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Orhan Pamuk receives the Nobel Prize
October 12, 2006 6:18 AM   Subscribe

Orhan Pamuk has been awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature. The Nobel website has a short audio interview with Orhan Pamuk in English. Here is the AFP article which has a good rundown of his career. And finally, here's an essay he wrote this summer called Who do you write for?
posted by Kattullus (44 comments total)

 
Today's literary readers await a new book by Gabriel García Márquez, J.M. Coetzee or Paul Auster the same way their predecessors awaited the new Dickens novel - as the latest news. The world readership for literary novelists such as these is far larger than the readership their books reach in their countries of origin.

Translation: Turks see through and don't buy my self-important dribble, but foreigners view my arrogance as the mark of a great writer.

Just another example why the Nobel literature and peace prizes diminish those for science.
posted by three blind mice at 6:48 AM on October 12, 2006


I tried really hard, but "Snow" put me to sleep.
posted by hwestiii at 6:51 AM on October 12, 2006


In other award news: National Book Award Finalists and Quills winners announced.
posted by cal71 at 6:54 AM on October 12, 2006


Three blind mice - this is exported Turkish dribble.
posted by Mister_A at 6:56 AM on October 12, 2006


Just sort of waiting for DFW to receive it next year.
posted by four panels at 6:56 AM on October 12, 2006


Paris Review interview from last year. Once they wake up over there and realize he won I'm sure they'll highlight it more prominently. Sleepy lit folk.
posted by It ain't over yet at 7:01 AM on October 12, 2006


Not true - Turks dig him too. He deserves the prize, though it's true that there's an air of inevitability about his winning it. Snow is an excellent book and so is My Name is Red. The White Castle as well. Maureen Freely has recently done a proper translation of The Black Book too (Güneli Gün's older translations of that and The New Life are best avoided). With any luck we might get translations of Cevdet Bey ve Ogullari and Sessiz Ev now.

See also.
posted by Mocata at 7:01 AM on October 12, 2006


"Snow" was indeed a sleeper book, hwestiii, but something tells me we can blame that in part on the translation.
posted by msali at 7:03 AM on October 12, 2006


Also the Man Booker prize announced Tuesday.
posted by stbalbach at 7:06 AM on October 12, 2006


I was really hoping Delillo or Roth would win.
posted by inoculatedcities at 7:13 AM on October 12, 2006


The Nobel Literature Prize is often given to authors from troubled countries going through periods of rapid change - the intention is to both award the author and set an example for others in his country (and elsewhere) on what it means to work towards a more peaceful world. Orhan Pamuk will now become a national Turkish hero and inspire a generation or more of young people to become artists - not to mention the impact of his books on his readers. It gives hope for many people that they can make a difference and don't have to settle for joining the army or terrorist groups or whatever as a path to change. The Nobel Prize is probably least given as peer recognition (ala "Academy Awards"), where life-long "greats" are recognized. This often causes confusion and leads to debate and controversy that XYZ author is better or more deserving.
posted by stbalbach at 7:16 AM on October 12, 2006


I would venture that the French and German translations of Pamuk's books are better than the English ones. Pamuk probably learned French in school, like most educated Turks, and there are many Turks in Germany, so that translation between those languages may be more vivid and expressive than Turkish/English translation.

I am sure there is, as always, a political aspect to this year's award - Pamuk's stand on the Armenian genocide and resulting prosecution made him something of a cause celebre in Europe. That doesn't mean he's a bad writer, though.
posted by Mister_A at 7:20 AM on October 12, 2006


Hurrah for Orhan Pamuk. My Name Is Red is fucking ace. Snow I didn't like so much, but it certainly didn't put me to sleep.

Also it's great that he's not going to prison.
posted by Artw at 7:23 AM on October 12, 2006


Outstanding Mister_A.
posted by three blind mice at 7:37 AM on October 12, 2006


three blind mice: Just another example why the Nobel literature and peace prizes diminish those for science.

