Customer Reviews for

The Museum of Innocence

Average Rating 3.5
( 47 )
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

This is a deep look at unrequited love using the backdrop of turmoil in late 1970s Turkey

In 1975 in Istanbul, affluent thirty year old Kemal stops at a shop to buy a purse for his fiancée Sibel; also of a wealthy family. He is instantly attracted to the shop girl eighteen year old Fusun, who he knows is forbidden fruits as his family will object to ...
In 1975 in Istanbul, affluent thirty year old Kemal stops at a shop to buy a purse for his fiancée Sibel; also of a wealthy family. He is instantly attracted to the shop girl eighteen year old Fusun, who he knows is forbidden fruits as his family will object to her for being from the poor side of town and besides his match is made; they are also related though quite distantly.

Kemal does not break off his engagement, but maintains everything as memorabilia (in his mind) that involves his non-relationship with Fusun, as he keeps everything and looks at each item as the most precious whether it be earrings, etc in his personal museum. He feels no contentment in spite of his wife's caring tenderness at a time when discontent rules the country. Only with his "priceless" artifact collection reminding him of what he never had enables him to fantasize about his Fusun does he feel some contentment.

This is a deep look at unrequited love using the backdrop of turmoil late 1970s Turkey to enhance the impact of the intense story line. Profound, Kemal makes the tale as he knows he obsesses over Fusun as depicted by his prizes he maintains in The Museum of Innocence. Sibel and Fusun, though differing personalities, are fully developed people who add to Kemal's confusion by being themselves. Although the plot feels overwhelming at times with so much going on in Istanbul, readers will appreciate Orhan Pamuk's powerful tale of a man fixated on a "Goddess" he can never obtain as truly his outside his imagination.

Harriet Klausner

posted by harstan on October 23, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

The Museum of Boring

This book was boring. I had no feeling for any of the characters. In addition, the plot was weak because I figured out what was going to happen by the middle of the book. Kemal is one of the main characters and he is not sympathtic at all. He is in his thirties and he i...
This book was boring. I had no feeling for any of the characters. In addition, the plot was weak because I figured out what was going to happen by the middle of the book. Kemal is one of the main characters and he is not sympathtic at all. He is in his thirties and he is sleeping with an 18 year old shopgirl. He has a nice finance named Sibel. He could get in trouble for breaking off the engagement, so I understand why he might have waited a bit, but years? Give me a break. Kemal is a bitter man who got his just desserts. He acted like he was shocked by the outcome. I have heard of blinded by love, but come on. The Museum of Innocence is a huge watse of time and paper. This big yawn of a book didn't need to be over 500 pages. I recommend that you read another book.

posted by huckfinn37 on April 27, 2010

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  • Posted October 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    This is a deep look at unrequited love using the backdrop of turmoil in late 1970s Turkey

    In 1975 in Istanbul, affluent thirty year old Kemal stops at a shop to buy a purse for his fiancée Sibel; also of a wealthy family. He is instantly attracted to the shop girl eighteen year old Fusun, who he knows is forbidden fruits as his family will object to her for being from the poor side of town and besides his match is made; they are also related though quite distantly.

    Kemal does not break off his engagement, but maintains everything as memorabilia (in his mind) that involves his non-relationship with Fusun, as he keeps everything and looks at each item as the most precious whether it be earrings, etc in his personal museum. He feels no contentment in spite of his wife's caring tenderness at a time when discontent rules the country. Only with his "priceless" artifact collection reminding him of what he never had enables him to fantasize about his Fusun does he feel some contentment.

    This is a deep look at unrequited love using the backdrop of turmoil late 1970s Turkey to enhance the impact of the intense story line. Profound, Kemal makes the tale as he knows he obsesses over Fusun as depicted by his prizes he maintains in The Museum of Innocence. Sibel and Fusun, though differing personalities, are fully developed people who add to Kemal's confusion by being themselves. Although the plot feels overwhelming at times with so much going on in Istanbul, readers will appreciate Orhan Pamuk's powerful tale of a man fixated on a "Goddess" he can never obtain as truly his outside his imagination.

