The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
The Museum of Innocence

The Museum of Innocence

3.4 48
by Orhan Pamuk

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A sweeping, emotionally charged novel of the nature of romantic attachment and the strange allure of collecting — this is Orhan Pamuk’s greatest achievement.

It is Istanbul in 1975. Kemal is a rich and engaged man when he by chance encounters a long-lost relation, Fusun, a young shopgirl whose beauty stirs all the passion denied him in a society where


A sweeping, emotionally charged novel of the nature of romantic attachment and the strange allure of collecting — this is Orhan Pamuk’s greatest achievement.

It is Istanbul in 1975. Kemal is a rich and engaged man when he by chance encounters a long-lost relation, Fusun, a young shopgirl whose beauty stirs all the passion denied him in a society where sex outside marriage is taboo.

Fusun ends their liaison when she learns of Kemal’s engagement. But Kemal cannot forget her: for nine years he tries to change her mind, meanwhile stealing from her an odd assortment of personal items, which he collects and cherishes — a “museum of innocence” that he puts on display to tell the heartbreaking story of a love that shaped a life.

Editorial Reviews

Marie Arana
As familiar as the subject of love might seem, The Museum of Innocence is a startling original. Every turn in the story seems fresh, disquieting, utterly unexpected…The genius of Pamuk's novel is that although it can be read as a simple romance, it is a richly complicated work with subtle and intricate layers. Kemal's descent into love's hell takes him through every level of the social order, past countless neighborhoods of sprawling Istanbul, in a story that spans 30 years…In sum, The Museum of Innocence is a deeply human and humane story. Masterfully translated, spellbindingly told, it is resounding confirmation that Orhan Pamuk is one of the great novelists of his generation. With this book, he literally puts love into our hands.
—The Washington Post
Maureen Howard
…enchanting…Part of the delight in The Museum of Innocence is in scouting out the serious games, yet giving oneself over to the charms of Pamuk's storytelling. He often makes use of genre, turns the expected response to his purpose…Maureen Freely's translation captures the novelist's playful performance as well as his serious collusion with Kemal. Her melding of tones follows Pamuk's agility, to redirect our vision to the gravity of his tale
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Nobel laureate Pamuk's latest is a soaring, detailed and laborious mausoleum of love. During Istanbul's tumultuous 1970s, Kemal Bey, 30-year-old son of an upper-class family, walks readers through a lengthy catalogue of trivial objects, which, though seeming mundane, hold memories of his life's most intimate, irretrievable moments. The main focus of Kemal's peculiar collection of earrings, ticket stubs and drinking glasses is beloved Füsun, his onetime paramour and longtime unrequited love. An 18-year-old virginal beauty, modest shopgirl and “poor distant relation,” Füsun enters Kemal's successful life just as he is engaged to Sibel, a “very special, very charming, very lovely girl.” Though levelheaded Sibel provides Kemal compassionate relief from their social strata's rising tensions, it is the fleeting moments with fiery, childlike Füsun that grant conflicted Kemal his “deepest peace.” The poignant truth behind Kemal's obsession is that his “museum” provides a closeness with Füsun he'll never regain. Though its incantatory middle suffers from too many indistinguishable quotidian encounters, this is a masterful work. (Oct.)
Library Journal
And they say women fall crazy in love. In this latest from Nobel Prize winner Pamuk, protagonist Kemal becomes so obsessed with a shop girl he meets while buying his fiancée a purse that he ends up throwing away his entire life. Füsan is in fact a distant relative Kemal hasn't seen for some time, and they launch a passionate affair on the very eve of Kemal's engagement party. This is 1970s Turkey, and new ideas from the West would seem to bless the affair. But of course Kemal never considers breaking his engagement, and in the end a deeply bruised Füsan vanishes. As Kemal's fiancée, Sibel, rightly observes, "It's because she was a poor, ambitious girl that you were able to start something so easily." Kemal is not so enlightened as he thinks. He's also a bit of a bore, having compulsively organized an entire "museum" of artifacts pertaining to Füsan that the author repeatedly references; readers may agree with Kemal that "visitors to my museum must by now be sick and tired of my heartache." VERDICT This story is beautifully told, but at great length and in great detail; patient readers, be prepared. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/09.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
Curious and demanding new novel from Turkey's 2006 Nobel laureate, both closely akin to and somewhat less accomplished than its universally acclaimed predecessors (Snow, 2004, etc.). This is protagonist Kemal's impassioned tale of his obsessive love for a beautiful distant relative, Fusun, with whom he enjoys a rapturous sexual relationship as the day of Kemal's marriage to his blameless fiancee Sibel draws nearer. When we meet him in 1975, Kemal is the 30-year-old scion of a prosperous Istanbul family. The Basmacis are privileged people who acquire objects of beauty and value, store them away, then forget them. Not so with Kemal, whose yearning for the elusive Fusun (she's responsive only sexually) outlasts the breaking of his engagement and the years of Fusun's marriage to Feridun. During that period, Kemal is a frequent visitor to their home, from which he steals something each time, adding objects to his "collection" of artifacts commemorating ecstasies shared with his former lover (hence the compelling title metaphor). The author examines Kemal's twisted devotion with impressive cunning and inventiveness; inevitably, we think of Nabokov's Humbert Humbert and his Lolita, but to Pamuk's credit, the comparison does not diminish this novel's eloquence or impact. Suggestions of a tradition-bound haute bourgeoisie unable to let go of passing traditions and values feel honestly earned, and the narrative consistently engages and surprises. It's also too long and sometimes seems more a willed production than a cry from the heart. A rather contrived climax is redeemed by a witty denouement in which a new narrator makes an unexpected appearance. Another richly woven tale suffused with life andcolor from one of contemporary fiction's true master craftsmen. First printing of 75,000
From the Publisher
A New York Times Notable Book

