A Changing Turkey, Reflected in Author Orhan Pamuk's Novel Museum

ISTANBUL — The first thing you see are the cigarette butts. There are thousands of them — 4,213 to be exact — mounted behind plexiglass on the ground floor of the Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk’s new museum, named for and based on his 2008 novel, “The Museum of Innocence.” Story and multi-media from The New York Times.

It’s a fittingly strange beginning to a tour of this quirky museum, tucked away in a 19th-century house on a quiet street in the Cukurcuma neighborhood, among junk shops that sell old brass, worn rugs and other bric-a-brac.

But it is also, like everything else on the museum’s four floors, a specific reference to the novel — each cigarette has supposedly been touched by Fusun, the object of the narrator’s obsessive love — and, by extension, an evocation of the bygone world in which the book is set.

“The Museum of Innocence” is about Istanbul’s upper class beginning in the 1970s, a time when Mr. Pamuk was growing up in the elite Nisantasi district. He describes the novel as a love story set in the melancholic back streets of that neighborhood and other parts of the European side of the city. But more broadly it is a chronicle of the efforts of haute-bourgeois Istanbulis to define themselves by Western values, a pursuit that continues today as Turkey as a whole takes a more Islamic turn.

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