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Recommended Reads: Istanbul: Memories and the City

Written by The Reader, 23rd December 2011

This week's Recommended Read comes from Patrick Fisher, Young People's Project Worker, who is currently developing Get Into Reading in schools across Glasgow. He has been enjoying Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk; rather fittingly given the time at which he received it...

Given to me as a gift last Christmas I’ve finally got round to reading Orhan Pamuk’s part autobiographical account of his home city. I’d been putting this book off somewhat in favour of other, seemingly more exciting, ‘stories’ but have found myself pleasantly surprised.

Starting with a black and white photo of a boy, Pamuk tells of how as a five year old he was terrified by the idea that another ‘Little Orhan’ existed across the city identical to him and would be able to displace him from his own family without anybody noticing. To this day Pamuk says he is still haunted by this notion. What follows is a non linear progress of an ‘Istanbullu’ life, one that has a fierce familial bond at its centre but is also struggling to understand its new historical placing and the value of its borders.

Driven by a joyous melancholia, hüzün, Pamuk thrives in the darkness of his city and finds a comforting warmth in it all. For decades, it seems, he has wandered the backstreets of his city in sweet tristesse, lovingly storing in his mind every last minutia of what he sees and hears and smells, and relating it all to what he imagines:

When I watch the black-and-white crowds rushing through the darkening streets on a winter’s evening, I feel a deep sense of fellowship, almost as if night has cloaked our lives, our streets, our every belonging in a blanket of darkness, as if once we’re safe in our houses, our bedrooms, our beds, we can return to dreams of our long-gone riches, our legendary past.

I’ve never been to Istanbul but its past, present and future are coursing through this book. Perfect for reading as the long nights creep in.

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