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Lectura

de
aceptacin
del
Premio Nobel de
Literatura 2006.
Por
Pamuk

Orhan

(Traduccin por
Juan Pablo Plata)
La Maleta de
mi Padre
Dos aos antes
de morir, mi
padre me dio una
maleta llena con
sus
textos,
manuscritos
y
notas.
Asumiendo
su
usual aire satrico
y humorstico me
dijo que quera
que los leyera
cuando
se
hubiera
ido,
queriendo decir
despus de su
muerte.
chales
un
vistazo, me dijo,
con
cara
de
embarazo. Mira
si hay algo til
para ti dentro de
ellos. De pronto
cuando me haya
ido puedes hacer
una seleccin y
publicarla

Estbamos en mi estudio, rodeados de libros. Mi padre buscaba un lugar para su maleta,


vagando de aqu para all como un hombre deseando deshacerse de una dolorosa carga.
Al final la deposit silenciosamente en una esquina donde no estorbaba. Fue un
momento penoso nunca olvidado por ninguno de los dos, pero una vez haba ocurrido y
habamos regresado a nuestros roles habituales, tomando la vida con ligereza, nuestras
bromas y personalidades sardnicas regresaron y nos relajamos.
Hablamos como siempre lo hacamos sobre las trivialidades de la vida y los incesantes
problemas polticos de Turqua y sobre las casi todas fallidas empresas de mi padre, sin
sentir mucha tristeza.
Recuerdo que cuando mi padre parti pas varias semanas caminado enfrente de la
maleta sin tocarla. Ya me haba familiarizado con la pequea maleta negra, su candado y
redondas esquinas. Mi padre la lleva en viajes cortos y la usaba otra veces para cargar
documentos del trabajo.
Recuerdo que cuando era chico y mi padre regresaba de viaje, yo habra la pequea
maleta para buscar atropelladamente en sus cosas, saboreando la esencia de la colonia y
de los pases extranjeros. La maleta era un amigo comn, una poderosa memoria de mi
infancia, mi pasado, pero ahora no poda si quiera tocarla. No hay duda de que era por el
peso misterioso de su contenido.
Ahora voy hablar del contenido de aquel peso: es aquello que una persona crea
encerrada en un cuarto, sentada en una mesa, retirada en una esquina para expresar sus
pensamientos, esto es, el significado de la literatura.
Cuando toqu la maleta de mi padre no poda todava moverme a abrirla, pero saba que
dentro estaban algunas de sus libretas. Haba visto a mi padre escribir en algunas de
ellas; no era la primera vez que oa la pesada carga dentro de la maleta.
Mi padre tena una biblioteca en su juventud a finales de la dcada de 1940, l quera ser
un poeta de Estambul y haba traducido a Valery al turco, pero no quera vivir esa vida
que traa el escribir poesa en un pas pobre de pocos lectores.
El padre de mi padre-mi abuelo- era un hombre rico; mi padre haba llevado una vida
cmoda de nio y joven y no deseaba pasar malos ratos en nombre de la literatura, por
escribir. Amaba la vida con todas sus bellezas- yo lo comprend.
La primera cosa que me tuvo alejado del contenido de la maleta de mi padre, claro, fue
el temor, tal vez, de que no gustara lo que iba leer. Mi padre saba esto, porque haba
tomado la precaucin de actuar como si no tomara el contenido en serio. Despus de
trabajar 25 aos como escritor me dola ver esto, pero no quera disgustarme con mi
padre por fallar en tomar la literatura con la seriedad suficiente.

