1122) Nobel Prize for Literature goes to Pamuk

pix In what amounts to a first for a Turkish author, the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006 was awarded today to Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk.

The Swedish Academy announced today that it was giving Pamuk the award based on his "work in connection with symbols of cultural clashes." Also noted in the statement from the Academy was that Pamuk "in the search for the melancholy soul of the city he lives in, found new symbols of both the clashing and the unity of cultures." Hurriyet

From: MUAZZEZ ILMIYE CIG [***@yahoo.com]
To: Esteemed Members of NOBEL PRIZE JURY
Istanbul, 12.10.2006

Dear Sir,
I was born in the days of WWI, and shared the most painful days of our war of Independence (when the whole world tried to destroy us), . . . . . . and could see our victory under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and witnessed in great happiness the foundation of a contemporary state . My age is 92 and I write books for general public, about the history of Hittites and Sumerians.

The award of the Nobel prize to one among us, makes me very happy, because our generation knew to be joyful, and not jealous, for anything done for our country. Particularly, the winning of the Nobel Prize by a young writer like Orhan Pamuk, is a great success.

However, what really saddens me and citizens who love their country, is the behaviour of the Jury who gave the prize. May be we cannot judge the literary aspect of Orhan Pamuk, as well as you do, because a large group of people do not like his books. However, his being highly appreciated, because he wrongly blamed his own country, is the matter that makes us feel sorry. As he said, if there were no freedom of thought, his last novel “Kar” could have been forbidden, because it was not telling the truths. The party that opened a court case against him, is not the State, but an Association of Law, which reflects the public opinion. The fact that in his book and conferences, he was not speaking the truth about our country and our great leader Ataturk who made us what we are today, and his speaking that an Armenian genocide was made, exhausted the patience of our people. In reality, this incident should be considered as an exact lesson of democracy. If this prize had been awarded to him, before he had spoken all these, it would have been indeed a great happiness for us. We were going to be happy for the first time, that one of our people, won the greatest prize on earth, with his pen. Now we see that the Jury of a country which we trust that pays high priority to human rights, in our opinion, made the mistake of believing with closed eyes, and without asking or searching the truth, in what one person said or because of politics.

Hoping that my letter will be read, I express my best regards.

Dr. Muazzez Ilmiye Cig

Translation: Sukru S Aya

Controversial Turkish writer wins Nobel literature prize By Elsa McLaren and agencies

Novelist Orhan Pamuk, whose prosecution for "insulting Turkishness" raised concerns about suppression of free speech in Turkey, has today won the Nobel literature prize.

His novels that have been translated into dozens of languages include My Name is Red, Snow and The White Castle and deal with the clash between past and present, East and West, secularism and Islamism, often against the colourful backdrop of his native Istanbul.

The Swedish Academy said that that the 54-year-old writer "in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures."

Not one to avoid confrontation, Pamuk went on trial for telling a Swiss newspaper that Turkey was unwilling to deal with two of the most painful episodes in recent Turkish history: the massacre of Armenians during the First World War and recent guerrilla fighting in Turkey's overwhelmingly Kurdish southeast.

In an ironic twist the announcement today of his win comes at the same time French MPs voted to approve a draft law that would make it a criminal offence to deny that Turkish massacres of Armenians in 1915-17 constituted genocide.

Pamuk's prize marked the first time that a writer from a predominantly Muslim country has been honoured for literature since 1988, when the award went to Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz, who died in August.

Pinar Kur, a leading female Turkish novelist said: "For years, everybody has wished someone from Turkey would win the Nobel.

But it is also known, both in Turkey and abroad, that this prize is much more related to politics than to literature, it is given more for political reasons.

It is very unfortunate that this prize announcement was made on the same day as the [Armenian genocide] Bill in France."

Copyright 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd.

Award for Turkish writer strikes a blow for freedom

By Quentin Peel
October 12 2006

The award of the Nobel prize for literature to Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish novelist, is a very good thing for freedom of speech and a great achievement for Turkey.

It comes at a moment when freedom of speech is under serious attack around the world: from the assassination of Anna Politkovskaya, the campaigning Russian journalist, in Moscow on Sunday, to the vote in the French national assembly on Thursday seeking to make it a crime for anyone to deny that Armenians suffered genocide in Turkey during the first world war.

Free debate about Islam is under fire in Europe, as is free debate about Israel in the US. Those who would like to see a clash of civilisations seem equally intent on suppressing open and tolerant discussion.

Orhan Pamuk is a good choice for the Nobel prize because of his writing. He belongs to a modern Turkish literary tradition – republican, secular, European-minded – that is deeply embedded in the history of his country. He shines a light on the tensions between past and present, secularism and Islam, and the “clash and interlacing of cultures”, as the citation says. His novels make a uniquely Turkish contribution to world literature.