"In so many ways, a stunningly original work . . . granular and panoramic, satirical and yet grounded in reality. This is a twisted love story, engrossing and sensual in its own right. But Pamuk being Pamuk, it is so much more than that."
— San Francisco Chronicle

"Sprawling, beautiful, frantic, and, in the end, painfully honest. . . . The ever-crafty Pamuk manages to leave an artful imprint of his hero, kleptomania and all, on your psyche."
— The Georgia Straight

"Lit from within by humanity like a Rembrandt painting, this is an audacious, sweeping and timeless love story."
— Winnipeg Free Press

"In sum, The Museum of Innocence is a deeply human and humane story. Spellbindingly told, it is resounding confirmation that Orhan Pamuk is one of the great novelists of his generation. With this book, he literally puts love into our hands."
— The Washington Post

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage International Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 8.03(h) x 0.96(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Happiest Moment of My Life

It was the happiest moment of my life, though I didn't know it. Had I known, had I cherished this gift, would everything have turned out differently? Yes, if I had recognized this instant of perfect happiness, I would have held it fast and never let it slip away. It took a few seconds, perhaps, for that luminous state to enfold me, suffusing me with the deepest peace, but it seemed to last hours, even years. In that moment, on the afternoon of Monday, May 26, 1975, at about a quarter to three, just as we felt ourselves to be beyond sin and guilt so too did the world seem to have been released from gravity and time. Kissing Füsun's shoulder, already moist from the heat of our lovemaking, I gently entered her from behind, and as I softly bit her ear, her earring must have come free and, for all we knew, hovered in midair before falling of its own accord. Our bliss was so profound that we went on kissing, heedless of the fall of the earring, whose shape I had not even noticed.
Outside the sky was shimmering as it does only in Istanbul in the spring. In the streets people still in their winter clothes were perspiring, but inside shops and buildings, and under the linden and chestnut trees, it was still cool. We felt the same coolness rising from the musty mattress on which we were making love, the way children play, happily forgetting everything else. A breeze wafted in through the balcony window, tinged with the sea and linden leaves; it lifted the tulle curtains, and they billowed down again in slow motion, chilling our naked bodies. From the bed of the back bedroom of the second-floor apartment, we could see a group of boys playing football in the garden below, swearing furiously in the May heat, and as it dawned on us that we were enacting, word for word, exactly those indecencies, we stopped making love to look into each other's eyes and smile. But so great was our elation that the joke life had sent us from the back garden was forgotten as quickly as the earring.
When we met the next day, Füsun told me she had lost one of her earrings. Actually, not long after she had left the preceding afternoon, I'd spotted it nestled in the blue sheets, her initial dangling at its tip, and I was about to put it aside when, by a strange compulsion, I slipped it into my pocket. So now I said, "I have it here, darling," as I reached into the right-hand pocket of my jacket hanging on the back of a chair. "Oh, it's gone!" For a moment, I glimpsed a bad omen, a hint of malign fate, but then I remembered that I'd put on a different jacket that morning, because of the warm weather. "It must be in the pocket of my other jacket."
"Please bring it tomorrow. Don't forget," Füsun said, her eyes widening. "It is very dear to me."
"All right."
Füsun was eighteen, a poor distant relation, and before running into her a month ago, I had all but forgotten she existed. I was thirty and about to become engaged to Sibel, who, according to everyone, was the perfect match.

