The child Orhan Pamuk looks into the mirror on the wall and sees another Orhan, another boy just like him, somewhere in Istanbul. It is the opening scene in Istanbul, Pamuk’s memories. The scene refers to Jacques Lacan’s mirror stage, the moment in a child’s life that it becomes aware of its own subjectivity, representing a permanent structure in life. As such, it is the writer that awakes in the little boy Orhan Pamuk, as such it is the starting point of the order of the Imagination.
The Quest for Turkey in our time is not just a quest of Turks or Istanbullus, but as much a quest of the West. When Turkey seeks itself, it finds itself for a part in the West. When Europe seeks itself, inevitably a part of Turkey presents itself and its quest as we define our own borders. The influx of immigrants is not just a motion from the outside into Europe, it’s also a force set in motion within us. When Pamuk won the Nobel Prize in 2006 this was a recognition for Pamuk’s masterly literary works, but it was also acknowledging the West’s search to redefine itself. And not without coincidence, can we find a part of the answer to this search in Istanbul, or as it used to be known, in Constantinopel, the old center of the Roman Empire that reinvented Christianity and which held a magic appeal for hundreds of years to western authors.
In Istanbul, Pamuk’s words describe Istanbul, and he confesses in his own words: when I describe Istanbul, I describe myself, and when I describe myself, I describe Istanbul. Pamuk recognizes this himself explicitly and to the full extend, toward the end of his memories of Istanbul, a city literally divided by the Bosphorus, with one half laying in Asia, and one half in Europe. This literal spleen is by Pamuk described as the melancholy, or huzun in Turkish, that both dominates the city as himself. It is obvious that Pamuk cannot separate himself when he thinks of the city where he lived all his life. Continue reading