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Teaching Pamuk in Turkey

March 27, 2007

Yesterday a brief article, Orhan Pamuk and the Turks, appeared on the n+1 homepage. Its author, Gloria Fisk, is formerly of Princeton and now teaches at Istanbul’s Koç University, where her students read Orhan Pamuk and argue about his work with great fervor:

When the Swedish Academy praised Pamuk as a discoverer of “new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures,” it described a peacemaker who is a stranger here. The Turks that I meet in Istanbul know Pamuk neither as any builder of bridges between cultures nor as any kind of literary genius. For most, he’s a traitor, and for the rest, he’s a bit of a sleaze.

The evidence of his misdeeds appears to Turks under the categories of His Perceived Effects on Readers More or Less Like Me. Turks refer frequently to the longstanding public relations war they are waging — and losing badly — with the rest of the world, and Pamuk seems to be on the wrong side. My students explain the realities of Pamuk’s domestic position in discussions that can best be called “heated.” They are very pleasant people, my students; like their counterparts in American universities, their default mode is a geniality so great that it verges on apathy. But I have seen them fly into genuine rages at the Nobel Laureate who is not in the room, replete with fist-clenching, table-pounding, and explosive exits with doors that slam. These are things I’ve never witnessed in any American classroom, certainly not on the subject of a novelist.

n+1 promises to publish “Part II” tomorrow (Thursday), so be sure to follow-up.

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One comment

  1. Orhan Pamuk = Useful Idiot



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