Getaway. At the Museum of Innocence, in Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul

(This article can be found in our special issue “Cities, everything that vibrates”, on sale from May 29 at your newsagent and on our site.)

After turning the last page of the book The Museum of Innocence (translated into French by Gallimard), by the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, I was overcome by an irresistible desire to go to Istanbul. Without hesitation, I canceled all my appointments and packed my suitcase. A few hours later, I boarded a bus to take me from Tehran to Istanbul.

Arriving there, I rent a room on Çukurcuma street in the Beyoglu district (where most of the novel takes place. And also where Orhan Pamuk created a museum of the same name). Every time I go out, I pass this famous museum.

First, I visit the city. Every day, I go through a piece of it. I’m going to see the Bosphorus, the Nisantasi district, the Golden Horn, restaurants, mosques and other places mentioned in the novels of Orhan Pamuk, himself born in 1952 into a large, wealthy Istanbul family. This city of Istanbul is present in all his books.

Books translated into more than 55 languages

Until the age of 22, he devoted himself seriously to painting and was convinced that he was going to make it his profession. But in his third year of architecture studies, he left university to choose a path that no longer had anything to do with drawing, namely writing. “When I look at my life, I see a man sitting at a table who writes constantly, in moments of sadness and happiness,” he said about it.

Although he won awards for his first book, Cevdet Bey and his sons, he had to look for a publisher for four years (before this novel was finally published in 1982 in Turkey, as well as in French translation in 2015 by Gallimard). Subsequently, success smiled upon him. His books have been translated into more than 55 languages ​​and have won numerous awards.

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