Tuesday, October 23, 2012

[BRIEF] Orhan Pamuk, the Writer

Art is not politics. It might deal with political issues, as they are part of life, and art deals with life; but art - or literature, in this case - is life, not politics. The natural-born writer (of literature), the one who has to write, whether or not anyone will ever read upon his works, for whom writing is his way of existing, is almost naturally attuned to this, with a sensitivity to the complexities of existence that would make it unbearable for him to limit his mind to the narrow furrows of politics. But I am sure that there are many amputee writers as well - self-amputated, sadly - who cut off their writing bones, or wings, to fit some ideology, imposed or impressed on them, in school or in society. But the true writer needs to talk, and to talk about everything, as it is. But more on this some other time.

Source: www.orhanpamuk.net
Right now, an interview with Orhan Pamuk on The Diane Rehm Show. Orhan Pamuk is a true writer, there is not much he can do about it. Some of this tension between the intricacy of existence (which is the life and blood of the writer's work) and the amputated versions of it, characteristic (today) of the "news media" and, certainly, of politics, becomes apparent at various times in this interview, although it does not reach a clashing point  (which I would have expected). Take, for example, Pamuk's mention of his depiction of extremists in some of his early novels, and then the necessary addition from the moderator, "...but fundamentalists in the Middle East..."; two different approaches, two different understandings. One simply talks about a society, as it is, messy - with everyday people, hungry, unshaven, chain-smoking; confused every morning about what they have to do and why they do it; all sorts of deformities in their minds, in their ideas; just like the limps and diseases in their bodies, which they carry daily, so it is in their minds; and yet they are the people, they are you and me. This is the material of the writer - reality, human reality, the all-too-human reality. On the other hand you have whichever ideology or approximation of it, as reflected in the public sphere, in politics, by the media; reality simplified, curated, pickled and packaged; fragments of news that become strong ideas with no correspondence to the everydayness of human life.

However, the interview discussion is good, pleasant, and Pamuk is full of solicitude and sincerely glad to communicate, and Diane Rehm and her show are, as usual, one of the the more valuable things on the radio today (in the U.S.).

Here is the interview - listen:
Orhan Pamuk on the Diane Rehm Show

Something else. When I read it, Orhan Pamuk's Snow strongly reminded me of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It is interesting, both main characters - and, I dare say, both authors - exhibit the same weakness of being that is characteristic to the postmodern condition; indecision as the late-modern way of living out the (inherently) contemplative nature of the intellectual; indecision and philosophical (-anthropological)  rootlessness.

View from Cihangir (Pamuk's neighborhood)
Another wonderful trait (and a very relatable one, for me) of Orhan Pamuk is his interest in the everyday life  of other societies, but especially his "other" society, namely the past. Thus he established The Museum of Innocence, which is a true physical building, a true museum, yet also a companion piece to his eponymous book, which presents everyday life in the period 1950-2000 (corresponding to Orhan's life-span). It is a museum of everyday life, the way it was; in a way, the museum of our childhood - the porcelain bibelots (knickknacks), the radio dad listened to, the yearly brought out Christmas ornaments, the wrappers and brands, the cars... "Read all about it!" - here.

He also wrote Istanbul: Memories and the City, an "evocation" of a lived place, one that he has lived in and through (and his attraction to cities is also very germane to me). And another novel, My Name Is Red, about life and art in the Ottoman Empire of (very) old - an issue that still continues to interest him, as he says in the interview: how was life, real life, then?

Oh, and, of course, one has to - just has to! -  mention that he won the Noble Prize for literature a few years ago... no, that is truly not that important. But I invite you to listen to the interview, you will enjoy it.

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