The name itself sounds so alluring…. simply epic, atleast to me! Orhan Pamuk is a renowned Turkish author and this my first read by him. A love saga in Istanbul of 1970’s and 80’s, Museum of Innocence will stir all your emotions. Beware that this review is going to be long!
It describes love (or obsession!!) at such intensity that most people, at some point, will think of it as an absurdity! Do real people really love like this in real world? Let me tell you what do I mean by ‘this’!! Kemal, the narrator, comes from an affluent family in Istanbul and is engaged to Sibel. They both have similar social status, lifestyle and it’s all good until one day Kemal sees Fusun in a shop (she is a shopgirl). She turns out to be a distant cousin, he buys a bag from the shop for Sibel and this is what leads to a steamy affair between 30 years old Kemal and 18 years old Fusun.
They meet every single day for 44 days in Kemal’s mother’s vacant apartment. The way their love is described, you can feel the attraction, the chemistry and the connection. Kemal is torn between his fiancee from HIS world, whom he likes & adores and Fusun, whom he dearly, truly loves. Fusun attends Kemal’s lavish engagement and then disappears. Kemal desperately searches for her, in vain. He is devastated, ruined and completely wasted. Sibel comes to know of it and still wants to be with him, but they break up.
After few years, when Kemal meets Fusun again, she is married to a struggling film-maker. Kemal starts visiting their house for next 8 years. He sees Fusun, his beloved at supper, in a hope that one day she will be his. He helps her husband in making films, loves watching Fusun from a distance with a longing in his heart that is so beautifully and overwhelmingly described by the author. He becomes a Kleptomaniac and picks things from Fusun’s house to be displayed in ‘Museum of Innocence’. Hair clips, ashtrays, clay dogs, small jewellery, cigarette butts.. he pockets anything she has touched and spends time with them and their memories. He has some 4000+ cigarette butts and just by looking at them he can tell if Fusun was angry or annoyed at that time! Once when they were drinking Soda, he poured his left over soda in Fusun’s empty bottle and drank it just to feel close to her. Just a few examples of how those 8 years are written about!
**** SPOILER ALERT ****
After 8 unbelievable long years of yearning for Kemal, Fusun gets a divorce and they are about to unite. And, Fusun dies in a fatal accident and Kemal is seriously injured. His love stays the same no matter what. So he turns Fusun’s house into a living Museum , bringing all the things he collected in last eight years. He visits thousands of Museums all over the world before doing so. And he realises, his story is not complete unless it is told in words as well and he asks his friend Orhan Pamuk to write the story for him. Orhan narrates it as Kemal. So that’s about what’s in the book.
****** SPOILER ALERT END ******
Interestingly, Orhan writes a chapter in the end where he tells that the idea of Museum as well as the Novel were conceived at the same time. So, he wrote the novel and there actually is a Museum of Innocence in Istanbul open to public. Every book has got a ticket to visit the museum!! What an idea!! Well, you can consider the book publicising the Museum or vice-versa!
So one might love the book for the sheer insane obsession or might dislike it for the same reason! Orhan is a great story-teller. The book overflows with lot of beautiful lines capturing emotions, love, passion and longing. It’s depressingly beautiful and beautifully depressing. Characters are so well developed that you feel like knowing them personally. It’s a different experience reading this book, one that makes you smile and think when you close it. You feel like talking about it, you feel like telling this tale to friends! Once you have read this, your perception of Objects will change for sure! All love stories do not have to have typical ‘happily ever-after’ ending. There are other ways of immortalising love. Museum of Innocence is one such example!
In fact no one recognizes the happiest moment of their lives as they are living it. It may well be that, in a moment of joy, one might sincerely believe that they are living that golden instant “now,” even having lived such a moment before, but whatever they say, in one part of their hearts they still believe in the certainty of a happier moment to come. Because how could anyone, and particularly anyone who is still young, carry on with the belief that everything could only get worse: If a person is happy enough to think he has reached the happiest moment of his life, he will be hopeful enough to believe his future will be just as beautiful, more so.”
When we lose people we love, we should never disturb their souls, whether living or dead. Instead. we should find consolation in an object that reminds you of them, something…I don’t know…even an earring”
The gap between compassion and surrender is love’s darkest, deepest region.”
“What is love?”
“I don’t know.”
“Love is the name given to the bond Kemal feels with Füsun whenever they travel along highways or sidewalks; visit houses, gardens, or rooms; or whenever he watches her sitting in tea gardens and restaurants, and at dinner tables.”
“Hmmm … that’s a lovely answer,~ But isn’t love what you feel when you can’t see me?”
“Under those circumstances, it becomes a terrible obsession, an illness.”
“Happiness means being close to the one you love, that’s all. (Taking immediate possession is not necessary.)”
After all, isn’t the purpose of the novel, or of a museum, for that matter, to relate our memories with such sincerity as to transform individual happiness into a happiness all can share?”