Welcome to Travel Readings
Melbourne: The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
Books, Movies and Beyond…
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Washington, DC and New York
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Rome
Rio de Janeiro: Crimes of August (Agosto) by Rubem Fonseca
Istanbul: The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk
Liège (Belgium): Pedigree by Georges Simenon
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Lisbon
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Cambodia
Hyde Park, Chicago: Ravelstein by Saul Bellow
Paris: Flowers of Ruin and Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Naples
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Tanzania
Sri Lanka: Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje
Books, Movies and Beyond… : Venice
Dublin: The Dead by James Joyce
Books, Movies and Beyond: Iran
Santa Cruz, Bolivia: The Matter of Desire (Materia del Deseo) by Edmundo Paz Soldán
Books, Movies and Beyond: Syria
Djibouti: Passage of Tears (Passage des Larmes) by Abdourahman Waberi
Books, Movies and Beyond: Armenia
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso: The Parachute Drop by Norbert Zongo
Bangkok: Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap
Périgord, France: The Caves of Périgord by Martin Walker
Books, Movies and Beyond: Brussels
Naples: The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
Books, Movies and Beyond: Rio de Janeiro
Tajikistan: Hurramabad by Andrei Volos
New-York: City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
Israel and Palestine: To the End of the Land by David Grossman and Wild Thorns by Sahar Khalifeh
Books, Movies and Beyond: Bavaria and Southern Germany
Cape Town: Boyhood, Youth and Summertime by J.M. Coetzee
Books, Movies and Beyond: India
Blue Ridge Mountains: Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Books, Movies and Beyond: Algeria
Austrian Alps: A Whole Life (Ein ganzes Leben) by Robert Seethaler
Books, Movies and Beyond: Africans in America
Zimbabwe: The Last Resort by Douglas Rogers
Books, Movies and Beyond: Colombia
Belgian Ardennes: The All Saints’ Day Lovers by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Côte d’Ivoire: Aya of Yop City by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie
Japan: Haruki Murakami and Amélie Nothomb
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and The Rope and The Denial of Saint Peter by Charles Baudelaire
Books, Movies and Beyond: Cairo
Vancouver: What is Remembered by Alice Munro
Ghent (Belgium): War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans
Haiti: An Aroma of Coffee and Dining with the Dictator by Dany Laferrière and The Comedians by Graham Greene
Iceland: Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason
Siena and Tuscany : Il Palio delle contrade morte by Fruttero & Lucentini and The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
China : Wild Swans. Three Daughters of China, by Jung Chang
Amsterdam: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
Former Soviet Union: The Unwomanly Face of War  by Svetlana Alexievich
Provence: The Horseman on the Roof by Jean Giono, La charrette bleue by René Barjavel, Madame de Sévigné and Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp
Moscow: The House of Government by Yuri Slezkine, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and Limonov by Emmanuel Carrère
Books, Movies and Beyond: Vietnam
Books, Movies and Beyond: The Wars in Vietnam

Istanbul: The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk


Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahce Palace

It was by chance that I stumbled on the Museum of Innocence. Not the book. The Museum. After visiting Dolmabahce Palace, I walked along the Bosphorus and decided, without any directions, to climb the streets going up to Beyoglu. I got lost, but I saw the brand new signs pointing, in Turkish and in English to this « Museum of Innocence », an ancient wooden house freshly renovated. The museum was not mentioned in my somewhat outdated guidebook.  I arrived five minutes before closing, too late to get in. I walked further up in the neighborhood, led by the drums of a wedding party overflowing in the street.


The Museum of Innocence

I was just making a 24 hours stop-over in Istanbul. On the plane, I found a « Newsweek » article interviewing Orhan Pamuk about the opening of his new museum, the novel’s namesake. Back home, I bought the book.

Orhan Pamuk in the Museum of Innocence


Kemal is 30 years old, and he is the son of a modern and well-to-do family. He is set to marry Sibel. Everybody agrees: they are a perfect match. He goes to buy a handbag for his fiancée in a boutique called « Şanzelize », the Turkish transcription for the Parisian famous shopping avenue.  He recognizes the young girl working in the shop.  It is Füsun, a distant relation, from a less affluent part of the family. She is 18 and he falls madly in love with her.

This love will give him the happiest hours of his life, but will also ruin his marriage with Sibel. He will pursue it against all odds and despite the impassable hurdle of Füsun’s marriage.  Nostalgic of the first days of their encounter, desperate for having married Sibel instead of following his heart, Kemal starts compulsively accumulating all the objects reminding him of Füsun.

When finally they are free to love each other, they start a trip to Paris. But she dies when driving the car. Kemal will find consolation in all the objects that he amassed and which serve as testimony of their passion and that period. This collection, described in the novel, Ohran Pamuk painstakingly embodied and presented it in his museum.


After reading the book, I took advantage of a new trip to Istanbul to visit the museum. Each display corresponds to one or a few chapters, allowing to relive the novel step by step. Some visitors are flipping its pages while looking at some of the objects.  The museum is also a very personal and moving testimony of the life in Istanbul in the 70s. A city which in an almost awkward way (the Şanzelize boutique) wanted to be modern and European, but was still heavily anchored in the life of its neighborhoods, their traditions and conservatisms.


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