Pakdokter came back from sunny Hakodate to a gloomy and rainy Tokyo on Monday afternoon. The rainy spell continued on to Tuesday morning and pakdokter did not feel like getting out of bed at all. Despite the sun which came out in the afternoon - pakdokter remained under the duvet, reading almost three quarters of this book by the Turkish Nobel Laureate, Orhan Pamuk, called 'the Museum of Innocence'.
When this book was first reviewed in the NST in early 2010 , pakdokter felt that it would be one that pakdokter would enjoy reading. Unfortunately when pakdokter looked for it at the MPH, Borders and Kinokinuya stores, they were all sold out! During the trip to Kerala in February 2010, pakdokter found and bought a copy at the local bookstore in Cochin. It was a rather big book for taking along on a trip - so when the newer and smaller paperback editions came out recently, pakdokter bought another copy for reading during this trip - in case pakdokter have the time for it. And pakdokter did finally get the time in this rainy, windy and cold autumn of Tokyo. And what a read it turned out to be!
Orhan Pamuk was introduced to pakdokter by Rastam many years ago - when he was still in secondary school or college probably. He highly recommended Orhan Pamuk's book called " My Name is Red". If pakdokter remembered it correctly - Rastam said the book was the equivalent of an Agatha Christie's mystery in 'old Istanbul' setting or something to that effect. Pakdokter used to read a lot of Agatha Christie's books in school - so did Rastam. So pakdokter took out "My Name is Red" and read it. But somehow, pakdokter never finished the book - pakdokter remembered having difficulties with the details of the many (?too many) characters and the meticulous descriptions of the miniature art of the Ottoman years. So despite of so many rave reviews about ' My Name is Red' - the book did not make a mark on pakdokter's mind and heart.
Not until ' Snow ' - which Orhan Pamuk wrote in late 1990's? or early 2000. That was pakdokter's type of book. It was a political thriller and some romance thrown in. And following 'Snow' pakdokter must have bought a few more of Orhan Pamuk's books, all yet to be read.
"The Museum of Innocence" is a love story. It is the story of a rich young man from the upper class of Istanbul society, who fell in love and became 'obsessed' with love for a young pretty teenage shopgirl of a boutique who also happened to be a distant relative, just a couple of weeks before he were to be engaged to a 'suitable and educated' girl of the same class as him , that he compulsively 'stole' or 'collect' any article or item he could lay his hands on that belong to his beloved or to events that would remind him of the times he spent with her. When she finally died in a tragic car accident - he immortalised her life and their 'love story' in the 'Museum of Innocence' where he housed all the articles and items he 'hoarded' throughout the years of their 'tumultous' love affair.
Although the writing was detailed and meticulous - never once was pakdokter bored by it. In fact the style helped capture the 'obsessions' and 'compulsions' arising from the ' passion of love'
On another level this book is also not just about 'love and passion'. It is also a keen observation and commentary on the sociological changes that was taking place in the 'westernising' Turkey after Ataturk as againt its deep-rooted 'conservative' Islamic and traditional values.
''The Museum of Innocence' would seem to pakdokter to not just be to exhibit items and articles to tell the 'love story' but would also exhibit materials to remind its visitors the history of Istanbul which is fast turning out to be like just another European city.
Pakdokter has been to Istanbul 3 or 4 times since early 1980's - the last one being about 4 or 5 years ago. And pakdokter has never lost pakdokter's fascination for Istanbul. Istanbul has always and is still, in pakdokter's mind, a romantic city. This book has rekindled pakdokter's wish to go back to Istanbul - if not for anything - it would be to pay a visit to 'the Museum of Innocence'....
foot-note: perhaps pakdokter should go back and re-read " My Name is Red"...