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Yaşar Kemal -- Kurdish-Turk novelist, author of the 'Ince Mehmed' novels
Famous Turk...
In Turkey - Türkiye'de

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Fiction writer's win tainted by
self marketing promotion campaign

Bittersweet Award --
Orhan Pamuk Wins
2006 Nobel Prize for Literature

In Turkey - Türkiye'de

Tüm blu-ray fırsatları için tıklayın !

A gracious press release
can't subdue political overtones
Self marketing promotion robs Nobel Prize win of flavor
Click for enlargement!

Thanks to Gözcü Gazetesi
14 October 2006

Self marketing campaign robs sweet victory of flavor

Nobel Prize for Correct Politics or Literary Talent?

Despite Orhan Pamuk's attempt at a gracious press statement after being named winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature ("I see the Academy's decision as an award given to the Turkish Culture, the Turkish language, and to Turkey") and...

Despite his rapid condemnation of the far-from-coincidental French parliament's same-day passage of the so-called Armenian Genocide (Ermeni Soykırım) Bill ("The Bill is a very unpleasant and inappropriate development. It's not in the French tradition of Zola and Sarte") and...

Despite an official congratulatory call from Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan (that Pamuk described as 'very nice') and...

Despite the natural pride the country feels on Pamuk's winning its first-ever Nobel Prize...

Despite these things, the Turkish public has very ambivalent feelings about the Pamuk award. (Why? See our Orhan Pamuk entry on the Who's Who in Turkey page at: http://www.learningpracticalturkish.com/whos-who-in-turkey-p.html)

Consider this cross-section of Turkish public opinion...

Opinions of respected literary figures --

Pınar Kür (Novelist and playwright in 3 languages - b.1943)

"One has to say congratulations, naturally. But it's astonishing because he's not reached maturity as a writer yet. Coming this way, the award looks disturbingly like a political statement, not a literary one. And because it was announced on the same day, at nearly the same time as the passage of the so-called Armenian Genocide Law in France... Well, it's a very unfortunate coincidence."

Özdemir İnce (Poet in 2 languages - b. 1936)

"Orhan Pamuk is a very ordinary writer. He didn't win the award for literature. He got it because he publicly accepted the so-called Armenian Genocide claims. He put Turkish history on the auction block. What a shame."

Opinions of Politicians --

Zeki Sezer (DSP Genel Baskani -- DSP Party Leader)

"We just wish that he could have won the award for his novels, not for statements that hurt his country."

Bülent Arınç (TBMM Başkanı -- President of the Turkish Parliament)

"What does Pamuk think about the coincidental passage of the French Law, just hours before his Nobel Prize announcement?"

Opinions of 'the man in the street' --

"They say that Pamuk is the first Turk to ever win a Nobel Prize. He's no Turk. Not in my book." (Halil Düzgün)

"I wonder whether he got the award for his marketing promotion skills or for cow-towing to foreign interest groups or for the power of his writing." (Unidentified man)

"Pamuk won the Nobel Prize by selling his country's honor. Let him go celebrate his award with the French politicians and the Armenian lobbyists." Uğur Osmanoğlu

"It's obvious that this once-literary award has become very politicized. Under such conditions I would have been surprised if Pamuk hadn't won it."
Alperen Öztürk

In Turkey - Türkiye'de

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Opinion of the news media --

Rahmi Turan (Editor Gözcü Gazetesi -- The Sentinel Newspaper)

"Yasar Kemal (renowned Kurdish-Turk author of the 'Ince Mehmed' series of novels) is 10 times the writer that Orhan Pamuk is. But, although he's been a Nobel Prize candidate for decades, he hasn't gotten the nod. Kemal has never spoken out against his country, like Pamuk has -- and that made the difference this year. Well, Pamuk certainly can't be faulted -- at least not as a self-promoter. Still...in spite of everything, here's a toast to our first Nobel Prize!"

And, we certainly join in Rahmi Bey's toast...
Hayırlı olsun!

Post your comment...»

Comments

Posted by Carole | October 31, 2006

I agree with those who say that the Swedish Academy prefers the type of 'elitist' writer who appeals to the few, not the many. It reminds me that Ingmar Bergman, a truly esoteric filmmaker for the most part, was Sweden's best known director even though few could understand or appreciate what his films were about. IOW, the Academy has a predilection for that type of creative writing and Pamuk fits the bill.

Writers like Pamuk and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, both Nobel prize winners, are not mainstream writers. If you've ever tried to read '100 Years of Solitude', you'll get the point. Yet he, like Pamuk, are depicting social realities and their conflicts. These writers are widely cited, their works are translated into many languages, they sell many copies yet most people say they cannot finish their books. How do they manage to get translated into so many languages and sell so many copies to people who don't like their writing styles?

I was given 'My Name is Red' by a young Moroccan writer who will be publishing in France next year. I had never heard of Pamuk before he gave me this book. And I am not generally a reader of fiction of any kind. Nevertheless, Pamuk's book captured my imagination, painted vivid imagery in my mind's eye, held my attention and captivated me even through the slowest parts (plenty of flights of verbosity for the sake of words only). It is one of the few novels I've read from cover to cover; usually I'm bored after the first 80 pages of any novel. Yet I understand those who say that Pamuk is not a good writer. The answer, IMHO, is that literature is very personal. I like the contrasts, the intrigue and the historical and sociological portrait that Pamuk weaves in that book. I liked the setting, the characters, the mystery itself. Now I'm reading 'Snow' and have ordered 'White Castle' and 'Istanbul'.

The politics of the award

I do not agree that literature and politics should be compartmentalized and mutually exclusive. I think it is a writer's duty to make a political statement and take a position because he/she is able to some extent to influence public opinion, at a minimum to foster dialogue. I don't agree that a writer should be purely concerned with 'good writing' and neutrality. Why? Writers write about the human condition, about conflict, about commonalities and about social, economic and political realities. Pamuk's works document the conflict between tradition and modernity. This is reality or historical reality; it is a universal phenomenon, not just a Turkish one.

How can the Nobel lit prize avoid the criticism of being a politically-biased award (The Swedes vehemently deny this)? Should the Committee select only writers who have never made a political statement? Or who are part of the establishment? Or who have nothing to say about events? Or worse, who are afraid to speak out?

Other considerations

Mid-February 2005
Orhan Pamuk just in time
to get his controverisal remarks
registered with the Nobel Academy
before the deadline...

Yaşar Kemal -- Kurdish-Turk novelist, author of the 'Ince Mehmed' novels
Click for enlargement!
Nominations for the Nobel prize for literature begin 1 year ahead of the actual award. The list opens in September and closes by the following February. By early summer it has been pared to 5 writers. So Pamuk ostensibly got nominated a year ago and was already one of the finalists by early summer of this year. How does this timeframe compare to the French legislative proposal regarding the [Ed. so-called] Armenian 'genocide'? (A fact which itself is totally contradictory to the French tradition of freedom of the press. The French have essentially legislated against freedom of the press by outlawing 2 statements on holocaust and genocide.) Was Pamuk already on the short list before the French proposal was announced?

Every year there are circa 300 nominations for the Nobel lit prize. I have no doubt there are many great writers on that list. How do you cull 300 to 5? Does that really mean that those 5 are better than the rest? No! It means the choice is impossible -- there is no such thing as the "best" or "perfect" writer. One has to best match the winner to the criteria.

The Nobel lit prize is always awarded on a Thursday in October and announced a couple of weeks earlier. Did the committee choose the date to coincide with the French vote or did the French gov choose the vote day because they suspected Pamuk would win ... or was it all coincidence?

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