October 15, 2007
Nobel-winning author Orhan Pamuk to speak Oct. 22 at Stanford
By Cynthia Haven
Orhan Pamuk, the first Turk to win the Nobel Prize in literature, will speak on campus at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 22, in Memorial Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.
Born into a prosperous and secular middle-class family in Istanbul in 1952, Pamuk began writing novels after training as an architect and journalist in Turkey. In awarding him the 2006 Nobel, the Swedish Academy said that Pamuk "in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures."
In the past, Pamuk has dismissed notions of Turkey's "clash of civilizations": "I don't believe in, say, a clash of civilizations," he told the New York Times in 2003. "I am living in a culture where the clash of East and West, or the harmony of East and West, is the lifestyle. That is Turkey."
Pamuk is best known for his previous books Snow, set in a remote and dilapidated city in eastern Anatolia, and My Name Is Red, which takes place in 16th-century Istanbul. Pamuk's latest book is Istanbul: Memories and the City (2005).
The author is almost equally known for his courageous public statements. He was one of the first writers in a Muslim country to protest the 1989 fatwa against author Salman Rushdie and is considered lucky that his views didn't land him in prison.
He came close to such a fate in February 2005, when he mentioned in a Swiss magazine that "a million Armenians were killed and nobody but me dares to talk about it." Pamuk was charged with "insulting Turkishness." After prosecution began, he said during an awards speech in Germany the following October, "I repeat, I said loud and clear that 1 million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds were killed in Turkey." International protest, as well as the flimsiness of the charges, led the case to be dropped on a technicality.
In his Nobel address, Pamuk said:
"What literature needs most to tell and investigate today are humanity's basic fears: the fear of being left outside, and the fear of counting for nothing, and the feelings of worthlessness that come with such fears; the collective humiliations, vulnerabilities, slights, grievances, sensitivities and imagined insults, and the nationalist boasts and inflations that are their next of kind. ...
"Whenever I am confronted by such sentiments, and by the irrational, overstated language in which they are usually expressed, I know they touch on a darkness inside me. We have often witnessed peoples, societies and nations outside the Western worldand I can identify with them easilysuccumbing to fears that sometimes lead them to commit stupidities, all because of their fears of humiliation and their sensitivities. I also know that in the Westa world with which I can identify with the same easenations and peoples taking an excessive pride in their wealth, and in their having brought us the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and Modernism, have, from time to time, succumbed to a self-satisfaction that is almost as stupid."
"An Evening with Orhan Pamuk" is sponsored by the Mediterranean Studies Forum, the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies' S. T. Lee Lecture, the Division of International Comparative and Area Studies, the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies and the Forum on Contemporary Europe.