Yamuna and how those ancient cities that existed by these rivers now just cease to invoke those memories! In a way, these cities have failed the rivers and the great civilizations they carried within themselves!
Think of people walking by everyday, talking, celebrating life by the rivers where now the only remnants are the ruins, those crumbling walls, forgotten history, moss and overgrown grass! Rome still has the colosseum and even Istanbul has the Hagia Sophia, but what does my city preserve? Where is that city from my dreams? The more I read, the harder it is to search! ( )
  Sharayu_Gangurde | Jan 19, 2017 |
Mr. Pamuk is far more interested in Istanbul, and in his own life, than I am. Yet the excellent writing held me and kept me turning the pages. It's sentimental mood appeal to me. He tells the story of his childhood, mingled with the story of Istanbul, a city he clearly loves. He gives us a insider view of this most intriguing city, which I visited a few years ago. And the many photographs greatly enhance the book and bring a concreteness to the story. I wish there'd also been a map!

My main problem with this book can be summed up by the author's assertion on Page 295 that “What is important for a memoirist is not the factual accuracy of the account, but its symmetry.” Was he really so aware as a child as he paints himself to be?

The book is dated; the picture it paints of Turkey isn't the Turkey of today. But it's still worth the read for its portrayal of a city in transition, straddling east and west as (perhaps) only Istanbul can. ( )
  LynnB | Oct 4, 2016 |
This book sticks in my craw. Took it with me on a bus tour of Turkey. Certainly elegant and learned but its main effect was to help me sleep on the bus. Much talk of 'huzun', the melancholy that pervades Istanbul according to Pamuk. Well, many other places seem a lot more melancholy to me; Istanbul is vibrant and strikes me that way every time I visit (first time was 1972, not long after Pamuk's overcast youth). We spend much time in the company of various Turkish intellectuals and some minor Western ones such as Gautier. How few Turkish intellectuals i have ever heard of; oddly enough Pamuk is just about the only one. All very elegant and closely observed and cleverly referenced, but it had the same effect on me when I picked the book up again 6 months later. Was equally unable to get through "My Name is Red".
Incidentally, Library thing has the title wrong: it's "Memories OF A City", perhaps that's the U.S.version. ( )
  vguy | Jun 11, 2016 |
Going to read this again when/If i ever go to istanbul. Cultural History, West/Orient, Memoirs etc. ( )
  Kindnist85 | May 25, 2016 |
Hüzün; weemoed, een nostalgisch gevoel van verlies en verval. Orhan Pamuk kenschetst er Istanbul en haar bewoners mee, en tevens zichzelf. Istanbul is voor hem de stad van de immer aanwezige Bosporus, maar vóór alles de stad van de vergane glorie. Ooit het bijzondere Constantinopel, later opgesloten tussen de beeldvorming van het valse verwesterde ideaal van Atatürk en het even zozeer vals romantische westerse ideaalbeeld van de sultans en de serail.

Pamuk benadrukt het gevoel nog eens door een enorme hoeveelheid oude zwart-wit foto's die niet het diepe blauw van de magnifieke Bosporus toont, maar het grauwe van de winterdag, de gehaaste voetgangers over de bruggen van de stad. De vervallen buurten, zwervend door de coulissen van de stad, weg van de toeristische attracties als de Hagia Sophia, het Topkapi paleis of het Rumelihisari. Pamuk beschrijft Istanbul als stad en dorp tegelijk.

De stad wordt gebruikt als decor voor de opgroeiende Orhan, die zich een verdwaald buitenbeentje voelt in een wereld van rijkdom in verval, zowel persoonlijk als sociaal. Hij mag zich dan wel 'displaced person' voelen, maar Istanbul is tegelijkertijd de enige plek die hij wil kennen en koesteren. Door de verwevenheid met de stad is hij ook verweven met het gevoel van hüzün in zijn eigen innerlijk. De gebeurtenissen in zijn familie zijn als het pars pro toto voor de hele leefgemeenschap. Disfunctioneel maar warm, cultureel rijk en verarmd, verstrengeld in een dans door de essentie van de stad.

Het boek zit vol met lange, meanderende zinnen die de continue gedachtestroom van Pamuk afzetten tegen het door hem gepercipieerde, langzame verval van Istanbul. Uit het boek komt een merkwaardige dichotomie van ontworteling en verknoping naar voren. Orhan Pamuk doet aan zelfonderzoek op dezelfde manier waarop hij Istanbul onderzoekt. Soms lijkt hij in een spagaat te geraken: een voorbeeld daarvan is zijn beschrijving van de Franse schrijvers en kunstenaars uit de 19e eeuw die Istanbul probeerden te vangen in hun reisverhalen en schilderijen. Ze zijn een groot voorbeeld voor hem, maar ontlokken ook kritiek vanwege hun stereotiepe beelden van Oosterse faux romantiek.

Het boek weet de atmosfeer die Pamuk kiest feilloos over te brengen op de lezer. Het is een boeiende slingertocht, afwisselend door Istanbul en door het hoofd van de schrijver. Het is daarmee ook een boek vol stille, niet-opdringerige reflectie die telkens weer naar het volgende hoofdstuk doet verlangen. Een boek dat, als je het uiteindelijk voor de laatste keer sluit, je achterlaat met een gevoel van weemoed: de weemoed van Orhan Pamuk en zijn Istanbul, en de weemoed dat zijn verhaal bij de laatste pagina toch echt is afgelopen. ( )
  jeroenvandorp | Jan 31, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Orhan Pamukprimary authorall editionscalculated
Freely, MaureenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miró, CarlesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Piqué, EmmaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The beauty of a landscape resides in its sadness.

Ahmet Rasim
To my father, Gündüz Pamuk (1925-2002)
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From a very young age, I suspected there was more to my world than I could see: Somewhere in the streets of Istanbul, in a house resembling ours, there lived another Orhan so much like me that he could pass for my twin, even my double.
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A portrait of one of the world's most complex and diverse cities interweaves the history of Istanbul with observations and reflections on the city's landmarks, art, people, institutions, and great spaces.

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