Yet his choice is also political, because he was charged last December in Istanbul under article 301 of the Turkish penal code with insulting “Turkishness, the republic and state institutions”: he dared to criticise his country for denying its historical responsibility in the massacre of Armenians and Kurds. The case was dropped, but the absurd and archaic law remains.

Turkey fails to face up to the systematic persecution and massacre of the Armenians that began in 1915. The subject is glossed over in Turkish debate and in Turkish history books. For the Armenian diaspora it is seen as fundamental historical injustice. It is a real political question in many parts of Europe (especially France) and America that will not simply disappear by being ignored. But the idea of seeking to criminalise “denial” of a genocide, as the French parliamentarians would do, is itself intolerant and a denial of free speech.

Catherine Colonna, the French minister for Europe, said on Thursday it was for historians, not legislators, to “illuminate history”. You cannot rewrite history books by law, she said.

The French assembly’s vote on the Armenian resolution was feeble, even if few dared oppose it. The overwhelming majority stayed away, apparently out of fear at being seen to vote either way. If the Senate acts responsibly, it will simply kill the bill.

There is a danger that popular reaction in Turkey, stoked by nationalists, will see both the French vote, and the Nobel prize for Mr Pamuk, as all part of some international conspiracy. That is quite wrong.

Mr Pamuk and fellow writers and intellectuals in Turkey have spoken out against the French bill. They are as appalled by the idea of criminalising genocide denial as they are by article 301 in their own country’s penal code, criminalising anyone who dares use the word.

They also warn against another possible European reaction: to use article 301, and its exploitation by a small group of Turkish nationalists, as a reason to postpone or block Ankara’s EU membership application. That is precisely what the nationalists want. Indeed, the real conspiracy may be between Turkish and Armenian nationalists, both of whom want to preserve the old enmity, and keep Turkey out of the EU, rather than heal the wounds of history.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006

Nobel split delays book prize

Alex Duval Smith in Stockholm
October 9, 2005
The Observer

The secretive group of intellectuals who award the Nobel Prize for literature have delayed their decision for at least a week amid reports of a split over honouring the controversial Turkish author, Orhan Pamuk.

For the first time in at least 10 years, the literature prize was announced neither in the run-up to, nor in the same week as the four other main Nobel awards - medicine, physics, chemistry and peace. Each marks the pinnacle of achievement in its field and is worth 10 million Swedish kronor (£730,000).

The suspected row over Pamuk - which is officially denied - comes amid revelations about the secretive workings of the committee that, since 1901, has chosen Nobel winners. The literature award is now due to be announced on Thursday.

Pamuk's latest novel, Snow, has been widely acclaimed for addressing Turkey's internal clash of cultures. His earlier work, My Name is Red, established his literary prowess. But the author is controversial for an assertion he made in a newspaper interview earlier this year that the Turkish state was guilty of a 20th century genocide against Armenians and Kurds. He faces trial for the comments in his country on 16 December.

Observers of the Nobel process say that, given that the European Union has decided to engage talks on Turkey's entry without condemning the Pamuk trial, some members of the Swedish Academy, which chooses the literature laureate, feel politically exposed.

'If the Pamuk row is real, the academy's reluctance is not based on a fear of being political, or controversial,' said Svante Weyler of Nordstedts publishers, 'but on concern that literature must not be overshadowed by politics.'

Others believe a split in the academy over Pamuk could be based on a long-entrenched principle of avoiding fashions and fads. Pamuk is widely acclaimed but, at the age of 53, is considered on the young side. 'The Nobel Prize must never go to the book of the season. It exists to reward a life's work,' said poet and literary critic Eva Ström.

The suspected row over Pamuk bears the hallmarks of the 'Rushdie affair' - a conflict whose impact can still be felt in the Swedish Academy today.

In February 1989, author and academy member Kerstin Ekman called on her fellow elders to issue a statement condemning the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. They refused, prompting Ekman and author Lars Gyllensten to resign from the Nobel selection process.

The remaining 16 academy members are understood at this stage to have reduced their choice to two candidates. The winner will be chosen by majority vote.

Some observers have suggested the delay in announcing the 2005 prize might not be related to Pamuk, and that academy members may be grappling with a non-fiction candidate or an essayist.

Earlier this year, academy head and committee member Horace Engdahl suggested it was time to 'broaden' the literature prize stating that 'It is important that the prize develops as literature develops.'

His comments have been taken to mean that a journalist such as Poland's Ryszard Kapuscinski could be considered. In the same vein, philosopher Bertrand Russell won it in 1950 and Winston Churchill was given the literature prize three years later for his historical writings. The favourite to win in Stockholm literary circles is Syrian poet Ali Ahmad Said, also known as Adonis.


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