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Author Podcast: Orhan Pamuk

abstract: I had the good fortune while on business in snowy London, to nab a ticket to the sold out event on January 12th featuring Turkish author and Nobel Prize Laureate, Orhan Pamuk at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in the Southbank Centre. Pamuk of course is promoting his new novel, The Museum of Innocence (Published by Knopf, October 2009) which has been getting both impressive critical reviews and receiving popular acclaim. Pamuk has been working on Museum for many years and has alluded to it thus: “The story, which takes place in Istanbul between 1975 and today, is about obsessive passion and the great question: What is love, really?” Tonight, Pamuk is introduced by Hermione Lee who is herself a gifted writer and important critical reviewer. The following podcast begins with an introduction by Ms. Lee, followed by a reading by Orhan Pamuk (with amusing antidotes), then a discussion period betwee Pamuk and Lee, and finally a selection of the questions from the audience. There is an interesting segment where Pamuk explains the derivation of the cover photo art: he found the picture in a Turkish photo archive, he photoshopped out the background and added the Bosphorous Sea, he added suspenders to the man in the back seat (which he then had to describe similarly in the book). After all the work, his publishers worried they'd be sued by anyone of the people depicted in the photo. A search to discover their identities and whereabouts found that the only surviving member is the woman seated in the front seat of the car wearing the kurchief. She was contacted and completely delighted by the story. Pamuk went to meet her and has a photograph taken of himself with her - she is now in her 90's.


January 12, 2010

The Interview

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Interview Transcript

Special thanks to the Southbank Centre.

  • PART I: Introduction by Hermione Lee (02:58 min)
  • PART II:Pamuk reading from "Museum Of Innocence". (15:49 min)
  • PART III: Excerpts from the discussion between Orhan Pamuk and Hermione Lee.
    (Not currently available)
  • PART IV: A few audience questions.
    (Not currently available)

Tim Rutten, writing for The Los Angeles Times summarises the book here:

"Kemal is a 30-year-old businessman, graduate of an American university, making his desultory way through a career in one of his wealthy father's businesses. He lives with his parents in Istanbul's wealthy Nisantasi neighborhood, where Pamuk -- who originally trained as an architect to please his father -- grew up and still resides. Kemal has an active social life with a wide but claustrophobic circle of friends, all children of secularized, wealthy families, the progeny of modern Turkey's founder Kemal Ataturk's forced de-Islamization. Everyone drinks and smokes and looks to Paris for fashion. Pamuk's Kemal, in fact, is set to announce his engagement to Sibel, the French-educated daughter of another wealthy family.

Then, while shopping for a Jenny Colon handbag for his fiancée, he encounters a distant relative, the much younger Fusun. She becomes the object of his erotic obsession and, after he takes her virginity, he attempts to make her his mistress. However, Fusun, who harbors ambitions of cinematic stardom, rejects Kemal and marries an unattractive -- and unsuccessful -- writer of art films.

Unable to shake off his obsession with Fusun, Kemal loses Sibel to a wealthy friend and through the years continues to haunt the apartment where Fusun and her husband live. Gradually, Kemal becomes an object of pity and, then, scorn to friends. Throughout these years, he steals objects associated with Fusun -- cigarette butts, cups and glasses, underwear, bits of jewelry, which he hoards in the apartment where they once met. This collection will become the nucleus of his "Museum of Innocence" after a final, searing tragedy.

Along the way there are marvelous and transporting evocations of Istanbul -- a city of which Pamuk has written movingly before -- and fascinating insights into a society living very much on the unstable borders of contemporary life between the Islamic and Western worlds."--LA Times, Oct 21, 2009



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