Mi verdadero padre, aquello crucial que no deseba saber o descubrir era que mi padre
era un buen escritor. No poda abrir la maleta temiendo esto. Pero an, no poda admitir
esto a mis ojos de manera abierta.
Si verdadera y buena literatura afloraba de la maleta de mi padre, deba reconoce
entonces la existencia de un hombre diferente dentro de mi padre. Era una posibilidad
temeraria porque incluso a mi avanzada edad quera que mi padre slo fuera mi padre,
no un escritor.
Un escritor es alguien que pasa los aos descubriendo pacientemente su segundo ser
dentro de s y el mundo que lo hacer ser lo que es: cuando hablo de la escritura lo que
primero pasa por mi mente no es una novela, un poema o la tradicin literaria, lo que
veo es a un persona encerrada en un cuarto, sentada en una mesa que sola va hacia
dentro de s misma y entre sus sombras construye un mundo nuevo con palabras.
Este hombre-o mujer- puede usar una mquina de escribir, valerse de la facilidad de un
ordenador, o escribir con un esfero y una hoja, como yo lo he hecho durante treinta
aos. Mientras escribe, puede tomar t o caf o fumar cigarrillos.
De tiempo en tiempo tal vez se levante de la mesa para mirar por la ventana hacia los
nios jugando en la calle, y si corre con suerte hacia los rboles y un paisaje, o puede
atisbar un muro negro; puede escribir poemas o novelas como yo, todas las diferencias
vienen luego de la difcil tarea de sentarse a la mesa y con paciencia ir dentro de s.
Escribir es volver este meterse dentro de s en un atisbo de palabras para estudiar el
mundo al que esa persona va cuando se retira dentro de s mismo, y hacer tal con
paciencia, obstinacin y alegra. Mientras me siento en mi mesa por das, meses, aos,
con morosidad agregando nuevas palabras a la pgina vaca, me siento creando un
mundo nuevo, al tiempo que voy hacia la otra persona dentro de m, del mismo modo en
que alguien construye un puente o un domo, piedra a piedra.
Las piedras usadas por nosotros los escritores son las palabras, las sostenemos en
nuestras manos, sintiendo la forma en que cada una de ellas esta conectada con las
dems, mirndolas desde la distancia, algunas veces casi acaricindolas con nuestros
dedos y puntas de nuestros esferos, pesndolas, movindolas, durante aos y aos, con
paciencia y esperanza nosotros creamos nuevos mundos.
El secreto del escritor no es la inspiracin- pues no se sabe con claridad su procedencia-,
es su terquedad, su paciencia. Ese adorable aforismo turco- cavar un pozo con una
aguja- parece haber sido dicho teniendo a los escritores en mente. De los relatos
antiguos me encanta la paciencia de Ferhat, quien vaga por montaas por su amor- cosa
que tambin comprendo.
En mi novela Mi nombre es rojo cuando escrib sobre los viejos miniaturistas persas
quienes han pintado el mismo caballo con la misma pasin por aos, memorizando cada
golpe que hasta pueden recrear el bello caballo con sus ojos cerrados, saba que hablaba
sobre la profesin de escritor, sobre mi propia vida.

Si un escritor cuenta su propia historia- debe contarla despacio como si fuera la historia
de otros-, si desea sentir el poder de la historia levantndose dentro de l, si se sienta en
una mesa y se da a su arte-su artesana- primero debe habrsele dado una esperanza. El
ngel de la inspiracin (visitador regular de algunos y otros con menos frecuencia)
favorece al esperanzado y confidente, all es cuando un escritor se siente ms solo, ms
dudoso sobre sus esfuerzos, sus sueos y el valor de su escritura-cuando cree que su
historia es slo su historia-, es en esos momentos cuando el ngel escoge revelarle
historias, imgenes y sueos que dibujarn el mundo que desea construir.
Si pienso en los libros a los que he dedicado mi vida, me sorprendo ms con aquellos
momentos en he sentido como si las frases, sueos y pginas que me han hecho ms
feliz, llegar al xtasis no hubiesen venido de mi imaginacin sino que un poder las
hubiera encontrado y con generosidad me las hubiera otorgado.
Tema abrir la maleta de mi padre y leer sus libretas porque saba que l no habra
tolerado las dificultades que yo haba pasado, que l no amaba la soledad pero si los
amigos, las multitudes, los salones, las bromas, la compaa.
Despus mis pensamientos cambiaron. Estos pensamientos, estos sueos de renuncia y
paciencia eran prejuicios derivados por m de mi propia experiencia vital como escritor.
Haba muchos escritores quienes haban escrito rodeados por multitudes y vida familiar,
al calor de la compaa y una feliz conversacin.
Adicionalmente, cuando joven, mi padre cansado de la monotona de la vida familiar
nos dejo para ir a Pars donde como muchos escritores se sent a llenar libretas con
apuntes.
Saba tambin que aquellas libretas estaban en la maleta, porque aos atrs antes de
haberla trado, mi padre finalmente haba comenzado a hablarme acerca de esa poca de
su vida. Habl de aquellos aos incluso cuando yo era un nio, pero nunca mencion su
vulnerabilidad, sus sueos de convertirse en escritor, o las preguntas sobre identidad que
lo haban plagado en su cuarto de hotel.
Me hablaba en cambio de las veces que haba visto a Sartre en las aceras de Pars, de los
libros ledos y las pelculas vistas, todo con el sincero regocijo de quien informa noticias
muy importantes.
Cuando me volv escritor nunca olvid que esto ocurri en parte gracias al hecho de
haber tenido un padre que hablaba mucho ms de escritores que sobre pashas o grandes
lderes religiosos. Quizs deba leer las libretas de mi padre con esto en mente,
recordando la deuda con su amplia biblioteca.
Deba llevar en mente que cuando mi padre viva con nosotros, al igual que yo,
disfrutaba estar solo con sus libros y pensamientos y no poner demasiada atencin a la
calidad literaria de sus escritos. Para cuando yo atisbaba muy ansioso en la maleta
legada por mi padre tambin sent que eso era precisamente lo que no poda hacer.

