Turkey: Melancholy and the Beauty of the Past

This time around it was easy to choose a book, and in fact I chose the author already a few years back when I went through the list of countries. I have never read a book by Orhan Pamuk, and I felt like there was a gap in my general knowledge because of this. Now I have finally reached Turkey on my journey around the world. I did not have any preferences on which book of his I would choose, so I ended up reading his autobiography Istanbul.

Orhan Pamuk grew up in Istanbul and his colourful description of the city, its many faces and streets are vivid, and it is easy to find yourself wondering the same streets in your mind. There are lots of photos and some drawings in the book from different times, places, and his family to give some visual aids to his city and his family life. You can see from his writing that he misses the Istanbul that is no longer there.

It is an honest encounter of his family and life in general. In fact, at times it feels brutally honest when he writes about several problems in the family and growing up in Turkey. He grew up in a good neighbourhood and the family was fairly rich. His father was a businessman, but he did several poor investments. Orhan’s family led a good life on the surface, but his parents were constantly fighting, which made his life tough at times.

He was an architect student, and an aspiring painter. Painting was naturally not a proper job for a young man, and to be fair, how many survive on being painters… But, it is good to have dreams. Painting was his thing, until he realized he was meant to be an author. I am pretty sure he has been quite happy with his decision.

The book can be depressive at times, and it reflect the changes that is going on in Turkey, as well as the tug of war between east and west, traditional life versus modern life. In all his honesty he has written quite straightforwardly about his family, and not always in a flattering way. Apparently, he was on the verge of depression while writing this book and somehow I could feel it. It is in some ways like being on a roller coaster. There is lots of love and memories, but also so much melancholy. That is life. I enjoyed the book, but not so much the essays about other artists he included in the book.

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