Istanbul: Or How I Fell Under a Novel’s Spell


My family and I had traversed the Galata Bridge in a taxi at 3 a.m. on the way to Atatürk Airport. My nine-year-old had looked out at the glowing mosques and bridges over the Bosphorus with drooping eyelids. Many hours later, I wasn’t just jetlagged; I was shocked by the flat quiet of Boston.

Yet the morning after I returned from my first trip to Istanbul, I was in a fever to finish Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence. I’d been racing through the last chapters of his 500-plus-page novel on the plane, even as it taxied to a stop at Logan Airport. It felt like I had to complete the book before America and my normal life rushed back in.

I loved Istanbul; I was overwhelmed by it. The thing is, I didn’t love The Museum of Innocence when I began it, and the experience of reluctantly coming under its spell felt something like the impact of the city itself.


"Blue Mosque in Istanbul"; courtesy of Martha Nichols


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