Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk

Nobel Prize-winner Orhan Pamuk’s second novel is the story of a Turkish family gathering in the shadow of the impending military coup of 1980.


  • Orhan Pamuk Author of eight novels and Nobel Prize Laureate

Read An Excerpt

Excerpt: “Silent House” by Orhan Pamuk. Copyright 2012 by Orhan Pamuk. Reprinted here by permission of Knopf. All rights reserved.


  • 11:06:55

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. In Orhan Pamuk's novel, "Silent House," three siblings visit their grandmother in her decaying at an old fishing village turned resort town. The year in 1980, and Turkey is on the verge of a military coup. While the grandchildren try to keep themselves busy on their summer vacation, they find themselves unable to escape the heightening political tension that's dividing the country. "Silent House" is the second novel Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk ever published, but it's just now available in English translation.

  • 11:07:39

    MS. DIANE REHMHe joins me here in the studio. You are welcome to be part of the conversation. Call us on 800-433-8850, send us your email to drshow@wamu.org, follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to you, sir. It's good to see you again.

  • 11:08:00

    MR. ORHAN PAMUKGood morning, Diane. It's so much fun to be again doing this show with you.

  • 11:08:04

    REHMI'm glad. "Silent House," first published back in 1983. Describe the experience of revisiting one of your very early works.

  • 11:08:19

    PAMUKYes. First, this is my second novel.

  • 11:08:23


  • 11:08:24

    PAMUKThat it -- I wrote it almost 30 years ago, and before the publication, I checked the text both changing it here and there for the new -- we did a sort of a new edition for the Turkish and in English. And I saw that in fact so much has also changed around Istanbul. These neighborhoods that I described in 1980s were -- at that time were small, let's say some 80 years ago, small fisherman's villages where my character was exiled because he was involved in politics against a Sultan. Then they set there, the story unfolds, and when my story takes place just before military coup of 1980.

  • 11:09:22

    PAMUKMy characters had already as a family built up a huge mansion there, and this small fisherman's village now in -- converted in 1980s into a fancy upper-class summer resort that can be perhaps compared to what they have in Long Island, the relationship with the Long Island and Manhattan. It's pretty much the same. And, of course, in that Neighborhood in 1980s there was not only fancy summer resorts, but also factories, grape yards, fig trees...

  • 11:10:09


  • 11:10:09

    PAMUK...a little business, shantytowns, immigration from rural Anatolia to Istanbul. Now, first now, as I was rereading my novel, I saw that all these neighborhoods which I describe as out of Istanbul, now they are part of these places, part of 14 million big city.

  • 11:10:36

    REHMBut now, thinking about the writer...

  • 11:10:41


  • 11:10:41

    REHM...who wrote that book back in 1983, in addition to seeing a changed place, did you see a different writer?

  • 11:10:59

    PAMUKI saw a more nervous, angry, resentful writer.

  • 11:11:06


  • 11:11:07

    PAMUKYes. And it's of course very much related to youthfulness, the problems of Turkey in my youth was even more harder. More crushing, more making you more demanding, more moral commitment and political commitment from you, that at that time Turkey was brutally politicized. I think the country's less political now, and at that time in 1980s before the military coup, left-wing political groups or gangs were shooting right-wing political groups or gangs in the streets of Turkey, and all this unfortunately legitimized that military coup.

  • 11:11:54

    REHMAnd made you an angry young man.

  • 11:11:58

    PAMUKAnd everyone was angry.

  • 11:11:59


  • 11:12:00

    PAMUKEveryone was angry, and then you understand that when there is no prospect of economical growth, and when you're living at the edge of Europe, and when you see that the country is not being run as it was in 1980, in this novel, "Silent House," there is a sense of frustration. People going inward. There's a sense of terrible things that happened, and while on the other hand it has aspects of a family story, a family reunion, a family coming together.

  • 11:12:35

    REHMSo "Silent House" was your second novel.