    Harriet Klausner

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Museum of melancholy

    Orhan Pamuk is my favorite writer, his inimitable aromatic prose provides the insights into the existential conundrums of the affluent on the brink of westernization, and yet pulled eastward by the Islamic social mores at a personal level. His books, unequivocally, have provided me with a proxy catharsis. I simply revel in his ethereal command of the human longings. He lives it and experiences it like we all do, but it is his prose that expresses his experience like no other alive today. The recent prose masterpiece "The Museum of Innocence" is a plate full of longings, laced with melancholy, within a societal east-west tug-of-war of the affluent set in Istanbul. Kemal, the protagonist, presents his life in the first person in a baleful and melancholic tone throughout this story of wait and hope. A wait for his love to return to his fold through reticence, betrayals, denials and conscience and class struggles. Many times, I could not help but feel that Pamuk was indeed telling us his own experience, that this was his story and Kemal was just his proxy. Kemal is in a relationship with a beautiful society lady called Sibel, with all the trappings of the affluent set. The impending engagement, the gifts, the parties and get togethers, the secret sex before nuptuals, the picnics and theater with a close collection of friends. Then he discovers Fusun, a distant cousin, and her devastating beauty at a store, where he goes to buy his soon to be fiance, a handbag. The story and the plot are not unusual or anything out of the ordinary, in fact it is downright predictable, but this is not about the plot or the story, it is entirely about the process, it is a story of a suffering and waiting for love, the process that provides us with furtive trips into a suffering man's consciousness about betraying one lady and desperately waiting for the other, no less than ten years. It is a masterful display in the obfuscation of the story and the plot by the process, the process of suffering that makes a man irrational, unreasonable and irrelevant to the present, as he lives in the past and the future simultaneously, looking forward to that reunion with his true love, Fusun. This process of suffering and wait took shape in many ways, the imaginary and the real wanderings looking for her on the streets of various neighborhoods, the purfunctory attempts to reconcile with Sibel, the sittings at the tea shops hoping to catch a glimpse of her. The most heartwrenching aspect of this suffering and waiting process was his collection of "artefacts" that Fusun had touched or was around that sustained his psyche in the present. The chapter on "The Collectors" at the end the book is a real work of art, on people who live by their symbols of life and love in melancholy and permanent wait. This book provides us with a blueprint of how to stretch the genre of fiction by innovative composition and perhaps even break some rules. I highly recommend this prose "museum" by Orhan Pamuk! Raju Peddada

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 12, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Masterful

    Orhan Pamuk is one of my favorite authors, a master craftsman of modern fiction. This story of obsession (of a young modern Turk with a distant cousin for whom he breaks a culturally ideal engagement and with whom he fashions a strained, uncoupled relationship for years) has the power of Nabokov without so much of the creepy, seemy underside. In a couple of chapters it is Joycean in streams of consciousness that rivet attention to the most mundane details of ordinary daily life. It is long, over 500 pages, but if the obsession becomes redundant and boring (all are by definition), stay with the book to the end: Pamuk is at his masterful best in his construction of the circumstances of the telling and publication of the story.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This multi-layered story is dream-like, upsetting, repetitive, h

    This multi-layered story is dream-like, upsetting, repetitive, humorous, enchanting, depressing... just like romantic love and obsession can be all these things. Events and characters are clearly, luminously drawn, but the novel's brilliance is its structure, its use of repetition, its dogged loyalty to themes of obsession and its ultimate acquiescence, like the leading character Kemal, to memories and the torture of what might have been.
    The setting of 1970s Turkey also reveals how the culture is undergoing a steady 'Westernization,' and its younger-generation characters are living quite differently from their parents' experiences. The societal view of virginity, marriage, movies and TV all are changing; major and minor characters illustrate societal change as well as the importance to many of tradition. It gives Pamuk the perfect canvas on which to paint his meditation about love and convention.
    Kemal is thrust by convention into a happy engagement, but by chance becomes involved with a lower-'caste' girl/woman with whom he eventually becomes obsessed. Obsession rules his life, ruins the engagement, dissolves his branch of the family business and sets him on a quest for re-living "the happiest moment" of his life. He cannot possess former shopgirl Fusun, so he collects and possesses her things, including anything she might have touched. He slowly sinks into an obsessive funk that possesses him.
    Here is wonderful writing, wonderful exploration of emotions, and much tension between traditional/modern, between generations, between men and women, between happiness and the irrational. I found this to be a brilliant book although the repetition got to me several times. Kemal's reverie/misery illuminates the book but traps any sense of progression. While I'm sure this was 'on purpose,' it tried my patience.
    All in all, a great literature experience, not merely a book. Probably best suited for more patient, academic readers rather than those who enjoy a page-turner best.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2010

    wonderful

    loved it

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    visit

    sometimes, indignant, he would try to stay away from her. but almost every night he came for dinner with her, her parents and her husband. he'd steal little mementos - from cigarette butts to ceramic dogs and silverware - anything she might have held, treasured to keep in the museum. a life spent on obsessions, repressions, possessions, somewhat happiness and guilt for this one love, the same destruction we always choose. "if we can learn to stop thinking of our lives corresponding to aristotle's time, treasuring our time instead for its deepest moments, then waiting eight years assumes the reality of 1,953 happy nights. today, i remember each and every evening - even the most difficult, the most hopeless, most humiliating evenings - as happiness."

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