Friday, September 24, 2010

Orhan Pamuk

Dear Classmates,

Please feel free to edit me. I am in the class to learn what I don't know, and to establish the mistakes that I've been making all along.

I want to elaborate on the controversies that surround Orhan Pamuk, as I understand them. I would also like to provide support for the comments that I made in class about the tone of the ancillary document discussed.

Prior to his acceptance of the Nobel Prize (2006), Pamuk’s contemporaries accused him of plagiarism (2002). According to reports, certain story lines, specific paragraphs, and particular ideas found in Pamuk’s My Name is Red and The White Castle are the original works of other authors. Pamuk rebuffed the allegations, but received an eternal black eye as a result of the claims against him. Apparently, he is both loved by some and hated by many in his native country.

Orhan Pamuk was the first writer from a predominately Muslim country to win the Nobel Prize for fiction since 1988, when Naguib Mahfouz of Egypt took home the honor. After receiving this prestigious award, Pamuk was interviewed by a Swiss Newspaper. It was during this interview that litigious issues emerged. Despite Turkey’s censorship around national crimes against humanity, Pamuk made comments during his discussion with the reporter about how Turkey was responsible for the deaths of over 1 million Armenians. -The Armenian Massacre, was the premeditated and methodical destruction of the Armenian population, by the Ottoman Empire, during and immediately after World War I. (The word genocide was conceived as a result of the Armenian carnage.) The Turks ruthlessly killed over 1 million Armenians, according to historians. - Pamuk said that his country was in denial about their role in the slaughter. His efforts to air the country’s dirty laundry instigated criminal charges against the Nobel Prize winner - for "insulting" the parliament, the military, and the nationals. However, about a year later, and after much legal wrangling, the charges were dropped.

When I was reading the transcripts from the public lecture given by Pamuk, I couldn't shake the feeling that he was addressing his contemporaries in a passive-aggressive way. He spends a lot of time explaining his own process as a writer as if he is trying to defend himself against the allegations of plagiarism, for example. In the first paragraph when talking about the writer he says, “it is a person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and alone, turns inward; amid its shadows, he builds a new world with words.” By portraying this image of being shut away from society, Pamuk suggests that he could not be influenced by outside sources because he spends his time in self-imposed confinement. The transcript, in my opinion, is littered with this circuitous oration. Pamuk uses this platform to address the well-publicized contentious issues also.

In the last paragraph he begins his ending thoughts with “A writer talks of things that everyone knows but does not know they know. To explore this knowledge, and to watch it grow, is a pleasurable thing…” Because of the suppression in Turkey about the Armenian incident, the nationals were prohibited from even considering the concept of the crimes committed on the Turkish soil during World War I. As I said earlier, it was this horrific event that prompted the international community to name the crime, “Genocide” also known as “Crimes Against Humanity.” The International Criminal Court was not in existence until after the World War II and Nuremberg, the birthplace of the Nazi party, and consequent post-war tribunals set up to address War Crimes and other crimes against humanity. So, Turkey was never held accountable for their atrocities. In his interview with the newspaper, Pamuk merely pointed out the pink elephant in Turkey’s living room. In his public lecture in 2006, as the newly crowned Nobel Prize recipient, he did it again.

On a separate note, one of my all-time favorite books is Snow by Orhan Pamuk. He is a phenomenal writer.


Pat said...

A great post, Cindy. Thank you.

Pat said...

A few other comments about Cindy's post.

I don't know if anyone remembers the things I said on the first day of class, when I talked about what the editing process has been like for me. I reflected in part on the education I've received as a result of editing pieces on WWII: learning about, for example, the difficult facts of Japan's conduct toward its Asian neighbors.

The subject of communal, national, and international conflict formed the theme of Enduring War: Stories of What We've Learned, the winter 2008 issue of the journal I work for. By working on that issue, I learned about conflicts all over the world.

It's inevitable that in participating in the publication of literature, an editor will encounter the darkest and most troubling aspects of human nature.

For me, this represents a continuing area of personal development, as it requires strength, understanding, and compassion. Indeed, the more I learn, the easier it is to despair. At the same time, as recent contributors to my journal have pointed out, the need for reconciliation, forgiveness, and transcendence is greater than ever; and editors--in the practice of their humble art--can make small contributions to meeting this need.

Tisha said...

Thanks, Cindy. Although I read Snow, too, I knew nothing about Pamuk. Probably because I had only that book to go on, I read the his circling back to statements about writing in one's own room as characteristic of his style; my memory of Snow is that the protagonist's life in the book also proceeded in a very circular fashion. He, too, kept returning to his room, going to have tea, looking out the window, etc. And the book seemed to proceed very deliberately, just as the lecture did.

This makes me wonder if it is an advantage for an editor to know a writer's history, including political and social entanglements, or whether it is better, or easier on the editor, not to know much about the author, but just to approach editing a piece with a minimum of information about the author.

Pat said...

Good question, Tisha. I'd like to copy your comments and upload them, with my response, as a post; I hope that's OK with you.