  • 11:12:40


  • 11:12:41

    REHMBut you wrote a book even before that...

  • 11:12:44


  • 11:12:45

    REHM...that was not published.

  • 11:12:46

    PAMUKYes. We are planning to publish this...

  • 11:12:48


  • 11:12:49

    PAMUK...in -- sure -- in future. But we don't want to push too many of my early novels, because I'm working all the time. My next novel will be the new original novel that I'm finishing in Turkey.

  • 11:13:02

    REHMNow, would you consider "Silent House" a political novel, or a novel about family?

  • 11:13:12

    PAMUKBoth, of course. That -- this is the story of an ambitious man who is a military doctor. Westernization, Occidentalism, fancy ideas about let's import western reasoning, positivism all came to Ottoman empire, and at that time, Ottoman empire was almost all Middle East true military comma, especially military doctors. Why? Because you have to have all this technical positivistic information, and then they come with the -- its philosophy.

  • 11:13:48

    PAMUKAlso, western ideas, ideas about rational thinking and this also came with technical side of the army. So anyway, my character believes on these ideas so much that he criticizes the Sultan, after which he is exiled to this little fisherman's village. They live there for almost 60 years producing three generations, and my novel starts as the last generation visits the grandmother.

  • 11:14:20

    REHMWere you a member of a large family at that time?

  • 11:14:28

    PAMUKIt's -- this novel is highly autobiographical like my first, still unpublished, novel. Perhaps my personal story can be summed up as such, that I come from a very crowded family of lots of uncles, cousins. I loved religious holidays, not because of its religion, but the fact -- it's like Thanksgiving Day, all family coming together, grand mommy, cooks, maids, uncles, playing in the garden, chatting, gossiping. There's a lot of it in my first two books because that's what I saw in my life.

  • 11:15:09

    REHMThat's what you saw.

  • 11:15:10

    PAMUKYes. And I also like it. I like Garcia Marquez kind of crowded families, little fights, family property fights, and unlike Garcia Marquez, lots of, I mean, he has lots of politics, politics about the future of the country, politics about resistance to west, politics about this or that.

  • 11:15:36

    REHMSo in this story, three grandchildren go to visit their grandmother, Fatma.

  • 11:15:44


  • 11:15:45

    REHMDescribe Fatma for us.

  • 11:15:46

    PAMUKFatma is heavily based on my grandmother and grand -- maternal and paternal grandmothers, that they were both perhaps the blood still continues with me, very solitary. They, especially my maternal grandmother, lived 40 years alone in a huge mansion, not unlike William Faulkner's short story "A Rose for Emily," in which almost in a gothic setting a grandmother is living in a wooden old mansion where 90 percent of the building is not even used.

  • 11:16:26

    PAMUKMy paternal grandmother had also a very -- a cook or some sort of a butler -- a combination of butler and a cook, and they were alone, but their friendship was so interesting that you would see in Chekhov stories and plays.

  • 11:16:48

    REHMSo your sources come from many, many avenues?

  • 11:16:52

    PAMUKYes. Like all authors, Diane, of course you look at the landscape of the country through your family.

  • 11:16:59

    REHMSo Fatma is there with one character who's very important in this novel. He is a tragic figure. He is a dwarf.

  • 11:17:12


  • 11:17:13

    REHMHe is a person who serves her who is very faithful to her, but is resented by the other children.

  • 11:17:25

    PAMUKSlightly resented, slightly protected. They also like him because he is protecting their grand mommy giving them tips, advice, clues how to treat her, and of course there is also a dark secret in the family that I will not give away in this program. You will see that if you read the novel. But what was interesting for me was to do a sort of panoramic land to -- both panoramic landscape of Turkey in 1980s also including all the political parties, the leftist, the right-wingers and those years they were brutally fighting in the stress like right-wing gangs picking up collecting money from shops, and the prospects of radical military coups.

  • 11:18:26

    PAMUKThat sort of stuff continues. That's what I like about literature as the daily little -- funny daily life of family unfolds.

