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The Museum of Innocence

The Museum of Innocence
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A sweeping, emotionally charged novel of the nature of romantic attachment and the strange allure of collecting — this is Orhan Pamuk’s greatest achievement.

It is Istanbul in 1975. Kemal is a rich and engaged man when he by chance encounters a long-lost relation, Fusun, a young shopgirl whose beauty stirs all the passion denied him in a society where sex outside marriage is taboo.

Fusun ends their liaison when she learns of Kemal’s engagement. But Kemal cannot forget her: for nine years he tries to change her mind, meanwhile stealing from her an odd assortment of personal items, which he collects and cherishes — a “museum of innocence” that he puts on display to tell the heartbreaking story of a love that shaped a life.


From the Hardcover edition.
Knopf Canada; January 2010
528 pages; ISBN 9780307373793
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Excerpt
1
The Happiest Moment of My Life

 
 
It was the happiest moment of my life, though I didn't know it. Had I known, had I cherished this gift, would everything have turned out differently? Yes, if I had recognized this instant of perfect happiness, I would have held it fast and never let it slip away. It took a few seconds, perhaps, for that luminous state to enfold me, suffusing me with the deepest peace, but it seemed to last hours, even years. In that moment, on the afternoon of Monday, May 26, 1975, at about a quarter to three, just as we felt ourselves to be beyond sin and guilt so too did the world seem to have been released from gravity and time. Kissing Füsun's shoulder, already moist from the heat of our lovemaking, I gently entered her from behind, and as I softly bit her ear, her earring must have come free and, for all we knew, hovered in midair before falling of its own accord. Our bliss was so profound that we went on kissing, heedless of the fall of the earring, whose shape I had not even noticed.
 
Outside the sky was shimmering as it does only in Istanbul in the spring. In the streets people still in their winter clothes were perspiring, but inside shops and buildings, and under the linden and chestnut trees, it was still cool. We felt the same coolness rising from the musty mattress on which we were making love, the way children play, happily forgetting everything else. A breeze wafted in through the balcony window, tinged with the sea and linden leaves; it lifted the tulle curtains, and they billowed down again in slow motion, chilling our naked bodies. From the bed of the back bedroom of the second-floor apartment, we could see a group of boys playing football in the garden below, swearing furiously in the May heat, and as it dawned on us that we were enacting, word for word, exactly those indecencies, we stopped making love to look into each other's eyes and smile. But so great was our elation that the joke life had sent us from the back garden was forgotten as quickly as the earring.
 
When we met the next day, Füsun told me she had lost one of her earrings. Actually, not long after she had left the preceding afternoon, I'd spotted it nestled in the blue sheets, her initial dangling at its tip, and I was about to put it aside when, by a strange compulsion, I slipped it into my pocket. So now I said, "I have it here, darling," as I reached into the right-hand pocket of my jacket hanging on the back of a chair. "Oh, it's gone!" For a moment, I glimpsed a bad omen, a hint of malign fate, but then I remembered that I'd put on a different jacket that morning, because of the warm weather. "It must be in the pocket of my other jacket."
 
"Please bring it tomorrow. Don't forget," Füsun said, her eyes widening. "It is very dear to me."
 
"All right."
 
Füsun was eighteen, a poor distant relation, and before running into her a month ago, I had all but forgotten she existed. I was thirty and about to become engaged to Sibel, who, according to everyone, was the perfect match.


From the Hardcover edition.
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ISBNs
0307373797
9780307373793
9780676979688