Saturday, February 26, 2011

Rambling thoughts on Orhan Pamuk’s “The Museum of Innocence”

The novel of Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk, “The Museum of Innocence,” speaks of the main character’s (Kemal) almost single-minded and seemingly eternal patient pursuit of his one and only love. Caught between the conservative, Muslim-oriented culture of his country and the seeping influence of the West, Kemal was initially entangled between the woman he was supposed to marry, the well-educated, middle-class professional Sibel, and the girl he truly loved, the poor but young virgin (at first), Fusun.

Hoping to get the best of both worlds, he lost both. Sibel, though forgiving and willing to give their relationship a second chance, eventually gave up once she realized the futility of it all. Why, he couldn’t even make to get “it” up for her!

In the meantime, Fusun completely disappeared; only for Kemal to find out later that she married a young, ambitious but also poor, film director. They were living in her parents’ house. And the charade began. Finding Fusun, Kemal was unrelenting, visiting her and dining with them almost every night.

Being a distant relative of Fusun, Kemal was able to escape from the prying eyes of neighbors and friends, including Fusun’s clueless husband as well as her father. Her mother though, was completely aware.

Since the day Fusun left him, he got the habit of picking up, even filching, objects that had been, one way or another, used by or belonged to Fusun, including cigarette butts stained with her lipstick. Eventually, those sundry objects found their way to Kemal’s museum, the “Museum of Innocence.” A gesture, a symbol, of his eternal love for Fusun.

Somehow, the novel reminds me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera,” primarily owing to the main characters’ resilience, and at the same time, unyielding quest, for that one, true love.

So what happened to Kemal and Fusun? Did they live happily, ever after?

To answer that would be to spoil the unfolding of a love story, devoid of Hollywood-esque cliché and certainty. Go find a copy and read. :-)

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