Review written by: Jan Stacey Bieler
Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish author who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote a book about his memories of growing up in Istanbul in the 1950s and 60s. Istanbul, at the crossroads of Westernization and slow disintegration following the fall of the Ottoman Empire, was full of melancholy. Turkey's ruler from 1923-38, Ataturk, wanted to westernize the country. This continues to create tension in the role of religion in Turkish life. Pamuk's family moved several times within the city as their fortunes failed. He records his walks through many of the parts of town. One of the most moving chapters was called "On the Ships that Passed through the Bosphorus, Famous Fires, Moving House, and Other Disasters." Many people watch the ships, noticing the countries of origin and making guesses as to the political atmosphere. Other chapters discuss the role of Westerners writers and what they expected to find when they visited Turkey. As he closes the book, Pamuk realizes that his description of the city may have more to do with his life. "Is this the secret of Istanbul -- that beneath its grand history, it living poverty, its outward-looking monuments, and its sublime landscapes, it poor hide the city's soul inside a fragile web? But here we have come full circle, for anything we say about the city's essence says more about our own lives and our own states of mind." (349) Many wonderful pictures taken in the 1950s are scattered throughout the book.