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Mumbai India
A Traditional Romance
Dec 27, 2011 11:59 AM 1405 Views
(Updated Dec 27, 2011 07:34 PM)



As I am the first author reviewing this unusual book by the universally declaimed Turkish author Mr. Orhan Pamuk, I am going to take some liberties with the review.

I first read the novelist's 2008 Nobel winning book "My Name is Red" (ISBN-10:0375706852) soon after it became available in book-shops. His style of writing was so different from the books I had read over the years that I became an instant fan of his work. Although the book was a translation, it was done so marvellously that I was swept into the realm of fifteenth century Turkey and the world of calligraphy, intrigue and murder. Hence, when someone gave me this new book of his to read, I went after it as soon as time became available to me to read this rather large book.

It is a story of a group of young people who lived in Istanbul during the seventies and eighties. It is a story of deep, abiding romance between a rich man and his poor, younger cousin. It is a story of human relations that transcends geographical boundaries, cultural differences, monetary chasms and Time itself. Weaving the story of love that started amidst circumstances that were not very honourable, Pamuk takes the reader down the decade into an era where unrequited love can still be the spark that allows man (and woman) to live a life of hope and dream of fulfilment in the future.

During the politically unstable time of the '70s, Kamal Bey, a 30-something rich man falls in love with his distant cousin Füsun, a 18-year old, even while he is due to be engaged to Sibel, a socially equal girl who loves him dearly. A torrid romance of about 5 weeks follows. The engagement, though, proceeds as though this side-affair has no consequences. Consequences do occur, however, and this leads to several upheavals in the lives of the three main actors of this drama. During the romance, Kamal Bey, ever an eccentric, starts collecting stuff belonging to Füsun and keeps these things aside to remind him of his love - things like her ear-ring, her cigarette stubs, tickets of shows they go to see together, coffee cups from which she had coffee, restaurant menus, lipsticks, handkerchiefs, and what not. He stores these items carefully and lovingly, and visits them almost every afternoon at a place where he had first had his affair with Füsun.

In the meantime, his beloved gets married off to an aspiring film director, and in due course, Sibel and he part ways when the latter comes to know of his affections for another woman.

What happens after this is that Kamal Bey decides to visit Fusun's parents, his distant aunt and uncle, aunt Nesibe and uncle Tarik Bey. The solitary visit to the house where Füsun lives with her husband soon becomes a habit where the two lovers are kept apart only by the norms and sensibilities of traditional Turkish society. Eight years pass in this manner and then, the story takes a turn that rekindles the hope of a reunion between the two. What happens next is the stuff that would spoil the fun for the reader, and I am not going to act as a spoiler.

Suffice to say that later, Kamal Bey, obsessed with his love, creates a Museum of all the collected trifles to commemorate and preserve for eternity his love for Füsun.

The book is a tad lengthy, and does go into some rather inane experiences, but it all adds up into a romance that Orhan Pamuk writes sensitively about. The book leaves a very happy sensation in the heart, and one comes away wishing one had loved like Kamal and Füsun.

I strongly recommend this book to readers, not only for the romantic subject, but also to learn the art and craft of writing well. It is a pleasure to read, and it is even more pleasurable to savour its aftertaste in the days to follow after you have kept the book back on its shelf.

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