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Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence opens in Istanbul

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Set in the 1970s, "The Museum of Innocence" tells the story of Kemal Basmaci, a prosperous Turkish businessman, and his love affair with a shopgirl of lower class (who happens to be a distant cousin) named Füsun Keskin. After ending the affair, Kemal experiences deep remorse and tries unsuccessfully to woo Füsun back. The lovelorn protagonist becomes increasingly estranged from society and his friends, who write him off as quixotic. Thus begins the process of sublimated repossession. In a period of 2,864 days, Kemal obsessively collects objects (some are pilfered) that remind him of his beloved. Thousands of cigarette stubs bearing the trace of Füsun’s lip rouge, among other objects, are set aside in Kemal’s room, which he intends to refurbish into a “museum of innocence.” ("Happiness," the last chapter in "The Museum of Innocence," includes one single admission ticket to the museum, which readers can redeem.)

Some objects in the physical Museum of Innocence were amassed from flea markets, antique shops, and private collections, but many, including a toothbrush collection, belonged to the author himself. Pamuk said, “The Museum of Innocence – just like the novel – is about the line between fiction and reality. The whole art of a novel is about readers asking themselves did the author really live this or did he imagine this? More or less, I did the same thing with the museum.”

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