Book Review by Jeanette Rehnstrom: Museum of Innocence
2015-08-15 11:35:16 -

Museum of Innocence

by Orhan Pamuk

(Faber & Faber)



I was one of those people who kept buying Turkish author and Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red repeatedly, due to my utter fascination and love for the book, and wanting to share it with everyone that I loved.


Having been so completely taken over by the multiple possible readings of the book – it’s fairytale like simple story, it’s serious philosophies, it’s linking of art history and religion – I could not stop going on and on. I still am bowled over by the breath and ease that novel exudes. 


You’d suppose that I’d be a Pamuk convert on a grand scale. Yet this is not the case. No matter how much I wanted to adore the 700-plus pages of Museum of Innocence – a trusted, good friend of mine had repeatedly mentioned the book as the most interesting she’d read in a long, long while – I just couldn’t get there myself. I easily turned page after page (it is a very easy read), hoping that the trap door would open and we would return to the wonder of My Name is Red. That moment never came.


Being a love story, one might think there would be a handful of moments in the least that would trigger something. We all love to love and feed on its delicious, if flaky, rose-coloured memories, and here and there perhaps, suspending one’s reading of the story as a whole, one could maybe get a bit misty. Nevertheless, returning to the fold of the story, I would yawn and dutifully force myself to at least read it through.


The story goes like this: Kemal, a 30-something wealthy upper-class Istanbul man, just about to be engaged to a society woman of sumptuous class, encounters a distant family friend’s 18-year-old daughter Fusun, and his whole world comes crashing down. He is so obsessed with his young hot lover that he forsakes society and all its (now) empty richness.


The issues raised around history, pre-marital sex, Turkey’s bridging of east and west, as well as its cultures and philosophies, are mildly interesting, but then the story itself is so incredibly gendered that it becomes not just a bore, but actually an insult to women – or if we forget that this is a book written by a man, an insult to agency in the ‘other’.


All that matters is Kemal, his feelings and his collection of anything his lover touches. It is all very colonial, but instead of a people and a country, it is the female body which is the colony. Fusan has no voice, no personality; she is solely an exhibit in Kemal’s boring museum.

TAGS : Book Review by Jeanette Rehnstrom Museum of Innocence Orhan Pamuk
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