Mi padre algunas veces abandona en su mano un libro o una revista enfrente del divn
para ir en pos de un sueo, perderse en s mismo por largo tiempo en sus pensamientos.
Cuando vi en su cara una expresin muy distinta de la que usaba entre bromas, ironas y
discusiones familiares, cuando vi los primeros sntomas del atisbo interior entend en
mis aos de infancia y juventud con trepidacin que l no se senta contento.
Ahora, muchos aos despus, s que el descontento es una cualidad bsica por la cual
una persona comienza a escribir.
Para ser un escritor no basta con el trabajo arduo y la paciencia: debemos primero
forzarnos a escapar las multitudes, la compaa, las cosas ordinarias, la vida diaria y
encerrarnos en un cuarto.
Deseamos paciencia y esperanza para poder crear un mundo profundo con nuestra
escritura. Pero el deseo de encerrarse en un cuarto es lo que nos lleva a la accin. El
precursor de este tipo de escritor independiente- quien lee sus libros desde el corazn de
su contenido y escucha slo la voz de su propia conciencia, pelea con las palabras de
otros; quien entra en charla con sus libros para desarrollar sus propios pensamientos y
su mundo propio fue ciertamente Montaigne en los primeros das de la literatura
modernista.
Montaigne fue un escritor al que mi padre volvi en reiteradas ocasiones, un escritor al
que me recomend. Me gustara verme como perteneciente a la tradicin de escritoressea que estn en el Este u Oeste en el mundo- apartados de la sociedad, encerrados en
sus cuartos con sus libros.
Pero una vez nos encerramos descubrimos que no estamos tan solos como pensbamos.
Estamos en compaa de las palabras de los que estuvieron antes que nosotros, de las
historias de otras gentes, las palabras de otras personas, aquello que llamamos tradicin.
Creo en la literatura como el tesoro ms valioso acumulado por la humanidad en su
bsqueda por entenderse a s misma. Sociedades, tribus y gentes crecen en inteligencia
y avanzan cuando ponen atencin a las palabras complicadas de sus autores y como
todos saben, la quema de libros y la denigracin de escritores son ambos smbolos de
tiempos oscuros e improcedentes para el futuro en medio de nosotros. Sin embargo, la
literatura nunca es un slo un asunto nacional.
El escritor encerrado en un cuarto va primero en un viaje dentro de s que con los aos
le har descubrir la regla literaria eterna: debe tener el talento para contar sus propias
historias como si fueran las historia de otros; para contar las historias de los otros como
si fueran suyas, porque esto es la literatura. Pero primero debemos viajar a travs de las
historias de otras personas y libros.
Mi padre tena una biblioteca bien dotada- 1500 volmenes-, ms que suficiente para un
escritor. A la edad de 22 aos no los haba ledo todos pero era familiar con cada unosaba cules eran importantes, cules eran livianos, de lectura rpida; cules eran

clsicos, cules esenciales para mi educacin, cules eran olvidables pero con divertidos
relatos sobre la historia local, cules autores franceses mi padre ponderaba con altura.
Algunas veces miraba la biblioteca desde la distancia e imaginaba un da en otra casa
con mi propia librera, incluso una mejor biblioteca para construirme un mundo.
Cuando vea la biblioteca de mi padre desde la distancia me pareca una imagen
reducida del mundo real.
Era un mundo, sin embargo, visto desde nuestra propia esquina, desde Estambul. La
biblioteca era la evidencia de esto. Mi padre haba construido su librera a partir de sus
viajes con libros trados en su mayora de Pars y Amrica, aunque tambin con libros
comprados en tiendas que vendan libros en leguas extrajeras en las dcadas del 40 y el
50 y en las libreras de nuevo y viejo en Estambul conocidas por m.
Mi mundo es una mezcla de lo local-nacional y Occidente.
En los aos setenta tambin comenc de una manera ambiciosa a construir mi
biblioteca. No haba decidido an ser escritor. Como recuento en Estambul, haba
comenzado a sentir que despus de todo no sera pintor, pero no estaba muy seguro de
qu camino tomara mi vida. Haba dentro de m una curiosidad imparable, un deseo
esperanzador de leer y aprender al tiempo que perciba una falta, la sensacin de no
poder vivir como los dems.
Parte de la sensacin estaba conectada con lo sentido al atisbar la biblioteca paternavivir fuera del centro de las cosas, como todos los que vivimos en Estambul en aquellos
aos con la sensacin de vivir en provincia. Haba otra razn para la ansiedad y la falta,
porque saba que viva en un pas con poco inters por sus artistas- fueran sus pintores o
escritores- y no les daban esperanzas.
En los aos setenta cuando tomaba el dinero de mi padre para comprar libros desledos,
polvorosos y cuarteados de los libreros de viejo de Estambul, estaba tan afectado por el
lastimoso estado de las tiendas de segunda mano- por el desperado desorden y deterioro
de los libros de los vendedores quienes desplegaban sus mercancas en los andenes, en
los patios de mezquitas y nichos de desmoronados muros- como por sus libros.
En cuanto a mi lugar en el mundo- en la vida como en la literatura, mi sensacin era la
de no estar en el centro. En el centro del mundo haba una vida ms rica y excitante que
la nuestra, y con todo Estambul, toda Turqua, yo estaba fuera. Hoy pienso que
comparto este mismo sentimiento con la mayora de la gente en el mundo. En ese
mismo sentido haba un mundo literario y su centro igual estaba muy lejos de m.
En realidad lo que tena en mente era Occidente no el mundo literario y nosotros los
turcos estbamos afuera. La biblioteca lo demostraba.
A un extremo estaban los libros sobre Estambul- nuestra literatura, nuestro mundo local,
con todos sus adorables detalles y en el otro extremo estaban los libros del mundo

