Thursday, June 07, 2012

Happy Birthday, Orhan

Orhan PamukToday in 1952, Ferit Orhan Pamuk was born in Istanbul.

Have you read Snow? You really should. Ditto The Museum of Innocence. Also My Name Is Red. But really, really Snow.

In February 2005 Pamuk gave an interview to the Swiss publication Das Magazin, a weekly supplement to a number of Swiss daily newspapers (like Parade, for you Americans). In the interview, Pamuk stated, "Thirty thousand Kurds have been killed here, and a million Armenians. And almost nobody dares to mention that. So I do." In June 2005 Turkey introduced a new penal code including Article 301, which states: "A person who, being a Turk, explicitly insults the Republic or Turkish Grand National Assembly, shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months to three years." Pamuk was charged under this law for what he'd said four months earlier.

Because it was a retroactive charge, the Ministry of Justice needed to approve the prosecution. The case was eventually dropped on the technicality that the MoJ had not done so. There was a lot of international outcry - Amnesty International, for one, and eight world-renowned authors (José Saramago, Gabriel García Márquez, Günter Grass, Umberto Eco, Carlos Fuentes, Juan Goytisolo, John Updike and Mario Vargas Llosa) who issued a joint statement - and doubts were raised about Turkey's fitness to enter the EU (which may, or may not, have influenced the MoJ and judge's decisions...)

Pamuk now lives in the US, where he teaches at Columbia. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. In his acceptance speech, he 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 kin ... 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 world–and I can identify with them easily–succumbing 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 West–a world with which I can identify with the same ease–nations 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.

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