Wednesday, February 14, 2007

...hours spent reading Pamuk

I have had a totally crappy day. I had a paper due today. And I was half way through typing it when the computer crashed. And there went all my work. All of it. I can’t even begin to describe my absolute irritation right now. It doesn’t help that the paper was one of the most boring I have ever had to write. As if once wasn’t bad enough I now need to redo the whole bloody thing. And I needed to ask for an extension. This sucks. Its moments like this when I wish I could banish technology to Dante’s seventh circle of hell. But then again what purpose would that serve? Also, more idiocy followed. I got back from the library around midnight and found the juniors making a ruckus – they were really excited it was Valentines Day. Dunces.

Anyway, I had no desire to work on my paper at that point of time. And so I wasted my time, more importantly improved my mood, by watching Orhan Pamuk's Nobel Lecture, My Fathers Suitcase (Babamın Bavulu). (Well I didn’t listen to the whole thing – ummm because it was in Turkish and I could only understand few words and phrases - and I guess the only reason I wanted to see it was to see Pamuk speak in his native language). I thought Pamuk’s lecture was interesting – and very him. This was my second reading of it and I think I enjoyed it more than I did the first time. I love how it’s so personal and yet has something everyone can probably relate to. And I loved how Pamuk connected so many different threads together – his relationship with his father, his style of writing, his influences, politics, identity, Istanbul. Some excerpts (go read the whole thing, please):

The writer's secret is not inspiration – for it is never clear where it comes from – it is his stubbornness, his patience. That lovely Turkish saying – to dig a well with a needle – seems to me to have been said with writers in mind. In the old stories, I love the patience of Ferhat, who digs through mountains for his love – and I understand it, too. In my novel, My Name is Red, when I wrote about the old Persian miniaturists who had drawn the same horse with the same passion for so many years, memorising each stroke, that they could recreate that beautiful horse even with their eyes closed, I knew I was talking about the writing profession, and my own life….

….What literature needs most to tell and investigate today are humanity's basic fears: the fear of being left outside, and the fear of counting for nothing, and the feelings of worthlessness that come with such fears; the collective humiliations, vulnerabilities, slights, grievances, sensitivities, and imagined insults, and the nationalist boasts and inflations that are their next of kind ... Whenever I am confronted by such sentiments, and by the irrational, overstated language in which they are usually expressed, I know they touch on a darkness inside me. We have often witnessed peoples, societies and nations outside the Western world – and I can identify with them easily – succumbing to fears that sometimes lead them to commit stupidities, all because of their fears of humiliation and their sensitivities. I also know that in the West – a world with which I can identify with the same ease – nations and peoples taking an excessive pride in their wealth, and in their having brought us the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and Modernism, have, from time to time, succumbed to a self-satisfaction that is almost as stupid.

Pamuk’s Banquet Speech, which I read for the first time yesterday (this one was delivered in English, I think), is another little gem. It made me break out into a huge indulgent smile.

"Now, some years later, I've received this great prize. This time the same people begin asking another question: Aren't you a bit young to get the Nobel Prize? Actually the question I've heard most often since the news of this prize reached me is: How does it feel to get the Nobel Prize? I say, oh! It feels good. All the grown ups are constantly smiling at me. Suddenly everybody is again gentle, polite and tender. In fact, I almost feel like a prince. I feel like a child. Then for a moment, I realize why sometimes I have felt so angry. This prize, which brought back to me the tender smiles of my childhood and the kindness of the strangers, should have been given to me not at this age (54) which some think is too young, but much much earlier, even earlier than my childhood, perhaps two weeks after I was born, so that I could have enjoyed the princely feeling of being a child all my life. In fact now... come to think of it... That is why I write and why I will continue to write. "

So yes I spent my day with Mr. Pamuk, (for I then went and read parts of Kara Kitap) and it was apt indeed for I do love him dearly. He made me forget my horrible day, as always he made me marvel at the beauty of his prose and made me grin … what more could I ask for?

