I have just finished Istanbul, the subtitle of which is "Memories and the City". It was a slow read, with pacing similar to Snow, the only other Pamuk I have read. Istanbul is a memoir in the form or a series of linked essays: the Istanbul of his youth, older Istanbul, visitors to Istanbul, writers who wrote about Istanbul, painters who painted Istanbul and the West. Some of this can be tedious, especially for one like me who has never visited the city. What makes it work are the interspersed stories of Pamuk's extended family (a large and contentious one) and a series of his youthful experiences. Over all is a spirit of melancholy, huzun (not right on my keyboard).
"On cold winter mornings, when the sun suddenly falls on the Bosphorus and that faint vapor begins to rise from the surface, the huzun is so dense you can alsmost touch it, almost see it spread like a film over its people and its landscapes."
This is a spiritual melacholy, a mixture of poverty and mourning for lost empire and personal depression. Pamuk portrays it effectively, but it weighed on this reader until I craved an end to my own huzun.
It matters in the story of Pamuk's young life. After some years of aspiring to be a painter, rendering the three-dimensional Istanbul on canvas, he resovles to become a writer, to convey its melancholy in words.