“It was the happiest moment of my life, I didn’t know.” Thus begins Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk’s novel ‘The Museum of Innocence.’ This same sentence is also inscribed on the wall as you climb up the stairs to enter the halls of the real-life Museum of Innocence in Istanbul’s bohemian neighbourhood Çukurcuma. Some works of fiction feel eerily close to real life. Some are intertwined with the author’s own life. In the case of ‘The Museum of Innocence’, the author creates an alternate reality out of a romance adorned with the details of Turkey's recent social identity, and places it in the midst of our own, very real, lives.
In essence, ‘The Museum of Innocence’ is the story of Kemal, the son of a well-to-do NiÅŸantaÅŸÄ± family, who falls deeply in love with his poor distant relative Füsun. We witness the evolution of Kemal’s love into a consuming obsession, with Turkish political history as the backdrop. He can only find solace in the little objects he steals from the object of his affection.
To those with a literary bent who’ve already read the book, the museum is a world of wonders whereby they come across those very objects which were extensively described in the novel and painstakingly sought out by the writer in the vintage shops of Istanbul. To those who haven’t read it, the 83 cabinets, filled with a seemingly endless collection of vintage toys, black and white photographs, clothes, hair pins, handbags, sculptures, paintings, dolls, maps, bathroom accessories, spirits bottles and other minute ephemera, serve as a city museum, casting light on the lifestyle of Istanbulites from the 1970s on.
The first question every visitor asks is “Was the museum built before or after the book was written?” In fact, the process was much more complex. Pamuk, who studied painting before he moved on to architecture and then to literature, began to imagine and design the museum at the same time as he was writing his novel, which took almost 15 years. He collected most of the artefacts at the museum himself, but some, like the TV commercial for Meltem sodas, he commissioned from designers.
The museum is proud to be the first institution inspired by a novel. It has alreadh been visited by tens of thousands of enthusiasts since its opening in April 2012. Designed by architects Ä°hsan Bilgin, Sunder-Plassman Architects and Cem Yücel in cooperation with Orhan Pamuk, it has recently been nominated for the Design Awards of the London Design Museum. It is the must-see institution this summer, especially with the new Orhan Pamuk-dubbed audio guide in place.
Museum of Innocence
Çukurcuma Caddesi 24,
Tel. +90 212 2529 738
Open Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, 10.00 a.m.-6.00 p.m.
Open on Fridays from 10.00 a.m.-8 p.m.
Ticket bookings: www.masumiyetmuzesi.org.