Orhan Pamuk

{EN} Istanbul, Memories of a city – Orhan Pamuk

1. “Conrad, Nabokov, Naipaul – these are writers known for having managed to migrate between languages, cultures, countries, continents, even civilizations. Their imagination were fed by exile, a nourishment drawn not through roots, but through rootlessness; mine, however, requires that I stay in the same city, on the same street, in the same house, gazing at the same view. Istanbul’s fate is my fate: I am attached to this city because it has made me who I am.”

2. “I’ve accepted the city into which I was born in the same way I’ve accepted my body (much as I would have preferred to be more handsome and better built) and my gender (even though I still ask myself naively, whether I have been better off had I been born a woman). This is my fate, and there’s no sense arguing with it. This book is about fate…”

3. “I’ve been compelled to add “or so I’ve been told”. In Turkish we have a special tense that allows us to distinguish hearsay from what we’ve seen with our own eyes; when we are relating dreams, fairy tales, or past events we could not have witnessed, we use this tense. It is a useful distinction to make as we “remember” our earliest life experiences, our cradles, our baby carriages, our first steps, as reported by our parents, stories to which we listen with the same rapt attention we might pay some brilliant tale that happened to concern some other person. It’s a sensation as sweet as seeing ourselves in our dreams, but we pay a heavy price for it. Once imprinted in our minds, other people’s reports of what we’ve done end up mattering more than what we ourselves remember. And just as we learn about our lives from others, so, too, do we let others shape our understanding of the city in which we live.”

4. “For people like me at least, that second life is none other than the book in your hand. So pay close attention, dear reader. Let me be straight with you, and in return, let me ask for your compassion.”

5. “Then, there are the packs of dogs, mentioned by every Western traveller to pass through Istanbul during the nineteenth century, from Lamartine and Nerval to Mark Twain, they continue to bring drama to the city’s streets. They all look alike, their coats all the same colour for which no one has a name – a colour somewhere between grey and charcoal, that is no colour at all. They are the bane of the city council: when the army stages a coup, it is only a matter of time before a general mentions the dog menace; the state and the school system have launched campaign after campaign to drive dogs from the streets, but still they roam free. Fearsome as they are, united as they have been in their defiance of the state, I can’t help pitying these mad, lost creatures still clinging to their old turf.”

6.”If the city speaks of defeat, destruction, deprivation, melancholy and poverty, the Bosphorus sings of life, pleasure and happiness. Istanbul draws its strength from the Bosphorus.”

7. “Was I attached to the house, perhaps? Fifty years later, I am indeed back in the same building. But it’s not the rooms of a house that matter to me, or the beauty of the things inside it. Then as now, home served as a centre of the world in my mind  – as an escape, in both the positive and the negative sense of the word.”

8. “Mu starting point was the emotion that a child might feel while looking through a steamy window. Now we begin to understand huzun as, not the melancholy of a solitary person, but the black mood share by millions of people together. What I am trying to explain is the huzun of an entire city, of Istanbul.”

9. “The first thing I learned at school was that some people are idiots; the second thing I learned was that some are even worse”.

10. “That said, the main thing I learned in school was that it was not enough to accept the facts of life without question – you had to be dazzled by their beauty, too.”

11. “To prove that this was a Turkish city, these two writers knew that it was not enough to describe the skyline so beloved of Western tourists and writers, or the shadows cast by its mosques and churches. Dominated as it was by Hagia Sophia, the skyline noted by every Western observer from Lamartine to Le Corbusier could not serve as a “national image” for Turkish Istanbul – this sort of beauty was too cosmopolitan. Nationalist Istanbullus like Yahya Kemal and Tanpinar preferred to look to the poor, defeated and deprived Muslim population to prove that they had not lost one bit of their identity, and to satisfy their craving for a mournful beauty expressing the feelings of loss and defeat.”

12. “The beauty of a broken  fountain, an old ramshackle mansion, a ruined hundred-year-old gasworks, the crumbling wall of an old mosque, the vines and plane trees intertwining to shade the old blackened walls of a wooden house, is accidental.”

13. “These sad, now vanished, ruins that gave Istanbul its soul. But to ‘discover’ the city’s soul in its ruins, to see these ruins ass expressing the city’s ‘essence’, you must travel down a long, labyrinthine path strewn with historical accidents.”

14. “Istanbul’s greatest virtue is its people’s ability to see the city through both Western and Eastern eyes.”

Recenzie Istanbul – Memories of a city

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