Pamuk (Istanbul: Memories in Literature, 2005, etc.), the 2006 Nobel Laureate in Literature, offers an eclectic collection of more than 75 pieces—interviews, acceptance speeches, affecting fiction, memories, meditations and tributes and more.
Although the author composed these wide-ranging pieces over a span of decades (dates would have been helpful), a number of common themes emerge—the conflicts he has experienced as a “Westernized” Turk, the ever-diminishing population of readers of literary fiction, the fragility of life. He writes of the 1999 earthquake that killed 30,000 of his countrymen in mere seconds. He revisits his own routines and strategies as a writer: He writes ten hours a day, prefers absolute solitude and prepares detailed outlines for his fiction, sometimes composing chapters out of sequence. In an essay that recently appeared in the New Yorker, he writes lovingly of his daughter, who gets more enjoyment out of a strange dog than a dramatic scenic view. Periodically, he chides procrustean political authorities—in Turkey and elsewhere (“freedom of thought and expression are universal human rights”)—and describes some dismaying experiences with the American legal system, including an anxiety-ridden testimony against some New York muggers. He counterpoises an eloquent essay about his first visit to the Big Apple in 1986 with repeated references to his profound affection for Istanbul, where he has lived all his life (b. 1952). He tips his cap to numerous other writers who influenced him—Faulkner, Mann, Hemingway, Proust—and makes us wonder: Did he read every major work of fiction in his teens? He even includes a piece right out of an elementary-school teacher’s lesson plan: “Class, look at this drawing and write as if you were one of the figures in it.” The stunning paragraph from his Nobel acceptance speech about why he writes is worth the cover price alone.
Luminous writing that reveals a sweeping intelligence and a capacious heart.