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Istanbul: Memories of a City Paperback – 6 Apr 2006


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Istanbul: Memories of a City + The Museum of Innocence + My Name Is Red
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Product details

  • Paperback: 348 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (6 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571218334
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571218332
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"'This evocative book succeeds at both its tasks. It is one of the most touching childhood memoirs I have read in a very long time; and it makes me yearn - more than any glossy tourist brochure could possibly do - to be once again in Istanbul.' Noel Malcom, Sunday Telegraph 'An extraordinary and transcendentally beautiful book... It is a long time since I have read a book of such crystalline originality, or one that moved me so much.' Katie Hickman"

Book Description

Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk, Turkey's winner of the Nobel Prize and author of My Name is Red, is the perfect guide to his home city, Istanbul.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Philip Spires on 25 April 2009
Format: Paperback
Near the opening of Istanbul: Memories Of A City, Orhan Pamuk suggests that "at least once in a lifetime, self-reflection leads us to an examine the circumstances of our birth", to examine family, identity and origins, perhaps to find if we might have deserved better. Thus this master prose applies his art, his skill to weave an intricate and detailed tapestry of a city with its history, customs, architecture and feel embroidered around the story of the writer's early years, spent in a domesticity somehow short of bliss. The book, no doubt, is an instalment, since it ends with the young Orhan Pamuk out of college declaring he wants to be a writer. There remains, therefore, a lot of story yet to be told.

There is a crucial concept, Pamuk tells us, needed to inform our experience of this place. It provides a clarifying lens that not only magnifies and intensifies, but also interprets. In Turkish it's called hüzün, which roughly translates as melancholy. But it is not the melancholy of melancholia. It is not unhappiness, and is far removed from depression or anything else clinical. Orhan Pamuk returns to this word and its meaning throughout the text, but usually to skirt around its core, to illustrate rather than define. As I read Istanbul, the more I was convinced I was dealing with an idea that spanned both humanity and humility along one axis, married with reflection and mortality along another.

The concept explains why this city, when seen through foreigner's eyes, has been either a comment on history, a judgment on squalor, or a romance on the exotic. Whether it's the engravings of Melling or the words of Flaubert, Western visitors have tended to exaggerate, to concentrate on things the locals take for granted, whilst ignoring those that fire them.
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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Booksthatmatter on 26 July 2006
Format: Paperback
I didn't quite know what to expect of Istanbul, having read all of the author's fiction. I suspected it might be a little strange, and rather melancholic. Pamuk's study of his home town turned out to be a non-linear, dip-into read. It is engrossing and lyrical and a great testament to Pamuk's writing that it doesn't come across as self-obsessed or egomaniacal as Pamuk is clearly fascinated by his family/family legacy. In a more self-indulgent writer this could be rather irksome, but in Pamuk's (and translator Maureen Freely's) hands it becomes seductive and soothing. I spent time in Istanbul in the late 80s and I never really got the hang of the city, didn't understand how/why it worked. I wish this book had been around then as I would approach the place completely differently.
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133 of 140 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Howell on 28 May 2005
Format: Hardcover
Ekren Koçu devoked most of his life, between the 50's and the 70's, to compiling an encyclopedia of Istanbul. For Orphan Pamuk, Koçcu failed in this life-long task because it was impossible "to explain Istanbul using western 'Scientific' methods of classification. He failed in part because Istanbul is so unmanageably varied, so anarchic, so very much stranger than western Cities: its disorder resists clasification". Intrigued? Then this is a book for you.
This book is very a personal reflection on the author's notion of Istanbul - as much an idea or concept as much as a place - developed during his childhood and adolescence from the 50's through to the 70's.
We start with the author's first memories: the tall house entirely occupied by one (fascinating) extended family; his father and brother, inheritors of his grandfather's fortune, determined to fritter it away in one business disaster of the next; his long suffering mother; his father possessed of an almost fatal attraction for other women; and his grand mother, the true matriarchal anchor of the family. We end, in the 70's, with a row between Orphan and his mother and the book concludes with Orphan's declaration that he is going to be a writer. And in between we are treated to a wonderful exercise in writing and remembrance.
We begin to understand Istanbul as Orphan did himself. An important feature of his childhood were the black and white films that he was taken to as a young child. As an adult Orphan sees Istanbul, exclusively, in black and white. And the text is accompanied by a whole series of atmospherics black and white photographs.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By aya on 9 July 2011
Format: Paperback
When I bought this book, I thought it is a memoir where the story of Istanbul is told as a part of the author's life. However, when I started reading it, I found it something different. I do not know what the word that should describe this book is, but I did not find it a memoir or a story of a city.

The book holds all the contradictions that you see in Istanbul. Despite all the colours, joy and beauty you find there, you still feel some sort of sadness. This book describes this sadness over the Ottoman Empire, you can feel this `melancholy' as the word used in the book in each chapter of it, in the author's childhood, in other writers' books about Istanbul, in the paintings described in the book, even in the family relations with others and the westernization process of Istanbul. You can feel the love this author holds for his city to the degree that the sadness he feels for it covers every aspect of his life.

The book describes in depth what has been written about Istanbul. It analyses the Western view of Istanbul and the Istanbullus' view of their city. It is true that outsiders see the city from a different point of view. What attracts them is different than what attracts you as a local citizen. It is surprising - and it is true till this moment- how cities like Istanbul try to satisfy the West. If something is not considered western- or does not get acceptance from the West, it is changed immediately. That is why many of the city's `pictures' or `traditions' were replaced by others.

The last section in this book is the part which can be considered a memoir where the writer starts writing more about his life, and not about his views of other authors or painters.

It is a good book to be read if you know Istanbul as it gives you a different perspective.
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