October 12, 2006


Turkey's Orhan Pamuk wins Nobel literature prize (AP, 10/12/06)

Pamuk has long been considered a contender for the Nobel prize and he figured high among pundits and bookmakers.

In its citation, the academy said that "Pamuk has said that growing up, he experienced a shift from a traditional Ottoman family environment to a more Western-oriented lifestyle. He wrote about this in his first published novel, a family chronicle ... which in the spirit of Thomas Mann follows the development of a family over three generations."

"Pamuk's international breakthrough came with his third novel, The White Castle. It is structured as an historical novel set in 17th-century Istanbul, but its content is primarily a story about how our ego builds on stories and fictions of different sorts. Personality is shown to be a variable construction," the academy said.

Engdahl said the The Black Book, was his personal favorite among Pamuk's works.

"He has a flowing imagination and impressive ingenuity," Engdahl told Swedish radio.

In winning the prize, Pamuk's already solid reputation will be boosted onto a global stage. He will also see out-of-print works returned into circulation and a sales boost. He will also receive a 10 million kronor (euro1.1 million; US$1.4 million) check, a gold medal and diploma, and an invitation to a lavish banquet in Stockholm on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of prize founder Alfred Nobel.

So they gave one to V.S. Naipaul, who opposes Islamicism; then one to Harold Pinter who opposes the Reformation; now one to another opponent of Islamicism; smart money is on Gore Vidal next year.

-ESSAY: ON TRIAL (Orhan Pamuk, 2005-12-19, The New Yorker)
-ESSAY: THE PAMUK APARTMENTS: Growing up among the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. (ORHAN PAMUK, 2005-03-07, The New Yorker)
REVIEW: of 'My Name Is Red' by Orhan Pamuk (RICHARD EDER, NY Times)

Time's deletions, like a computer's, are not really deleted. A technician can restore what the keyboard has made to vanish, and the past is never quite gone. Historical change deteriorates and slides back; defeat hangs around, sometimes for centuries, awaiting the chance to become victory. Not only did the South rise again; it went Republican.

Proust was literature's foremost artificer at undeleting an individual's memory. The Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, whose intricate intrusions of past into present have been compared to Proust's, works on the memory of a nation and a civilization.

Kemal Ataturk obliterated every vestige of the once-powerful, long-tottering 600-year Ottoman Empire. He decreed Westernization: Islam was restricted, fezzes and veils were out, the grand accretions of Persian and Arabic in the Turkish language were annulled to the point where Turks today can find it hard to read poems only a century old.

Pamuk himself, now in his 40's, began as a literary Westernizer, though set against the oppressiveness and corruption of Ataturk's heirs. He gorged on European and American literature, studied at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and adopted a contemporary blend of modernist and postmodernist techniques. He wrote of the stagnation and backwardness that 80 years of modernization had not only failed to eradicate but, across broad expanses of Turkish geography and society, had barely touched.

He is not an ideologue or a politician or a journalist. He is a novelist and a great one (nobody -- other than a small committee of Swedes -- could rule out a Nobel). His job is not to denounce reality but to be haunted by it, as a medium is haunted.

The reality that possesses him is that Turkey's attempt to obliterate the Ottoman heritage in Turkey hacked away roots. It aimed not just at what was retrograde but at what was still stubbornly alive and perhaps precious. (It may have been futile, in any case, as the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism could suggest.)

Not to denounce the reality that haunts you does not mean to praise it. It is more a matter of speaking in a medium's divided voices -- a painful division and, in the case of Pamuk, both confusing and exhilarating. Three of his earlier dissonant-voiced novels have been published and critically praised here, but not widely read.

The new one, ''My Name Is Red,'' is by far the grandest and most astonishing contest in Pamuk's internal East-West war.

Turkish writer wins Nobel Prize in literature
(Associated Press, 10/12/06)
Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday for his multitude of works that deal with the symbols of clashing cultures.

In its citation, the Swedish Academy said that the 54-year-old Istanbul-born Pamuk "in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city, has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures."

"Pamuk has said that growing up, he experienced a shift from a traditional Ottoman family environment to a more western-oriented lifestyle," the academy said.

"He wrote about this in his first published novel, a family chronicle...which, in the spirit of Thomas Mann, follows the development of a family over three generations."

-Turkish Writer Wins Nobel Prize in Literature (SARAH LYALL, 10/13/06, NY Times)
“You’re beginning to notice a certain sensitivity to trends — they are giving the prize as a symbolic statement for one thing or another,” Arne Ruth, former editor in chief of the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter, said in an interview. He said Mr. Pamuk “is a symbol of the relationship between Europe and Turkey, and they couldn’t have overlooked this when they made their choice.”

In an interview in New York, where he is spending a semester teaching at Columbia University, Mr. Pamuk said he saw the prize as a recognition of his work rather than a statement about his beliefs. “I think less than people think I do about politics,” he said. “I care about writing. I am essentially a literary man who has fallen into a political situation.”

Nationalist Turks have not forgiven Mr. Pamuk for an interview with a Swiss magazine in 2005 in which he denounced the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in World War I and the killing of Kurds by Turkey in the 1980’s. The remarks were deemed anti-Turkish, and a group of nationalists initiated a criminal case against him. The charges were dropped on a technicality in January. Accepting a literary award in Germany in 2005, Mr. Pamuk said: “The fueling of anti-Turkish sentiment in Europe is resulting in an anti-European, indiscriminate nationalism in Turkey.”

