The Japanese [have a] notion of wabi-sabi, of seeing beauty in simple, earthy things that are imperfect and fleeting: the remains of a graffitied wall revealing large old stones beneath it; green tendrils peeking over walls. “Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete,” writes the designer and writer Leonard Koren in his meditation on the subject. Wabi-sabi, he says, can spring from “a sad-beautiful feeling,” a kind of melancholy: “The mournful quarks and caws of seagulls and crows. The forlorn bellowing of foghorns.”
Orhan Pamuk used the Turkish word huzun to describe his city’s communal melancholy in his novel Istanbul, just as his fellow countryman Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar did more than half a century earlier in A Mind at Peace. Huzun is a feeling, a heartache, as Pamuk puts it; something he said could be seen in Istanbul in an ancient clock tower, an old postcard seller, a fisherman heading out to sea, neglected mosques, “everything being broken, worn out, past its prime.” I made my way up ever more stairs, with
Rosenbloom, Stephanie. Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude, Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.