Mihăilescu Clementina’s contribution entitled „Istanbul”, inserted within her book „Cognitivism and Literature”, and reviewed from a liteary perspective, highlights the fact that it has been written in a „vertical” manner. This feature is revealed by the author’s endeavour to  first explicate four theories-Zipf’s theory according to which all our acts are performed in a stream and that they never occur or exist except in reference to a contextual setting, the act of writing about Istanbul fully demonstrating this aspect, Soja’s Thirdspacing, Bachelard’s aesthetics and Jung’s psycho-analysis, focused on archetypes and the process of individation, and, then, by  her investigation, via the respective theretical entries, of the spatial and temporal specificity of urbanism in terms of regarding Istanbul as an intense lived space depicted as real and imagined, actual and virtual, cultural and social, the place of well articulated individuals and of the collectieve experience as well.

Keywords:Istanbul, Pamuk, Zipf, Ricoeur, Soja, Bachelard, Jung, soul, body, huzun.


Pamuk’s contribution entitled ”Istanbul”, inserted in Clementina Mihăilescu’s book, entitled “Cognitivism and Literature” and approached from an interdisciplinary perspective, is a genuine construction meant to relate literature both to the concept of time and to that of space, the basic Kantian categories. The author of this book has explained her adherence to this large categorial contextual setting by quoting Zipf’s study titled „The Psycho-Biology of Language”. It reveals that all acts are “performed in a stream”, that all acts, even the apparently isolated ones, „occur in sequential arrangement”, thus, they never “become engrained in habit as isolated acts”. Zipf’s argumentation reaches a climax with his statement that “neither in language nor in any type of behaviour does an act occur or exist except in reference to a contextual setting”.

Mihăilescu Clementina has taken this statement into account and so, it has seemed only natural to her to turn to good account Ricoeur’s analysis of time in terms of “degrees of temporality” and Soja’s analysis of First, Second and Thirdspace.

The three degrees of temporality, analyzed by Ricoeur, as representations of time in the author’s consciousness, consisting of “within – timeness”, “historicality” and “deep temporality”, have been examined by Mihăilescu Clementina in relation to various items of information regarding the family relations, school days, the four melancholic writers’ presentations of various events closely related to past and present day Istanbul.

On the other hand, Soja’s concern with the issue of spacing, has extensively been tackled in terms of the Firstspace of objects, Secondspace of thought and Thirdspace of fully lived experience, which is simultaneously real-and-imagined, perceived and conceived.

Bolinger’s concept of gradience has enlarged the texture of her contribution with his reference to the fact that exactly as linguistic classes grade into one another so do the concepts of space and time in Pamuk’s contribution, which, through its subtitle “Memories and City”, suggests that the town is related to memory and to rendering topical the self and its evolution, thus proving how right is Zipf’s opinion  regarding the fact that “every act up to death is followed by another”, in sequential arrangement.

Mihăilescu Clementina has also posited that Bachelard’s cognitively charged syntagm ”full roundness” reveals a new opportunity of interpreting Soja’s Thirdspace as emblematic for thinking embodied in various archetypal images present in Pamuk’s contribution. Bachelard’s inclination towards phenomenological purity, a characteristic also revealed by  the author of this contribution, has been activated by relating the concept of “full roundness” to Jasperson’s formula „das Dasein is rund”,thus inviting and assiting those concernd with interpreting literature to eliminate as much as possible “a duplicate of being and appearance”, claims Mihăilescu, using Bachelardian terminology. Such suggestions have been valuable instruments to recognize and comment upon the archetypal charge of some images related to this town and “to reconstitute from inside Istanbul’s body and soul- as an embodied extension of Pamuk’s brain”, asserts the author professionally employing and playing with cognitive and Jungian terms.

