Tranquil and Turbulent

David Zaret
Vice President for International Affairs
Professor of Sociology and History

Bryan Hall 104, Bloomington, IN

PART ONE: Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk (b. 1952) received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. Like his first two novels, Cevdet Bey and his Sons (1982) and The Silent House (1983), his writing dwells on the intersection of biography and history. The declining fortune of affluent families mirrors Istanbul's historical trajectory as it was perceived by Pamuk growing up in such a family.

"I spent my childhood in a large family surrounded by uncles and aunts. My two first novels, Cevdet Bey and Sons, and Silent House, are family sagas. I enjoy describing crowded family gatherings – the meals they eat together, the feuds, and the quarrels. But with the passage of time, as our fortunes dwindled and our family dispersed, it gradually ceased to be a source of protection or a centre to which I felt obliged to return. Every night, when I curl up in bed and pull my quilt over me, I am swept away by a sweet fear that walks between solitude and dreams, the beauties of life, and its cruelties, and it is then that I shiver in the same way I did when I listened to scary stories, or read fairy tales, as a child."

For these and subsequent novels such as The Black Book (1990), Pamuk's 2005 memoir Istanbul: Memories and the City is described, fairly, by critics as a companion piece. Pamuk himself says, "Half of my book Istanbul is about the city; the other half chronicles the first 22 years of my life."

More information on the author and his work can be found on the website maintained by Pamuk:

Pamuk teaches comparative literature in the United States as a Professor of Humanities at Columbia University.

PART TWO: Figurative Imagery in Islamic Art

This is a controversial topic, widely misunderstood outside the ranks of Islamic art historians, who are familiar with the "preponderance" of figurative art that contradicts the assumption that "Islamic" art excluded representations of living beings (quote is from Grabar, Masterpieces, cited below, p. 19). Hence I supply a few references. For Ottoman figural imagery, specifically Sultanic portraiture, its antecedants in Ilkhanid art with relevant Chinese conventions, and comparisons to Mughal and Safavid painting, see:

Gülru Necipoğlu, "Word and Image: The Serial Portraits of Ottoman Sultans in Comparative Perspective," in Selmin Kangal, ed., The Sultan's Portrait: Picturing the House of Osman. (Istanbul 2000).

For a general and authoritative overview of the nature of early Islamic art:

Oleg Grabar, The Formation of Islamic Art (Yale University Press, 1973, revised 1987).

For an accessible collection with many beautiful examples of figurative images from Islamic manuscripts:

Oleg Grabar, Masterpieces of Islamic Art: The Decorated Page from the 8th to the 17th Century. (Prestel, 2009). See pp. 30, 60, 138 for pictures of Ottoman sultans in Topaki Palace collection. Pp. 18-31 provides brief introduction that sets Ottoman painting in its historical context.

The licit status of figural art varied across time as well as space in Islamic civilization. For a nice example of licit becoming illicit in the transmission of images of Ottoman sultans:

Finbarr Barry Flood,"Lost Histories of a Licit Figural Art," International Journal of Middle East Studies 45 (2013).

The variable licit status in the medieval and early-modern era does not align with the Sunni/Shi'a division, even for the most vexed issue--figural figural images of Muhammad. For a survey of this in early Islamic art, with comments on some contemporary practices:

Christiane Gruber, "Between Logos (Kalima) and Light (Nūr): Representations of the Prophet Muhammad in Islamic Painting." In Muqarnas: An Annual on the Visual Culture of the Islamic World 26 (2009).

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