Sunday, October 30, 2011

Aimless Reading: The P's, Part 16.3 (Orhan Pamuk)

The White Castle

Pamuk, Orhan
The White Castle

Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.

I spent a whole day driving Orhan Pamuk around the Buffalo/Niagara region in 2007. We drove first  to Niagara Falls, making a stop along the way at Saks Off 5th at the outlet mall so he could buy a warm hat. While wandering around the falls I asked him if he'd like to see some of Buffalo's architecture . He said he was interested in "the ruins of modernism." I said, "Friend, you've come to the right place!"

We drove south to look at the ruins of Buffalo's historic grain elevators, then east to the Central Terminal, Buffalo's great abandoned train station. It looks a little like someone dropped Grand Central Terminal in a field and left it to rot. As we pulled up, we noticed a tour group entering through a makeshift plywood door, so we snuck in behind them.

Pamuk had a little Leica point-and-shoot camera that he busily snapped photos with throughout the day. We ended up in a deep recess of the building, where it was kind of dark, except for a small amount of light coming in through broken windows. After a time, I became aware that the sounds of the tour group had subsided, so I told him I was going to look for them, just to make sure we didn't get locked in the building.

He wandered deeper into the darkness as I walked back into the main terminal looking for the tour group. I walked quickly toward the entrance. A small, stout man carrying a huge cluster of keys came jangling through the door. He started shouting at me immediately, telling me to get out, that he'd almost locked me in the building. I said I still had a friend inside and that I needed to go get him.

At that moment, Pamuk appeared with his camera, shooting the ceiling, the walls, the windows, any- and every- thing he could. The man started yelling at him, too. I asked myself for a moment if I should tell him that he was shouting at a Nobel prize winner, but decided against it. I don't think it would've made much difference.

from The White Castle

I found this manuscript in 1982 in that forgotten 'archive' attached to the governor's office in Gebze that I used to rummage through for a week each summer, at the bottom of a dusty chest stuffed to overflowing with imperial decrees, title deeds, court registers and tax rolls. The dreamlike blue of its delicate, marbled binding, its bright calligraphy, shining among the faded government documents, immediately caught my eye. I guessed from the difference in handwriting that someone other than the original calligrapher had later on, as if to arouse my interest further, penned a title on the first page of the book: 'The Quilter's Stepson.." There was no other heading. The margins and blank pages were filled with pictures of people with tiny heads dressed in costumes studded with buttons, all drawn in a childish hand. I read the book at once, with immense pleasure. Delighted, but too lazy to transcribe the manuscript, I stole it from the dump that even the young governor dared not call an 'archive', taking advantage of the trust of a custodian who was so deferential as to leave me unsupervised, and slipped it, in the twinkling of an eye, into my case.

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