He is not just the 2006 Nobel Literature Laureate.Orhan Pamuk is also a symbol of Turkey’s struggle to be part of the EU. In recent weeks, he has been travelling around Europe and the US to promote his latest novel, ‘The Museum of Innocence’. Yet just as he was being honoured in France, where the Season of Turkey is underway, the Turkish High Court ruled that anybody who “suffered mentally” because of what Pamuk had said about the Armenian genocide could sue him for pain and suffering. euronews met Orhan Pamuk at Villa Gillet, in Lyon. euronews: “‘The Museum of Innocence’ is your first novel after the Nobel Prize. Did the Nobel change your life and your relationship with your country?” Orhan Pamuk: “The Nobel Prize did not change my life really very much. In my country it made me a more public figure than I wanted. It made me more political than I want to be, but this happens to everyone who receives a Nobel Prize, I don’t think it’s particularly a Turkish thing.” euronews: “One of your favourite subjects is identity, the double especially, one character reflecting itself in another one, and often even becoming that other one. In ‘The White Castle’ this happens between a Turk and a European. Does this mean that Europe and Turkey are each other’s “Caliban mirror”, somehow?”
Orhan Pamuk: “Yeah, there were times that Europe and Turkey were more strongly each other’s mirror image. Then as the Ottoman Empire declined, the mirror Turkey turned out to be a sort of a segment of Europe. But the subject of identity…all of my novels are about identity, perhaps, but when I began writing them, say ‘The White Castle’, even the earlier novels, the identity was not a fashionable word among academics and among journalists. But on the other hand, since Turkey has always been troubled, the identity questions such as “are we Oriental? are we Occidental? What are our roots?”, we are both geographically and culturally, both in East and West, what we today call problems of identity had all raised by the Turks, in Turkish politics, culture, everything is based on the rhetoric of identity.”euronews: “In ‘Other Colors’, you included a chapter titled “Where Is Europe?”. In it you say among other things, speaking of a summer you spent in Geneva: “The first time I heard church bells, I felt myself not inside Europe, but within Christendom”. So, is Europe a Christian club?”
Orhan Pamuk: “If Europe is a Christian club based on nationalism and Christianity, then Turkey has no place in Europe. But if Europe is based on liberté, egalité, fraternité, then Turkey has a place in Europe. But then again Turkey is now in a way Europe’s mirror image. Europe is also deciding about its identity through the question of whether to take Turkey in or not, as well as Turkey is deciding about its identity, whether Islam and nationalism or some other ideal should be the defining notion of identity in Turkey.”euronews: “So do you think there is a “No Entry” sign on Europe’s door?”
Orhan Pamuk: “Right now unfortunately there is a little bit of a small “No Entry” sign in the Turkish-European relationship. In 2005 the Turkish-European relationship looked very promising for Turkey. Then, because of various conservatives – say Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Austria – various European countries resisted Turkey while Spain, Italy, England and some other forces in Europe wanted Turkey inside the European Union.Half of the European Union was opening the doors, half of them were closing the doors and they were fighting inside the, if you call it, club. Outside, Turks were also fighting. Some Turks, democrats, liberals, some business circles, minorities, Kurds of Turkey, and Turkish people, most of the Turkish people wanted to join the European Union while some forces also unfortunately, some small part of the Turkish army, some mafia groups who were very good at killing people, some newspapers and media groups, and various fanatics and ultranationalists were resisting and plotting and doing things to block Turkey’s entry to Europe. What’s happening, now, what I see is that since Europe and both parts are very busy about their identities, then there is a little bit of an intermission, stop, enthusiasm has faded away now. We don’t see a “No Entry” sign, but we see that… “well… maybe…” but it’s not time, the door is not open yet, and I’m sad about that but I’m not going to cry, either.” euronews: “‘I read a book one day and my whole life was changed’. You recognised it, it’s how ‘The New Life’ begins. Can a book actually change somone’s life, and do you feel as a writer that you can change something, maybe not the world, but actually make a difference somehow?”
Orhan Pamuk: “Especially in the non-Western world there is a lot of unhappiness, economic unhappiness, political pressures, a sort of apocalyptic expectations of millennium, revolution, utopia, then people read books like that with a great enthusiasm that the book gives you the key of the world and you change the world. Of course you want to be entertained. But your radical expectation from the world is so deep that you want the book to tell you, almost whisper to you almost things with religious intensity.When I was young, I read books like that. And I ethically believe that novels should be written and read with that intensity. Whether I can achieve it or not, that’s another problem.” euronews: “‘My Name Is Red’, ‘The Black Book’, ‘The White Castle’, ‘Other Colours’… One would say that your past as a painter left you with an obsession with colours. What colour would you paint today’s Turkey?”
Orhan Pamuk: “When I’m inside, it’s an anarchy of colours and I like it. When I’m out, it looks like a distant mountain, like Chinese paintings, it’s misty and you long for it, and it’s beautiful. In it, it’s so strong, that makes you troubled, you love it, but you’re also troubled inside. So it’s many colours, from outside it’s a beautiful colour and you remember with nostalgia. When you’re in it, the colours and its richness make you tired. But in every circumstance I can write about it.”
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