Care to back that sweeping assertion up with some logic? I'm not asking you to tell me that you think that the peace and literature prizes have gone to undeserving people. I want to know how the existance of these two prizes have lessened the worth of the Nobels awarded for chemistry, physics and medicine? Did Francis Crick go to his grave cursing the fact that he'd forever be associated with Theodor Mommsen?
posted by Kattullus at 7:40 AM on October 12, 2006


I liked My Name Is Red well enough, but it sure feels like this is partly a Nobel Prize for Being Persecuted.
posted by stammer at 7:40 AM on October 12, 2006


three blind mice aside, I liked Pamuk's thoughts about novels and national identity in that last essay:

Crisis-ridden non-Western states that are anxious about national identity - and reluctant to face up to the black marks in their histories - are suspicious of creative novelists who view history and nationalism from a non-national perspective.

In their view, novelists who do not write for national audiences are exoticizing that country for foreign consumption and inventing problems that have no basis in reality.

There is a parallel suspicion in the West, where many readers believe that local literatures should remain local, pure and true to their national roots: Their secret fear is that a writer who addresses an international readership and draws from traditions outside his own culture will lose his authenticity.

Behind this fear is a reader who longs to enter a foreign country that has severed its ties with the world, and to listen in while it argues with itself - much as one might overhear a family argument next door. If a writer is addressing an audience that includes readers living other cultures and speaking other languages, then this fantasy dies, too.


Never read him, but he seems to have a sharp sense of his position as an author.
posted by mediareport at 7:50 AM on October 12, 2006


This article suggests why he won the Nobel, his political views and actions involving Turkish nationalist Armenia genocide revisionism.

----

"The prize came as no surprise, we were expecting it," said Kemal Kerincsiz, a nationalist lawyer who helped bring charges against Pamuk. "This prize was not given because of Pamuk's books, it was given because of his words, because of his Armenian genocide claims."

Academy head Horace Engdahl said Pamuk's political situation in Turkey had not affected the decision.

He said Pamuk was selected because he had "enlarged the roots of the contemporary novel" through his links to both Western and Eastern culture.

Earlier this year, Pamuk had spoken dismissively of the Nobel. "I really don't like this Nobel literature thing and nonsense," Pamuk had told CNN-Turk television. "I've always said that I am not interested in it, it is not something that is on my mind."

----

Given current Western European sentiment about historical revisionism, I have no doubt he was selected in large part for his anti-revisionist politics.
posted by stbalbach at 7:59 AM on October 12, 2006


I didn't notice anything in those links about the criminal charges Pamuk recently faced for being "anti-Turkish." The proximity of that prosecution to the award certainly gives it a certain aura of guilt, though since there's been more recent controversy (see here and here), maybe it's a good thing for the country's literary prospects.
posted by camcgee at 8:05 AM on October 12, 2006


I noticed that his Wikipedia page didn't have the Nobel listed under "awards," but in the time it took to click on the edit button, someone had added it -- was it someone here?
posted by camcgee at 8:07 AM on October 12, 2006


camcgee, it's been continually edited since early this morning FL time, including reorganization. It's possible somebody thinks listing it in Awards is redundant when there's a complete section devoted to it.

The literary prize is not political nearly as often as the peace prize (which is administered separately). In fact it's very often considered to be inscrutable.
posted by dhartung at 8:53 AM on October 12, 2006


He deserves the prize, though it's true that there's an air of inevitability about his winning it.

I do not think "though" means what you think it means. Rewrite: "He deserves the prize, so of course there's an air of inevitability about his winning it."

And yes, he does deserve it; he's one of the few modern novelists whose novels I await with eagerness. If you don't care for his writing, that's fine, but why drop into a thread about him just to take a shit? Maybe when you grow up, you'll realize that doesn't impress the babes. (Although on looking at the first response again, I don't actually believe that three blind mice has read Pamuk; it's just pure random assholery.)

