Capitalizing the City: A Brief Look at Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul

Esra Almas


In a world conceived through metropolises, the city has emerged as a site for new cultural claims and struggles, as well as a compelling narrative resource. Traditionally positioned on the imaginary divide between Europe and Asia, Istanbul disorients its visitors and inhabitants alike with its contrasts and constant changes. Istanbul’s history as a millennial metropolis at the crossroads of East and West provides the ground for innumerable stories that imitate, obliterate, and supersede one another. Something of Istanbul’s global image resonates in the work and career of Turkish novelist and 2006 Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk. The Nobel Citation posits Istanbul as Pamuk’s literary capital, and a twofold relationship between Pamuk and Istanbul, where the city and the writer feed each other. This paper introduces Pamuk’s capital through lenses that relate to Istanbul’s urban imaginary: east-west dynamics, labyrinthine cityscape, and melancholy, to reveal how Pamuk’s narrative establishes Istanbul as a global city within the network of literary cities, and why it is relevant for cultural debates around urbanization and literary studies.

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