occidental, mundo con el que no tenamos afinidades. Nuestra falta de afinidades nos
daba temor y esperanza.
Escribir, leer era como partir de un mundo para encontrar consolacin en la otredad de
otro mundo, en lo extrao y en lo maravilloso. Sent que mi padre haba ledo novelas
para escapar su mundo y volar hacia Occidente-justo como yo hara tiempo despus. O
me pareci por aquellos das que los libros eran cosas tomadas por nosotros para
escapar de nuestra cultura, la cual encontrbamos con grandes carencias.
No solo leyendo partamos de Estambul hacia Occidente, tambin lo hacamos
escribiendo. Para llenar sus libretas mi padre fue a Pars y se encerr en un cuarto y
luego trajo sus escritos de regreso a Turqua. Atisbando la maleta de mi padre me
pareci que me estaba disturbando.
Despus de trabajar en un cuarto por 25 aos para sobrevivir como escritor en Turqua,
me molest ver escondidos por mi padre sus sentimientos ms profundos en una maleta,
como si escribir fuese un trabajo para ser hecho en secreto, lejos de los ojos de la
sociedad, el Estado, la gente. A lo mejor fue esta la principal razn para enojarme con
mi padre por no tomar tan en serio la literatura como yo.
En realidad estaba enfadado con mi padre porque el no haba llevado una vida como la
ma, porque nunca haba disputado con su vida y haba pasado su vida feliz riendo con
sus amigos y seres queridos. Pero una parte de mi saba que tambin poda decir que no
estaba tan molesto como celoso, esa segunda palabra se ajustaba ms y esto tambin me
hacia sentir incmodo.
Cmo sera cuando me preguntara a m mismo en el usual modo resentido, con voz de
enfado, qu es la felicidad? Era la felicidad pensar que haba llevado una vida profunda
en el cuarto solitario, o era la felicidad llevar una vida ms confortable en sociedad,
creyendo en las mismas cosas que todos los dems o actuado como si creyera. Era
felicidad o infelicidad ir por la vida escribiendo en secreto, pareciendo estar en armona
con todo lo que me rodea. Estas slo eran preguntas excesivamente enfermas de mal
temperamento.
De dnde me vena la idea de la medida de una buena vida hallada en la felicidad? La
gente, los papeles, todos actuaban como si la ms importante medida de la vida fuese la
felicidad. No sugera esto por si solo que vala la pena encontrar que era verdad lo
exactamente opuesto? Despus de todo mi padre haba huido de su familia muchas
veces. Qu tan bien lo conoca, y qu tanto podra decir que entenda su molestia?
Esto era lo que me mova cuando recin abr la maleta de mi padre. Tena mi padre un
secreto, una infelicidad en su vida de la que no yo no saba nada slo resistida por l de
ponerla por escrito.
Tan pronto como abr la maleta record su esencia de viaje, reconoc varias libretas
vistas antes cuando mi padre me las mostr aos atrs sin extenderse mucho en ellas.
Muchas de las libretas que tom en mis manos las haba llenado cuando nos dej para ir

de joven a Pars. Mientras admiraba muchos escritores-escritores cuyas biografas haba


