Interview with Nobel Literature Prize Winner Orhan Pamuk "An Honor for Turkish Literature"

Turkish author Orhan Pamuk was awarded the Nobel prize for literature last week. SPIEGEL spoke with him about what it means for Turkey, about his enemies, and about the clash between East and West.

SPIEGEL: Where did the Nobel Prize Committee reach you with the news about the prize?

Pamuk: I was still asleep. I have been in New York for about 10 days now, to teach a semester of creative writing at Columbia University. It's still early morning here. It was a call from my American agent that woke me with the news. I haven't even managed to take a shower yet.

SPIEGEL: British bookies considered you a favorite this year, since you already were a top candidate in 2005. Did you actually think you might get the prize this time around?

Pamuk: Unfortunately, I've been asked about the prize a lot lately. Though I'd rather they not have, friends, journalists –- oh, just about everyone -- talked about the possibility that I would receive the prize. It was a pleasant burden, but really in the end somewhat annoying, and it left little room for much anticipation. Now, though, the conjecturing has fortunately come to an end. It's a great relief for me that no one will ask me anymore: "Orhan, when will you get the Nobel Prize?"

SPIEGEL: A number of previous prize winners have declined to go to the ceremony in Stockholm. You, though, have indicated you are happy to go to Sweden?

Pamuk: But of course. I am very aware of the honour connected with this recognition. I will travel with my daughter Rüya, just as I did for last year's presentation of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in Frankfurt am Main. Seriously, it will be great fun. I am very much looking forward to it.

SPIEGEL: Have you already thought about what ideas from your writings might form the framework of your acceptance speech?

Pamuk: In terms of format, I am currently looking at an essay -- a think piece in fine European tradition. I hope the prize will give me time to fulfil this ambition. I can't say anything yet about the content, but I will use the opportunity to present my views.

SPIEGEL: You are among the most beloved, but also the most controversial authors in Turkey. What do you expect the reaction to be back home?

Pamuk: This award should elicit approval and delight in Turkey. We should celebrate this as an honor for Turkish literature, which has a great history and great import. I write in the Turkish language; I am part of this literature and represent it as a prizewinner.

SPIEGEL: Your critical views of your own country also have made you some enemies. Won't this prize lead to yet more bile from your detractors?

Pamuk: More than anything I am a novelist. But for me, an author's job is not only to create linguistically accomplished works. As an author I also want to stimulate discussion.

SPIEGEL: You often address Islam and religion in your works. Do you think this had something to do with your having been awarded the prize?

Pamuk: My books are a testimony to the fact that East and West are coming together. Whether in peace or anarchy -- they are coming together. There needn't be a clash between East and West, between Islam and Europe. That's what my work stands for.

SPIEGEL: In November, your book about your home city of Istanbul -- a city that links Asia and Europe like none other -- will appear in Germany...

Pamuk: ... and I am very pleased that the Nobel Prize Committee, in elucidating their decision, expressly referred to my depiction of Istanbul as a symbol for cultural integration.

Interview conducted by Dieter Bednarz

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