ISTANBUL(Deutsche Welle/Marmara)–Breaking his silence to the media–Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk spoke to the Turkish paper Sabah about many topics–and addressed Turkey’s denial of the Armenian genocide–the very same subject that caused his rejection of the press.
In an interview to a Swiss paper–Pamuk–Turkey’s best-selling novelist–conveyed that one million Armenia’s and 30,000 Kurds had been killed in Turkey. The fallout in Turkey was tremendous. Pamuk–who is consistently an outspoken critic of his country’s inability to own up to its often harrowing history–subsequently chose not to speak to the press.
But Pamuk–who was recently awarded the German Book Trade’s Peace Prize–told Sabah that he simply told the Swiss paper what he knows to be true. "I do not hold animosity toward anyone–but as you very well know–if you speak about the history of a country–and address a sensitive issue–and convey what you believe–then you invite indignation and reaction. I knew that."
Condemnation is not new to Pamuk. Nationalist groups have always been angry at his criticism of Turkey’s treatment of its Kurdish minority–and want to see his books removed from public libraries.
Admirers–however–see his work as a rejection of a recent intellectual tradition that aspires to be western by ignoring the past.
"If you try to repress memories–something always comes back," Pamuk once said in an interview with Time magazine. "I’m what comes back."
He also told Sabah that such issues as Turkey’s acceptance of the Armenian genocide can not be solved with a few random statemen’s. "This is not something to be undertaken by three or five people. These truths will unravel slowly. We will know when we begin to tell each other the truth–but we must–nevertheless–be taught."
Germany’s recent award to Pamuk–one of most prestigious cultural prizes–seems to have reflected a growing awareness that many of the issues preoccupying Turkey these days have a profound global resonance.
Pamuk was rewarded just one week after demonstrations took place in Berlin against the German parliament’s resolution in memory of the massacre of Armenia’s by Turks in 1915.
Yavus Baydar from the newspaper Sabah has described the award as "very significant for freedom of speech in Turkey." He knows what he’s talking about. Earlier this year–he asked Pamuk to write an article for Sabah about South Korea. After it was published–he was bombarded with outraged readers’ mail–accusing him of having given a voice to a "traitor."
Born in 1952–Pamuk grew up among Turkey’s secular upper classes. After spending several years in New York–he was given a mixed reception when he returned to Istanbul–the city where he was born. The country’s Islamic intellectuals accused him of exploiting religious and historical themes to pander to Western tastes.
He enjoys both commercial success and critical acclaim in his home country. His 1990 novel "Kara Kitap" is widely seen as one of the most controversial and popular readings in Turkish literature.
But despite his phenomenal popularity–Turkey itself has a love-hate relationship with Pamuk.
In 1998–Ankara wanted to present him with Turkey’s highest cultural accolade–the title of state artist. He rejected the honor. "For years I have been criticizing the state for putting authors in jail–for only trying to solve the Kurdish problem by force–and for its narrow-minded nationalism," said Pamuk. "I don’t know why they tried to give me the prize."
This time–though–Pamuk will be accepting his award–at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October.