Sunday, October 19, 2008

Orhan's Pamuk Istanbul - The city has no centre other than ourselves ...

This was long reading - started in June, finished in October ...It is not for the book being uninteresting, it is because of its melancholy and for the sometimes strange desire to be with me for long time ... So I was reading it in ... sauna, in planes flying over Europe, on those sleepless nights I sometimes experience.

Orhan's Pamuk "Istanbul - Memories and the City" let us understand this great city much better and much deeper than in any tourist’s guides. The main reason for this is the great courage which the author shows when writing about its own beloved city. He dares to call some period of modern Istanbul history the "turkification" of Istanbul, and when describing the remainings of the city great past, he shows us that almost all of them are just dilapidated ruins.
However, there is no doubt that he loves the city, loves Turkey - and this love is even greater by his ability to see its shadows and dark side.
The best of this book is in showing the relation between our lives and the places we live in. There is no question that to live in a place like Istanbul, rises this relation to the highest levels. Let's cite Orhan: "Was this the secret of Istanbul - that beneath its grand history, its living poverty, its outward-looking monuments and its sublime landscapes, its poor hid the city's soul inside a fragile web? But here we have come full circle, for anything we say about the city's essence, says more about our own lives and our own states of mind. The city has no centre other than ourselves."

Another fantastic part of the book describes specific melancholy, called "Hüzün" in modern Turkish ( ḥuzn in Arabic). This very concept, the idea of failed life, the lost of something, defines deep meaning of Istanbul's character during the most of XX and XXI century - after the demise of Ottoman Empire, and subsequent westernization, secularization and modernization.

It was one of the greatest books I ever read, and I recommend it with all my heart.

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