News ID: 215687
Published: 0257 GMT May 25, 2018

Pamuk: Iran-Turkey culture, literature intermingled

Pamuk: Iran-Turkey culture, literature intermingled

By Maryam Shahbazi & Farzam Vanaki

It was six o’clock in the morning on a day in 2006, when he received a phone call from a member of The Swedish Academy, which makes the annual decision on who will be the Noble laureate in literature, who conveyed to him a very important news from miles away.

Orhan Pamuk had won the Nobel Prize in literature at the age 54. He was not taken aback by the news of course, as he has always had sufficient confidence in his writing abilities and skills and knew that one day he would win the world's most prestigious award. He, however, had expected to receive the award at the age of, for instance, 76. He celebrated the achievement by smoking a cigarette while years ago he had given up the habit for keeps, as he thought then.

Some 12 years have elapsed since when he delivered his speech at the ceremony to receive the Nobel Prize on December 7, 2006 at the Swedish Academy, Stockholm. The lecture was titled 'Babamın Bavulu' ('My Father's Suitcase') and was given in Turkish. In the lecture he allegorically spoke of relations between Eastern and Western civilizations using the theme of his relationship with his father.

The story of his life is, per se, a multivolume novel. Born in Istanbul, Turkey, 65 years ago, Pamuk took up painting until the age of 22 at the insistence of his parents, who were quite well-off, particularly his mother. But then, he suddenly decided to undergo a shift and began pursuing literature, as a result of which he locked himself in the house for seven years. 'Cevdet Bey and His Sons' (1982) was the fruit of his efforts during the seven-year period for which he won several awards. 'The White Castle' (1985) was his second novel. The events of this story take place in 17th century Istanbul. Following the publication of this novel he began to gain worldwide fame. Among his other works are 'Silent House', 'The Black Book', 'Secret Face', 'Istanbul: Memories and the City', 'My Name is Red' and 'The Red Haired Woman'.

Some of the awards he has won are Prix de la Découverte Européenne for the French edition of 'Silent House' in France in 1991, the Prix France Culture for his novel 'The Black Book' in 1995 again in France, International Dublin Literary Award for his novel 'My Name Is Red' in Ireland in 2003 and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in Germany in 2005.

He has visited Iran twice in 2003 and 2018. Commenting on his sweet memories of the country he said, "When I walk in the streets of Tehran, everything and everyone is so familiar to me to the extent that it feels like I am in my own hometown."

He is currently working on a new novel to be titled 'The Nights of Plague'.

Excerpts of his interview with Iran Daily follow:


IRAN DAILY: Where does this interest of yours, and other Turkish authors, in classic literature come from?

ORHAN PAMUK: Up to two centuries ago, Turkey was more inclined toward Iran and Iranians in the fields of art and literature. However, there was shift in the country's policies and they began to show a propensity to the West. Thus, it would be no exaggeration, if we say the culture and literature of Iran and Turkey are intermingled. Once upon a time, Turkish was the official language of Iranian courts. During the reign of the Ottoman Empire it had been a sign of honor to compose and recite poems in Persian. This degree of cultural closeness and similarity has roots in the history of the two countries and is not a new phenomenon. Therefore, it is not surprising if traces of the Persian literature are found in contemporary Turkish literature.


In the past few years, works by a number of Turkish writers have managed to catch the eye of international critics. Is this because of the cultural measures taken by related Turkish officials or the potential demonstrated by contemporary Turkish works?

This is a question everybody asks. It is impossible to place special emphasis on any of the factors you mentioned as they have both contributed to the achievements of Turkey's contemporary literature. Whether authors are from Iran, Turkey or, even, South Korea fails to make much difference in their works gaining international recognition and popularity. What is of importance in this regard is that they manage to present their works beyond the geographical borders and boundaries of their hometown. Nevertheless, governments can also play an undeniable role in presenting their literature to other countries by financially supporting their literary works and providing their authors with grants. The Turkish government provides its authors with such supports.


Although you have repeatedly stated that you not a political author, you make and adopt comments and stances on political issues every now and then.

I still say that I am not a political writer. However, reporters push me toward political issues by asking such questions. Political matters have never been my motivation for writing books. I have never been interested in politics and never followed political issues.


Iranians are interested in your works. When can they expect another novel from you?

I am currently working on a novel titled 'The Nights of Plague'. Once the writing of the book is done, it will be unveiled concurrently in Iran and the US. The novel narrates a historical story the events of which take place in an imaginary island in the Mediterranean Sea in 1900. The island I have depicted in this novel belongs to the Ottoman Empire. Disease spreads in the island and forces the enforcement of quarantine restrictions on its residents.


When will the book be published?

It is a difficult question. I have never announced the publication date of my works as I do not want to fail to keep my promises. However, the book will most probably be unveiled in Turkey in the fall of 2019 or spring of 2020.


This is your second visit to Iran, how was it?

I like Iran and Iranians. I am very glad to have had the chance of visiting your country for the second time after 15 years, although I regret not having traveled to Iran sooner. This has been a very fantastic and sweet trip for me. I will soon come back to your country.

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