Wednesday, January 27, 2010

from 'Istanbul' by Orhan Pamuk

I love the early evenings when autumn is slipping into winter, when the leafless trees are trembling in the north wind and people in black coats and jackets are rushing home through the darkening streets. I love the overwhelming melancholy when I look at the walls of old apartment buildings and the dark surfaces of neglected, unpainted, fallen-down wooden mansions...When I watch the black-and-white crowds rushing through the darkening streets on a winter's evening, I feel a deep sense of fellowship, almost as if the night has cloaked our lives, our streets, our every belonging in a blanket of darkness...as I watch dusk descend like a poem in the pale light of the streetlamps to engulf the city's poor neighbourhoods...

...as night fell over the city it would erase the third dimension from the houses and the trees, the summer cinemas, balconies, and open windows, endowing the city's crooked buildings, twisting streets and rolling hills with a dark elegance.

To see the city in black and white is to see it through the tarnish of history: the patina of what is old and faded and no longer matters to the rest of the world. Even the greatest Ottoman architecture has a humble simplicity that suggests an end-of-empire melancholy, a pained submission to the diminishing European gaze and to an ancient poverty that must be endured like an incurable disease; it is resignation that nourishes Istanbul's inward-looking soul.

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