Thursday, March 24, 2011

Orhan Pamuk On Collecting, Collecting Orhan Pamuk Nobel Prize for Literature 2006-Of the Heart and Soul of Istanbul, Turkey and the Islamic World

I noticed a video interview with the 2008 Nobel Literature winner, Orhan Pamuk, on BigThink and enjoyed hearing Pamuk talk about the psychology of collecting, the foundation for his recent novel, The Museum of Innocence.  Pamuk, in the interview, suggests that once you have four or five related items you have the beginnings of a collection and since I have 4 Pamuk books, I seem to have a Pamuk collection underway and it wouldn't take much to expand it.

Pamuk's Nobel Prize was awarded for his writings arising from Istanbul, his home town and " the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures".   I love Istanbul and Turkey and enjoyed two wonderful trips to explore and experience both modern and ancient sites.  Istanbul is truly where East and West collide, interact and evolve.  In English translation Pamuk does indeed offer deep insight into the people and places of his native land.

Establishing a Pamuk collection is fairly easy to do.  Since he is a modern author his publications in English translation are available is oeuvre includes 6 novels, one collection of essays, and four works of non-fiction.  When building a Pamuk collection acquire the best copy available as condition will determine value over time.  Since I first acquired Pamuk to read Pamuk, I have to remember to carefully store the dust jacket when actively reading and to take care during my reading!  I want to read the four novels I do not own and will probably focus on acquiring those first.  If you are simply interested in Pamuk and would like to start slowly, I suggest beginning with his memoir of Istanbul and his novel, My Name is Red.

The White Castle, Orham Pamuk, Carcanet , Manchester, 1990 and George Braziller, New York, 1991, translated by Victoria Holbrook.  This was Pamuk's first novel translated into English and it is expensive to acquire with prices ranging from $295-$2500.  I have linked to a list of 23 copies for sale but beware, the copies for less than $295 are 2nd printings!  I keep hoping to simply stumble upon a copy for short money while attending various book fairs or visiting, off the grid, used book stores because I really don't want to spend $295 for a first edition/first printing.  The novel tells the tale of an 17th century Italian merchant, captured by pirates, sold into slavery in Istanbul and his Turkish servant master who is eager to learn about scientific advances in the West.  (Read a review from The New York Times, 1991)

The Black Book, Orham Pamuk, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, 1994 and Faber and Faber, London. 1995, translated from the Turkish by Güneli Gün.   Pamuk's second novel in English translation, there are only 17 copies available with prices ranging from $125 to $750.  Pricey but if you can find an individual who simply owns a copy offer them $75 and see what happens.  A mystery at heart where everything and everyone one in Istanbul becomes a clue in a lawyer's search for his missing wife.  (see review).  The Black Book was published in a new translation in 2006 and published by Vintage, New York and Faber and Faber, London, 2006 in paperback.  It would be wise to grab a copy as over time this will become more important for any Pamuk collection.

The New Life, Orham Pamuk,  Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, 1997 and Faber and Faber, London. 1997, translated from Turkish by Erdağ M. Göknar.  There are 29 copies available ranging from $50 to $1000, the $50 copy may not last long!  Pamuk's 3rd book translated into English is the story of a magical book that transforms the reader's life.  A story of love, the search for happiness and evolving and changing cultural traditions. (PW summary).  

My Name is Red, Orham Pamuk, Alfred Knopf, New York, 2001, translated from the Turkish by Erdağ M. Göknar (Faber and Faber, London, 2001 softcover, first edition, translated by Benim Adım Kırmızı).  In this case, target the Knopf edition first since for whatever reason, Faber decided to release the London edition of this widely praised and best selling novel in softcover which over time, will never hold up as well as the original hardcover.  This tale of intrigue, coming modernity and clash of cultures during the early days of the decline of the Ottoman Empire beginning in the 19th century was released during the 9/11 tragedy was my first introduction to Pamuk.  This is a complex novel but well worth the effort to read and understand. (An insightful review from October 2001).  Knopf published an Everyman's edition in 2006 which includes an introduction by Pamuk and coincides with his Nobel Prize award.

Snow, Orham Pamuk, Alfred Knopf, New York, 2004, translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely and Faber & Faber, London, 2004.  After the impact and success of My Name is Red, Snow was released to a much wider audience and with 80 copies available, there are plenty of first edition, first printings for sale with prices as low as $30 with a high price for a signed copy at $750.  In this novel Pamuk explores the tensions with the Muslim world of Istanbul between the religious and secular traditions.  (An interesting review at the time of publication by novelist Margaret Atwood in the New York Times)

The Museum of Innocence, Orham Pamuk, Alfred Knopf, New York 2009, translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely, Faber and Faber, London, 2009 and Knopf, Canada, 2009.  It is not surprising that this recent release is the most affordable of Pamuk's novels, translated into English.  36 copies are available ranging from $10.00 to $260 for a signed copy of the Canadian first edition, first printing.  It always make sense to act quickly if you are on a budget as more recent publications are always available at a lower price.  (See review)

A couple of Pamuk, non-fiction titles follow.

Istanbul:  Memories of a City, Alfred Knopf, New York, 2005 and Faber and Faber, London, 2005 translated by Maureen Freely (The London edition preceded the New York edition but that really does not matter just pick one to start with).  This is considered a modern masterpiece and it both an autobiography and biogrpahy of a city.  Pamuk offers insight only a native can offer concerning the past and future of Istanbul and Eastern and Western culture.  32 copies are available but some may not be the first printing with prices ranging from a low of $10 to a high of $440.  (A review by noted bibliophile and author, Alberto Manguel)

The Naive and Sentimental Novelist, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2010.  Based on his Charles Eliot Norton Lectures presented at Harvard University this will become more scarce over time but for now, a few copies for little money are still available.

Collecting as many as possible from the list above will form a fine foundation for a collection.  If you become very interested in Pamuk there are a few other books in English and, of course, a completist collector would acquire his first editions in the original Turkish!  Reading Pamuk is often challenging but well worth the effort especially in this time of turmoil throughout the Middle East becuase Pamuk offers unique insight into the place that is Istanbul, was the center of the Ottoman Empire and will always be a significant part of the Islamic culture whether past, present or future.     

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