Istanbul Reflections

At the beginning of my freshman year in college, I started dating a young man from Turkey. While reading Orhan Pamuk’s “Istanbul” I was reminded of the same strange love for the country my ex-boyfriend had. by strange I mean he was at times distancing the country from it’s history and declaring himself proud of the history and culture. He would randomly tell me stories about the Ottoman Empire, how they ruled much of the world. He would tell my of the different Ottoman artifacts his mom had saved up as wedding gifts for his future wife. And after telling me these fantastic and almost exotic stories of his culture and country, he would insist that Turkey was very modern and just like any other European country.

Orhan does something similar in his book. By contrasting the old mansions that everyone used to live in with the modern family apartment in which he now resides. This contrast was especially noticeable when he talked about the western sitting room every family had when he was young. The sitting rooms were like museums to him, and it represented westernization. However no one new what westernization was good for, but they all did it. They gave up the traditional pillow clad lounging rooms for western living rooms with pianos no one could play and china plates no one could touch.

The way I saw it, they were pretending to be “western” ,whatever that means, until it became true. So this probably explains why that ex-boyfriend from Turkey was so offended when I asked him If Turkey was a middle eastern country or considered apart of Europe. His answer confused me then but after reading these short stories I think I better understand why he said “Turkey is neither and it is both.”

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