Saturday, 2 April 2011

Bex's Bookshelves: The Museum of Innocence, by Orhan Pamuk


I was quite excited when my aunt gave me this book for Christmas. A new author. A Nobel prize winning author. A big hunk of a book (over 700 pages). But.

It is the story of the wealthy socialite Kemal's obsession with a poor distant relation, Füsun. Call me unromantic, but obsessive love is a subject that leaves me cold. For me it has nothing to do with romance or love, nothing to do even with the object of that obsession. A shame in this instance, as I found myself far more interested in Füsun than Kemal. But sadly she remains a rather shadowy figure. The writing is good (in translation) and the evocation of life in Istanbul is vivid and fascinating. I admire the ambition of the novel, and if obsessive love is a subject that grips you then I doubt you could find a much better examination of its pathology but it's simply not my tasse de thé.

I do thank Pamuk for introducing me to Aristotle's theory of Time, which is a recurrent theme in the book. I like Kemal's interpretion of the theory and his decisions to live his life for the "moments".

"In Physics Aristotle makes a distinction between Time and the single moment he describes as the "present". Single moments are - like Aristotle's atoms - indivisible, unbreakable things. But time is the line that links these indivisible moments. ... A person can only try to be happy and forget Time, and this we all do."

"My life has taught me that remembering Time - that line connecting all the moments that Aristotle called the present - is for most of us a rather painful business ... As we get older and come to the realization that this line per se has no real meaning - a sense that comes to us cumulatively in intimations we struggle to ignore - we are brought to sorrow. But sometimes these moments we call the "present" can bring us enough happiness to last a century, as they did if Füsun smiled..."

Perhaps it's like looking after your pennies. If you look after the moments then Time will look after itself.

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