Interviewed by ÁngelGurría-Quintana
OrhanPamuk was born in 1952 in Istanbul, where he continues to live. His family had made a fortune in railroad construction during the early days of the Turkish Republic and Pamuk attended Robert College, where the children of the city‟s privileged elite received a secular, Western-style education. Early in life he developed a passion for the visual arts, but after enrolling in college to study architecture he decided he wanted to write. He is now Turkey‟s most widely read author. His first novel, CevdetBey and His Sons, was published in 1982 and was followed by The Silent House (1983), The White Castle (1985/1991 in English translation), The Black Book(1990/1994), and The New Life (1994/1997). In 2003 Pamuk received the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for My Name Is Red (1998/2001), a murder mystery set in sixteenth-century Istanbul and narrated by multiple voices. The novel explores themes central to his fiction: the intricacies of identity in a country that straddles East and West, sibling rivalry, the existence of doubles, the value of beauty and originality, and the anxiety of cultural influence. Snow (2002/2004), which focuses on religious and political radicalism, was the first of his novels to confront political extremism in contemporary Turkey and it confirmed his standing abroad even as it divided opinion at home. Pamuk‟s most recent book is Istanbul: Memories and the City (2003/2005), a double portrait of himself—in childhood and youth—and of the place he comes from. This interview with OrhanPamuk was conducted in two sustained sessions in London and by correspondence. The first conversation occurred in May of 2004 at the time of the British publication of Snow. A special room had been booked for the meeting—a fluorescentlit, noisily air-conditioned corporate space in the hotel basement. Pamuk arrived, wearing a black corduroy jacket over a light-blue shirt and dark slacks, and observed, “We could die here and nobody would ever find us.” We retreated to a plush, quiet corner of the hotel lobby where we spoke for three hours, pausing only for coffee and a chicken sandwich. In April of 2005 Pamuk returned to London for the publication of Istanbul and we settled into the same corner of the hotel lobby to speak for two hours. At first he seemed quite strained, and with reason. Two months earlier, in an interview with the Swiss newspaper Der Tages-Anzeiger, he had said of Turkey, “thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it.” This remark set off a relentless campaign against Pamuk in the Turkish nationalist press. After all, the Turkish government persists in denying the 1915 genocidal slaughter of Armenians in Turkey and has imposed laws severely restricting discussion of the ongoing Kurdish conflict. Pamuk declined to discuss the controversy for the public record in the hope that it would soon fade. In August, however, Pamuk‟s remarks in the Swiss paper resulted in his being charged under Article 301/1 of the Turkish Penal Code with “public denigration” of Turkish identity—a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. Despite outraged international press coverage of his case, as well as vigorous protest to the Turkish government by members of the European Parliament and by International PEN, when this magazine went to press in midNovember Pamuk was still slated to stand trial on December 16, 2005. INTERVIEWER How do you feel about giving interviews? ORHAN PAMUK I sometimes feel nervous because I give stupid answers to certain pointless questions. It happens in Turkish as much as in English. I speak bad Turkish and utter stupid sentences. I
OrhanPamuk, Interviewed by ÁngelGurría-Quintana
have been attacked in Turkey more for my interviews than for my books. Political polemicists and columnists do not read novels there. INTERVIEWER You‟ve...