Milan is a city dear to Orhan Pamuk, Nobel prize for literature in 2006 and author of The Museum of Innocence (2008), a novel conceived at exactly the same time as the eponymous museum in Istanbul, opened to the public a few years after the book came out. In both, reality and fiction intertwine in a project that challenges categories and encourages us to question not only relations between writing and reality and between artistic and functional objects, but also the very statute of the artwork and that of its container, the museum. The central focus of the twofold enterprise is the relationship established between word, image and representation, with “image” meaning everything that pertains to the visual realm.
The youthful aspiration of Pamuk to become an artist – with drawings that did not reproduce nature, objects and streets, but the forms of his mind – fuelled the refined visual sensitivity of the author that permeates the entire novel, in which Milan itself plays a significant part. This is the city where the main character Kemal dies, after visiting the Museo Bagatti Valsecchi for the last time, and it was also in Milan, in January 2017, that the Accademia di Brera awarded Pamuk a diploma honoris causa, devoting a conference to him, the contents of which feature in this book. Together with Pamuk’s lectio magistralis, Salvatore Settis’ laudatio and contributions from scholars in different disciplines regarding the Museum of Innocence “operation”, a number of texts by the Turkish writer are presented here on his museum poetics, including a brand new piece inspired precisely by the dialogues of his Milanese days.
The importance and topicality of Pamuk’s ideas, in relation not only to the mose recent museographic and museological conceptions, but also the research of contemporary artists who conceive collections as an art form, are therefore strongly reiterated: his work as a writer and artist is the expression of a precise desire not to tell the “Story”, but to bring “stories” back to life within a vision that is both utopian and real at the same time.