The Melancholy of Belonging: City, Memory, Identity in Pamuk's Istanbul

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We are living in an age of globalisation. In this context, the metanarratives of modernity, have come to be challenged by little narratives of locality maybe more than ever. Rewriting history is one of the ways in which these little narratives have come to express themselves. Spanning the movement from the modernisation to postmodernity, Orhan Pamuk’s book, Istanbul: Memories and the City portrays how the styles of modernity have come to dominate, or rather imposed themselves on the lives of the people of Istanbul in the aftermath of Turkey’s foundation in 1923. Pamuk poetically maintains that this imposition caused a special kind of melancholy in the lives of the people of Istanbul, who are doomed to live amidst the ruins of empires (Byzantine and Ottoman), whose heaviness they always feel on their souls. A postmodern work of art, Istanbul not only includes opposite tensions of East and West, but also recounts the exhausted memory of the city, which is observable in its aged buildings falling apart belonging to various ages and to various cultures. In his misty poetic style, the city is pictured heavy with memories but forced to a “loss of history” for the sake of creating a new nation. Istanbul: Memories and the City is the story of this conflict in the smaller picture; and in the bigger picture it is a challenge to the metanarratives of the West, such as Orientalism, in its confident position of locality which is marked by a continuous state of melancholy, and hybridity.


Keywords: Metanarrative, Globalisation, Hybridity, Identity, Politics, Hüzün
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies , History, Historiography , Globalisation , Ethnicity, Difference, Identity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Asli Ozgen-Tuncer

Research Assistant, Department of English Literature and Humanities
Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Eastern Mediterranean University

Famagusta, Cyprus

Asl› Özgen Tuncer is currently doing her MA in English Studies at Eastern Mediterranean University. She took her BA in English Literature at Ege University in 2004. Her academic interests focus on the interface between philosophy and literature; and the interface between art and literature, and film studies. She is a part-time writer and amongst the editors of Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. She is currently working on the use of body as a medium in contemporary arts of the Middle East. Her recent work is “Mobile Space: Orhan Pamuk’s Postmodernist House of the Cosmos” co-written with John Wall in The Mediation of Spaces.

Ref: H08P0508