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Istanbul: Pamuk's City

Orhan Pamuk
Orhan Pamuk

In 2006 Orhan Pamuk became the first Turk to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Although most of his books are novels he has also written a memoir about Istanbul, his home city. One chapter is devoted to what he says are a "random sampling of some of the most amusing advice, warnings, pearls of wisdom and invective I've culled from hundreds of thousands of pages written by columnists of various persuasions over the past 130 years. " Here are a few:

When you see a beautiful woman in the street, don't look at her hatefully as if you're about to kill her and don't exhibit excessive longing either, just give her a little smile, avert your eyes and walk on. (1974)

When dried chickpea and gum sellers allow children to pay them with pieces of lead instead of money, not only does it encourage them to steal, it also encourages them to pilfer stones from all Istanbul's fountains, cut off their taps and remove the lead from the domes of its turbes [tombs] and mosques (1929)

The loudspeakers on potato, tomato and propane gas trucks and the ugly voices of the men selling these products have turned the city into a living hell. (1992)

First the rents and taxes went up, and then, thanks to the immigrants, the city was flooded with razor sellers, simit sellers, stuffed mussel sellers, tissue sellers, slipper sellers, knife and fork sellers, sundries sellers, toy sellers, water sellers and soft-drink sellers, and as if that weren't enough, the pudding sellers, sweet sellers and doner sellers have now invaded our ferries. (1949)

Istanbul: Memories and the City. Orhan Pamuk. 2005.
[pp. 127-28 / Faber & Faber]

January 2007
Gerald Knaus

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  1. Istanbul: Pamuk's City
  2. Istanbul: Swimming across the Bosphorus
  3. Salonika and the Jews
  4. Salonica: Slaves and Trade
  5. Thessalonika: 1923
  6. Ohrid: Rise and Fall
  7. Tornado of Dust - 1944
  8. Awake Romania - 1989
  9. Novi Sad: Nest of the Serbian nation
  10. Nis: War Capital, 1915
  11. Belgrade and the Selenites
  12. 1996: Serbia Calling
  13. Belgrade Train Station - 1964
  14. Srebrenica: Vengeance
  15. Srebrenica: Blood
  16. Srebrenica: July 1995
  17. Mealtime - Interwar years in Travnik
  18. Dayton: The Napkin Shuttle
  19. London Buses in Sarajevo
  20. The Museum and Bosnian Identity
  21. Foča: The Bosniak
  22. Kosovo: The Swiss Front
  23. Mitrovica: 1908
  24. Pristina: Kosovo like Namibia?
  25. City without traffic - Pristina 1966
  26. Durham in Pristina - 1908
  27. Tirana: 1962
  28. Zog's Tirana
  29. The Kotor - Constantinople Express
  30. Kotor and the Montenegrins
  31. The Rabbi of Stolac
  32. Dubrovnik: England, Wine and Wool
  33. Cetinje: Nikola Under the Elm
  34. Cetinje: 1858
  35. Dalmatia: Ships & Grapes
  36. Prophet of Yugoslavism
  37. The head of the world
  38. 1919: Mushrooms and Lies
  39. Sofia: Bulgaria's Jews during WWII
  40. Zamfirovo: Rural livelihoods in the mid-1990s
  41. Kosovo
  42. Romania: 1914
  43. Istanbul: Food and the frugal Turks
  44. Micklagard: Surprising, cosmopolitan Constantinople
  45. Sukhumi: The history of the region became ashes
  46. Black Sea: The coming of steam and rail
  47. Mestrovic: Motherhood and the Victor
  48. Rizvanovici, Bosnia: Gnashing
  49. Down the Danube with Magris: Ruse
  50. From Pristina to Tskhinvali
  51. Serbia, Historians and Hitler's War
  52. Balkan Strongmen: Bulgaria's Zhivkov
  53. Sarajevo: The Siege Within
  54. Turkey: Osman's Dream
  55. Durres 1961: Beijing on Sea
  56. Cetinje: Eggs for the Ladies
  57. Bosnia: Land of Immigrants
  58. Ottoman Croatia
  59. Harem: All the Sultan's Women
  60. Sibiu: Regime Change, European Style
  61. 1929: The Balkans and the Great Crash
  62. Rumeli and how the Balkans became the Balkans
  63. 1948: Stalin, Kosovo and Swallowing Albania
  64. Transforming Turkey: the 1950s
  65. McMafia and the Balkans
  66. 1916: Serbia in Corfu
  67. Princes Amongst Men
  68. Limp Shevardnadze
  69. Knin: War and Suburbia
  70. In the Mountains of Poetry