Orhan Pamuk is a Turkish novelist who in 2006 won the Nobel Prize in Literature. He is the author of novels including The White Castle, The Black Book, The New Life, My Name Is Red, Snow, The Museum of Innocence, and A Strangeness in My Mind.
He is the Robert Yik-Fong Tam Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, where he teaches writing and comparative literature. Pamuk holds honorary doctorates from the Free University of Berlin, Tilburg University, Boğaziçi University, and Georgetown, and his books have been translated into more than fifty languages.
Question: Has the relationship between Turkey and the West been in decline?
Orhan Pamuk: I think you're correct when you say that it's declining after 2005. The reasons for this are various, but if you want to blame parties, you have to blame conservatives of Europe and conservatives and nations of Turkey, that these parties didn't want to see Turkey in the European Union, especially in France and Germany conservatives. And in Turkey secularist conservatives and some Islamists did not want to see Turkey join Europe, and they tried to block it and successfully blocked it. The situation is not as sunny as it was in 2005. In fact, at that time some optimistic Turkish newspapers predicted that Turkey would be joining Europe in ten years. Nothing of the sort happened; in fact, there was no development, and the idea faded away. I'm sad away about it, but I'm not going to cry about it either. In the end, I'm a novelist; I continue writing my novels.
Question: What are conditions like in Turkey today for a novelist?
Orhan Pamuk: Good. The Turkish book industry is booming. No one -- you would not be intimidated by free speech problems if you write a novel. Don't forget that Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy wrote their novels when government was reading and censoring. Most of the time you won't get in trouble for writing a novel. But political commentary, journalistic writing, outspoken Kurds, radicals, they're always in trouble. But what -- free speech is -- novels will not put you in trouble of free speech. But yes, political commentary criticizing radically army, criticizing religion -- so many things will still put you in trouble in Turkey. Sometimes legal trouble; sometimes maybe a campaigns, death threats kind of trouble