Chapters 33 and 34 of Istanbul

In the previous chapters that we had read, Pamuk focuses on the melancholy of the city, as a whole. In chapters 33 and 34, he seems to open up and allow the reader to see the personal melancholy that radiates from himself. Pamuk seems to go back and forth on his opinion of himself and his true nature. He once mentions that he thinks that everyone looking at him hated him and that they had every right to do so. It seems to me like Pamuk is allowing the city to take him under and the melancholy of the city is being reflected through his own confusion and anxiety of sorts. The city seems to be split into various parts of East and West and like it can’t make its mind up between growing into something new or maintaining the essence of its own true nature.

Overall, this book was utterly beautiful and gave the reader insight as to the mysterious air about Istanbul.

Istanbul’s beauties

The last two chapters of the book do not fall too far from the melancholy of earlier pages. Pamuk opens his soul to the city as to absorb fully its intense nebulous dim and rescue his own self and passion for art through his love for the city. His journey while on board of Kocatas transports him to Eastern Istanbul, as he feels it. It’s a sweet picture of the city as as much of a gift to the reader as it is to himself, in his search for something – as he acknowledges int he last chapter of the book – he was wanting.

This beautiful image of an “unspoiled East” is quickly confronted with his quarrels with his mother and her misfortunes, as well. One can sense that she, in her own way, wants to protect him from hardships and shame as a painter. Fortunately, his daily immersions in the city’s “darkness” is a powerful dosage of artistry and feelings Pamuk needed to convert his pains and joys into this beautiful literary masterpiece.

After Pamuk, I admire Istanbul; his Istanbul.

Critical Reflections on the recent bombings in Paris (and Beirut and other less known places)



Where Does It Hurt, O City of Light


Upon receiving the news from Paris, I did what I often do in moments of crisis. I turned off the TV — and sat with the grief. I turned, as I often do, to poetry, nature, scripture, and prayer. I retreated to solitude, leaving time for sorrow to sit with me before having to answer the inevitable crush of media speculation.

In those early hours there is no real analysis, only a parroting of ideological perspectives. I find it more fully human to welcome grief, and connect with the humanity of those for whom these tragedies are even more personal, more intimately destructive.

The poem that I turned to was yet again from the amazing Somali-British poet, Warsan Shire:

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

Everywhere, everywhere. Everybody hurts. It hurts everywhere.

Read full post here:


Chapters 33-34

In our readings for Monday, Pamuk focuses on the collective melancholy of Istanbul which he describes as “huzun”. In chapters 33 and 34 he describes the impact on huzun on himself and the ways in which the city and his social circles direct him to feel his own sense of huzun or melancholy that is reflective of the city around him.

He describes how Istanbul is caught up in an in betweenness of the past and present, the old and the new, the East and the West. Pamuk himself feels similar to this, shifting from different groups of friends with no real solid identity, all the time feeling shameful because he is not remaining true to himself and his identity. He seems to be lost between different spheres of life, only finding temporary comfort when he engrosses himself in one of these spheres.

He clearly finds some sort of comfort or connection with this city and past but at the same time you get the sense that there is also tension between the identity he is born into and the idealized identity that he wishes to have. In many ways his entire analysis of himself at this time and the city of Istanbul are parallels of loss, confusion, melancholy, and a certain bitter sweetness that makes him still feel connected to Istanbul. Combined with this bitter sweetness is a sort of authenticity that Pamuk seems reluctant to let go of.

Research engines and strategies

To sum up what we discussed in class:


Anthrosource is a good search engine to look for some of the most up to date publications in different anthropological journals. You might want to use this site to search a topic then look for the titles in the search engine at Alden.


Annual Reviews of Anthropology

A journal that publishes reviews of literatures. The articles are great maps for navigating the current contributions on a specific topic or place.


Cultural Anthropology journal. I mentioned this a few classes back. In addition to the hot spots that we read in class, the journal is searchable by topic or region.


Open Anthropology is a new initiative by the American Anthropological Association that compiles articles from various  anthropology journals (often cutting across subfields) organized around specific themes. Since this is a new initiative, unfortunately, there are not many thematic issues (and none that applies to our course) but this is useful in general for research purposes for other anthro courses.


