Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish writerÂ recently charged (the charges were dropped in January) for making public statements about Turkey’s culpability in the Armenian genocide, has won the 2006 Nobel Prize for literature.Â The citation reads “In the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city, he has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures.”Â I am happy with the choice.
The Yahoo! article linked above provides a glimpse at the perceived political nature of this year’s selection, and quotes a few mild critics.Â From similar reports on the NPR and FOX (from AP) websites, it appears that there are no serious outcries, other than from hardcore Turkish nationalists.
First, let me say that no prize of this stature can be given without political intentions or the associated fallout.Â It comes with the territory.Â Yes this was a political decision, and one that I happen to like.Â This is the first Nobel Prize in literature to go to a Muslim country in nearly twenty years.Â It is also a statement on free speech.Â Perhaps it has a larger purpose ofÂ engaging the Muslim World in a conflict of words rather than of violence.Â It appears to me to be well-intentioned at worst, and a best an opportunity for conflicting cultures to once again meet at Pamuk’s city, as they have done for millennia.Â While continuing to see this author as worthy on literary merit alone, I cannot help but think that the symbolism of Istanbul as a city astride two warring worlds is mere coincidence.
Once again, I would reiterate,Â though the award is politically motivated, I don’t see how the choice of Pamuk can be contested on a literary basis.Â He is widely translated (English, German, Swedish, French, etc.), has an adequate body of work (10 novels in Turkish, six translated to English, and a variety of serious literary prizes) and has held honorary teaching positions at a variety of prestigious institutions.Â