On October 12th, 2006, Turkish
novelist Orhan Pamuk was
Nobel Prize for Literature.
The citation by the Swedish
Academy stated that Pamuk was a novelist "who
in the quest for the melancholic
soul of his native city has discovered
new symbols for the clash and interlacing
Discussion of the prize often included
praise for Ms Maureen Freely, whose
translations into English of Pamuk's
novels are supremely fluent and accurate,
making Pamuk's books a pleasure to
read in translation.
You may have heard that Pamuk is controversial in
Turkey, that many Turks think he is
too "Westernized" or "European."
His writing style is a pleasure to
read in Turkish. I especially enjoyed Istanbul:
Hatıralar ve Şehir, translated
as Istanbul: Memories and the City. Pamuk's sentences can be long
and complicated. Sometimes one or two
sentences will form an entire paragraph
(something easily possible
and not unusual in Turkish), and yet
the meaning flows easily, at least
to this reader.
In fact, I much prefer his
Turkish writing style to that of many other
famous Turkish novelists whose style
tends to be more linear and conversational,
with lots of inner dialogue.
Pamuk took his 2008 novel, The Museum of Innocence (Masumiyet Müzesi), from fiction into real life with the establishment of an actual Masumiyet Muzesi in Istanbul's Çukurcuma district of Beyoğlu. More...
But beyond Pamuk's fluent style, there
is the more important meaning of his
The world is now passing through a
"hot" stage of the 1500-year-old struggle
of the Christian and Islamic
worlds to understand one another.
(Other hot stages: the Arab expansion
in the 600s
and 700s, the Ottoman conquest of the
Balkans, the Crusades). Orhan Pamuk's
novels are a useful tool for
non-Turks and non-Muslims to come to
a better understanding of these important
The West has a poor understanding of
Islam and Islamic peoples, a challenge
that writers like Orhan Pamuk may
help to meet.
The world gets smaller and more closely
integrated every day, in every way:
political, economic, social, commercial,
environmental. We can no longer afford
the hapless luxury of ignorance.
We must all learn about one
another, learn to live with one another,
learn to respect, honor, aid and enjoy
one another. As the world shrinks,
there is no alternative.
Those who claim superiority for a
particular nation, people or belief
realize that the shrinking
of the world challenges their power:
in a smaller world with more knowledge,
and possibility, people whose power
and influence depends on a limited,
parochial view will be most strident
in their claims of superiority as they
for empowerment diminish.
The struggle, therefore, is very much
between people who want concord
and progress, and people for
whom division and discord are
a means to
We must learn to live together. In
the long run, we have no other choice.
Neither the learning, nor the living,
be easy, but with
writers such as Orhan Pamuk, we can
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