Friday, 20 April 2012

Pamuk's museum celebrates the individual

Pic from lick, the civilised world blog.
Orhan Pamuk's 2008 novel, The Museum of Innocence, tells a love story and so it deals with pain. Oceans of it. And now the writer has cemented some of those feelings in a physical construct. He is opening his Museum of Innocence in Istanbul in a week, and here it is, a red-painted building cramped among others on a corner in "the backstreets of Beyoglu", according to the story in the Financial Times. I think the important part of the story is this:
Museums, [Pamuk] says now, “should be more like novels – less about nations, tribes, institutions; more about personal stories”.
Power to the people, perhaps? Or, at least, power to the individual. That which is important to me, is not necessarily something that would be celebrated via a column of marching soldiers down the main street in the bright sunshine. Perhaps I prefer to contemplate a collection of cigarett butts, or a few strands of dark hair.

The museum can hardly be contemplated without thinking about Pamuk's own political status. He is celebrated globally as a fine writer yet in Turkey there are factions who want to punish him. Turkey's modernity is a work-in-progress and as the country strives to be accepted in the community of European nations, at the same time it affirms some strong principles apparently critical to its identity. There are some things that it will not compromise on and this attitude seems to be taken up by various interest groups, not the least those who wish harm to Pamuk. There's a line, it seems.

Pamuk's museum stands on this side of that line, most definitely. It's a slightly eccentric celebration of his own novel but also a statement about the worth of the individual as opposed to the group. The strength of one is held up in comparison to the strength of the other. Which one will serve to advance Turkey's EU interests is pretty clear. Ditch the goose-step and the gun, go hard (or soft) with the bitter-sweet memories of lost love.

Some people have already visited the museum. Some aspire to visit it. Some will baulk at risking the vagaries of the community it cleaves to. Some will simply admire the vision, and the promise of love's glory it represents.

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