Orhan Pamuk in his “Museum of Innocence” (photo: © Museum of Innocence)
Interview with Orhan Pamuk

''The Museum of Innocence'' – A Declaration of Love to the City of Istanbul

Orhan Pamuk is Turkey's most famous writer. In 2006 he also became the first ever Turkish writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize. He recently presented a very special museum to his home city of Istanbul. An interview by Aygül Cizmecioglu

Your novel "The Museum of Innocence" was published in 2008. Which came first – the idea for the book or for the museum?

Orhan Pamuk: The two ideas evolved together. It was not a case of my having written a successful book and then deciding to turn it into a museum.

​​My country has been shaped by Islamic values and by its own traditions, but at the same time there is a great yearning for what the West has to offer. Such contradictory attitudes, even nowadays, are what Turkey is all about.

Is this something you are critical of?

Orhan Pamuk: No, I don't make any moral judgements. I simply look on and take notes. This contradictoriness is something one particularly notices among the upper classes in Turkey. They like to have their Western status symbols, to show how modern they are, while at the same time venerating their glorious sultans from the Ottoman period. It is the sort of inconsistent behaviour that for me as a writer is fascinating.

You fell foul of the authorities in 2005 because of statements you made on the Armenian conflict. To what extent has your relationship with Turkey changed since then?

Orhan Pamuk: Of course there was immense political pressure put on me at that time. I took up a position as a visiting professor in the US and returned only occasionally to Turkey. And when I did go back I needed to have personal security. It wasn't a very pleasant experience. At the same time, however, I came to realise just how important the idea of the museum had become for me. I wanted to create a place of remembrance – a place for myself and for my home city Istanbul.

The "Museum of Innocence" is also a declaration of love to your home city. I don't think there is anyone who describes the melancholy of that city in quite the way you do. Why do you think this is?

Orhan Pamuk: Because it is where I was born and brought up. I can't help but smile when I hear myself referred to in the Western media as an "Istanbul writer". Really, all I do is to write about those things that have been around me all my life and that I know best. And that is Istanbul.

Aygül Cizmecioglu

© Deutsche Welle / Qantara.de 2012

Translation: Ron Walker

Qantara.de editor: Lewis Gropp

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Comments for this article: ''The Museum of Innocence'' – A Declaration of Love to the City of Istanbul

Hi, I have just finished reading this book and I am impressed. Moreover, the real museum adds to this story essence of reality, I like it.
Orphan Pamuk is a great writer. Thank you for experience.

Greetings from Slovakia

Katarína27.02.2014 | 15:59 Uhr