  • 11:18:36

    REHMOrhan Pamuk. His novel "Silent House," original published in Turkey in 1983 has just been translated into English. Do join and stay with us.

  • 11:20:04

    REHMAnd welcome back. Nobel Prize-winning writer Orhan Pamuk is with me. His novel "Silent House" which was originally published in Turkey in 1983, has just been translated into English. And I can assure you that Orhan Pamuk himself went over each and every word that was translated making sure that it had the meaning, the intent, the implication that he wanted it to have.

  • 11:20:49

    REHMI want to go back for a moment to Fatma because she begins as a very sheltered middle class 15-year-old girl.

  • 11:21:04

    PAMUKThat's how -- this is the age you marry in my part of the world before modernity.

  • 11:21:08

    REHMAnd she marries a much, much older man who is very politically involved. He leaves her a lot. She's by herself a great deal.

  • 11:21:24

    PAMUKThat her husband has political ambitions and ideas that -- radical ideas that he wants his wife acquire while she's essentially conservative. Doesn't even buy the feministic ideas her husband wants her to believe is a typical dilemma. There is in this book an influence of correspondence between my grandfather and my maternal grandmother. My grandfather went to Berlin to do a PhD. And right after they get engaged...

  • 11:22:10

    REHM...and he left her.

  • 11:22:11

    PAMUKVery typical. And then they are -- they marry boys before sending them to Europe so that they will not be seduced by European girls. Anyway and then they exchange -- and my -- I found these old letters in which he writes -- the man writes to woman back in Turkey saying, here woman believe in something called feminism. What do you think of it? Woman promotes that they should also want -- shouldn't we do this kind of thing in Turkey? And giving more enlightened...

  • 11:22:50

    REHMSo he is more--much more progressive than she in his thinking.

  • 11:22:56

    PAMUKYes. This is unfortunate typical situation in non-Western world where men are educated. And then they not only bring Western ideas but also impose feminism on woman too.

  • 11:23:12

    REHMWell, but if you look at other parts of the Middle East you have men imposing non-Western ideas on women. So Turkey...

  • 11:23:24

    PAMUKBut this is Turkey. It is...

  • 11:23:27

    REHMThis is Turkey.

  • 11:23:27

    PAMUK--aspires -- always aspires to be Westernized, part of Europe. And it's typical here that, just like Russia, the ruling elite is more pro-Western than the rest of the country. In fact Turkey's Occidentalism, you know, is troubled by the fact that some of it is unfortunately troubled by the fact that it's promoted by upper classes.

  • 11:23:52

    REHMNow, one thing that her husband does -- Selâhattin is his name -- he takes Fatma's jewels from her dowry and sells them. It breaks her heart.

  • 11:24:12

    PAMUKIt breaks her heart but then that's understandable because he is an ambitious man. He's an -- in fact he takes her jewels and sells them not to misspend them. He publishes books, he writes encyclopedias. He wants to do some idealistic thing for his country.

  • 11:24:31

    REHMSo he comes to the marriage expecting her dowry to help to finance his ambitions.

  • 11:24:44

    PAMUKWell, not exactly because they have some economical problem -- this is at the beginning of the novel -- because he's a political exile and he cannot practice -- he cannot work as a doctor in Istanbul. And you cannot make money with, you know, little fishermen's community at the beginning of the novel.

  • 11:25:05

    REHMAnd that is why they're in this tiny fishing village.

  • 11:25:10

    PAMUKMm-hmm. That's the first generation. Then the book chronicles three generations. And in that sense just like say to (unintelligible) fathers and sons is questioning Turkey's history problematizing, exploring the ambitions of the republican secular Jacobean pro-Western first generation. And then what happened to them. And we see the present situation as the novel unfolds.

  • 11:25:43

    REHMIt's interesting because the eldest grandson Faruk is himself an historian, but he's questioning his own job. What is it he's questioning and do you see yourself in him?