The archetype of intimacy has been commented in connection with daydreaming, regarded by Pamuk as a “way of excaping westernalization and modernization”, which, in his opinion, cited by Mihăilescu “caused the fall and the decline of the Ottoman empire itself”. Interestingly, Mihăilescu Clementina asserts that the city’s soul and body cognitively suggest Pamuk’s thinking embodied in  various archetypal images and bodily representations and, consequently, she posits that “the black and white engravings with it have become an intense emotional vehicle for vizualizing its visionary anatomy”.

Mihăilescu further focuses on Hisar’s references to “Bosphorous Civilization” in order to “recreate the myterious allure of its vanishing culture”, impressively interpreted as having turned Istanbul into a genuine cultural archetype. The aesthetic vibrations of Pamuk’s text have been captured and emotionally commented by Mihăilescu who seems to have profoundly identified herself with them. As such, she has depicted how the “colours of the hills” appear as „reflections of an inner life”, and how they hold a special place in the Turkish people’s “collective heart”.

Bosphorous is referred to by Pamuk as “the cure of all ills and the infinite source of goodness and good will” for all those who dwell in it. Mihăilescu makes an interesting appreciation regarding Hisar’s references, interpreted by her as attesting to its “bodily anatomy”, whereas Melling’s illustrations have been interpreted as suggesting “the visionary perception of it” as “a wonder of the world”.

Pamuk’s contemplation of the life of his family in terms of their house, regarded by him as a centre of the world, his father’s bankruptcies, the family’s never-ending property squabbles, the dwindling fortune has been set in relation with the term “melancholy”. The importance of melancholy for the Turkish people, usually referred to as “ hüzün”, has been explained by Pamuk in terms of the chracteristic scenes, the memories through which the city itself “becomes the very illustration, the very essence of hüzün itself”.

It is impressive and we, as literary reviewers, have been highly responsive to the emotional charge identified in Pamuk’s novel by a visiting professor to Turkey, three years before, who, unfortunately, because of the time span, had not the chance to visit Istanbul herslf in order to personally enjoy its beauty.

Moreover, the author of this contribution has argued that the city’s ”full roundness” arises from its symbolic ruins which represent the essence of the city and the cause of its melancholy, permanently referred to as “hüzün”, as we have already shown. Mihăilescu Clementina’s assumption that there are no longer any boundaries between the outside ruins and those within ourselves has brought about her approach to the image of Istanbul itself, personified as a ”bodiless space of soul”, the expression of an extreme sensibility which establishes a spiritual community between the writer and his readers.

Equally relevant for Mihăilescu Clementina’s approach have been the identifications of Pamuk’s comments on various writers and painters’ representations of Istanbul, more specifically on Melling’s landscapes. Since everything in Melling’s visual projections of Istanbul appears as simultaneously historical-social-and-spatial thirdspace sites,the author of this contribution has concluded that temporal, social and spatial relations are constantly reinscribed again and again by those who are not allowed to disregard Zipf’s statement already commented by us in the sense that an “act” be it social, political or linguistic does not occur or exist either in language not in any type of behaviour “except in reference to a contextual setting”.

Mihăilescu Clementina has also concluded that such instances as those depicted by Melling, and not only, have revealed Istanbul as “a simulated city-state of mind”, in Soja’s terminology, infused with glimpses into everyday life experience, marked profoundly by various (pre)modern and postmodern crisis. She has also emphasized that the social and political crises, depicted by the nationalist writers, under the form of the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the urbanization processes that have characterized modern and postmodern Istanbul, reveal the “restructuring and postmodernization of the perceived, conceive and lived spaces”  of the city, proving that the brief outline of its “urban reality”, depicted from the triple historical, social and spatial perspective, is a new direction that transcends the previous “micro-macro, local – global oppositions”, depicted in other approaches to Pamuk’s contribution.


Assoc. Prof. Dr. Abdulkadir Gӧkmen,  Cankiri Karatekin University Turkey

Recenzie publicată în revista Demersuri Creative nr. 27/ iunie 2018



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