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Publisher's Summary

A shimmering evocation, by turns intimate and panoramic, of one of the world’s great cities, by its foremost writer. Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk was born in Istanbul and still lives in the family apartment building where his mother first held him in her arms. His portrait of his city is thus also a self-portrait, refracted by memory and the melancholy - or hüzün - that all Istanbullus share: the sadness that comes of living amid the ruins of a lost empire.

With cinematic fluidity, Pamuk moves from his glamorous, unhappy parents to the gorgeous, decrepit mansions overlooking the Bosphorus; from the dawning of his self-consciousness to the writers and painters - both Turkish and foreign - who would shape his consciousness of his city. Like Joyce’s Dublin and Borges’ Buenos Aires, Pamuk’s Istanbul is a triumphant encounter of place and sensibility, beautifully written and immensely moving.

©2013 Orhan Pamuk (P)2013 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Delightful, profound, marvelously original.... Pamuk tells the story of the city through the eyes of memory." (The Washington Post Book World)
"Far from a conventional appreciation of the city's natural and architectural splendors, Istanbul tells of an invisible melancholy and the way it acts on an imaginative young man, aggrieving him but pricking his creativity." (The New York Times)
"Brilliant...Pamuk insistently discribes [a] dizzingly gorgeous, historically vibrant metropolis." (Newsday)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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travel that never leaves home

Orphan has got to be the most popular author in Turkey right now. His books are piled up everywhere.It was hard for me to relate to his spoon fed life, but the story of his first love was poignant and his decision to become a writer even though his parents had him enrolled to be an architect was also very interesting. The book jumps all over the place chronologically and there is an awful lot about French writers who came to sum up Istanbul after only very short visits. Orhan describes the city as black and white and melancholy. These seem to be right on point and I tried to look at some of the dilapidated buildings that sit often nearby the fantastic mosques that are ubiquitous here. There are lots of small neighborhoods with steep winding streets to explore. The place is surrounded by sea and teems with vitality.This was really a biography and we learn about Orhan's childhood and sibling rivalries and a great deal about his personal life. I wonder what a book exploring places like Anatolia would read like. In the end, Istanbul appears different than other cities. There is a reverence for the past, but there is the same desperate passion to get rich quickly that every city seems to exude in it's hollow pursuit of money that really lies at its heart.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Streets of Istanbul

Interesting insight to the son of a rich man and how impacted his life as a boy, artist and writer. The history of Istanbul emerging from an Ottoman Empire into a Turkish city that become an international stopping place from all over the world. Sitting on the peninsula that joins Asia with Europe. The Muslim religion is evident in all the historic Mosques and buildings that are a staple of the vistas seen in the city. All these factors influenced this writer and budding artist.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Istanbul

Excellent Book! I felt like I was walking and smelling the streets of Istanbul! Mr Pamuk's descriptions was vivid! I love this book!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Missed the narrative

After reading his novel, "Snow," which I thoroughly enjoyed and would highly recommend, I came to this work with high expectations. The descriptions were wonderful, but with the narrative of a novel, I found my mind wandering. It was all I could do to push through to the end.

John Lee is superb as always.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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The melancholy of the ruins

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

If the friend wanted to learn about Istanbul in the 1960s and early 70s, yes. Otherwise, without intimate knowledge of the places referred to, one is lost without a mental map.

If you’ve listened to books by Orhan Pamuk before, how does this one compare?

I have heard "A Strangeness in the Mind." Interesting near the end how a "boza" glass that Ataturk is said to have drank from features, as this comprises the narrator of that novel's profession. This is a good follow-up, for all its detail, as John Lee enlivens the city again.

Which scene was your favorite?

The litanies. As in Pamuk's novel above, Lee excels in the litanies of complaint or pride in different voices that Pamuk creates. The chapter on "huzun" is a stand-out and the one near the end about the disgust the concrete, dirty city devoid of mulberry trees conjures up in Pamuk is re-created adroitly. Lee is an ideal interpreter to energize Pamuk's many moods.

Was Istanbul worth the listening time?

Yes, but only if one comes with the expectation that Pamuk despite Lee's talent has some slow spots. He tries to take on a lot, mixing lit crit with history with his own coming-of-age. Chapters are all over the place, on thematic topics. They vary in quality and consistency.

Any additional comments?

Pamuk seems a child of considerable privilege even if he takes pains to distance himself from the rich of his native city. He enjoys a leisurely life and this allows him to become a chronicler of his city's foibles and triumphs. This book in printed form is recommended, as many b/w photographs enrich the contents, and assist readers in picturing Pamuk's prose.

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unengaging

I love Istanbul but this book does not capture it particularly well. The narration is rather boring.