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Istanbul: Memories of a City [Paperback]

Orhan Pamuk
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 April 2006
Turkey's greatest living novelist guides us through the monuments and lost paradises, dilapidated Ottoman villas, back streets and waterways of Istanbul - the city of his birth and the home of his imagination.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 348 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (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 (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 32,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"'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

Samuel Johnson-shortlisted book about the author's love affair with his home city, Istanbul.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Penetrating, insightful and a little gloomy 26 July 2006
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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129 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Enchanting! 28 May 2005
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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Istanbul: Memories Of A City, a life part-visited 25 April 2009
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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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely Book 18 Dec 2007
An unusual and insightful guide to what remains for many a mysterious city. At the same time, a personal memoir that is wry, moving, and original. I feel as though I now have a good friend to whisper in my ear as I navigate the streets of Istanbul, no longer clueless.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By aya
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting
This Nobel Prize winning writer shares with us his life, his family, his love and fears. Most lovingly he shares the local of this enchanting memoir, Istanbul, a city then (as... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Tim Truett
4.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of an artist as a young man in Istanbul
A must for anyone who is thinking of visiting Istanbul; and good for anyone interested in how place forms an individual, the creation of identity.
Published 1 month ago by Harriet Bretherton
5.0 out of 5 stars Istanbul: Memories and the City
This is a very personal memoir, of a man who grew from a boy, and of the city in which he lived. The book moves from Orhan Pamuk's own personal reminiscences to musings about the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Keen Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful prose
Lovely memoirs and pretty interesting historical map of Istanbul. That beautiful city through the eyes of a child, eyes that never change even when the kid becomes a celebrated... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Giovanni Figueroa
5.0 out of 5 stars always great to read
i love each book of orhan pamuk always a great story.easy to read and take you exact date and moment.
Published 5 months ago by Ms. D. Taylan
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical and Melancholic
I read this book while staying in Istanbul for several weeks. It is a beautiful poetic, magical, and melancholic book, that made me love a city I loved, love it even more. Read more
Published 11 months ago by LioninWinter
3.0 out of 5 stars Quite hard going
I found Istanbul: Memories of a City beautifully written but hard going. I did finish the book but found it quite depressing
Published 12 months ago by Lizzie
4.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Istanbul
An excellent introduction to Istanbul, especially its evolution from the 1930s to the 2000s - focusing on the years of Pamuk's childhood and adolescence in the 50s, 60s, and... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Keith
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I imagined
Well written but I didn't really "get into" this book. I had hoped it would give me an insight into living in/history of Istanbul as I visited, but really it was really a... Read more
Published 13 months ago by CHRISTOPHER H MORAN
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical and mysterious
This is a loving portrait of a city, full of insight, honesty and sensitivity. Pamuk puts himself at the centre of his exploration; this is a personal and beautiful vision of a... Read more
Published on 15 Feb 2012 by Harold Finley
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