My reluctance towards novels written by authors rewarded with the Nobel Prize was thrown of the window by the mesmerizing work of Orhan Pamuk. “The Museum of Innocence” might just be one of the greatest (and biggest) novels I’ve ever read. With its over 600 pages, the novel can seem a bit overwhelming, but it has a way of captivating you, despite the very descriptive style of Orhan Pamuk, with endless phrases and long paragraphs, rarely interrupted by dialogue.
The first paragraph blew me over completely: “In fact no one recognizes the happiest moment of their lives as they are living it. It may well be that, in a moment of joy, one might sincerely believe that they are living that golden instant “now,” even having lived such a moment before, but whatever they say, in one part of their hearts they still believe in the certainty of a happier moment to come. Because how could anyone, and particularly anyone who is still young, carry on with the belief that everything could only get worse: If a person is happy enough to think he has reached the happiest moment of his life, he will be hopeful enough to believe his future will be just as beautiful, more so.”
And so, the writer creates the ideal setting for a passionate story of love, which runs along the 83 chapters and which will consume slowly the protagonists, while also reinvigorate them. Kemal (30) and Füsun (18) are distant cousins, who are reunited by chance in a boutique, on the verge of Kemal engagement with the beautiful Sibel, a young girl from a good family. After making love with Füsun, violating the strict rules of society, Kemal becomes addicted to the afternoons spent in the company of his cousin, in the apartment block Compassion, so decides to end his engagement with Sibel and give up a careless, but loveless future. His decision comes too late though. Füsun moved with his parents and newly husband, an aspiring filmmaker, in one of the suburbs of Istanbul, in order to forget the disappointment she suffered. For eight years, Kemal will wait quietly for his love (obsession?) to find its fulfillment. In his years of waiting, Kemal began collecting all sorts of objects that have to do with his beloved Füsun: earrings, salt-shakers, cigarette butts, figurines, cups, and even leftovers, objects that later on will be exhibited in the Museum of Innocence – a museum of broken hearts and nostalgia.
The story doesn’t have the happy ending long-awaited by Kemal. However, I particularly liked the last line of the book (as the first): “Let everyone know, I lived a very happy life.“ Some build palaces to celebrate love. Kemal Basmaci built a museum.
PS. You can visit The Museum of Innocence in Istanbul, Turkey. It was build by Orhan Pamuk.