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.In my experience, it's not necessary to know much about the author. However, if the work is about a certain political or historical period, it does help to know something about that period.
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.
In most cases, you will know little about the author, and what you know about him or her will be far less important than what you know about the work. Understanding the author's intention, meaning, style, audience, and so forth is always critical to editing a manuscript well; knowing something about the author usually is not.