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Pamuk explains ’Living on the edge’

ISTANBUL - ’Turkey is not a part of the West. I always repeat this and I will repeat it again, Turkey is an imitation of the West. Turkey has never been colonized by Europe and because we have no wounds [from colonization], it is easier to have praise for Europe,’ says Pamuk.

Hurriyet Daily News
Living on the edge of Europe has certain temptations for writers, said Turkey’s only Nobel laureate, Orhan Pamuk, at the opening of the opening of the "World Literature in Between" symposium Thursday. One of which is imitating the West to the detriment of one's culture, he added.

The symposium, bringing together leading scholars, authors and critics of literature from around the world, opened with a literary conversation between author Orhan Pamuk and David Damrosch, professor of comparative literature at Columbia University. Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006.

The talk, during which Dr. Damrosch asked questions for Pamuk to answer, focused on what Pamuk repeatedly referred to as "the damning questions" of world literature, such as authenticity, universality and translatability.

Talking in depth about what it means to be "living at the edge of Europe," Pamuk said that he is often compared to James Joyce, the famous Irish novelist who wrote from the Western edge of Europe. "People often say that I did for Istanbul what James Joyce did for Dublin. I guess it is true in the sense that I also wrote about a city a lot of people knew and cared little about."

But "living at the edge of Europe" also means that there is a great temptation to imitate Europe, to the detriment of one’s own culture. "Turkey is not a part of the West. I always repeat this and I will repeat it again, Turkey is an imitation of the West. Turkey has never been colonized by Europe and because we have no wounds [from colonization], it is easier to have praise for Europe. Atatürk himself was a perfect occidentalist."

When Dr. Damrosch asked if he feels that he is writing for a different audience now that he has readers from so many different nationalities, Pamuk couldn’t help smiling. "I get this question all the time," he said. "Even in the '70s and '80s, they would ask 'Who do you write for?' And this was a trick question. It was a leftist environment and I would say things like 'I write for the dispossessed, for the lower classes, to enlighten them and to serve my country,' and people would laugh and say, 'Haha, do you think those people actually read your books?' And when I get this question now, sometimes, it is still an incriminating question. It’s like 'Are you sugaring your country’s problems for a Western audience instead of being involved in the nation’s struggles?'"

The symposium is taking place at Santralistanbul, an arts and cultural complex located at the Silahtaroğlu campus of Bilgi University. It will end Saturday afternoon with a round-table discussion mediated by Dr. Damrosch.





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