Wednesday, March 10, 2010



the title of chapter ten of orhan pamuk's excellent memoir Istanbul :memories of a city is HUZUN. the first sentence of this chapter is :

Huzun, the Turkish word for melancholy, ..........

and early on in the book he wrote on his four favorite turkish writers who were all in their own ways melancholic. but in chapter ten he described huzun not as a personal or private melancholy as we understand it but a melancholy of a city. his city istanbul.

To feel this huzun is to see the scenes, evoke the memories, in which the city itself becomes the very illustration, the very essence, of huzun.

and in one very long sentence of perhaps almost a thousand words or more (i did not count) he went on to describe the feeling of this huzun.

I am speaking of the evening when sun sets early, the fathers under the street lamps in the back streets returning home carrying plastic bags....of the the patient pimps striding up and down the city's greatest square on summer evenings in search of one last drunken tourist;the crowds rushing to catch ferries on winter evenings....of the old men selling thin religious treatises , prayer beads and pilgrimage oils in the courtyards of mosques; of tens of thousands of identical apartment house entrances, their facades discoloured by dirt, rust, soot and dust;of the broken seesaws in empty parks....

and he went on in this manner for four whole pages in one unbroken extravagant sentence which gets me to feel huzun myself.

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