Discussing a myriad of topics ranging from writing skills to the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Turkish Nobel prizewinner Orhan Pamuk spoke to a near-full capacity Campbell Hall on Friday and followed his lecture with a book signing.
During the event, which began at 8 p.m., Pamuk read passages from his work and discussed the politics of his native city, Istanbul. The author also spoke about his 2005 “insulting Turkishness” charge, which he received after vocally criticizing his native land for what he called a genocide against the Armenian people.
Pamuk won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006 and became the first Turkish novelist to receive the honor. His body of work- translated into more than 50 languages – includes novels such as “My Name is Red,” “The Black Book” and “Snow” as well as the memoir “Istanbul: Memories and the City”.
English professor Giles Gunn introduced Pamuk and said the author was a “writer’s writer” who brought Turkey literary fame.
“Pamuk is so closely identified with the city of Istanbul,” Gunn said. “He has helped [it] transform into one of the most famous urban landscapes of literature.”
When Pamuk took the stage, he made several anecdotes about his work and likened his writing process to that of a trial and error method.
“Between the ages of seven and 22, I wanted to be a painter,” Pamuk said. “At the age of 22, I suddenly stopped painting and did my best to convert myself into a writer … Not necessarily everything I write is beautiful. I keep diaries, journals … most of them I never publish.”
However, in his latest book, “Other Colors: Essays and a Story,” Pamuk collected and printed a variety of his articles, diary entries and interviews.
“I am proud that I write slow[ly]; that I write meticulously,” Pamuk said. “The way a sculptor carves up something, I also carve up sentences. But look at the readers. They like the articles I write in two hours!”
Fourth-year political science major Greg Mirzaavakyan said he appreciated the glimpse into the world of such a celebrated author.
“Getting inside the mind of a writer is very rare,” Mirzaavakyan said. “He’s sophisticated and down to earth at the same time.”
Following his readings, Pamuk entered a brief question-and-answer period with Gunn, centering mostly on the city of Istanbul.
Describing the city as melancholic and sad, Pamuk said he wanted to impart the feelings associated with the decay of the Ottoman Empire.
“It is reflected in the city’s landscape, in the ruins of old Ottoman buildings, the glorious architecture, which in my childhood were all in ruins,” Pamuk said. “There had been once upon a time a major civilization… but now it’s torn apart.”
Pamuk also teased the audience with a brief synopsis of his upcoming novel, “The Museum of Innocence.” He said the plot focuses on a wealthy man in Istanbul who falls in love with his poor, twice removed cousin.
“It chronicles what happens to us when we fall in love, desperately,” Pamuk said.
The Nobel Prize winner then ended the night by briefly reflecting on political issues such as the criminal charges brought against him – and then dropped – for his discussion of what he referred to as the genocide of Armenians in Turkey from 1915-1917. Currently, the Republic of Turkey does not recognize it as genocide.
“I defend free speech of course, because it’s moral,” Pamuk said. “There’s no modern society without free speech, no open society.”