December 02, 2006

Orhan Pamuk and Turkey

Orhan Pamuk is one of my favourite novelists- Chandharas has written a good review of one of his most important novels about art and sixteenth century Turkish history. Throughout his novels run themes of Turkish adaptation to modernity, whether it be in the cityscape of his beloved Istanbul or the overt political landscape of Snow. Granting Pamuk the nobel prize was definitely one of the most felicitous decisions of the Nobel Committee- definitely to me this novelist seems of the stature of previous nobel winners like Ismail Kadare and Harold Pinter.

His other importance though rests upon his descriptions of the particular dilemmas and choices that Turkey faces. He has been prosecuted for his treatment of the Armenian genocide and has become a figure of hatred for some of the more traditionalist Turks. The double edged impact of his Nobel is described here and it is a pity that it came after the Armenian incident which made it seem to some Turks a partisan award. The French vote to criminalise denial of the Armenian genocide coming on the same day was a peculiar way of welcoming Turkey into the European Union, and given French involvement in Rwanda and its own troubled past with Vichy, not to mention its happy hosting for African tyrants, it seems a little odd that the French leglislated to make only this genocide criminal to deny. It would be far from the purpose of this blog to beleive that this might be motivated by France's political interests.

Having said all that, Pamuk embodies the appeal of Turkey to Europe and the modern world. He provides us with an eloquent statement of the dilemmas of modernity in the Middle East- his character Blue in Snow is one of the most perfectly realised Islamic fundamentalists in literature and his vision of Kars, its cafes, loneliness and politics, is brilliant both in its beauty and its incisive explanatory power. As a novelist his style is poetical and often elliptical- but like Dosteovsky or Kadare his poetry has a purpose to it. I will get round at some point to writing about his novels individually but he is a thoroughly worthy nobel winner and his vision of the world is full of fascinating insight.

LATER Got me international awards mixed up as Graeme comments in the comments- actually Kadare won the international booker not the nobel- he is still a great writer though as Graeme also points out!


james higham said...

A little more on the problems facing Turkey, if you would.

Gracchi said...

That could take pages. I agree with you that I fudged the issue a bit here- and I'll return to it at a later point.

Graeme said...

Kadare won the International Booker, not the Nobel Prize. He is still, however, a great writer.

Gracchi said...

Thanks made a mistake apologies