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Controversial Turkish Novelist Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, who was prosecuted by the Turkish government for commenting on the genocide of Armenians during World War I, was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature Thursday for his novels on modern life in Turkey. Pamuk discusses the award and his work.

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    Orhan Pamuk, according to the Nobel Committee, has, quote, "discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures." The 54-year-old Turkish novelist is widely recognized in the U.S. and internationally, most recently for books such as "My Name is Red" and "Snow," which explore the tensions between East and West, secularism and Islam. His latest is "Istanbul: Memories and a City," a book of history and personal reminiscence.

    In 2002, Elizabeth Farnsworth profiled Pamuk for the NewsHour in his home city of Istanbul. Here's an excerpt.

  • ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH, NewsHour Correspondent:

    Turkey's leading novelist, Orhan Pamuk, works in a neighborhood of Istanbul that lies on the edge of the Bosphorous, the great waterway that divides Europe and Asia.

    His novels are infused, almost haunted, by the magnificent geography and the sometimes terrible history of this place. Istanbul has been the center of both Islam and Christianity, and Pamuk's work is often about the meeting of the two.


    Oh, you can see everything from here.

  • ORHAN PAMUK, Turkish Novelist:

    Yes. This is Topkapi Palace, and this is my bridge, which they built 30 years ago.


    The bridge spans the Bosphorus and unites the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. Pamuk considers the bridge a metaphor for himself because it belongs nowhere, but has a foot on two continents. He knows East and West well, having lived most of his life in Turkey, and having also studied writing and literature in the United States.


    I want to be a bridge, in the sense that a bridge doesn't belong to any continent, doesn't belong to any civilization. And a bridge has the unique opportunity to see both civilizations and be outside of it. That's a good, wonderful privilege.


    I'm going to read a quote from your novel, from "My Name is Red." "There are moments in our lives when we realize, even as we experience them, that we are living through events we will never forget, even long afterward." Do you have the feeling in the last year that you have been living through events like that?


    Yes, but on the other hand, the 11th of September is not the only thing, is not the only time that I have experienced the so-called clash between East and West or the clash between civilizations. Let me point out, though, that I don't believe in this clash, although it's happening. When it happened, when I saw the Twin Towers…


    Whoa, whoa, wait. You don't believe in the clash even though it is happening?


    Yes, because I think that the naming, understanding of the clash from West is wrong, and from East, from my part of the world, is also wrong. And in my novels, I try to say, "Turn around this. All generalizations about East and West are generalizations. Don't believe them; don't buy them."

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