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Nobel Prize Winner and Turkish Author Orhan Pamuk Reads in Seattle
By Asli Omur
Posted October 19, 2007

            Orhan Pamuk

On October 15 Seattle’s Arts and Lectures Anniversary season at Benaroya Hall hosted Orhan Pamuk to read from several of his literary works. Pamuk was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 2006. He resides in New York City four months out of the year, where he is a lecturer at Columbia University. His works such as Beyaz Kale, (The White Castle), Benim Adim Kirmizi, (My Name is Red), Kar, (Snow) and Kara Kitap, (The Black Book) and his memoirs, Istanbul, have delved into issues of Islamism, hüzün (Turkish melancholy), the global village, Turkish identity and the European question. Other Colors, his most recent work, is a collection of meditations, art, sketches, stories and life experiences. 

    After reading poignant, poetic and humorous excerpts from Istanbul, Other Colors and My Name is Red, Pamuk answered questions ranging from literary inspirations to the Armenian Genocide and European Union accession talks and the inclusion of Turkey into the European Union. Pamuk is no stranger to political discourse. Although not a politically based author, Pamuk studied journalism in Istanbul after abandoning architecture as his main course of study. From journalism he turned to novel writing. Pamuk was arrested in 2006 for breaking the contentious Turkish penal code 301 that states that persons are prohibited from “insulting Turkish-ness and the Turkish Republic.” During an interview with German magazine, Das Magazin, Pamuk is claimed to have said that he believed that Armenians and Kurds have died unjustly on Turkish land and “no one talks about it.” Yesterday evening, he again made a similar comment to a question asked in regards to the Armenian question, “Morality is being forgotten. We have to freely be able to talk about this [in Turkey].” As for European Union accession, Pamuk answered, “I don’t think Turkey will lose anything. I don’t the EU will lose anything.”  

    Pamuk reads in Seattle

    The Istanbul and Turkey that Pamuk has presented in many of writings have been challenged by younger more “Europeanized” Turks, who claim that the city they have grown up is happier, more colorful and alive than Pamuk portrays. A country they have professed belongs to Europe, more than it belongs to the east. Pamuk highlighted this during his lecture.

    Lecture attendant and University of Washington (UW) Professor of Social Work/Sociology/Women's Studies agreed, “Istanbul has been a European city for centuries. European Union accession will be good for Turkey to be challenged and to grow and make the necessary changes.”

    A young Turkish-American and avid reader of Orhan Pamuk’s works, Jeremy Orhan Simer, notes that, “Turkey must become more open about its ethnic diversity and begin dialogue.”

    Another lecture attendant and UW Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, George Wright added that, “France will never let them [Turkey] into the EU. Turkey still has a lot of changes to make. Orhan Pamuk has helped in us understanding our humanity. We talk to ourselves, we learn nothing. When you read Pamuk’s work you want to talk about it.”

    Asli Omur is a senior at the University of Washington where she is a student of International Journalism and International Studies. She is originally from Istanbul, Turkey where much of her family still resides. She is very interested in the EU’s Turkish accession debate and has written extensively on the issues of Armenian Genocide, Kurdish/Greek questions, Cyprus and EU membership for Turkey. She has done correspondence and freelance for such publications as The Turkish Times and the Tampa Tribune.


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