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?

Istanbul Chapters, and the Taksim Protest Article

It was interesting in Pamuk’s chapters reading about the difference between seeing Istanbul through the lens of melancholy as someone who lived there versus the melancholy described in the other works he mentioned of a tourist traveling through a poverty stricken area. How there was almost an honor in the type of melancholy felt by people who live in Istanbul, and how that cultural melancholy differs from solitary melancholy.

The article on the other hand described more of a pride in Istanbul’s history than the book did. The article made it seem like people didn’t want their history destroyed (and they won out).

To me, the book and the article seemed to contradict themselves in terms of Istanbul pride and melancholy. Nevertheless, they were both very interesting to read.


It was interesting how from the very first paragraph of the article, it brought up the concept of a Neo-Ottomanist vision for Erdogan. To re-fashion Taksim Square would cause his ascension to power and thus employ that Neo-Ottomanist vision unto Turkey and then excel the UN to take more notice of Turkey. My question, however, is if Erdogan did rise and this Neo-Ottomanist vision took place , would Turkey begin to mobilize and attempt to expand into an empire once again? That was the first question that arose in my mind because of the Middle East being on fire and ISIS causing cataclysmic damage to societies infrastructure in the Middle East.

Taksim: Forever Turkish

Reading Pamuk’s “Four Lonely Melancholic Writers” (Istanbul) was a delightful experience. His admiration for Sinasi Hisae, Yahya Kemal, Tanpinar, and Ekrem Kocu as writers reflects his own admiration for the cultural value of the city of Istanbul itself. Pamuk’s daydreaming of would-be chance encounters with these artists introduces us to his city and the many shared spaces that the author might have experienced with the writers.

In his own words, Pamuk acknowledges that “these four heroes…opened my eyes to the soul of the city in which I live.”(111) Beautifully, by reliving his love for the artistic merit of these four writers, we are kindly introduced to their city, their way of remembering its past, and our own chance encounters with their city through their artistic eyes. It is worth noting that Pamuk recognizes that these writers were once recharged by the East-West – past and present – tensions that Istanbul hosted. Their “pure poetry” was embedded in originality of an art the looked forward without apologizing for the past; their melancholic approach celebrated the Istanbul they knew and hoped to always keep alive, somehow.

Pamuk skillfully gives us a snapshot of modern realities of Istanbul and the presence of opposites, side-by-side in the city: rich minority versus sea of working majority; old buildings of Ottoman once-grandeur versus waves of ethnic immigration to a “new city.” It’s the patchwork of Istanbul forming at our very own eyes. And what more “to chance” than encountering that on the grounds of Taksim Square? That would be life-for-the-sake-of-life art!

Thus, the remodeling of boxed concepts in modern Istanbul by its own diverse population (with varied motives and aspirations) is the city’s new Istanbullus. In “Breaking Memory, Spoiling Memorization: The Taksim Protests in Istanbul,” its population stamped the city with its own signature: diversity on old grounds. The old and the new in the city concentrated in one historical site of traditional cultural value for the sake of democracy and the reshaping of  what means to be Istanbullus.

Protesters have shown that artificially propelling the city into the future without taking to heart what is meaningful to the people living in it is not what is valued by this new, multicultural self of the city identity. As the article reinforces, they cried against Erdogan’s “…conservative and repressive moralist approach to governing society…its authoritarianism…its crack down on intellectuals by restricting freedom of expression, its neoliberal development plans, its destruction of nature…its takeover of Istanbul’s old quarters and neighborhoods for neoliberal gentrification projects, its long-term repression of Kurds…and of non-Muslim minorities….” Istanbul’s many faces wanted to be seen, heard, and write their own history. Maybe these are the readers Pamuk’s writers had sought, after all. Not a city of architectural grandiosity, solely, but a city of shared spaces for shared values, aspirations, and meaning.

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Menely really articulates the many deeper meanings behind the production, consumption, and circulation of olive oil. This particular reading does focus on a specific group of olive oil producers but I thought it was interesting to read how this product has become the major stressor of a culture. For instance, the Palestinian market has accepted the fact that, in order to profit, they must endure the many struggles of exporting and transporting their olive oil to different regions. Blood, sweat, and tears never seemed to cross my mind when thinking of the production of olive oil. Menely shed light on this cultures struggles to produce a high end product.