Out of Place in Istanbul

Hande Gurses

Abstract


Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul: Memories of a City is a narrative that is defined by the impossibility to define it within fixed terms. Thematically and structurally, it stands on slippery grounds that are constantly moving, hence obliterating any definition that would confine it within predetermined boundaries. Istanbul: Memories of a City portrays the first twenty-two years of Pamuk’s life using various approaches that range from autobiographical details from his own childhood memories, to photographs from the family album, newspaper articles, paintings as well as writing on Istanbul by various artists. The multiplicity of sources that Pamuk incorporates into the narrative echoes his experience of the city, while also offering the reader a non-linear journey with various diverging points along the streets of Istanbul. Pamuk reinvents himself in Istanbul: Memories of the City as Orhan, the narrator who recounts his experience of the city in terms of autobiographical anecdotes, journalistic comments, personal impressions as well as dreams. Alongside the different Orhans that appear throughout the narrative, Istanbul: Memories of the City also portrays the construction of Orhan as a writer. In many respects Istanbul: Memories of a City mirrors Pamuk’s experience of the city in the sense that it brings together various components without trying to reach a harmonious, unified whole. The thirty-seven chapters that compose the narrative appear to be placed randomly without following a thematic order. The lack of a linear development, the shift of tone in different chapters, and the coexistence of image and text are among the strategies that Pamuk uses in order to underline his experience of the city as fragmented and fluid. The narrative thus invites the reader to experience the city the way Orhan did, getting lost along the streets without necessarily following a predetermined itinerary. Instead, Istanbul: Memories of a City invites the reader to create his/her own journey, exploring the different spatial, literary and temporal dimensions of Orhan’s Istanbul. In this paper I will present Pamuk’s construction of his experience of the city as a state of being ‘in-between’, both culturally and geographically. While following Orhan the narrator in his search for the other Orhan in Istanbul, I will discuss the reverberations of this state in the creation of Pamuk’s Istanbul.

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