ledo- deseaba conocer qu haba escrito mi padre, qu haba pensado a la edad que yo
tengo ahora. No me tard mucho tiempo en saber que no encontrara nada de esto all.
Lo que ms me molest fue encontrar la voz de un escritor en las libretas de mi padre.
No era la voz de mi padre, me dije, o era autntica, o por lo menos no perteneca al
hombre al que conoca como mi padre. Debajo de mi temor de que tal vez mi padre no
era mi padre cuando escriba haba un temor ms profundo, el temor de cmo bien
adentro yo no era autntico, de no encontrar nada bueno en los escritos de mi padre, esto
increment el temor de descubrir una excesiva influencia de otros escritores en mi padre
y me sumergi en una zozobra que me haba afligido mucho cuando joven poniendo mi
vida, mi propio ser, mi deseo de escribir y mi trabajo en cuestin.
Durante mis primeros diez aos como escritor sent esas ansiedades en mayor grado,
incluso cuando las rehua en algunas ocasiones tem que un da habra de asumir la
derrota- tal como lo haba hecho con la pintura y sucumbir ante la molestia y dejar de
escribir novelas tambin.
Ya he mencionado dos sentimientos esenciales aflorados en m cuando cerr la maleta
de mi padre y la hice a un lado: la sensacin de estar en una isla desierta en provincia y
de carecer autenticidad. No era sta la primera vez que se hacan sentir estas
sensaciones.
Por aos en mis lecturas y escritura he estado estudiando, descubriendo y profundizando
emociones en todas sus variedades y sin intencionadas consecuencias, sus finales
nervios, sus detonadores y sus muchos colores.
Ciertamente mi espritu ha sido herido por las confusiones, las sensibilidades y los
efmeros dolores que la vida y los libros han hecho brotar en m, claro, mucho ms
frecuente cuando joven.
Aunque slo escribiendo libros entend los problemas de la autenticidad ( Mi nombre es
rojo y El libro negro) y los problemas de una vida desde la periferia ( Nieve y
Estambul), para mi ser escritor es reconocer la heridas secretas cargadas dentro de
nosotros, heridas tan ocultas que apenas tenemos conocimiento de ellas y exploramos
con paciencia, las conocemos, las iluminamos para poseer estos dolores y heridas, para
hacerlas partes concientes de nuestros espritus y escritura.
Un escritor habla de cosas sabidas por todos pero que l no sabe que saben. Explorar
este conocimiento y verlo crecer es placentero, el lector visita as un mundo familiar y
desconocido al tiempo. Cuando un escritor se encierra en un cuarto con el fin de
hospedar su trabajo y crear un mundo, si usa heridas secretas como punto de partida, l
est, independiente de si lo sabe, poniendo gran fe en la humanidad.
Mi confianza viene de la creencia en que todos los seres humanos se parecen, en que
otros cargan heridas como yo y por esto entendern. Toda literatura verdadera emana de
la esperanzadora certeza infantil de ser todos semejantes.

Cuando un escritor se encierra en un cuarto por aos su gesto sugiere una humanidad
solitaria, un mundo sin centro. Pero como se ve a cerca de la maleta de mi padre y la
paleta de colores de nuestras vidas en Estambul, el mundo tena un centro lejos de
nosotros. En mis libros describo con cierto detalle cmo este hecho evocaba un sentido
checoslovaco de provincialismo y cmo por otro camino esto me llev a cuestionar mi
autenticidad.
S por experiencia que la mayora de la gente en la tierra vive con los mismos
sentimientos y muchos sufren de peores insuficiencias, carencias de seguridad y
sensacin de degradacin que los que yo sufro. S, los ms grande dilemas de la
humanidad siguen siendo el destierro, la indigencia y el hambre, pero la televisin y los
peridicos nos hablan de todo de manera ms simple y rpida de lo que la literatura
jams lo har.
Lo que ms necesita decir e investigar la literatura son los miedos bsicos de la
humanidad: el temor de ser excluido, de no contar para nada y los sentimientos de
insignificancia acompaantes de tales miedos, las humillaciones colectivas,
vulnerabilidades, insultos, lamentaciones, sensibilidades e insultos imaginados, el
regocijo nacionalista y las inflaciones son sus ms cercanos como especie.
Como sea que me encuentro con tales sentimientos, con el leguaje irracional y vulgar en
que se expresan usualmente, s de ellos tocndome en mi oscuridad interior. Hemos
visto con frecuencia personajes, sociedades y pases fuera del mundo occidental- me
puedo identificar con facilidad con ellos- sucumbiendo a los miedos que los han llevado
a cometer estupideces, todo por temores de humillacin y sensibilidades.
S tambin cmo en Occidente- un mundo con el que tambin me puedo identificar con
facilidad- hay naciones y personas enorgullecidas en demasa por sus riquezas, en
habernos trado el Renacimiento, la Ilustracin y el Modernismo, que de tiempo en
tiempo han sucumbido a una autosatisfaccin casi estpida. Esto significa que mi padre
no era el nico, pues todos damos mucha importancia a la idea de un mundo con un
centro. La razn que nos compele a escribir en un cuarto indefinidamente es la fe en lo
opuesto, la creencia de un da en que nuestros textos sern ledos y entendidos porque la
gente en todo el mundo se asemeja. Esto lo s por m y por los escritos de mi padre y es
un optimismo complicado, destruido por la rabia de ser dejado al margen, de ser
excluido.
El amor y el odio sentido por Dostoyevsky hacia Occidente toda su vida tambin lo he
sentido en muchas ocasiones. He atrapado un verdad esencial: si tengo razones pare mi
optimismo es por que he viajo con ste gran escritor a travs de su relacin de amor y
odio con Occidente para considerar el otro mundo construido por l, construido en otro
lado.
Todos los escritores que han dedicado su vida a esta tarea conocen la realidad: el
propsito original del mudo creado por nosotros despus de aos y aos de escritura
esperanzada, al final se mover a otros lugares distintos. Nos llevar lejos de la mesa en

