A Nobelist’s Novel Museum

Ron Gluckman in the Wall Street Journal:

ScreenHunter_08 May. 18 18.16This museum honors a work of fiction, its exhibits and artifacts reflecting events that never took place, except in the imagination of the Nobel Prize-winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk. In perhaps his most ambitious creation, possibly the world's only museum of its kind, the writer has taken literature on a course that is remarkably novel.

Yet the Museum of Innocence is also a genuine institution and, after more than a decade of planning, a huge triumph for Mr. Pamuk. The author not only curated the displays but collected all the items, grouped in 83 numbered panels, one for each chapter of his 2008 book, “The Museum of Innocence.”

That novel focused on the protagonist, Kemal, who, much like Mr. Pamuk, scavenged similar items for the fictitious museum of the book's title. In the real museum there is a potpourri of whimsical displays—a skull with a fly on the side, a ceramic heart noticeably broken, ceramic sheep in front of an old Turkish movie poster—alongside banks of photographs of old Turkish celebrities, antique watches, rows of toy dogs. Some describe it as a spectacular example of self-indulgence, but a cheerful Mr. Pamuk termed it a showcase of ordinary life in Istanbul. He seemed elated to play out the grand riddle—what came first, book or museum?

“I conceived both the novel and the museum together,” he insisted during a private tour a few days after the museum's April 28 opening. Reaction to the long-delayed museum was largely positive, and a general sense of relief swept Istanbul. Even die-hard fans had wondered if it would ever open.

More here.