And all this conspiracy-theory bullshit tires me out. People are always trying to scope out the nonliterary reasons why the literature prize might be given; sure, there are sometimes such reasons, but since they don't talk about them, we can only guess, and why not assume the fact the guy is a great writer is a large part of why they gave him the award?
posted by languagehat at 9:10 AM on October 12, 2006


I really enjoyed Snow - though it is quite a heavily descriptive, quietly contemplative work that requires attention - I could see how it might send people to sleep. I did think it was a fascinating insight into Turkish social history that made me want to read more about that part of the world.
posted by bokeh at 9:12 AM on October 12, 2006


I do not think "though" means what you think it means.
It does. I meant that people might be jaded about it because he's been such an obvious laureate-in-waiting for several years now, whether he actually wants the prize or not - in part because hs's a world-class writer and in part because he's a perfect fit politically.

Rewrite: "He deserves the prize, so of course there's an air of inevitability about his winning it."
As with Joyce, Proust, Kafka, Borges, etc?
posted by Mocata at 9:30 AM on October 12, 2006


I loved Snow. Each character, except maybe the hapless protagonist, is a fully-fleshed out person, with (at least in their context) understandable reasons for doing what they're doing.

I was struck by the part where Blue, the Islamic extremist, says the West's materialism offers nothing to any kind of philosophical input into life. Why are we the only ones asking these questions, he asks.
posted by atchafalaya at 9:42 AM on October 12, 2006


Good for him. I love his books. Sure, they make me feel kinda stupid in the process of reading them, but the payoff's usually worth it. My Name Is Red was awesome. Snow could do with a less stark translation, though, I agree.
posted by katillathehun at 9:54 AM on October 12, 2006


poor Yves Bonnefoy will be 84 next summer. here's hoping, he cannot stay alive forever (he's the literary equivalent of poor John Paul Stevens)

anyway what matters is that Joyce Carol Oates didn't win. Pamuk's one of the good ones, I'm happy for him.

re: Roth. I have a sneaking feeling that he'll never win. it's just the opposite feeling I get from Auster (if he stays healthy and manages not to self-destruct, I think he'll win in five to ten years. it's just a gut feeling, unrelated to merit)
posted by matteo at 9:59 AM on October 12, 2006


(and yeah, the usual suspects seems to be still bitter about the Jimmy Carter / Harold Pinter wins. good for them)
posted by matteo at 10:00 AM on October 12, 2006


I want to know how the existance of these two prizes have lessened the worth of the Nobels awarded for chemistry, physics and medicine?

This year's Nobel prize in Physics was awarded to Smoot and Mather for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation. One might argue whether or not this accomplishment is the most significant, or worthy of a Nobel, but no one disputes the accomplishment. A Nobel prize does not make discoveries in science, medicine, and physics more accurate or more important.

The accomplishments of authors and peacemakers are often opaque and nearly always the subject of dispute. Moreover, the peace and literature awards seem to be motivated more for the effect of the award itself has on the receipients than as recognitition of the real accomplishments of the receipients.

There are certainly political reasons to select Pamuk that have little to do with his skills as an author. His assertion that the Turkish state committed genocide against Armenians and Kurds landed him in hot water in Turkey, but it is also one of the major issues to be solved if Turkey is ever to be offered entry into the EU. Winning a Nobel prize in literature will make it harder for Turkey to deny its history and help Pamuk, but it's not really a prize for his past writing is it?

To call them all "Nobel" prizes is to lump coal in with diamonds and call them all carbon.
posted by three blind mice at 10:00 AM on October 12, 2006


I, for one, welcome our new Turkish literary overlords...
posted by Mister_A at 10:06 AM on October 12, 2006


poor Yves Bonnefoy will be 84 next summer. here's hoping

Seconded!

There are certainly political reasons to select Pamuk that have little to do with his skills as an author.

