Byzantium, a city built by Greek colonists to Constantinople, the capital of an empire and then Istanbul, Istanbul has seen almost everything. The zenith of civilization to the ruinous city ravaged by war and political chaos; Each time an empire fell; a new one was born from its ruins giving the people another chance at life, and this cycle continued and still continues. This constant struggle brings with it sorrow; sorrow of the loss of loved ones, sorrow of the loss of culture and sorrow of the fall of another empire and hope, hope of a new life, a restart. This feeling is unlike any other, and every citizen of Istanbul, new or old is afflicted by it, no matter which district they belong to, and through Istanbul: Memories and the City, it is evident that the effect of this feeling on Orhan Pamuk is profound, this feeling called Huzun.
“Huzun is not just the mood evoked by its music and its poetry, it is a way of looking at life that implicates us all, not only a spiritual state but a state of mind that is ultimately as life-affirming as it is negating” Huzun is the feeling of looking through a window on a day of heavy rain, knowing very well that the rain will not abate for quite some time, yet always holding on to the little hope that sun will shine soon. But this still does not justify the vastness of Huzun.
Huzun as put forth by Orhan Pamuk; “is the Turkish word for melancholy. A melancholy of bitter sweetness and consolation, shared communally not in the character of an individual torment”.
Huzun is not the emotion of a single person, but the mood shared by millions of people together [*], and even citizens of Istanbul sometimes fail to understand this feeling, but nonetheless are equal parts that make up this communal emotion, or Huzun.
Orhan Pamuk was one of the people who understood Huzun, and
“If I am to convey the intensity of the Huzun that Istanbul caused me to feel as a child, I must describe the history of the city following the destruction of the ottoman empire , and – even more important – the way this history is reflected in the city’s ‘beautiful’ landscapes and its people”
To the readers, Orhan Pamuk describes Huzun in two aspects, sorrow and hope; the sorrow from the negative emotions that daily life brings forth, the parental feud that had Orhan Pamuk shift to his Aunt’s house when he was young, the disappointment of having his beloved city misunderstood as a ‘sad’ place by tourists and travelers and western poets alike as they cannot understand the entire meaning of Huzun.
This aspect of Huzun stems from the fact that Istanbul is a city of two worlds, the junction of the east and the west. The two sides of the river are like two sides of a coin, each different than the other, yet part of the same existence. The simultaneous existence of these two great influences has resulted in a unique identity for Istanbul, which incorporates the west with the east, but history has shown time and again, two great powers cannot...