I’m starting to accumulate and work with materials on Turkey in preparation for our September adventure, and this includes an effort to learn some Turkish, an exploration of basic facts of Turkish history, and reading of novels and other textual materials. I recently finished rereading Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House, set in Istanbul and full of interesting connections to Turkey’s past and present, and it’s time to read Orhan Pamuk’s novels too. A while ago I got The Innocence of Objects, Pamuk’s telling of the tale of his creation of his literal museum (in an old house in Çukurcuma) to accompany his novel Museum of Innocence, and I’m amazed at the project. Here’s a bit of description:
I kept seeking out more small museums in my travels. What I found most enthralling was the way in which objects emoted from the kitchens, bedrooms, and dinner tables where they had once been utilized would come together to form a new texture, and unintentionally striking web of relationships. I realized that when arranged with love and care, objects in the museum –an odd photograph, a bottle opener, a picture of a boat, a coffee cup, a postcard– could attain a much greater significance than they had before. I had top put these strange photographs and used objects on my desk and reimagine them as pieces belonging to the lives of real people.
The more I looked at the objects on my desk next to my notebook –rusty keys, candy boxes, pliers, and lighters– the more I felt as if they were communicating with one another. Their ending up in this place after being uprooted from the places they used to belong to and separated from the people whose lives they were once a part of –their loneliness, in a word– aroused in me the shamanic belief that objects too have spirits.
When I found a particular object in a shop and realized, with a sudden burst of inspiration, that I might be able to weave it into my story, I would immediately buy it; and, on my way back to my studio,I would be happy. Most of the time, though, I couldn’t find anything that I felt would fit into my novel in the making, and I left empty-handed. And sometimes I would buy something simply because I found it pretty, interesting, or unusual. The I would place it on my desk, believing optimistically that its role in Kemal and Füsun’s story would simply come to me unbidden. (pp 51-52)
Bits of the book resonate with other aspects of my life and doings, which I suppose is what one expects in influential books. Here’s one that encapsulates what I think about photographic composition and aesthetics:
Looking at the photographs we took during the process [of making a museum layout], I realized that I was doing what the Istanbul landscape painters I so admire also did: looking for an accidental beauty in the convergence of trees, electrical cable and pylons, ships, clouds, objects, and people. The greatest happiness is when the eye discovers beauty where neither the mind conceived of nor the hand intended any. (103)