All of the installments in this "Orhan Pamuk" series of reviews are written by Alia Salleh*, a friend of the Buku project's. Part II will be posted in a few days. Have fun =)
Review 1: Istanbul: Memoirs and The City
I know I love a book when halfway through I’d be itchy to write a review (a newfound urgent side thing I hope I do more). So yes, bits of this was written halfway. I hope that’s legal.
Of the book, to use a clichéd phrase, the author succeeded in “painting a poignant picture” of a city he loves. It is indeed a very mournful book - discussing “huzun” (sadness) in a major chunk, and bits of if throughout the book. It was a slow start for me (being undecided as to which book I should give due read), but once I got past the first chapter, as with other Pamuks, it flowed quickly. That is actually one very nice thing about this writing, how he makes the chapters flow by linking the end of each chapter with the next. Petty but that made an impression on me, of how structured he made his writing: making it hard for me to put the book down.
He has an amazing mind: I find my own incompetent in catching up. Often would I read a passage, get lost in it and stop myself, wait, what is this thing he’s saying again? and reread the whole stuff. Complex mighty interesting thoughts I thoroughly enjoy (even those I never understand still).
The content is a mix of personal memoirs and stories of the amazing city, which are inseparable; him in his city. Thus the apt name. It is a wonderful insight on Istanbul, whether you’ve been there or not; and a very deep insight into the author’s life. As with all dreamers that had to put down their sails, it makes me want to return there (here goes the slight remorse for not reading this before going), but anyhow, it is a good read into their culture, their modern history. I love the accompanying black and white photos and paintings - how they quietly complement the writing, helping to set the background; at times stopping me in my track with their humble awesomeness.
My favourite bit would naturally be the anecdotes from the city columns - an amusing insight on Istanbul’s media which had to resort to reporting and discussing daily social going-ons due to the very restrictive political pressure on newspapers. And the fact that the author used to paint, and studied architecture.
Upon reading through, I am constantly wondering on the idea of memoirs: dare you face yourself and put down your life on paper? Would that make you understand yourself more? Would thoughts your never knew you posses flow out? I find that dizzying.
I have to admit the apparent bias, with him being a current favourite author and Istanbul being the current favourite city. Of that I heartily apologise. But they don’t become favourites for nothing, thus my humble recommendation.
*Alia Salleh is a final year engineering student who has amassed quite an impressive collection of books. She resides in Coventry and is still learning to ride a bike.