The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk

0307386244.01.LZZZZZZZFiction — print. Translated from Turkish by Maureen Freely. Vintage International, 2009. 536 pgs. Purchased.

This long, tedious book rehashed every interaction, every moment Kemal had with Füsun. Like a friend who never overcame a bad breakup, Kemal mourns every little thing about Füsun and, in the process, manages to destroy the relationship he has with his fiancée and other people from his class in Istanbul society (young, educated, Westernized).

“…I would like to ask them please to be careful not to confuse forgetting about Time with forgetting about clocks or calendars. Clocks and calendars do not exist to remind us of the Time we’ve forgotten but to regulate our relations with others and indeed all of society, and this is how we use them. When looking at the black-and-white clock that appeared on the screen every evening, just before the news, it was not Time we remembered but other families, other people, and the clocks that regulated our business with them.” (pg. 287)

He ultimately builds a private museum covering their relationship that the author visits, inserting himself in his fictional story. At least, I hope it’s fictional because at minimum Kemal and I could not be friends. He’s quite possibly the most annoying, insipid character I’ve met in a long while. I honestly wanted to shake him and tell him to get over himself. I mean, really, who collects cigarette butts?

The novel meanders rather than drives forward; the plot is basically nonexistent. Hence why it took me so long to finish this book. What I stat in the paragraph is all the novel is about, and trust me, five hundred plus pages was unnecessary.

I picked up this novel because I was looking for a novel set in Turkey. The book did not fill that void for me. By the time the novel really started to address politics and life in Istanbul, it was quickly coming to a close and I was already kind of over the whole thing. This just wasn’t the “spellbinding” tale the cover promised.



  1. I’ve only read one by Pamuk, which was The Black Book. My head hurt reading that book — it was such an obscure, ever shifting puzzle. I felt a sense of accomplishment when I’d finished it, not enjoyment or dislike or any of the usual reactions. For whatever reason, I feel compelled to read more by Pamuk and have actually purchased a few others (used). I don’t have this one and probably wouldn’t like it, so that’s for the best 🙂


    • Very apt way of describing the experience of reading Pamuk. My head hurt, too. I don’t own any more of his books but I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple more followed me home. There were diamonds in the rough with this novel and I just have to figure out why he won the Nobel Prize.


  2. ‘Museum of Innocence’ is a waste of time. I congratulate your patience in sticking with it. Probably Elif Shafak would be the better novelist to read to gain an insight on Turkey, or perhaps watching a Fatih Akin film might fill the void.


  3. Orhan Pamuk is not the easiest one to read. People either love him or hate him, never met anyone saying he’s OK :)) But I wouldn’t recommend Elif Shafak- her use of language is too pretentious, at least for my taste… I would, however, suggest you read Buket Uzuner if you’re looking for a good novel set in Turkey…


    • Thanks for the recommendation! I haven’t read much literature by Turkish authors. Most of the books I’ve read set in Turkey have been written by Western authors and I’m trying to avoid that.


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