Orhan Pamuk’s latest novel the Museum of Innocence is about a man’s pathological lifelong obsession with a beautiful woman. Of course, we’ve all heard that one before. Variations of unfulfilled infatuations are, after all, the favorite staples of storytellers since time immemorial.
This is not to say that the Museum of Innocence is not original; it indeed is, but Pamuk's creativity seem to have started running around a circle. Like Woody Allen, whose films are fixated on New York, Pamuk has the view finder of his novels focused on his beloved Istanbul and apparently he has no intention of changing that. His general storylines have also begun to be repetitious. Wasn’t the main character of the Black Book also searching for a lost woman? And so was the guy in the New Life. Pamuk’s underlying inspiration seems to be a brief love affair he had during his youth with a woman who then vanished from his life. He told that story in Istanbul, his memoirs named after his favorite city, again. Will Pamuk be able to chart himself a new course before his readers are bored of his recurring storyline?
Criticism aside, the Museum of Innocence is an intriguing book, despite its intimidating heft—the Turkish original (Masumiyet Müzesi) I just finished reading is 580 plus pages. Pamuk is a good storyteller and has created an engaging tale. An interesting twist he added to the perennial love story is that his is taking place simultaneously in 2 different time frames: one as the events happen and the other years later as the same events unfold within the imaginations of the visitors to the Museum of Innocence, a building housing the memorabilia, mostly junk, collected by the protagonist to immortalize his relationship with the woman he loved. Moreover, in this novel Pamuk’s dense prose that characterized his previous works has improved for the better. Let us hope he will stick with it for the sake of the future visitors to his museum.
A ticket to the Museum of Innocence: good for one entrance and don't forget to get it stamped.