Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Orhan Pamuk and the Museum of Innocence

Orhan Pamuk is interviewed in the latest edition of Venerdi di Repubblica magazine, here in Italy, and discusses the lengthy writing process he undertook for his new novel The Museum of Innocence, which will be published later this year (the Turkish version coming first, will be unveiled at this year’s Frankfurt book fair, where Turkey will be guest of honour).

Here is a sample from the interview:

“I took six years to put out a new book. The last one, Istanbul, which brought me such good luck, was in 2002. The idea for the drama  [of The Museum of Innocence] and its development had already come about ten years ago. I reflected on it, and I worked around it. I wrote and re-wrote. Then, in the final phase, I paid a lot of attention to details. For a long period I continued to copy-edit. Two people, my personal assistant and an editor at the Turkish publishing houlse reviewed everything for months. There were repetitions, or characters that appeared  surprisingly after having been mentioned two hundred pages before. I made my ex-wife read the book, who is a history teacher, my daughter, my editors. A small group of trusted people.  I made my brother Sevket, who is an economist, check that dates and numbers were correct. And then I studied their reaction. I saw the expression on their face, if they wee satisfied. And when something didn’t work, I understood that I had to intervene.”

The development of the novel, as outlined by Pamuk, then seems  interestingly different from the process of writing which Pamuk spoke of in his Nobel acceptance speech

“when I speak of writing, what comes first to my mind is not a novel, a poem, or literary tradition, it is a person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and alone, turns inward; amid its shadows, he builds a new world with words. This man – or this woman – may use a typewriter, profit from the ease of a computer, or write with a pen on paper, as I have done for 30 years. As he writes, he can drink tea or coffee, or smoke cigarettes. From time to time he may rise from his table to look out through the window at the children playing in the street, and, if he is lucky, at trees and a view, or he can gaze out at a black wall. He can write poems, plays, or novels, as I do. All these differences come after the crucial task of sitting down at the table and patiently turning inwards. To write is to turn this inward gaze into words, to study the world into which that person passes when he retires into himself, and to do so with patience, obstinacy, and joy.”

In the interview in Repubblica, he goes on to give an outline of the forthcoming novel’s plot:

“It [The Museum of Innocence] is the story of an obsessive love lived in Turkey between 1975 and 1985, that then continues until 2000. In Istanbul an upper middle-class man – with an impeccable academic record, a bright future ahead of him, destined to marry a wife of similar standing – falls in love with a younger woman, a poor and beautiful relative. He courts her, going to find her in the house of her parents as still happens today in many Turkish families. Those houses, that dim atmosphere, with  lots of trinkets on the  furniture, like those little dogs that you find in lots of living rooms, both here and there. The two also have sex, though not immediately. Then she throws a tantrum, refuses him, and he arrives at the final decision that he wishes to marry her. But , out of the blue, there is an accident and the girl dies. And he is destined to live with the memory of the loved one. It’s no longer a story of love, but a fixed thought, against the background of this bourgeois Istanbul in which even the objects of the museum, of the houses, become an obsession.”

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