Tuesday 19 July 2022

The Museum of Innocence - Istanbul

When Orhan Pamuk wrote his eponymous novel, which was published in 2008, he did not have in mind that the museum would actually exist. but having collected objects from the 1990s onwards for his fictional story, he did indeed find them a home in 2012.

The museum is housed in a 19th C building in the Cukurcama, Beyoglu district. It is as charming as it is fascinating. Listening to extracts from the novel as you tour around the display cases, all 83 of them, one for each chapter of the novel, and Kemal's 'recreated' bedroom is joyful. 

But the whole thing plays with your head. Here I am looking at relatively worthless things, including thousands of cigarette butts, that are only of significance because they relate to entirely fictional people. This must be the very definition of meta. Weirder still I bought a replica pair of silver earrings 'belonging' to Fusun, a non-existent woman. 

Yet one of the posters on sale tells of an astonishing piece of real social history. It was apparently the practice in Turkey in the 1950s and 1960s to publish photographs in the newspaper of sexually transgressive women. They eyes are blacked out, but that wouldn't have stop them being recognised and publicly shamed. Women only, of course, not the men having affairs or sex before marriage. Shocking.

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