Orhan Pamuk, recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature, gave the 2017 Peter Szondi–Lecture on 17 October at the Freie Universität, discussing
his Museum of Innocence project. He visited the Centre Marc Bloch on 18 October to lead a seminar discussion on the project. The following is an abridged transcript of that discussion and the order of some questions has been changed.
Pamuk opened the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul in 2012 as an accompaniment to his 2008 novel of the same name. The novel’s protagonist, Kemal, constructs a museum to honour his love, Füsun. The text is based around objects collected by Pamuk and subsequently displayed in the real museum, which is presented as that made by Kemal and whose exhibits follow the chronology of the novel. In some cases, objects are reconstructions, such as cigarettes, which would naturally decay. In others, they are wholly fictional.
Unlike large-scale museums that narrate national histories, Pamuk’s museum focuses on individual lives and everyday experience. He has expressed his ideas on the role of such small museums in a “modest manifesto.” Pamuk argues that museums should be like novels: they should tell “everyday stories of individuals,” which are “richer, more humane, and much more joyful” than epic historical narratives. “Monumental museums “do not bring out our humanity,” he claims; “on the contrary, they quash it.”