  • 11:26:03

    PAMUKI share all my life in my character Faruk's desire or romantic involvement is the right word for ataman history. History that is not chronicled enough. A history which even for the locals exotic, mysterious, rich but is not put in, I would say, catalogs, it's not systemized. So he's randomly working on some documents and trying to make a little come out with a story, trying to feel the clues for a story in an archive. While he's frustrated also by the country's present situation where right wing terror and left wing terror bolt the country into a sort of deadlock or dead end.

  • 11:27:03

    PAMUKIn the book in "Silent House" what I discovered, my youthful frustrations, angers related to Turkey's problems then. That in a democracy what you need is concession, understanding, identifying with the others. While here everyone in "Silent House" is shouting, expressing himself, herself, ideas about Turkey, say, onto Western future, secular future...

  • 11:27:37

    REHM...without regard for others.

  • 11:27:38

    PAMUK...the others. Um-hum.

  • 11:27:40

    REHMWould you read for us?

  • 11:27:43

    PAMUKBefore reading I'd love to talk about -- more about the grandmother, which is the central character. She's so much invert there is a sort of a miscommunication or lack of enough communication with her representing the earlier generation. She's conservative and you -- her grandchildren who visit her with respect but, I mean, with also a tender smile on their lips looking at the strangeness of their grandmother. Her story's so old fashioned, her conservative behavior of trying to cover herself on one side and while also believing in Western ideas and had a husband -- very Occidentalist husband on the other side typically Turkish -- or I would say typically Middle Eastern. Both...

  • 11:28:35

    REHMHow long has she been a widow by the time the grandchildren come?

  • 11:28:41

    PAMUKBoth my maternal grandfather and paternal grandfather died young. And both my maternal grandmothers lived...

  • 11:28:51

    REHM...lived on.

  • 11:28:52

    PAMUK... till their 90's.

  • 11:28:53


  • 11:28:53

    PAMUKAnd I was always sitting at their laps and learning world from their point of view that of -- I spent my childhood learning a lot from both grandmothers. Especially paternal grandmother was such an -- sort of a school to me because she was educated to be a high school history teacher. She gave me -- she taught me how to read and write before even I went to school. She believed -- not unlike my character here that is very conservative she believed in Western ideas from...

  • 11:29:30

    REHMDid she make more of an impression on you than even your own mother?

  • 11:29:37

    PAMUKYes. My mother is more protective, but didn't have fancy ideas of Westernization, this sort of -- she's bound for earth, yes. While my -- both grandmothers were poetic, sensitive, inward going. And of all this is I warn you, is loneliness. Let me read something from her monologues towards the end of the book. "She remembers her childhood, the joys of visiting at Pashal's (sp?) mansion where she has at least some friends, three sisters. And then now her mother leaves her off to that mansion and picks her up at night to go back to their home. And she doesn't want to go back home because she's having so much fun in her friend's house, which is Pashal's mansion.

  • 11:30:36

    PAMUKThat morning my mother took me to Shucaree (sp?) Pashal's and before turning me over to them she said in the carriage, as she did every time, look, Fatma. When I come to pick you up in the evening, please don't start to cry again or this will be the last time. But I quickly forgot what my mother had said as I played all day with (unintelligible) admiring them, thinking how much smarter and prettier than I they were. Because they played the piano so beautifully and could mimic not only the lame driver, but even their father and him so perfectly that I must start to and only there to laugh along with them much later.

  • 11:31:23

    PAMUKIn the afternoon, they recited poems and heading down to the friends they knew French. But later they'd pull out novels translated into Turkish and read from them passing the book from hand to hand. And it was so nice just to listen, that when I suddenly saw my mother in front of me I began to cry realizing that it was time to go home. And I thought my mother would give me a very stern look. I still wouldn't remember what she had told me that morning in the carriage.

