Despite the relatively exotic setting of Istanbul, this New Yorker story—for a welcome change—takes a traditional form and has a satisfying, if open, conclusion. It may not be the best story of the year, but it’s the best in weeks.
Kemal is thinking back to 1975 and the events that changed his life. He was the son of wealthy parents and had recently returned to Turkey from his studies in America. He was engaged to a beautiful woman from a good family, and his future was bright. Until he met Fusun. Kemal has done the right thing by going to a shop to buy a purse that his fiancée has admired, but when he sees Fusun, a distant cousin (not by blood), his world is rocked. She’s stunning, and there have been whispers about her because she participated in a beauty pageant (not a good thing in Turkey in the 70s, apparently).
In the end, while he realizes he’s still going to get married, he’s also not going to drop Fusun. And so his world is going to get very complicated.
Which makes for a terrific opening to a novel, which I’m guessing this is. Pamuk, we’re told, has a new novel due out in October, “The Museum of Innocence,” and while I don’t know for sure it seems likely that this story is drawn from that work. While I wish the magazine would tell us when they’re publishing novel excerpts, this one, at least, works very well as a stand-alone story.
September 7, 2009: “Distant Relations” by Orhan Pamuk