The final true and tried strategy is tracing the bibliography of an author that you like. Look at their references cited and pick the titles that seem useful for your project.

Romanticising the Past

I thought that in both the chapter readings and the article, that, at different levels, both romanticized the past. Istanbul, and Turkey in general, has not always had a glorious past, yes at one point it was  a major economic capital for a large portion of the world, but there has also been extreme social unrest in the country as well, not to mention the capital has been tossed around from conqueror to conqueror many times over again. So I thought that it was interesting how sometimes, people tend to pick the good parts of the past to reminisce, and in this case, to fight for. The Istanbul chapters made me sad, the entire book seems to be filled with melancholy, poor Istanbul.

Chapter 10, 11, 15

I find it curious that the theme for all three chapters have continuously gone back to the idea of melancholy. With chapter 10, it describes the differences in translation of the word Huzun; whether you’re thinking about it with sad connotation or not. In chapter 11, he discusses four melancholic writers, who “have taught me how to reconcile my love for modern art and western literature with the culture of the city I love.” Despite the fact the tone of the literature of these writers may be melancholy, Pamuk has found a brightness from them.

Istanbul: Chapters 10, 11, 15 and the Taksim Protests in Istanbul

To begin, I’ll start with the few chapters assigned in Istanbul. We see a similar theme of melancholy throughout the chapters (it’s literally the name of Chapter 10) and it seems to me that Pamuk is finding a way to explain why he feels this melancholy associated with Istanbul and its “lost golden age”. He mentions how the feeling is incorporated not only in the music and poetry of Istanbul but in the way of life. The next chapter, however, seems to focus more specifically on the beauty that the melancholy inspired in the author while recalling his favorite poets and how the almost tangible emotion pushed them to find their own voice. The next chapter takes the view of a youth (later to be one of Istanbul’s greatest writers) that started in Istanbul and later wrote of the “impulse” transition into Westernization. While doing this, Rasim was able to balance the melancholy and high spirits that he struggled with. Something that wasn’t really seen before.

The article had some parallels with the chapters in the context of some yearning for their golden age back. However, while the book seems to constantly be looking back at the past, the article seems to suggest that the protest was fighting for the future.

Istanbul ch. 10, 11, 15

The word huzun, melancholy, is discussed and it is a feeling that is obtained when you cannot get close enough to Allah. Though you will also get it when you become to “invested,” as the book says, in worldly goods and pleasures. What I can understand of this word is that it can represent a few different situations but mainly it is just a word that represents calmness and a sense of inner suffering. This feeling of melancholy also reflects upon the mood/feel of the city of Istanbul and all who live there. There is an author discussed in the book called Ahmet Rasim and there was a moment that said that he had to keep his melancholy in check. He was a happy guy who loved to write and so I believe that the idea of huzun and what it represents prevents people from being to happy. Making certain that they do not fall ill to worldly pleasures but representing a true Muslim who puts Allah before himself. This word is very complex and a bit confusing but it is suppose to help some up Istanbul. It can also be seen in the architecture.

The Muslim Secular Istanbulus and Religion

One of my favorite chapters in this book is Pamuk’s chapter on his own experiences of religion. The way young Orphan views God struck me as strange when I first read them but, now I am able to see how they are similar to beliefs around the world. At the very beginning of the chapter the author talks about how the cooks and the maids are the ones interested in God and later explains why he thought this was. The fact that religion and God is a fable or tonic for the poor and those in pain. He speaks of how his family view the religious as backwards and how these traditions are halting the progress of the Turkish Republic. It is only later when brought to a mosque by the maid Pamuk realizes that “religious people are harmless”. This is of course a huge matter in Turkish everyday life and the debate over the place of religion is one that will continue forever but the parallels in this chapter always strike me. I think that this stereotype of only the needy and broken needing religion is alive and well in all societies. The concept of having to fill some kind of whole successful and rational people feel with science and philosophy is especially common among the mostly secular upper middle class. Why is this? Is there a sense of sad superiority? (This tension is, of course, changing in Modern Turkey since Pamuk’s childhood with a new upper class of devout Muslims and it is changing the identity of Turkey.) I think there is but why? He describes his family’s superstition and half-belief and it confuses me. When a culture is forced to change so quickly and the traditions remain with humans just changing their names how does one become more valued by different people?