que hemos trabajado con tristeza y rabia, nos llevara al otro lado de la tristeza y la rabia,
en otro mundo. Pudo mi padre llegar a tal mundo?
Como la tierra que lentamente toma forma, alzndose lentamente desde la niebla con
todos sus colores como una isla despus de un largo viaje en el mar, ste mundo nos
encanta. Estamos tan fascinados como los viajeros occidentales quienes viajan desde el
Sur hasta observar Estambul alzarse desde la niebla. Al final del viaje iniciado con
esperanza y curiosidad yace enfrente una ciudad de mezquitas y alminares, una
combinacin de casas, calles, montaas, puentes y colinas, un mundo entero. Vindolo
deseamos entrar en l y perdernos como dentro de un libro. Despus de sentarnos a la
mesa nos sentimos provincianos, excluidos, marginales, furiosos, profundamente
melanclicos, encontramos un mundo completo ms all de estos sentimientos.
Siento ahora lo opuesto a lo que sent de nio y de joven: para m el centro del mundo
es Estambul. No solo porque all viv toda mi vida sino porque por los pasados 33 aos
he narrado sus calles, puentes, su gente, perros, casas, mezquitas, fuentes, sus hroes
extraos, tiendas, personajes famosos, puntos negros, sus noches y das, hacindolos
parte de m, abrazndolos.
Lleg un momento en que el mundo hecho con mis propias manos exista slo en mi
cabeza y era ms real que la misma ciudad en que viva. Fue cuando todas estas
personas y la calle, los objetos y los edificios parecan hablar entre ellos y comenzar a
actuar en formas no anticipadas como si no vivieran slo para mi imaginacin o mis
libros sino para ellas mismas.
Este mundo creado por m como un hombre cavando un pozo con una aguja se ver
entonces ms verdadero que cualquier otra cosa. Mi padre tambin pudo haber
descubierto este tipo de felicidad durante sus aos de escritura. Pens mientras atisbaba
la maleta de mi padre que no deba prejuzgarlo.
Estaba muy agradecido con l despus de todo: nunca haba sido mandn, prohibitorio,
abusador de su poder, castigador, ni un padre ordinario, pero un padre que siempre me
dio libertad y me mostr el mximo respeto. Con frecuencia he pensado que si de vez en
cuando pude representar cosas en mi imaginacin en libertad o infantilidades fue slo
porque a diferencia de muchos de mis amigos de infancia y juventud no tena miedo de
mi padre; he credo alguna veces que pude ser un escritor porque mi padre en su
juventud haba deseado serlo tambin. A l lo tuve que leer con tolerancia-buscando
entender lo escritor por l en los cuartos de los hoteles.
Fue con estos pensamientos esperanzadores que camin hacia donde mi padre haba
dejado la maleta, valindome de mi poder de voluntad le algunos manuscritos y
libretas, sobre qu haba escrito mi padre? Record algunas vistas desde las ventanas
de los hoteles parisinos, uno pocos poemas, paradojas, anlisis. Mientras escribo me
siento como alguien que recin ha tenido un accidente automovilstico y trata de
recordar cmo sucedido al tiempo que teme recordar demasiado.

Cuando era chico y mis padres estaban al borde de una pelea cuando caan en un
silencio fatal- mi padre encenda el radio para cambiar la atmsfera y que la msica nos
hiciera olvidar rpido. Djenme cambiar la atmsfera con unas pocas dulces palabras
que espero sirvan tan bien como la msica. Como ustedes saben, la pregunta hecha con
frecuencia a nosotros los escritores, la pregunta favorita es: por qu escribe? Escribo
porque tengo una innata necesidad de escribir, escribo porque no puedo hacer un trabajo
normal como otras personas. Escribo porque quiero leer libros como los mos. Escribo
porque estoy disgustado con ustedes y todos.
Escribo porque amo estar en un cuarto todo el da escribiendo. Escribo porque slo
puedo tomar parte en la vida real cambindola. Escribo porque quiero que otros, todos
nosotros, el mundo entero, sepan qu tipo de vida hemos vivido nosotros y an vivimos
en Estambul, en Turqua. Escribo porque amo el olor del papel, la pluma y la tinta.
Escribo porque creo en la literatura, en el arte de la novela ms de lo que creo en otras
cosas.
Escribo porque es un hbito, una pasin. Escribo porque tengo miedo de ser olvidado.
Escribo porque quiero la gloria y el inters que trae la escritura. Escribo para estar solo.
Escribo tal vez para saber por qu estoy tan, tan, tan molesto con todos ustedes. Escribo
porque me gusta ser ledo. Escribo porque una vez he comenzado a escribir una novela,
un ensayo, una pgina, quiero terminarla. Escribo porque todos esperan que escriba.
Escribo porque tengo la infantil creencia en la inmortalidad de las libreras y en la
manera en que mis libros yacen en los entrepaos.
Escribo porque es excitante poner en palabras toda la belleza y riqueza de la vida.
Escribo no para contar una historia sino para componer una. Escribo porque deseo
escapar de la premonicin de un lugar al que debo ir como en un sueo- pero al que
no me puedo si quiera acercar. Escribo porque nunca he podido ser feliz. Escribo para
ser feliz. Una semana despus de venir a mi oficina y dejar la maleta mi padre vino de
nuevo, como siempre me trajo una barra de chocolate, (haba olvidado que yo tena 48
aos), como siempre remos y hablamos sobre la vida, la poltica y los chismes
familiares. Lleg un momento en que los ojos de mi padre fueron a parar a la esquina
donde haba dejado su maleta y vio que la haba corrido. Nos miramos a los ojos, luego
sobrevino un silencio opresivo.
No le dije que haba abierto la maleta y tratado de leer su contenido, en vez de eso mir
hacia otro lado. Pero el comprendi, tal como yo entend que el haba entendido. Pero
est comprensin slo duro uno segundos porque mi padre era feliz, un hombre fcil de
llevar con fe en s mismo: l me sonri como siempre. Cuando se iba de mi casa me
repiti todas las amorosas e inspiradoras cosas que siempre me deca como padre. Como
siempre lo vi irse envidiando su felicidad y despreocupacin e imperturbable
temperamento. Recuerdo aquel da hubo un rayo de felicidad dentro de m, que me
avergonz, producido por el pensamiento de no estar tal vez tan cmodo en la vida
como l, de pronto no haba vivido tan feliz y libre como l, pero me haba dedicado a la
escritura- me avergonzaba pensar as a costa de mi padre.

