Turkish novelist Pamuk (Snow) presents a breathtaking portrait of a city, an elegy for a dead civilization and a meditation on life's complicated intimacies. The author, born in 1952 into a rapidly fading bourgeois family in Istanbul, spins a masterful tale, moving from his fractured extended family, all living in a communal apartment building, out into the city and encompassing the entire Ottoman Empire. Pamuk sees the slow collapse of the once powerful empire hanging like a pall over the city and its citizens. Central to many Istanbul residents' character is the concept of hüzün (melancholy). Istanbul's hüzün, Pamuk writes, "is a way of looking at life that... is ultimately as life affirming as it is negating." His world apparently in permanent decline, Pamuk revels in the darkness and decay manifest around him. He minutely describes horrific accidents on the Bosphorus Strait and his own recurring fantasies of murder and mayhem. Throughout, Pamuk details the breakdown of his family: elders die, his parents fight and grow apart, and he must find his way in the world. This is a powerful, sometimes disturbing literary journey through the soul of a great city told by one of its great writers.
About the Author
was was born in Istanbul in 1952 and grew up in a wealthy yet declining upper class family; an experience he describes in passing in his novels The Black Book and Cevdet Bey and His Sons, as well as more thoroughly in his personal memoir Istanbul. He was educated at Robert College secondary school in Istanbul and went on to study architecture at the Istanbul Technical University since it was related to his real dream career, painting. He left the architecture school after three years, however, to become a full-time writer, and graduated from the Institute of Journalism at the University of Istanbul in 1976. From ages 22 to 30, Pamuk lived with his mother, writing his first novel and attempting to find a publisher. He describes himself as a Cultural Muslim who associates the historical and cultural identification with the religion while not believing in a personal connection to God.
On 1 March 1982, Pamuk married Aylin Türegün, a historian. From 1985 to 1988, while his wife was a graduate student at Columbia University, Pamuk assumed the position of visiting scholar there, using the time to conduct research and write his novel The Black Book in the university's Butler Library. This period also included a visiting fellowship at the University of Iowa.
Pamuk returned to Istanbul, a city to which he is strongly attached. He and his wife had a daughter named Rüya born in 1991, whose name means "dream" in Turkish. In 2001, he and Aylin were divorced.
In 2006, Pamuk returned to the U.S. to take a position as a visiting professor at Columbia, where he was a Fellow with Columbia's Committee on Global Thought and held an appointment in Columbia's Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures department and at its School of the Arts. In the 2007–2008 academic year Pamuk returned to Columbia to jointly teach comparative literature classes with Andreas Huyssen and David Damrosch. Pamuk was also a writer-in-residence at Bard College.
In May 2007, Pamuk was among the jury members at the Cannes Film Festival headed by British director Stephen Frears. He completed his latest novel, Masumiyet Müzesi (The Museum of Innocence) in the summer of 2008. Pamuk held an actual Museum of Innocence, consisting of everyday odds and ends the writer has amassed, at an Istanbul house he purchased.
In autumn 2009, Pamuk was Harvard's Charles Eliot Norton Lecturer, delivering a series of lectures entitled "The Naive and Sentimental Novelist". In January 2010, Pamuk admitted that he was in a relationship with the Man Booker Prize winning novelist, Kiran Desai.
Pamuk's elder brother Şevket Pamuk, who sometimes appears as a fictional character in Orhan Pamuk's work, is a professor of economics, internationally recognized for his work in history of economics of the Ottoman Empire, working at Bogazici University in Istanbul. Pamuk also has a younger half-sister Hümeyra Pamuk, who is a journalist.