I sat on the train the other morning reading Orhan Pamuk’s love letter to his home, Istanbul: Memories of a City. I could almost hear the foghorns on the Bosphorus (through Istanbul: The Sex and the City dance mix playing loudly on my Walkie) and taste the morning’s yoghurt, dried apricots and honey.
It’s voluptuous, enveloping writing, perfectly capturing the feel of that most glorious of cities; one Proustian sentence on melancholy (huzun) runs for three pages.
It’s as much about history (Ottoman glory, rather than Byzantine, and its after-taste) as about young Orhan and his family, and is as much about the familial love and shared melancholy that binds together the city’s residents, as it is about the lives and loves (and lack thereof) of the author’s own relatives.
And it’s beautiful.
When I watch the black-and-white crowds rushing through the darkening streets, almost as if the night has cloaked our lives, our streets, our every belonging in a blanket of darkness, as if once we’re safe in our houses, our bedrooms, our beds, we can return to dreams of our long-gone riches, our legendary past.