The Unlocking of the Innocent Word Suitcase
Reflections on Orhan Pamuk’s Essay “My Father’s Suitcase”
Patricia Gutiérrez Fraire
Guanajuato, Gto., Mexico
The Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk in an intimate dialogue discloses the story of the suitcase that his father left him two years before dying, an inheritance delivered in life. The suitcase kept the writings and notes that his father did in his youth, while he alienated himself from the family and, as the author suggests, abandoned them in Istanbul during his stays in Paris. Pamuk recalls, as a boy, having seen that suitcase in the family house where he grew up and he knew that it contained an unknown history in which he imagined different meanings and scenes. How many times did he see that suitcase be filled with clothes, permeated with the smell of travel and preserve within it a book of notes! Upon receiving the suitcase, he is unaware if it really is a gift or just a burden. What will be found in it? What will his father say? Will he confess to his other life? There is a suspicion about the new story which causes Pamuk to show fear of the possibility. He does not want to read the writings of his father because perhaps that new reading material will change the idea he currently has of him. In those texts he does not want to find his father. He wants to find him with the clues that guide him to get to know himself as he was when he was a boy.
The writer lives in a creative process that is present in the story. The author comments through his relationship with his father what the encounter and struggle has been like with writing, reading and words. Writing has not been simple and in spite of the fact that “the words of others, stories of others, books of others accompany us” the writing has always been for him a solitary act, of arduous work sitting at the table. This role carried out for more than 30 years provided the author with a tenacity and bravery that he reproaches his father for not having defended.
This book came to me without searching for it. On a Saturday afternoon while I walked through the small squares and alleys of Guanajuato, I entered a used bookstore with curiosity. On the main table were some books and this one in particular caught my attention. The innocent word “suitcase” led me to scenes of travel and to the sea. I thought about relics full of memory and yearning. It led me to reflect upon the idea that a second-hand book carries in its pages at least three stories; the story of its existence, the story told by the author and the story created by each reader. In this review, I am moving through these different stories and you will also be telling your own story.
The text, with a fluid and poetic rhythm, offers us passages that we easily could be able to connect with our therapeutic work. By speaking of the writing, reading and words, we find ourselves submerged in the field of the language, our main tool. From there, one can connect and recall that the conversation is a creative act and resembles what the author affirms when he speaks of the reasons of his writing: “I write not to tell a story but to create a story.” As therapists, we become the coauthors of the stories of our clients. Through our questions, we allow the content of that suitcase to sprout into ideas and, from that, novelty emerges. The idea of the suitcases as magic boxes waiting to be opened directs me to the personal stories. This act of encounter and opening could be described in the words of the author: “it was as if to leave the first world and to find consolation in the otherness, in the curiosities and the wonders of the second [world].” I like to think that we become closer with respect and responsibility and that we explore the stories with detail, care and an appetite to become acquainted.
In my case, the words have been important in my story, since the time I learned to read and write through the present, I agree with Pamuk when he affirms “The literature is the most valuable experience that the human being has created to understand himself.” Therefore, I draw near to the books, words and language and I settle into this collaborative and conversational position that confirms my place in the constructed reality and my possibilities of intervention.
The book in itself is a suitcase in which the author delicately preserves the relationship with his father and the writing. It was in 2006 when Orhan Pamuk showed the content of this book/suitcase. The day he was awarded with the Nobel Prize of Literature he read the speech that is discussed in this review. At that time, his father had already died. The author transformed the tribute he received into a pretext to give thanks for his father’s support and to recall the words of encouragement that he had received: “Some day you will be brilliant”.
 Pamuk, Orhan (2008) “My father’s suitcase” Mexico: Ed. Random House Mondadori., compiles three essays, the first one that is the title of the book, and other two texts, “The implicit author” and “In Kars and in Frankfurt”
 Ibid. P. 22
 The city of Guanajuato is cultural patrimony of the UNESCO and is characterized by an eventful geography where the architecture has given fruit to alleys and tunnels. It possesses a tradition of legends and is part of what is called “The route of the Independence”
 Ibid. P. 41
 Ibid. P. 26