De todas la persona mi padre nunca fue la fuente de mi dolor porque me dej libre.
Todo esto debe recordarnos que la escritura y la literatura estn ntimamente vinculadas
con una falta de centro en nuestras vidas y nuestros sentimientos de felicidad y culpa.
Con todo mi historia tiene una simetra que inmediatamente me record algo ese da y
me produjo un sentimiento de culpa ms profundo. Veintitrs aos antes que mi padre
me dejara su maleta y cuatro aos antes de decidir a la edad de veintids convertirme en
novelistas y abandonar lo dems para encerrarme en un cuarto termin mi primera
novela Cevdet Bey e hijos.
Con manos temblorosas le haba pasado las cuartillas de la novela indita a mi padre
para que me diera su opinin, no slo porque confiaba en su gusto e intelecto: su
opinin era muy importante porque l, al contrario de mi madre no se haba opuesto a
mi deseo de convertirme en escritor. Para entonces mi padre no estaba con nosotros, se
haba ido. Espere pacientemente su regreso. Cuando lleg dos semanas despus corr a
abrir la puerta. Mi padre no dijo nada, pero de inmediato tir sus manos sobre mi de una
manera en que me deca que le haba gustado mucho la novela.
Durante un rato estuvimos con el extrao silencio que siempre acompaa grandes
momentos emotivos, entonces nos calmamos y comenzamos a hablar y mi padre volvi
con sus cargados y exagerados comentarios para expresar su confianza en m o mi
primera novela, me dijo que un da ganara el premio que estoy recibiendo ac con gran
felicidad. No deca esto porque estuviera tratando de convencerme de su buena opinin
o por poner el premio como una meta, lo deca como un padre turco apoyando a su hijo
diciendo: Un da te convertirs en un pasha. Por aos cuando me va replicaba su
apoyo con las mismas palabras. Mi padre muri en diciembre de 2002.
Hoy parado ac ante la Academia Sueca y los distinguidos miembros que me otorgaron
el premio, el gran honor y los distinguidos invitados deseo fervientemente que l
pudiera estar ac.

Implied writer (El autor implcito)


I HAVE BEEN WRITING FOR THIRTY YEARS. I have been reciting these words for
some time now. I've been reciting them for so long, in fact, that they have ceased to be
true: for now I am entering my thirty-first year as a writer. I do still like saying that I've
been writing novels for thirty years. Though this is a bit of an exaggeration. From time
to time, I do other sorts of writing--essays, criticism, reflections on Istanbul or politics,
and speeches for wonderful events like this. But my true vocation, the thing that binds
me to life, is writing novels. There are plenty of brilliant writers who've been writing
much longer than I, who've been writing for half a century without paying this much
attention. There are also the great writers to whom I return again and again, Leo Tolstoy,