Mr. Pamuk’s work speaks to Europe’s growing skittishness about its Muslim population and to the preoccupation with the question of whether Islam is by nature compatible with secular European values on issues like criminal justice and women’s rights. Turkey is edging closer to becoming part of the European Union. On Thursday, though, the lower house of French Parliament passed a bill that would make it a crime to deny that the Turkish killing of Armenians from 1915 to 1917 constituted genocide — a law that contradicts Turkey’s view.

In remarks sure to further annoy Turkey, the Armenian foreign minister, Vartan Oskanian, weighed in with a message of congratulations for Mr. Pamuk. “We welcome this decision and only wish that this kind of intellectual sincerity and candor will lead the way to acknowledging and transcending this painful, difficult period of our peoples’ and our countries’ history,” Mr. Oskanian said in an e-mail message to The New York Times.

Because of the mixed feelings Mr. Pamuk inspires at home — pride in his international prominence, irritation at his political profile and provocative views — some prominent Turks trod gingerly in reacting to the news of his prize.

“I want to believe that the Nobel Prize was given to him purely on his literary talents, but not political declarations,” said Egemen Bagis, a member of Parliament from the ruling Justice and Development Party. At the same time, he said the prize “shows how far Turkey has come in its contribution to the world’s arts and literature.”

-INTERVIEW: Orhan Pamuk: 'I Was Not A Political Person' (ALEXANDER STAR, August 15, 2004, NY Times)
-INTERVIEW: Orhan Pamuk and the Turkish Paradox: Orhan Pamuk, 53, Turkish author and this year's winner of the German Book Trade Peace Prize, discusses his life in Istanbul, threats to his personal safety, the urge to take a political stand, Turkey's identity in Europe and his latest novel (Der Spiegel, 10/21/05)
-Nobel Prize for Turkish Author Pamuk: Loved abroad and controversial at home, Turkish author Orhan Pamuk was awarded the Nobel literature prize on Thursday. The Swedish Academy cited his work on the clash of cultures. (der Spiegel, 10/12/06)
-A Nobel for a Novelist of Melancholy (ADAM KIRSCH, October 13, 2006, NY Sun)
The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded yesterday to Orhan Pamuk, a 54-year-old Turkish writer, whose ingeniously constructed novels explore the ambivalent relationship between Turkey and the West. Mr. Pamuk, one of Turkey's best-selling writers and the only one whose work is regularly published in America, has long been considered a favorite to win the prize. But the Swedish Academy's decision to honor Mr. Pamuk this year, in the wake of the novelist's prosecution by the Turkish government for the crime of defaming his country, is also an unmistakable gesture of support for freedom of expression.

A Nobel winner for our times (Margaret Atwood, October 13, 2006, The Guardian)
Orhan Pamuk, the celebrated Turkish novelist, has won the Nobel prize for iterature. It would be difficult to conceive of a more perfect winner for our catastrophic times. Just as Turkey stands at the crossroads of the Muslim East/Middle East and the European and North American west, so Pamuk's work inhabits the shifting ground of an increasingly dangerous cultural and religious overlap, where ideologies as well as personalities collide.

It's no exaggeration to say that you have to read Pamuk if you want to begin to understand what's going on in people's hearts, minds and souls, not only in Turkey, but also in Britain, where the current Jack Straw headscarf controversy eerily mirrors the subject matter of Pamuk's recently-translated 1996 novel, Snow (in which we are reminded that Ataturk's ruthless modernisation campaign included a much-disputed banning of headscarves.)

-ESSAY: THE EXPERIMENT: Will Turkey be the model for Islamic democracy? (DAVID REMNICK, 2002-11-18, The New Yorker)
-ESSAY: ANATOLIAN ARABESQUES: A modernist novel of contemporary Turkey. (JOHN UPDIKE, 2004-08-30, The New Yorker)
The Lost Son: Nobel Prize Winner Pamuk Divides Turkey (Dilek Zaptcioglu, 10/13/06, Der Spiegel)
In his native Turkey, many see Orhan Pamuk, the 2006 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, as a moderately talented writer and an opportunist who, with his comments on Turkey's conflict with Armenia, has made a name for himself at the expense of his own people. This explains the mixed reactions in Turkey to Pamuk winning the Nobel Prize.

-ARTICLE: Turkish Laureate Criticizes French Legislation (SEBNEM ARSU, 10/14/06, NY Times)
-ESSAY: This noble winner should get the Peace Prize, too (Robert McCrum, October 15, 2006, The Observer)

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 12, 2006 11:59 PM

This is a good choice. He's an excellent, widely-read author, unlike such recent winners as the deservedly obscure Jelinek and the has-been Pinter.

Posted by: Mörkö at October 12, 2006 10:17 AM

If he isn't a kool aid drinker, then it's good choice.

Posted by: erp at October 12, 2006 11:09 AM

Wow. A Moslem capitalist from Banladesh, Professor Muhammad Yunus, wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

The left has collapsed. Stand back if you don't want it to fall on you.

Posted by: erp at October 13, 2006 2:09 PM