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."