I read Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence recently. Set in Istanbul, it describes the effects of the new west on the old eastern values — a very short description of a very long book. The book has been very well translated from turkish — so much so that it doesn’t read like a translation. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the english translation is the basis for translations into other languages, and is given special attention. I did find the description of Greeks in Istanbul immigrating to Greece rather odd; I though the country you were in was from where you emigrated, and people coming to your country were immigrating. But never mind.
The Museum is both metaphorical and real, for Wikipedia also told me that Pamuk is actually constructing a Museum of Innocence at the location described in the book, and illustrated on a map. It’s to be about everyday artefacts, apparently, and has UNESCO backing. There’s an entry ticket printed in the book, if you want to go there when it’s finished (probably in 2012).
Anyway, this Museum of Innocence reminded me of another museum, our Museum of Childhood. In norn iron, I live alone most of the time in a large family house with its bedrooms, generous living areas, and even a cellar. Now that the family has all left, all that remains are their artefacts, treasures and the non-assorted junk that they didn’t want to take with them. Their old books fill three Billy bookcases on an upstairs landing, there is the old rocking horse, and wardrobes with clothes that they will never wear again.
I’ve asked the kids what is to be done with this museum; do we sell up, or keep it. Mostly, they think we should hang on to the house — I don’t know whether they still think of it as home — with some vague idea that one or more of them would, one day, want to live there.
So, for the moment, I’m condemned to my own museum, trapped by duty, responsibility. Sometimes, it feels more like a prison.