Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk receives Nobel Prize

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk, a prominent, post-modern writer whose work is translated into more than 40 languages, received the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Pamuk was an admired writer in Turkey until the events in 2005, when lawyers of two Turkish professional associations brought criminal charges against him for "insulting Turkishness" after the author's controversial statements regarding the disputed Armenian Genocide of 1915–1917. He claimed, and repeated his claim, that

Cquote1.svg ... one million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds were killed in Turkey. Cquote2.svg

Even though the charges were dropped on January 22, 2006, his Nobel Prize reception continues to provoke mixed feelings of pride and anger among Turks. On the other hand, as Pamuk intended, the criminal case brought international attention to freedom of speech in Turkey.

In his Nobel speech, he defined literature as:

Cquote1.svg ... what a person creates when he shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and retires to a corner to express his thoughts – that is, the meaning of literature. ... When a writer shuts himself up in a room for years on end, with this gesture he suggests a single humanity, a world without a centre. Cquote2.svg

He talked about his father's strong influence on him, his own authenticity anxieties and identity crises as a Turkish writer, the global nature of literature, and the politics of writing:

Cquote1.svg 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 kind ... 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. Cquote2.svg

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