I am roughly 75 percent of the way through reading an extraordinary book entitled Istanbul, Memories and the City by Nobel Prize winning author Orhan Pamuk. I intend to write a more-thorough Urbanography review of the book upon completion, but had to relay some of these exquisite quotes about cities contained within Mr. Pamuk’s inspired publication.
Not all of the quotes are his, as some are recited from other historians, writers, and artists who came before him, but each is marvelous and thought-provoking in its own right. Here are six gems:
“What gives a city its special character is not just its topography or its buildings, but rather the sum total of every chance encounter, every memory, letter, color, and image jostling in its inhabitants’ crowded memories after they have been living, like me, on the same streets for fifty years.” (Pamuk, pg 110)
“All civilizations are as transitory as the people now in cemeteries. and just as we must die, so too must we accept that there is no return to a civilization whose time has come and gone.” (Hisar, pg 114)
“The enthusiasm for seeing a city from the outside is the exotic or picturesque. For natives of a city, the connection is always mediated by memories.” (Benjamin, pg 240)
“A city, it must be said, owes its very character to the ways in which it ‘goes too far,’ and while an outside observer can take things out of proportion by paying excessive attraction to certain details, these are often the same details that come to define that city’s nature.” (Pamuk, pg 235)
“Istanbul’s greatest virtue is its people’s ability to see the city through both western and eastern eyes.” (Pamuk, pg 258)
“…because it is accidental, the picturesque can never be preserved. after all, what makes the scene beautiful is not the architect’s intention, but its ruin.” (Ruskin, pg 262)
Istanbul is, and has long been one of those “must see cities” that I hope and plan to visit someday. This magnificent book makes that desire to see this great city linking two continents all the greater.