  • 11:31:52

    PAMUKAnd besides, I wasn't crying just because it was time to go home, but I also -- because my mother had given me such a stern look so that Shucaree (unintelligible) mother felt sorry for me and said, girls bring her some candy, as my mother said, madam, I'm so embarrassed. Their mother insisted it was nothing and Nilgun brought the candy in the silver bowl. And as everyone looked and waiting for me to stop crying, I didn't reach out and take one but rather said, that's not what I want, to which they answered, but is it that you want? And my mother replied, that's enough now, Fatma.

  • 11:32:26

    PAMUKBut gathering also my carriage, I said I want that book. But because through my tears, I couldn't even say which one, Shucaree asked her mother to let her bring them all. And then as my mother said, madam, I don't believe she can read these books and besides she doesn't even like to read. I was glancing at the covers of the books out of the corner of my eye." That in the end, the last lines of the book summing up the whole experience of not only her childhood, her days with her husband and perhaps the last generation, which is political contemporary Turkey, she sums up her experience of enjoying the book, finishing -- joys of finishing the book.

  • 11:33:13

    PAMUKLet me read that and this is also the joys of going back home and think of her book. But the thing that pleased me about all was the feeling that once back home because of the book now that she has the book in her hand her friends gave her very gracefully -- "because of the book in my hand, I might be able to relive those delightfully confusing moments were now passed at home. My impatient eye would perhaps travel aimlessly through the incomprehensible pages of the book. But as it wandered and wandered I would remember bits and pieces of the things we did at Shucaree Pashal's house where I would be going next week.

  • 11:34:00

    PAMUKBecause as I would always tell myself so many years later, lying here in my bed, you can't start out again in life. That's a carriage ride you only take once. But with a book in your hand, no matter how confusing and perplexing it might be, once you've finished it, you can always go back to the beginning if you'd like. You can read it through again in order to figure out what you couldn't understand before in order to understand life. Isn't that so, Fatma, she's says to herself."

  • 11:34:33

    REHMNobel Prize-winning writer Orhan Pamuk reading from his novel "Silent House," originally published in Turkey in 1983. It has just been translated into English. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going to open the phones now, 800-433-8850. First to Winston-Salem, N.C. Good morning, Robert.

  • 11:35:10

    ROBERTGood morning. I have so looked forward to this. Each time you've had Mr. Pamuk on, I have just so much enjoyed listening to him not only read...

  • 11:35:19

    REHMI'm so glad.

  • 11:35:20

    ROBERT...and to explain. He is definitely my favorite author, I guess, along with Milan Kundera. And I find it very interesting because I mean, I -- my only regret is I don't read Turkish. I have a background in litera...

  • 11:35:32

    PAMUKThank you so much.

  • 11:35:35

    ROBERT...I have a background in literary criticism and French and know that translations are -- and for me to just find his writings so powerful. Because one of the things I find interesting is that he gives this combination an insight, an opening for me at least into a world that I don't quite know but I feel like I've grown to know for books like "Istanbul," "Snow," and the last novel "The Museum of Innocence." I really found those very, very interesting. And also then he reflects back on the art of writing itself. So this whole context of how he combines the personal and the universal with also reflections upon the art of writing itself to me is just so powerful that it is always enjoyable to me.

  • 11:36:21

    ROBERTI do have a question.

  • 11:36:22

    REHMGo ahead.

  • 11:36:23

    ROBERTAnd this question is...

  • 11:36:24

    PAMUKThank you for the sweet words, by the way.

  • 11:36:25

    ROBERTYou're welcome. Well, I have not read this book but I'm looking forward to reading it. But my question would be a little bit as to why you are having it come out now in English. And I'm actually in favor of this because I -- 'cause being a Nobel Prize-winner I think -- I wish more authors would do this, 'cause sometimes early works do not get the recognition they deserve. On the other hand this is probably before -- if I understood correctly from some things I've read, a much younger writer perhaps less experienced. And just curious as to why you decided to have this come out now.