Meet the Author

Orhan Pamuk is the winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature. Amongst his other achievements in literature, his novel My Name Is Red won the 2003 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His work has been translated into more than fifty languages. Orhan Pamuk lives in Istanbul, in the building where he was raised.

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The Museum of Innocence 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
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
PBRaju More than 1 year ago
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
timh More than 1 year ago
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.
Blitzismydog More than 1 year ago
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.
Mortoliphe More than 1 year ago
The book is a window into a foreign city and way of life, in a very interesting and fun way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
loved it
Shahji More than 1 year ago
This is the second time I have to write this review. I tried to upload it first time but I don't know what happened and I lost whatever I had written. So I will try to rewrite whatever I remember from the first review. I first came to know about this book from a youtube video in which I heard one news anchor mentioning it. I forgot the reason why he was mentioning it but anyhow I bought it online from Barnes and Noble. When I started reading it, I didn't like it in the beginning and this feeling remained till the end though to much lesser extent. I will explain in detail what I liked and didn’t like about this book but first I would like to comment on what is unique about this book. And that is, the writer “Orhan Pamuk” (who won the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature), went on to create a museum, a real museum (in Turkey) based on the characters and objects mentioned in the novel. I believe that whoever is reading this book and at the same time visiting the museum will have a deeper impact and have deeper understanding of how some object in our lives have an emotional memory attached to them. I mean a cup present on the shelf is just a cup until you know why it is there, what story is attached to it and how it is connected to the person who is seeing it as a museum piece. They must have felt the presence of Kemal, Fusun, Sibel and everyone else mentioned in the book among the objects placed in the museum. As the story is fictional and everything mentioned in the novel is a fictional account, but when you visit the museum and have the feeling of seeing and experiencing the fictional characters and account as real, that is uniqueness I am talking about. I am not sure it the first novel in that category but at least this idea was new to me. And I believe that is whole idea of literature i.e. to entertain and stimulate at the same time and I think this book serves this purpose very well. Now I will explain what I didn’t like in the book: first as I started reading the book I thought of it as one of those novels in which a rich spoiled guy falls in love with a poor nice girl (or vice versa) and everyone else get together to conspire against them so that they can’t be together only because they are rich or poor. I mean these kinds of stories are so common in the part of world to which I belong that whenever I read a book or watch a movie or television show about it I get very nauseated. But I would give credit to the author that he somehow kept on to attract my attention so that I was able to finish it. Second, there is not much going on in the book. This is story of two persons and two or three people surrounding them. And therefore reading more than five hundred pages become kind of difficult because everything start to seem as repetitious. Third reason is that (and I understand it is my own shortcoming) I would have liked to read this book in its original language. It is not that the translation is poor but it is my belief that you can’t enjoy the taste of sentence or a word until you understand what depth of meaning it conveys and to understand that depth we have to know the original language in which that word or sentence was said or written. Now the things that I liked about the book: first thing is the idea of establishing a real museum and its role in stimulating the reader. Second I came to know a lot about Turkish culture and very little about Turkish history. I am not going to delve into the discussion of politics and culture, suffice is to say that it is not very much different from the rest of Muslim world, at least to the extent described in the book. Third I read many people describing this novel as one of their reasons to travel Turkey. My reason for traveling to Turkey wouldn’t be this book but I will definitely go to the “Museum of Innocence” in order to see what impact it leaves on me. And then perhaps I will update my review. (I am not sure if I could use my book as a ticket for admittance into the museum, though the novel claims that I can).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for a book like Shades of Gray then dont read this book. Pamuks novel is about capturing time in objects and creating a story with them. This is a literature lovers novel, not a beach lovers. After reading the novel, travel to Istanbul and visit the actual museum. The ticket is included in the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Simply stated: I loved this book. Pamuk describes and examines the depths of love through his protagonist who experiences love as finely nuanced within a spectrum that includes pure love, splendorous love, spiritual love, physical love, greedy love, angry love, jealous love, murderous love--all of which must be contained and controlled (or not) by the protagonist. The protagonist's experience of love emerges, innocently, and becomes deep and soulful, as well as profoundly moving, until, like an exhibit in a museum, the abundant facets of human love are fully displayed for the reader. Pamuk's prose are fabulous--which means the translator did a great job, too! It reads effortlessly and colorfully. I became totally immersed in the book and looked forward to each time I could pick it up again.
lolita12 More than 1 year ago
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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MsKaos More than 1 year ago
I was pulled in from the first line, but then the story went on and on and on. I connected with his obsessive love for the love of his life, enjoyed the writing style, but this book could have been half as long and I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more.
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