Nobel prize-winning Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk realizes a long-nurtured dream on Saturday with the opening of an actual “Museum of Innocence” – a collection of relics of a half-century of ordinary life – as depicted in his 2008 novel of the same name.
Pamuk set out “not to do a spectacular or monumental museum but something in the backstreets, something that represents the daily life of the city,” he told a news conference after a press preview.
Situated in a bright, wine-red building in the district of Cukurcuma, the Museum of Innocence houses real and fabricated artifacts from everyday Turkish life between 1950 and 2000, in an homage both to the novel and to Pamuk’s Istanbul.
“Our daily lives are honorable, and their objects should be preserved. It’s not all about the glories of the past,” he said. “It’s the people and their objects that count.”
He conceived of the museum more than a decade ago, at the same time he came up with the idea for the novel. A New York Times bestseller, “The Museum of Innocence” was his first book after winning the 2006 Nobel prize for literature.
The book tells the story of Kemal, who hoards ordinary items to recapture the happiness he felt during a passionate but ill-fated love affair.
The real life museum contains odds and ends that Pamuk collected from Cukurcuma junk shops, family and other donors. There are china dog figurines, old shaving kits and a wind-up film projector. A toothbrush collection, which features in the novel, was contributed by its real-life owner.
Pride of place goes to Kemal’s lover’s 4,213 cigarette butts, lovingly dated, archived and gently pinned to a canvas that occupies a full wall. Pamuk described the painstaking process of vacuuming out the tobacco to prevent worms.
While the project is distinctly personal, Pamuk insisted it is not autobiographical.
Pamuk, 59, is among Turkey’s best selling writers. His work, including “My Name Is Red,” “The Black Book” and the memoir “Istanbul,” has been translated into some 60 languages.