Istanbul: Memories of A City by Orhan Pamuk (Translated by Maureen Freely) - review by Norman Stone

Norman Stone

A City Facing West

Istanbul: Memories of A City


Faber & Faber 253pp £16.99

You live until you are thirty, said Graham Greene, and after that it is all memory. This present book, by the well-established Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, is a good idea: childhood and late-adolescent autobiography woven into a picture of Istanbul, at the time, and earlier. Pamuk writes a very intricate Turkish, and has not always been well served by his translators. In this case, he has found Maureen Freely, bilingual (having grown up in Istanbul) and a distinguished writer in her own right: she has done a wonderful job, which does not read at all like a translation, and, having managed a good part of the book myself, somewhat painfully, in the original, my admiration for what she has done is boundless.

There is considerable European, perhaps especially French and British, interest in Istanbul, and, as Pamuk says at some length, this goes back to Flaubert, Nerval and Gautier (who in turn greatly influenced several of the Istanbul writers of his own childhood, one of whom, the novelist Ahmet Tanpinar, Pamuk regards

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