Orhan Pamuk – Turkey

(Ferit) Orhan Pamuk is the author of six novels and the recipient of major Turkish and international literary awards. He is one of Europe’s most prominent novelists, and his work has been translated into more than twenty languages. He lives in Istanbul (see randomhouse.com).

(Ferit) Orhan Pamuk – Turkey

As one of Eurasia’s most prominent novelists, his work has been translated into more than forty languages. He is the recipient of major Turkish and international literary awards.

In 2005, lawyers of two Turkish professional associations brought criminal charges against Pamuk [1] after the author made a statement regarding the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1917 and the massacre of 30,000 Kurds in Anatolia. The charges were dropped on 22 January 2006. (Read more on wikipedia).

Bio: Orhan Pamuk’s Biography: He was born in Istanbul on June 7, 1952. He spent all his life in Istanbul, except three years in New York. After attending the architecture program in Istanbul Technical University for three years, he finished the Institute of Journalism at the Istanbul University. He started writing regularly in 1974.

His first novel, Cevdet Bey ve Ogullari, was awarded the first prize in the 1979 Novel Contest of the Milliyet Press. This book, published in 1982, also won the Orhan Kemal Novel Prize in 1983. He received the 1984 Ma darali Novel Prize with his second novel Sessiz Ev, published in 1983, and the 1991 Prix de la Découverte Européenne with the French translation of the novel. His historical novel Beyaz Kale, published in 1985, extended his reputation abroad. The New York Times Book Review wrote: “A new star has risen in the east – Orhan Pamuk, a Turkish writer.” His 1990 landmark novel Kara Kitap has become one of the most controversial and popular readings in Turkish literature, due to its complexity and richness. In 1992, he wrote the script of the film Gizli Yuz (derived from Kara Kitap), directed by a prominent Turkish director, Omer Kavur. His last novel, Yeni Hayat, has been a best-seller in Turkey in 1995. His books have been translated to thirteen foreign languages so far.

About one of his books: Orhan Pamuk’s ‘My Name Is Red’ is at once a fantasy and a philosophical puzzle, a kaleidoscopic journey to the intersection of art, religion, love, sex, and power. (Read more, with many comments, on this site).

About another of his books: The Black Book, Mannes-Abbott, Guy New Statesman & Society, v8, n360, p41, July 7, 1995, – The Borgesian style is the literary equivalent of the Duchampian in visual art: an identifiable set of formal assumptions, which still remain curiously dissident. When The White Castle, the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk’s only other novel in English appeared in the US, it was properly compared to Borges and Calvino. The Black Book is like a 400-page extravaganza by the Argentinian master – which is almost inconceivable, and will guarantee Pamuk’s international reputation.

Carcanet Press bravely translated The White Castle in 1990, before its American hurrah, and Faber published the paperback. It was preceded by two novels in the 1980s and Pamuk’s fifth, The New Life, was recently published in Turkey. It should not be this hard to read him: Pamuk confirms here, with lovely intellectual bristle and narrative vigour, that he is one of the world’s finest writers.

The White Castle was an exquisitely lucid fable about a telling of tales and exchange of identities between an Italian slave and his Turkish master. Together they seduce and are seduced by an Ottoman sultan who offers power for the scientific knowledge brought by the slave. Pamuk had found a way of reflecting directly on the nature of Turkishness and the self, partly to advocate “the strange and surprising”.

The Black Book expands these concerns and works through the gamut of post-modernity; from ontological games and paradox through the city, the panopticon and on to the faces of ethical otherness. It is all of these things, and yet significantly more. It is full of stories, as well as stories about stories and stories about the form of the story, but Pamuk is much too clever a writer to settle for mere cleverness.

His intention is to embody the texture and complexity of life in contemporary Istanbul. The novel charts a week in the life of a lawyer called Galip whose wife Ruya has left him. He guesses that she is with her older half-brother Jelal, a famous columnist who has also vanished. Like a metaphysical detective, Galip reads his way through Istanbul’s labyrinth of late 20th-century signs and ancient stories. The novel alternates this narrative with Jelal’s meditative columns, which at their best are ‘nazires – versions of other stories, or of Galip’s narration.

Pamuk’s novel ends with the 1980 military coup and is fraught with its own time. As such, it also plays with chronology. For example, in seeking “writing degree zero”, Pamuk writes of Hurufism, a mystical sect which sought the Divine signature in human faces, where they read hidden letters. This becomes a device to write about movie stars and about Jelal’s melancholic prophecies. This is typical of Pamuk’s charge through centuries of narrative forms.

Turkey, as a threshold of east and west where tradition and modernity are contested, is Pamuk’s focus. Jelal’s columns obsess over losing “the garden of memory”, and when Galip discovers that Jelal has restored a childhood home for a library and museum he starts work on acquiring Jelal’s memory. By the time Jelal and Ruya are killed by an ex-believer of Jelal’s, Galip’s garden has bloomed sufficiently for him to be writing Jelal’s column. He describes his “newly found work” as “retelling these old, very old – ancient – tales.” This is Pamuk’s story too, as he insists on the possibility of building a path from the past into the future. His writing is astonishing, for its scale and sentences, its depth and weave. The Black Book is what writing is for.

About his book Snow.



The Orhan Pamuk site;

Time Online;

the connection;


Complete review;

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