• Jay

Melancholy and the City


Garbage Villages, Cairo, Egypt


I derive a fair amount of inspiration from literature. Specifically, non-fiction. Currently, I’m slowly working through Turkish Nobel Prize-Winning author Orhan Pamuk’s book, Istanbul: Memoirs and the City. In it he describes so much of the Turkish culture and the myraid makeup of the great city of Istanbul. (Turkey has spent a fair bit of time in the news as of late). What he pens most is the conflict between the Turkish desire for their former Ottoman glory their desire to be Westernized and respected as modern. As a result he reflects often on the city and it’s history.

As I was reading through recently on the plane, it struck me that what draws me to this literature is the same thing that draws me to older US cities like New York or Chicago. There is a depth of history there that involves people. I’ll see pictures in his book and the faces and think about what their lives might have been comprised of: friends, conversations,  tasks, pressing concerns. I think the same things as I wander streets in foreign cities or older cities in the states.

When I was a child stuck in the backseat of a car with my siblings on a road trip, I would stare out the window watching car after car go by. I wouldn’t content myself to idly watch though, I would mentally transport myself to their vehicle, wonder about conversations and where they were coming from or going  to. Just like my life had friends and things and a relational dynamic, so I wondered what those other people’s lives contained and what their dynamics were like.

Older cities, beat up by time and millions of people passing the same place year in and year out bring the same thoughts to mind.  I wonder, what were their lives like? I sometimes make things up. Both the fiction of the past and the non-fiction of the current make me want to tell that story. I think there’s a part of me that loves making docs because I want to capture that reflection of someone’s normalcy in the present reality.

#writing #travel #development #documentary #inspiration

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©2019 by Jay Friesen.

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