  • 11:37:02

    PAMUKOkay. I was -- I introduced American leaders or English-speaking readers with my third book "The White Castle." Once it's published New York Times gave it space, so forth and so on. Once it was successful my publisher said, Orhan, let's do another book. Which is the next book? You have, I see, other earlier books. And I said, no I'm writing a wonderful book. And as an ambitious writer I always wanted to next book because I was writing a lot and I wanted my new books to come out. But after the Nobel Prize it was obvious that it's time to do the earlier work.

  • 11:37:43

    REHMAnd Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2006.

  • 11:40:04

    REHMIf you've just joined us, Orhan Pamuk is with me. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. His novel, "Silent House," originally published in Turkey in 1983 has just been translated into English and then he also has another book. It's titled "The Innocence of Objects" and it's all about the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul. And I would think that many of these items in this book might have been in Fatma's house.

  • 11:40:56

    PAMUKGood point and one thing in common with Fatma and me is a little bit of fascination with objects. In her loneliness, as she's waiting for her grandchildren to arrive or during the unfolding of the drama of the book, Fatma always is left alone in her room and looks at the mystery of the objects, say, a pitcher of water she has and then the water is mysteriously staying inside the pitcher. Or a little bee that she manages to imprison by putting a glass over it.

  • 11:41:45

    PAMUKAnd I have this desire to express people's drama through the objects they touch and especially that mass produced brick-a-brack, little daily objects, ashtrays, cups, sugar bowls, milk, some things, salt shakers. We all touch them, they come from some place. They invade our lives and our imaginations. We don't notice them and they slowly and slowly disappear.

  • 11:42:20

    REHMAnd here's a caller in Annapolis, Md. Fatma, you're on the air.

  • 11:42:27

    FATMAHi, Diane.

  • 11:42:28


  • 11:42:29

    FATMAIt's my first time calling and what a perfect timing too. I'm Fatma, as one of the characters.

  • 11:42:35


  • 11:42:37

    FATMAOrhan, it's so good to see you on my favorite radio program.

  • 11:42:41

    REHMI'm glad.

  • 11:42:43

    PAMUKWe are all so glad so about that.

  • 11:42:44

    FATMAAnd I just wanted to make a comment. I do love your book and I am so very proud of you.

  • 11:42:51

    PAMUKThank you.

  • 11:42:52

    FATMAAnd what I wanted to say is, I grew up in a family of five with four girls and this is actually goes back to what you said earlier in the show. My, both parents, though my mom had better education, as far as education goes, my dad was the one that always supported us girls. Imagine, four girls and one boy, and my father was the one to always promote us to learn better. As a matter of fact, when I was high school I taught my dad how to write and read.

  • 11:43:30

    FATMAAnd when, actually I'm looking at your book "The Museum of Innocence" when Washington Post said it's spellbinding, it's absolutely spellbinding.

  • 11:43:41

    PAMUKThank you so much. We have already talked with Diane about "Museum of Innocence" the novel some two years ago...

  • 11:43:50


  • 11:43:50

    PAMUK...although I think, in between I implemented the museum that is described in the novel and now we have the catalog of the novel in "Innocence of Objects," which is about the objects, my character Kemal, the hero of "Museum of Innocence" who was infatuated by love and collected objects that his beloved touched.

  • 11:44:18

    PAMUKI exhibited these objects in Istanbul in a real museum that I've been planning for the last decade. It's open in April and "Innocence of Objects" is a sort of poetic catalog of that museum with a lot of text that I wrote that illustrates the daily life in Istanbul between 1960s to today.

  • 11:44:44

    REHMFatma, thank you for your call. Here's an email from Alfreda, who says, "I've just read "The Black Book" and wondered what the color green, the ink used by the generalist in this novel, represents? In the United States, green can mean envy, the environment, but does this color have other connotations in Turkish culture?"

  • 11:45:16

    PAMUKNice question, don't forget that I wanted to be a painter between the ages of 7 and 23. That I wrote extensively about my desire to be an artist and wrote a book called "My Name is Red," about the medieval 16th century Ottoman painters and there I chronicled the color symbolism in Islamic art and Islamic, classical Islamic text. There's a lot of color symbolism just as you have pointed out, in old Islamic text.