P.S: The great desire to read Pamuk arose, I think, because I bought someone My Name is Red as a gift yesterday. This is the sixth copy of the book I have gifted someone over the last year or so. The irony of it is that I still don't own the book. Sigh.

P.P.S: So the Turkish Daily News mentioned this last week and the Guardian reported it yesterday, Pamuk is apparently now in exile in the US. I really don't know what to make of it because for one the Turkish press tends to go overboard and secondly he has been teaching in the States for the past few months. I do know that he cancelled a German book tour following the murder of Hrant Dink. One of the suspects in Dink's murder did publicly state that "more people will die" and told Pamuk to "wise up" as he is considered a target for Turkish nationalists. Dink and Pamuk were friends and both were tried under Article 301 of the Turkish Constitution for "insulting Turkishness" last year. After Dink's murder Pamuk had stated, "The murder of my courageous, golden-hearted friend has soured my life. I am furious at everyone and everything, and I feel boundless shame."
All this makes me terribly sad and angry. It reminds me of what Einstein said "Nationalism is an infantile sickness. It is the measles of the human race."


Swathi said...

though I had read Pamuk's banquet speech, this is the first time I read the complete 'My father's suitcase' lecture- thanks a ton for the link.

Tabula Rasa said...

"dunces", eh? looks like your feelings softened a touch :-D

MISSquoted** said...

it took me a a while to get used to pamuk's style initially, a details man aint he? but i doggedly stuck on...and the my name is red was sooo lovely.
you are right, i havent gotten beyond the 'book was nice'. i havent been able to pinpoint it.
maybe it was his verbosity which bordered on poetry, maybe it was the way he told stories within a story, maybe it was the way he makes turkey seem like a place so magical that i immediately felt a tad excited when gurubhai goes to turkey in Guru ;-)...
and i have a newfound interest in miniature paintings!
have snow lined up next..

anonymouse said...

(wrt the crash). Jesus saves.

I suggest getting a good LaTeX template and editing your papers with a text editor of some kind (notepad, or gvim, or whatever).

niTin said...

Dude. Seriously.
This whole crash situation is all too sadly familiar. I use an online word&spreadsheet processor, which autosaves every other minute. And not having a personal computer of my own, it's all out there on the internet. Convenient enough to make me believe in God, or well, Google.

Szerelem said...

Swathi - you're welcome :) It's a nice lecture isn't it? I have come to the conclusion that you cant't read Pamuk on the computer though. You need to give him your full undivided attention and even this speech is best read after printing it out!

TR: Well, actually I had written 'fucktards' first. I later changed my mind and toned it down :D

miss**: I think the word that perfectly describes Pamuk's style is 'baroque'. Snow is different from his other books in that the prose is more stark. I enjoyed it a great deal. As for miniature paintings, you should check out Indian Mughal miniatures - they are quite exquisite as well. Though of course the Persian miniatures are unsurpassed. The National Gallery has a good collection. You should check it out when you're in Delhi.

anonymouse: Thanks for the advise. The fact that I had to google LaTex should tell you how technologically inept I am.

Nitin: Thanks for the tip. This is the first time this has happened to me :( And what would we do without Google? No, really??!!

Tabula Rasa said...

yup, that's what i was talking about.

anonymouse said...


It isn't really popular outside the hard sciences, but LaTeX (and TeX itself) are far more powerful than J. random word processor. So not knowing LaTeX yet isn't a big deal.

You write the content, and let the computer typeset the page. Directly into PDF if you like.

MockTurtle said...

Sorry about your paper, hope you can salvage something from what you remember of it.
Lovely post too. I finally finished 'Snow', but haven't touched 'My Name is Red' yet.
Hope Pamuk doesn't become the next Rushdie, with people remembering him more for the political controversy than the literature.

The Poodle's Friend said...

I get irritated when blogger fails to post my comments and I have to rewrite them all again. I can't imagine what I'd do if I lost an essay.

I should relly read Pamuk. He sounds like Proust, and Proust makes me want to cry every time I read him. Cry in a good way, of course.

airy voices said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
airy voices said...

