Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day Nine: The Museum of Innocence

It's Day Nine in The 24 Days of Books, and today we showcase the winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature. Orhan Pamuk, author of the highly acclaimed novels Snow and My Name is Red, has a new novel, The Museum of Innocence, that has already hit several "Best of 2009" book lists. The book tells the story of Kemal, scion of one of Istanbul's wealthiest families and engaged to Sibel, daughter of another prominent family.

The book begins with Kemal reminiscing, "It was the happiest day of my life, though I didn't know it. Had I known, had I cherished this gift, would everything have turned out differently? Yes, if I had recognized this instant of perfect happiness, I would have held it fast and never let it slip away." Unfortunately, this moment of perfect happiness comes not in the company of his fiancee Sibel but with a long-lost cousin, Fuson, a young and beautiful shopgirl.

In his feckless pursuit of Fusun, Kemal becomes a compulsive collector of objects that chronicle his lovelorn progress and his afflicted heart's reactions: anger and impatience, remorse and humiliation, deluded hopes of recovery, and daydreams that transform Instanbul into a cityscape of signs and specters of his beloved -- creating his museum of innocence.

Pamuk's stirring exploration of the nature of romantic attachment and of the mysterious allure of collecting plumbs the depths of an Instanbul that is half Western and half traditional, contrasting its emergent modernity with its vast cultural history. This story -- wonderfully told and masterfully translated -- would be a welcome gift for any of the serious readers in your life.

For many more gift-giving ideas, check out our gargantuan December newsletter, which you can read by clicking here.

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