Since you obviously don't know or care about his skills as an author, I'm not sure why you care about this, or the literature prize in general. Yeah, literature isn't science. Get over it.
posted by languagehat at 10:12 AM on October 12, 2006


My Name is Red is one of my favorite books. Completely deserved and then some.

And he has plenty of guts to stand up to the Turkish government, which is well known for it's use of torture and shady detentions.
posted by juliarothbort at 10:17 AM on October 12, 2006


Just another example why the Nobel literature and peace prizes diminish those for science

Nonsense. The literature and peace prizes are the only prizes anyone cares about.
posted by prost at 11:08 AM on October 12, 2006


To call them all "Nobel" prizes is to lump coal in with diamonds and call them all carbon.

I guess that's why they were all in his will.

The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be ... annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.... One part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics; one part to the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency; and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.

But what did he know? He was just some guy named Nobel.
posted by dhartung at 12:03 PM on October 12, 2006


I had the same problem with "Snow" that I'm having with "Anna Karenina" now. It felt too static. I enjoy(ed) both as far as the writing, charecterization, etc. went, but I didn't get any sense of movement in them. Just one thing after another. Perhaps I'm just becoming impatient in my old age.
posted by hwestiii at 12:47 PM on October 12, 2006


languagehat, you don't get it. Your pretentious literary hat is pulled over your eyes.
posted by stbalbach at 1:20 PM on October 12, 2006


Wow, Mocata. That November 2001 piece you linked is fantastic. Honest, nuanced and pointed - everyone here should read it.

I was struck by the part where Blue, the Islamic extremist, says the West's materialism offers nothing to any kind of philosophical input into life. Why are we the only ones asking these questions, he asks.

I'm really gonna have to read this guy. It's not true, of course, but I definitely see the value in having an Islamic extremist character pose the question.

...one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency

Thank you, dhartung, for bringing some reality to three blind mice's world.
posted by mediareport at 5:46 PM on October 12, 2006


I heard the last part of an NPR interview with him today, and I swear I thought it was Borat til they said who it was at the end.
posted by beth at 1:19 AM on October 13, 2006


My favorite of his is The Black Book. I love that book to pieces. And that's even the translation "best avoided."

Also: called it. er...few years off is all.
posted by juv3nal at 1:48 AM on October 13, 2006


That November 2001 piece you linked is fantastic. Honest, nuanced and pointed - everyone here should read it.

Amen. I still remember it; it was one of the few responses to 9/11 that were both sensible and moving:
Now, as we hear people calling for a war between East and West, I am afraid that much of the world will turn into a place like Turkey, governed almost permanently by martial law. I am afraid that self-satisfied and self-righteous Western nationalism will drive the rest of the world into defiantly contending that two plus two equals five, like Dostoevsky's underground man, when he reacts against the "reasonable" Western world.
stbalbach: So loving literature is pretentious? Fine, I'm pretentious and proud of it. Enjoy your burrow.
posted by languagehat at 6:26 AM on October 13, 2006


juv3nal: Heh, and I called it right after you, and called the few years as well!
posted by languagehat at 6:27 AM on October 13, 2006


So loving literature is pretentious? Fine, I'm pretentious and proud of it. Enjoy your burrow.

No, but your attitude is.
posted by stbalbach at 8:36 AM on October 13, 2006


After reading this thread, I think I need to go dig up some of his other novels. I've only read Snow, which to me was gorgeous and bleak and impossibly still and sad all at once.

However, every year that it's announced and the winner is Not Vargas Llosa, I get a little sad.
posted by anjamu at 9:07 AM on October 13, 2006


Everyone knows that it's the Nobel prize for economics which cheapens the rest of them. And it wasn't Nobel's idea in the first place.

It's a pity all three or so of the bookshops in Canberra will have sold out of this guy by now or I'd go and buy everything he's written just because of the quotes in this thread. He sounds very smart.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:41 PM on October 13, 2006


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