The Museum of Innocence

Indeed, this text was prepared for my final assignment of one of my courses. We are asked to write about our own choice to be added to Istanbul Encyclopaedia, which is the magnum opus of Reşad Ekrem Koçu a famous Turkish Historian. I did not think that I could really internalize Istanbul, so deciding was very hard for me.  However, I knew that if I write about Istanbul, absolutely I will be influenced from Orhan Pamuk, Orhan Pamuk is the name that introduced me Istanbul.  So, writing about The Museum of Innocence was not surprising for me. While I was naively thinking about how well my assignment would be, I again read The Museum of Innocence and the catalog of the museum The Innocence of Objects. I thought that this assignment would reflect my admiration for Orhan Pamuk, yet what is surprising is that this assignment is not like how I had dreamt of. However, I put this text here with the hope of someone can read this worthless sentences and a curiosity about the Museum of Innocence arises within him/her.


The Museum of Innocence: The Museum of Innocence is a museum established by famous Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk who “believes in the magic of the things” and who “want to have the secret of the things not just possess them”, in 2012 in Çukurcuma.

It is not a kind of museum that we get used to praises the glory of our ancestors, the

All credits to The Museum of Innocence.

museum rather tells a love story. A love between Kemal, an upper-class, rich Turkish businessman, and his far relative, poor, young, and beautiful Füsun.  The current museum building is where Füsun had lived with her family and Kemal had visited them for eight years. It is a “dainty building worthy of Füsun” according to Orhan Pamuk, the curator and founder of the museum, and to whom Kemal had told his story; his agony of love and memories -about mainly Füsun, but also about his middle ages. Having engaged with another upper-class Turkish woman, once Kemal had seen his far relative Füsun. They felt in love immediately. However, as Kemal had been engaged with another woman he had to decide, either marry with his fiancée or divorce from her. He chose the former and lost Füsun. Still, Kemal waited Füsun, then realized that Füsun no more came to where they had met, Merhamet Apartmanı. Kemal also realized that this love is not a kind of temporary but persistent, bitter, and intensive. In a day that Kemal was waiting for Füsun, he saw Füsun’s cigarette stub on an ashtray. When he grips it and the cigarette stub touches his skin, he became aware of that this process could alleviate his agony. Kemal, then began to collect everything about Füsun including Füsun’s 4213 cigarette butts, between 1976 and 1984 Füsun had smoked them, and Kemal was able to collect and store them. Orhan Pamuk was asked to write under each cigarette butts about one particular they that our protagonist remember. When Kemal felt that he could no more live without her, and could not suppress his agony of waiting, he decided to go her home and between 1976 and 1984 he visited Füsun and her family very often, even though he saw that Füsun had been married to a scenario writer, yet Kemal continued to visit her and collect an object about her, which reminds him a certain time, a particular event. Aristoteles says that single moments are invisible and indivisible units, as the time is the line that links them. However, according to Kemal, the life is the deepest moments that are recalled by the help of objects. Kemal thought that the greatest a museum can bring is to see the Time turning into Space. He had gone Füsun’s home 1593 nights, and objects in the museum signify 1593 happy nights, as each object provokes different states of happiness. Later, Kemal said Orhan Pamuk that he would like everyone to know that he had lived happily. However, one day is more superior than the others, to recall that moment an earring is presented in the museum.  Hence, the first flow of the museum welcomes us with the earring and a sentence; “It was the happiest moment of life, though I did not know.”

All credits to The Museum of Innocence.

After writing all of these, those who may not know that The Museum of Innocence is also a book written by Orhan Pamuk, in 2008, and Füsun and Kemal are fictional, might be surprised. The book firstly had been thought as the catalog of the museum, but then it turned into a novel. However, nobody knows that whether Kemal and Füsun had lived or not except for Orhan Pamuk. Pamuk, though, writes all the details when he talked with Kemal and wrote his life story. Pamuk and Kemal first met in a restaurant and they became friends. Between 2000 and 2007, Pamuk visited Kemal in the current museum building. The third floor was the room of Kemal until he dies. Between 2000 and 2007, Kemal told his love story, and details about his life. also decided open a museum together. Orhan Pamuk decided to write a novel about his love for Füsun. Moreover, they decided to open a museum that is full of Füsun’s belongings, such a museum that reflects “excitement to tell the whole life of a person with his/her objects after years.”

Between 1996 and 2001, every morning Orhan Pamuk dropped his daughter of school. After he drops off her daughter, he was fond of hanging around in Tophane, Cukurcuma, and Cihangir thinking about what to write that day. In Cukurcuma, eventually, he found a building to turn a museum. A museum that reflects all daily details of 70’s Turkey, particularly through lives of Füsun and Kemal. In 1999, he bought the building which is down from historical Firuz Aga Bath from a contractor. The building was being used for a dormitory for contractor’s workers. While Pamuk was visiting the museum building he saw “a worker who had fallen victim to an accident was lying motionlessly on a bed staring at the ceiling.” The smallness of the building and its winding staircase made Orhan Pamuk happy. The building that was built in 1897 also “echoed a nostalgia within Pamuk.” While he was creating his modern masterpiece, he fought against cases that government processed against him, and between 2005-2007 he was exposed to death threats and political pressures. Fortunately, he established The Museum of Innocence in 2012, and the museum was awarded “European Museum of the Year Award” in 2014. Those who want to visit the museum can find a free ticket within the book.


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