The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Museum of Innocence is a wonderful book that needs some serious cutting. I listened to the audio version. The book works well in that form because there's plenty of repetition. If something distracts the listener, he or she can count on the idea that was missed being repeated at least a few times. But that said, the book is fascinating in countless ways.
The notes from the publisher call it, “...a stirring exploration of the nature of romance.” A line like that makes me wonder if the publicist read the book. This would be better – “...a stirring condemnation of a self-centered, self declared romanticist.” It was clear Orhan Pamuk was condemning someone or something, but tricky to figure out who or what. It could simply be the main character, Kemal. But it could also be Kemal's wealthy family, since his father had a similar affair and his mother looked the other way both times. Or it could be Turkish culture in general. Pamuk often mentions the difference between westernized culture and traditional culture in Turkey. The Wikipedia entry on the book centers on this, but I find the lover's misogyny to be the most interesting aspect and something that can be found in other cultures. Pamuk's writing is so detailed, and carefully constructed, he was probably thinking of all these aspects.
Kemal claims a great love for Fusun, but he seems to be in love with the way she moves her wrist or the way she walks, never with her ideas or her goals or her opinions. Appropriately, the book opens with a sex act which is in one of the least intimate positions possible. Kemal declares the day this happened as the happiest moment of his life. He is consumed with the idea of a woman as a work of art rather than a living person and from that focus comes the idea of preserving her in a museum.
As I said, I think the book is too repetitious, but what I loved about it greatly outweighs my opinion on that one aspect.
Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions
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