Orhan Pamuk's 'Museum' Of Obsession, Innocence Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk says his new novel is a love story that "doesn't put love on a pedestal." Instead, The Museum of Innocence is about one man's obsession with a beautiful young woman — and the museum collection he dedicates to the affair that derailed his life.
NPR logo

Orhan Pamuk's 'Museum' Of Obsession, Innocence

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/114208983/114215587" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Orhan Pamuk's 'Museum' Of Obsession, Innocence

Orhan Pamuk's 'Museum' Of Obsession, Innocence

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/114208983/114215587" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


�The Museum of Innocence� is the latest work by Turkish novelist and Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk. It's the story of a man's obsession with a beautiful young woman, an obsession that leads him to assembling a collection dedicated to their affair, an affair that derailed their lives.

�The Museum of Innocence� unfolds in Istanbul in the 1970s and �80s. Kemal, the narrator, is the son of a wealthy businessman. He travels among the sons and daughters of the Westernized elite. And in a pivotal scene, his disastrous engagement party at the Istanbul Hilton, Kemal remarks on the tedious Pamuk table. Orhan Pamuk appears in his own novel as a character, and he appears with us today.

Hi. Welcome to the program once again.

Mr. ORHAN PAMUK (Author, �The Museum of Innocence�): Hi.

SIEGEL: Here's what your narrator says about your own family. He says: Like so many formerly rich families that had squandered their fortunes, the Pamuks had turned in on themselves and found it upsetting to come face to face with new money. Is that your family's story?

Mr. PAMUK: More or less. But then, of course, �Museum of Innocence� is not my family's story. I just make a Hitchcock-like appearance at the beginning of the book and at the end of the book. The story is a rich guy's obsessions with a twice-removed cousin of his. It's a love story�

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Mr. PAMUK: �but it doesn't put love on a pedestal. Rather, it tries to understand what happens to us when we fall in love.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm. But your narrator, Kemal, says at one point: I was driven by the very question that lay at the heart of what it meant to be a man or a woman in our part of the world. So this is - there are universal sentiments here, but this is very much about your part of the world.

Mr. PAMUK: Yes, in the sense that this is love in a semi-repressed society where communication between men and women is limited, where sex outside of marriage - especially before marriage - is also a taboo. I went on to describe the refinement of communication through glances�

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Mr. PAMUK: �silences. These are the ways of communicating love in semi-repressed society.

SIEGEL: You, like your narrator Kemal, went and looked at all sorts of little museums around the world. I'm not talking about the Met or the Louvre. We're talking about little museums dedicated to a particular artist or, you know, the death of Jayne Mansfield or whoever it might be.

Mr. PAMUK: Mm-hmm.

SIEGEL: What do you find in all of these museums? What's the thread that connects them?

Mr. PAMUK: A strong melancholy I like, the feeling that there was investment to preserve the past, but now no one is inside, except sleepy museum guards. That makes me feel the ephemeral side of human life�

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Mr. PAMUK: �and also being out of the regular life, which we hear from the street, but which a feeling of timelessness these small, disregarded museums gives us is very important for me.

SIEGEL: Are you, in fact, going to open a museum in Istanbul related to this book?

Mr. PAMUK: Yes, I'm going to open the Museum of Innocence also�

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Mr. PAMUK: �in July 2010 in Istanbul. But then, now the book is published here, I want American readers to first to read and enjoy the book, the text. And if they like it, then they can visit it at the end of next summer.

SIEGEL: And it essentially will be a building or an apartment dedicated to a novel, a museum relating to a novel.

Mr. PAMUK: It's not an apartment. It's a building dedicated to Kemal's beloved Fusun, which I tell about in the novel, �Museum of Innocence,� all the things that Kemal picked up because Fusun touched them or because it reminds them of the Istanbul they walked together will be there. It will be also a city museum, a very personal city museum of sorts.

SIEGEL: And you have been actually collecting the cinema lobby posters and the earrings and whatever else should appear in the museum?

Mr. PAMUK: Yes, I've been collecting these things for the last 10 years as I wrote the novel. I collected the objects first, then I described them in the novel. Now, I'm putting them in a museum. But then, of course, putting them in a museum also means then putting them in a very stylish way.

SIEGEL: But will it be a melancholy place that has a snoozing museum guard?

Mr. PAMUK: Yeah, that's what we're talking about with the museum architects and designers, yes. I hope it will be a melancholy place, but of course with some humor as well, just like the novel.

SIEGEL: So you have created an entire new medium of the museum as extension - multimedia extension of the novel in a sense.

Mr. PAMUK: Yeah, but I don't want to talk too much about it before I finish it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Okay. All right. Well, that's agreed. I'm just curious, by the way, before you go, how life has changed, if at all, since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Mr. PAMUK: It make my life more busier, but then it made also me more responsible person because now that I have even more readers, I want to write even better, in a sense, that all the things that I have dreamt about, addressing new readers, publishing new books, having a communication with readers from Vietnam to, say, Argentina. Now, I have all these readers, and it makes one so busy, but my love of literature is as alive as ever. Nobel Prize was not a retirement pension for me.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Mr. PAMUK: It just came in the middle of my career.

SIEGEL: But you're saying it adds to a certain sense of responsibility that you feel.

Mr. PAMUK: Yes, because I'm - perhaps I have received Nobel Prize at a relatively young age, I think I have to get going.

SIEGEL: Mr. Pamuk, thank you very much for talking with us once again.

Mr. PAMUK: Thank you very much. I enjoyed this very much.

SIEGEL: That's Orhan Pamuk, the author of the new novel �The Museum of Innocence.�

(Soundbite of music)


You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.