“The Museum of Innocence”
By: Orhan Pamuk
532 pp. Vintage Books.
Orhan Pamuk, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, wrote “The Museum of Innocence” discussing Kemal and Fusun’s love affair in Istanbul. Pamuk has become a prominent Turkish writer with more than 20 books being published so far and translated into 63 different languages.
The text begins with Kemal reminiscing about the happiest moment in his life. He tells his readers about, his fiance, Sibel. Sibel is a wealthy woman who people believe is the perfect match for Kemal. That is, until he encounters his cousin, an 18 year old shop girl, named Fusun. Unlike Sibel, she is a poor woman who works at Sanzelize Boutique to make a living. Kemal sees Fusun when he goes to purchase a handbag for Sibel that he later learns is a fake. When Kemal goes back to Sanzelize Boutique to get back his money Fusun tells him she can’t give him his money because the safe is locked. Kemal and Fusun agree to meet at the Merhamet Apartment, a space Kemal’s parents own, so she can give him back his money. It’s here where Kemal and Fusun’s love affair begins.
This intimate love affair goes on for months, until one day Fusun stops coming to the Merhamet Apartment leaving Kemal in disarray. The plot starts to become less interesting now, as Kemal has also lost Fusun, and he desperately tries to find her.
The major question that remains while Kemal searches for Fusun, is whether the two will end up together or be separated for the rest of their lives? Pamuk’s text will keep readers engaged once Kemal stops searching for Fusun. He knows how to surprise readers, with secrets about the couple’s relationship, which he does up until the end of the text.
However when readers see Pamuk’s text it’s not the love affair that causes the text to be interesting, but the museum Kemal creates in honor of his love for Fusun. He calls it the “Museum of Innocence,” made up of all the items Fusun left behind. What’s even more mind blowing, is this fictional museum in the text is an actual museum in Turkey, created after the text was published.
Readers can go to Turkey and walk around the “Museum of Innocence” commemorating Kemal’s love for Fusun. The most interesting aspect of the museum is the 4,213 cigarette butts Pamuk placed in the museum, which represent how many cigarettes Fusun smoked while he was with Kemal. The museum has four floors and 83 display cases. It took about 12 years to build and cost Pamuk about $1.5 million to complete. Pamuk provides a map to his readers, for those unfamiliar with Turkey, to show them where the “Museum of Innocence” is located.
For readers who are interested in other works by Pamuk he has written numerous texts. His more well-known texts are “My Name is Red,” “Snow,” and “Istanbul: Memories and the City” to name a few. Similarly to “The Museum of Innocence” Pamuk’s texts discusses Turkish culture and the restrictions this culture imposes on its people.