Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A fragment on The Museum of Innocence

Orhan Pamuk's latest novel is the best kind of erotic writing: suffused with loss and painfully light, and reminiscent of both Proust and Kundera in its psychological acuity, in its chronicling of the desperation and anguish of longing (like those other two authors, Pamuk paints its stubbornness and perversity, but not its energy). Moreover, the novel's central conceit, of a narrator showing readers around a(n) (impossible?) museum (dedicated to the woman the narrator has loved and lost, and comprised of objects associated with her in the narrator's mind), and providing the very context that museum visitors are typically bereft of, perhaps does nothing so much as demonstrate the impossibility of ever fully accounting for any object, of completely exhausting its meaning and significance. And doubly so where the context is lust, love, the spectrum of the erotic -- each object is simply charged with too much meaning for one to do justice to it, and to the secret it testifies to...

4 comments:

Satyam said...

Fine comment on a novel I adored..

The work, as you rightly allude to, seems to be an extended playing out of the Odette/Swan section in Swann's Way. Pamuk could hardly hope to match Proust and yet his work seems to offer a very interesting treatment of obsession. This in any case is the book I have liked most from the author's oeuvre. My Name is Red for all the intricacy of its design seemed a somewhat distant work though this is perhaps not a criticism given the book's thematic concerns. Snow meanwhile might have been guilty of some obscurantism. The Black Book still suggests an author trying to work his way out of a modernist, perhaps even post-modern maze. Museum of Innocence is Pamuk's most approachable work but beyond this also to my mind his most vital fiction. I look forward to the author working more in this mode going forward.

elizabeth said...

I am waiting (impatiently) for the semester's end to read this, first in English, and then, hopefully, in Turkish. He's assembling an actual museum in ─░stanbul, which I will no doubt find my way to this coming summer.

Satyam--have you read the White Castle or the New Life? Snow is guilty of many things, including being badly misunderstood, and it's my least favorite of Pamuk's works. My Name is Red is an enduring favorite, and the Black Book an enduring provocation. But those earlier volumes are also worth your time.

Satyam said...

I haven't read those two works Elizabeth but they have been on my radar. I've also had in my possession his Istanbul book for a long time but haven't really read it. On the other hand I have slipped in and out of his collection of essays, Other Colors, and enjoyed these quite a bit.

very interesting to know that he's opening up an actual museum!

Olive Tree Guitar Ensemble said...

Hi, it's a very great blog.
I could tell how much efforts you've taken on it.
Keep doing!