§ion=&combo2=&text1=&text2=&SocNetUsername=&SocNetPassword=&authCode=& 7th Decade Thoughts: The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk

7th Decade Thoughts

Thoughts about books, politics and history (personal and otherwise), pictures I've taken and pictures I've edited.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk

The intrusion of the real-life author into a novel is a mark of post-modernism designed force the reader to step back and look at the novel as a fiction (something created by humans rather than inherent in the natural world) and one way writers have been doing that for 50 years has been to intrude themselves into the novel.(Of course this intrusion of the writer was also rebellion against H James' insistence that the fabric of the fiction be inviolable, allowing none of the "dear reader" stuff of preceding fictions.) Sort of like Hitchcock makes tidbit appearances in his films, a face in the crowd, a man on the bus, etc. It reminds us that this world we're been participating in is not real, that the story and its focus is "made up" by one person. (I always saw Hitchcock as egotistical in his obsession to appear in his film, but all creators have big egos--otherwise how could they sustain their work which is done absolutely alone with bare-minimum tools and depends entirely on their own ability to "make up stuff"?)

In this novel it's like Pamuk, in using himself as character (you must think of the Pamuk in the novel as a character as well of course) creates sort of an after-the-fact frame for his tale. And indeed, the minute we recognize Pamuk is telling the tale, its significance broadens and we see clearly that this is not just a tale of one man's obsession with a woman but a sociological study of a man who's love puts him on the outside to observe the society he is (or was) a part of. A society changing as it grows in wealth and experience of the outside world. As Fusun is the focus of Kemal's museum, so Kemal is the focus of Pamuk's.

Of course, when we run into the Pamuk family early in the story and when Orhan attends the engagement party we must be expecting something like this. That was a little more blatant than Hitchcock waiting for a bus in whatever film that was.

I thought it was a bit arbitrary to kill off Kemal, but it makes it much easier to turn his story into an archeological/sociological one.

I'm curious too how this story became a meditation on museums, what they're for and how they come about. We go from an admittedly nutty man who saves the salt shakers from the table where he eats with his beloved to challenging the notion of what a museum is, what it means to society and how it's used. (There I see some commonality with Byatt's The Children's Book where there's a minor but significant focus on the V&A and how it developed, what role it was intended to fill, etc.)


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