  • 11:45:51

    PAMUKBut I like them but I don't use them. In that sense, the green fountain pen in "Black Book" is less symbolic, more mysterious and not explained, even if there's an explanation, don't ask the writer. He will give you wrong clues but it's a strange thing, a coincidence that connects the chapters of that book, which is actually about layers of layers of Istanbul, which is about the city as a sort of palimpsest on which everyone wants to leave his or her mark. Here, there we chronicle the fountain pen, the columnist in "Black Book."

  • 11:46:39

    REHMYou won the Nobel Prize in 2006, how did winning that prize affect you?

  • 11:46:50

    PAMUKThis and first, this is the most common question you get about the Nobel Prize. It changed my life, while on the other hand, as soon as I received the phone call from Sweden, I said, a very interesting reaction, I said, "This will not change my life." And it's a funny thing that everyone asked me, "How did it change your life?"

  • 11:47:15

    REHMBut I did not ask that. I asked how it affected your life.

  • 11:47:22

    PAMUKOkay. It affected me, it gave me more perhaps readers, more power to address my readers. A sort of confidence in finding readers to all these novels I'm planning for. In fact, it's a unique situation for me because I received in a relatively young age.

  • 11:47:45

    PAMUKMaking me more ambitious in the sense that, my god, all these novels that I'm planning, taking notes, doing research for, I'm going to write them and reach all these 60 language, you know, many, many, many readers. That made me happy, I'm always also suspicious of all these authors who receive the Nobel Prize then complain about it. There's nothing to complain...

  • 11:48:10

    REHMComplain, what kinds of complaints?

  • 11:48:13

    PAMUKThey say, everyone is calling, we are busy. I enjoy the prize very much, no problem.

  • 11:48:19

    REHMI'm glad. I'm glad. And here's a posting on Facebook. "Professor Pamuk, what two or three things about Turkey would you say it's important for Americans to know and understand?"

  • 11:48:39

    PAMUKOkay, good. That Turkey has an Islamic, was representing Islamic culture in many, many ways for six centuries but now is a secular country, don't forget. This is the first important thing. that there is a political fight, clash going on, not as you may think in the last 10 years but in the last 200 years, still continuing, between the traditional parties, groups, and more pro-Western secular groups, for many, many years in Turkey.

  • 11:49:22

    PAMUKBut never think that the population is divided by a strong line, this side and then that side. The liberal side, no, both sentiments in the hearts of every single Turkish citizen. Don't think, you cannot understand Turkey by thinking good guys are fighting bad guys. The good and the bad are in our hearts or whatever you call good and the bad. Say, the liberal secular democratic egalitarian tendencies, which I care about, is on the one side and conservative, respect the tradition, our identity, resistance to being pushed around here that kind of tendencies are also in the hearts of the nation.

  • 11:50:21

    PAMUKThis is, you to also know, that the country is not good guys, bad guys, but these sentiments, that's how I approach it as a novelist, are both in the hearts of everyone, of course.

  • 11:50:34

    REHMAnd of course now, Turkey is facing this crisis with Syria, with refugees pouring into Turkey. And the Turkish government concerned about it can and will support these thousands of refugees sitting on its border.

  • 11:51:03

    PAMUKThis is not happening for the first time in Turkey. Right after even the first Gulf War there was refugees coming from northern Iraq. There's always problems around Turkey's borders and immigrants, there were quite a number of immigrants coming from Iran after the Khomeini revolution there and I hope that problem with Syria will not be exaggerated. I hope problems inside Syria will be solved peacefully by the help of international community and let them know...

  • 11:51:41

    REHMAre you optimistic?

