A “592 page” Museum in Pamuk’s Istanbul

Auteur / Author: 
Açalya ALLMER (Department of Architecture, Dokuz Eylül University, Turquie)
Thursday, August 25, 2011 - 10:15


The Museum of Innocence (2009) is the most recent novel of the recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature: Orhan Pamuk. The Museum of Innocence is also a real museum which is actually scheduled for opening in Çukurcuma, Istanbul in 2011. It is a museum curated by Pamuk, or more accurately, by his fictional character Kemal, a 30 year-old businessman, who falls in love with his beautiful distant relative, Füsun. In compensation for his failure to be with her, Kemal collects everything Füsun touches from cigarette butts to handkerchiefs and makes a museum of these collected objects, most of which he acquires by putting aside (indeed stealing) from Füsun’s house. One has to remember that Füsun is a fictional character as are the objects described in the novel. In reality, Pamuk himself collected those objects from antique stores, flea markets and collectors during the six years he spent writing the novel. He also bought a dilapidated three-storey house similar to Füsun’s family house as he describes it in the novel and converted it into a museum.


The narrative space of the novel is the city of Istanbul, as usual in Pamuk’s work. Pamuk’s novel provides a rich frame of reference to Istanbul, “a city of ruins and of end-of-empire melancholy,” as he called in Istanbul: Memories and the City (IMC, 6). Besides Füsun’s house, there are many literary spaces narrated in the novel, either real or imaginary. Against the background of the bourgeois Istanbul, Pamuk describes many objects or belongings of Füsun. Through the confrontation between word and image, the novel turns into an exhaustive catalogue of Füsun’s practical and nonpractical belongings. For the readers of the novel who might want to visit this museum, a black and white map has been printed on the last page of the book. Likewise, on page 574 of the novel is a printed ticket which offers free access to the Museum of Innocence — real, imagined, imaginary and, reinvented.


This paper will explore the three different ways of existence Pamuk constructs. The first is the novel which is the written text, the second is the image that the reader of the novel paints in the mind’s eye, and lastly the museum in Çukurcuma which resembles an eighteenth-century Wunderkammer (cabinet de curiositiés) more than a modern museum.