I will start on it this weekend and we can discuss it into the night if we do the chalet thing next week (which I'm rather adamant that we do).

and I'm absolutely shocked you don't have a copy. I guess we have your birthday gift worked out. And I'll make sure my little message is a tad more adventurous :D

MISSquoted** said...

baroque. you hit the nail on the head. seriously.
and i have actually been to the national museum, and i remember spending a long time in the miniatures section.[also the indus valley civilisation section actually]
it did cut short my janpath trip, but oooooh well worth it ;-)

Szerelem said...

TR: :P

Anonymouse: thanks for that. I shall be rewriting my paper soon so shall try it out.

MT: Oh! You finally finished Snow! What did you think of it? Pamuk should continue writing in beautiful prose :)…he will become like Rushdie is his next few novels completely suck.

TPF: I hate when comments disappear!!
And you should read Pamuk. In fact I have a favour to ask of you. I know a lot of people say that his writing is much better after it’s translated and I was wondering if reading his Nobel lecture in English and Turkish you see a great difference?

AV: What can I say? I promote Pamuk selflessly I guess.

Miss**: The National Museum has a great collection. But so badly managed. It’s sad, really.

hedonistic hobo said...

essays and computer crashes are familiar territory. you can't claim to have ever been a student unless you've been through it. been through it and chirruped through it so brava!

orhan pamuk is completely unfamiliar territory but i love the einstien quote at the bottom. the open marxist approves whole-heartedly!

Raindrop said...

Kara Kitap, hmm. Turkish is Turkic, so kara and kitap are presumably loan-words from Arabic or Persian? Time to put my zillion Freelang dictionaries to good use. I even have Faroese and Cornish. :D

MockTurtle said...

I hate to say it, but in the interest of honesty I found Snow a little ponderous reading.
Pamuk's descriptions of people and places are certainly stellar, but I could not really feel for the characters or their situations. They were not sympathetic if you know what I mean.
Anyway, I read through until the end leaving with a feeling that Pamuk certainly is a great writer, but that I have nothing in common with him and that takes away from my capacity to enjoy his work.

Szerelem said...

hobo: Ah well. Had never happened to me I guess had to right :P

Raindrop: Actually, Turkish is Turkce. But there are a lot of words that have arabic/persian roots. And Faroese...??!! Whats that like??!!

MT: Well, that's fair enough. I think Snow is his most stark and dense work and in general I don't think Pamuk is easy to read. Snow was the first Pamuk I read and I initially gave up after some 70 pages. I picked it up again after a couple of months and this time really liked it....I guess it depends on your frame of mind as well.
I also think that in general his protagonists are very dull...they basically just observe things and this was true of Ka as well. I liked the charecters of Blue and Kadife a lot though.

Raindrop said...

Oh, I meant Turkic group of languages which includes Kazakh, Khyrgyz and Tajik. Kara and kitap are cognate with Urdu's kala and kitab, so I was wondering whether their origin was Persian or Arabic.

Faroese is a Germanic language similiar to Icelandic and Norwegian.

You're blogrolled too!:)

Anand said...

curious as to which city you physically inhabit...
istanbul is a great city of the mind...
esp. pamuk's istanbul, which i know mostly through my name is red, but what a wonderful city that is...

Anonymous said...

Kara is Turkish
Kitap is Arabic (comes from Arabic ketebe which means "write")
I read Kara Kitap and I loved it... I will definitely read it again...

Szerelem said...

raindrop - Well, Ali answered your query better than I could :D
Though I do know that the Turkic languages are grouped together because they are similar in structure. I'm not sure about the extent of Arabic/Persian influence on all of them. I do know however, that Azerbaijani and Turkmeni are very, very similar to Turkish.

anand: If you liked Istanbul in My Name Is Red you should read Pamuk The Black Book. The city is the central character of that book.
Btw, as of now, live here.

Ali: I loved, loved Kara Kitap! I think I would say I like it as much as, if not more than Benim Adim Kirmizi :)