“It was the happiest moment of my life, though I didn’t know it.”
This ominous statement from Orhan Pamuk’s novel Museum of Innocence quite succinctly summed up my feelings upon exiting his museum and experiencing what it had to offer. Let’s backtrack and start at the beginning though, so you too can understand why this quote seemed to pervade my thoughts after leaving his wonderful museum.
Based on the museum described in his book, the building itself was constructed, after years of delay, in April 2012. The walk to the museum led us down the sorts of streets I had yet to discover. I was pleasantly surprised by the alleys beset by encroaching moss which then led out into a sort of Rome-like piazza complete with an appropriate looking facade.
The exterior of the museum is unassuming, painted a solid red with no indication of the story that is told inside. The three story interior depicts the sad love story of Kemal, a wealthy businessman, who desires above all else, Fusun, a lower class girl twelve years younger than him. Climbing the first staircase I was met with an array of glass cases housing all sorts of objects and at first it all seemed jumbled, leaving me confused as to what was going on. Yet as I walked from one display to the next I began to piece together the remnants of Kemal’s life, realizing that Pamuk had filled the space with objects (numbering them) portraying and symbolizing the life of his protagonist. As I gradually ascended the three floors, I further began to realize the obsessive nature of Kemal. It struck me as an obsession because of the meticulous nature in which Kemal documents his love for Fusun. He does so through the collection of artifacts and relics which Pamuk again numbers to guide visitors along their way; though the sheer amount and care these objects are given made it clear to me that Kemal obsessed over this girl and cannot seem to rid himself of her memory.
Melancholy pervades the entirety of the museum as the story of Kemal’s life is told in a straight forward progression with flashbacks to a happier time occasionally breaking up the linearity. Unsure of himself, Kemal’s life seems to just linger on after the loss of his beloved. For me, Pamuk conveys the contents of his novel successfully within this museum as, at the top and final floor of the museum, I found myself dwelling on the life of this fictional character and how lonely and introspective this man must have been. Stuck in the past and unable to move on from the happiest moment of his life, Kemal’s sad story had struck a chord with me. Gathering my thoughts I was led once more to reexamine the contents below, hoping perhaps to find greater, hidden meanings. Without even having read the story, I was genuinely interested in discovering the thoughts and aspirations of this fictional being.
Normally, I am not one to purchase things from souvenir or gift shops that accompany most museums. This museum, though, was unlike other museums and after a recommendation from Ozayr I purchased Pamuk’s My Name is Red. Book in hand, I felt excited to delve into another journey, hopefully one that is a little less depressing than the last.