The Museum of Innocence, Çukurcuma, Istanbul

Some of our group in the museum, listening intently to the narrative

The Museum of Innocence in the Çukurcuma district of Istanbul, is the result of an extraordinary concept by the writer Orhan Pamuk. The museum contains items from upper-class Istanbul life from the 1970s to the early 2000s, which Pamuk began collecting, before he wrote his novel, "The Museum of Innocence", around them.

The story is about Kemal Basmaci, and his 40-year obsession with his distant cousin, Fusun, beginning in 1975, even though he was already engaged to Sybel. The museum is fascinating, whether one has read the novel or not. Although, when visiting, it is wise to hire the audio, to give more meaning to the exhibits.

The numbers on the cases, indicate the chapter number in the book that mentions the objects inside.

This is a picture of the old Istanbul streets, that Kemal wandered, tormented by his love of Fusun. 
And the room key, and reception bell from the hotel he stayed in, when running away from Sybel. (Chapter 44)

Here is a tin spoon that Fusun had toyed with in her mouth... Fusun's half eaten cone, that Kemal pocketed when she dropped it on the ground... one of his dear departed father's shoes... a stuffed mussle, like the ones they ate together, next to some cinnamon that the chef told them was an essential ingredient... a salt shaker Fusun had picked up... and an invitation to a party
(Chapter 51)

Chapter 73, Fusun's Driving Licence
Here Kemal remembers teaching Fusun to drive, and everything about her from that time
 ...what she wore ...what she touched ...how she looked.

Kemal's bedroom, where he supposedly ended his days, narrating his story to Orhan Pamuk

Is this all pure fiction, or is there some semblance of truth? Who knows, except Pamuk himself? But there is one enigmatic notice on the bedroom wall.

Although you need to visit Istanbul to see the Museum of Innocence, you can, at least, read the story of this obsessive, compulsive relationship, as conceived by Orhan Pamuk.

by Elizabeth Coughlan

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