  • 11:51:43

    PAMUKI don't know. I am generally speaking optimistic about the Arabic Spring. I think it's a good thing. Yes, there are bad unexpected, once you have, you begin to go towards liberal democracy, people would be voting for parties you would not happy about it. Arab Spring is about that, that authoritarian regimes fall apart.

  • 11:52:14

    PAMUKSome sort of democracy's coming, not complete democracy but at least something like liberal democracy is approaching. But then what do you see, oh people are not voting for the parties we want them to vote. But that's what democracy is all about too. I'm not panicking or worrying too much about the process of Arab Spring. Syria is more military and it's more a civil war where we cannot see the end of, the light at the end of tunnel.

  • 11:52:50

    REHMNot yet.

  • 11:52:50

    PAMUKIt's a military situation rather than philosophical, political impasse.

  • 11:52:55

    REHMOrhan Pamuk, his novel "Silent Spring," (sic) originally published in Turkey in 1983 has just been translated into English and his "Museum of Innocence" named after his novel of almost the same, opened in Istanbul this spring. I have in front of me a copy of that book which is "The Innocence of Objects" and features in it the items in that museum.

  • 11:53:41

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." You called yourself an optimist, you say that with these two spirits that Turkey has this open willingness to engage and yet on the other hand, this conservative element which holds onto tradition, that that can seem as though it's divisive but in fact it comes together in you and other Turks.

  • 11:54:17

    PAMUKYes, are Turkey's contradictions damning or enriching. The way I look at them, they are enriching. If you have two spirits you are a smarter, more intelligent, more flexible person. Yes, especially say in the time in '80s, which I described in "Silent House" the contradiction and conflicts were harsh and people were shooting themselves in the streets.

  • 11:54:43

    PAMUKBut they are not doing that now. They're shouting now but which is a progress towards democracy. And in my novels I underline, not the conflicts, but the unity of it all. That, say, that's why I underline the fact that don't see the country as two nations fighting with each other but two big ideas, say, tradition and Islam and Europe and modernity and democracy are...

  • 11:55:16

    REHMAll represented in this family who come together...

  • 11:55:21

    PAMUKIn the "Silent House."

  • 11:55:22

    REHM...in the silent house. One caller wants to know whether "Silent House" takes place in one of those fabulous houses along the Bosporus.

  • 11:55:36

    PAMUKUnfortunately, not. It's out of Istanbul but it has the style of that kind of life where you have a big mansion, big prominent men, a woman who is around her, then the political ambition these men.

  • 11:55:58

    REHMThe grandchildren and one of them wants to sell the mansion, tear it down, take the money because he wants to go to America.

  • 11:56:09

    PAMUKYes, this is very typically Turkish in 1980s where the country was not economically booming as it is today. Once you have, you feel that economical prospects are limited there is a sense of frustration and you want to leave the country and then at that time we all felt a sort of a civil war, say like in Syria, is approaching Turkey.

  • 11:56:35

    PAMUKThank God it didn't happen, unfortunately partly, because of the military coup. Turkey got out of these problems. Another grandson, the other hand, is a sort of a paramilitary stick right-wing nationalist, nurturing a lot of anti-Western resentment, sort of one of my earliest right-wing political figures.

  • 11:57:08

    REHMOrhan Pamuk, the book we've been talking about, a novel first published in Turkey in 1983, titled "Silent House." It's just been translated into English. I'm also looking at a book titled "The Innocence of Objects" coming from his Museum of Innocence. What a pleasure to talk with you.

  • 11:57:38

    PAMUKThank you so much, Diane. It's such a joy to talk to you. I'll come here with each book. Thank you so much.

  • 11:57:45

    REHMThank you. And thanks for listening all, I'm Diane Rehm.

Related Links

Topics + Tags


comments powered by Disqus
Most Recent Shows

Revisiting The Decision To Drop The Bomb

Thursday, May 18 2023As President Biden's visit to Hiroshima dredges up memories of World War II, Diane talks to historian Evan Thomas about his new book, "Road to Surrender," the story of America's decision to drop the atomic bomb.