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Thomas Mann, whose careers spanned more than fifty years.
So why do I make so much of my own thirtieth anniversary as a writer? I do so because
I wish to talk about writing, and most particularly novel-writing, as a habit.
In order to be happy, I must have my daily dose of literature. In this I am no different
from the patient who must take a spoon of medicine each day. When I learned, as a
child, that diabetics needed an injection every day, like most people, I felt bad for them;
I may even have thought of them as half dead. My dependence on literature must make
me "half dead" in the same way. When I was a young writer, especially, I sensed that
others saw me as "cut off from the real world" and so doomed to be "half dead." Or
perhaps the right expression is "half ghost." I have sometimes even entertained the
thought that I was fully dead and trying to breathe life back into my corpse with
literature. For me, literature is medicine. Like the medications that others take by spoon
or injection, my daily dose of literature--my daily fix, if you will--must meet certain
standards.
First, the medicine must be good. Its goodness is what tells me how true and strong it is.
To read a dense, deep passage in a novel, to enter into that world and believe it to be
true-nothing makes me happier, nothing binds me more to life. I also prefer it if the
writer is dead, because then there is no little cloud of jealousy to darken my admiration.
The older I get, the more convinced I am that the best books are by dead writers. Even if
they are not yet deceased, to sense their presence is to sense a ghost. This is why, when
we see great writers in the street, we treat them like ghosts, not quite believing our eyes
as we marvel from afar. A few brave souls approach the ghosts for autographs.
Sometimes I remind myself that these writers will die soon, and that once they are dead,
the books that are their legacy will occupy an even higher place in our hearts. Though of
course
this
is
not
always
the
case
...
If my daily dose of literature is something I myself am writing, it's all very different.
Because for those who share my affliction, the best cure of all, and the greatest source
of happiness, is to write a good half page every day. For thirty years I've spent an
average of ten hours a day alone in a room, sitting at my desk. If you count only the
work that is good enough to be published, my daily average is a good deal less than half
a page a day. Most of what I write does not meet my own standards of "goodness."
These,
I
put
to
you,
are
two
large
sources
of
misery.
But please don't misunderstand me: a writer who is as dependent on literature as I am
can never be the sort of superficial person who will find happiness in the beauty of the
books he has already written, nor can he congratulate himself on how many books he
has written or what these books achieved. Literature does not allow such a writer to
pretend to save the world; rather, it gives him the chance to save the day. And all days
are difficult. Days are difficult when you don't do any writing. They're difficult when
you cannot do any writing. The point is to find enough hope to get through the day and,

if the book or the page he is reading is good, to find joy in it, and happiness, if only for
a
day.
Let me explain what I feel on a day when I've not written well, if I'm not lost in a book.
First, the world changes before my eyes: it becomes unbearable, abominable; those who
know me can see it happening to me, too, for I myself come to resemble the world I see
around me. For example, my daughter can tell that I have not written well that day from
the abject hopelessness on my face in the evening. I would like to be able to hide this
from her, but I cannot. During these dark moments, I feel as if there is no line between
life and death. I don't want to speak to anyone, and anyone seeing me in this state has no
desire to speak to me either. A milder version of this despair descends on me every
afternoon, in fact, between one and three, but I have learned how to treat it by reading
and writing: if I act promptly, I can save myself from a full retreat to my corpse.
If I've had to go a long stretch without my paper-and-ink cure, be it due to travel, an
unpaid gas bill, military service (as was once the case), political affairs (as has been the
case more recently), or any number of other obstacles, I can feel my misery setting
inside me like cement. My body has difficulty moving through space, my joints get stiff,
my head turns to stone, my perspiration even seems to have another smell. This misery
can only grow, for life is full of punishments that distance a person from literature. I can
be sitting in a crowded political meeting, or chatting with my classmates in a school
corridor, or eating a holiday meal with my relatives, struggling to converse with a goodhearted person whose mind is worlds away or else occupied by whatever is happening
on the TV screen: I can be at an important "business meeting," making an ordinary
purchase, making my way to the notary, or having my picture taken for a visa--suddenly
my eyelids will grow heavy, and though it is the middle of the day, I'll fall asleep. When
I am far away from home, and therefore unable to return to my room to spend time
alone, my only consolation is a nap in the middle of the day.
So yes, the real hunger here is not for literature, but for a room where I can be alone and
dream. If I can do this, I can invent beautiful dreams about those same crowded places,
those family gatherings, school reunions, festival meals, and all the people who attend
them. I enrich the crowded holiday meals with invented details and make the people
themselves even more amusing. In dreams, of course, everything and everyone is
interesting, captivating, and real. I make the new world from the stuff of the known
world. Here we come to the heart of the matter. To write well, I must first be bored to
distraction; to be bored to distraction, I must enter into life. It is when I am bombarded
with noise, sitting in an office full of ringing phones, surrounded by friends and loved
ones on a sunny seashore or at a rainy funeral--in other words, at the very moment when
I begin to sense the heart of the scene unfolding around me--that I will suddenly feel as
if I'm no longer really there, but watching from the sidelines. I'll begin to daydream. If
I'm feeling pessimistic, I can think about how bored I am. Either way, there will be a
voice inside me, urging me to "go back to the room and sit down at the table." I have no

idea what most people do in such circumstances, but it is this that turns people like me
into writers. My guess is that it leads not to poetry but to prose and fiction. This sheds a
bit more light on the properties of the medicine I must be sure to take every day. We can
see now that its ingredients are boredom, real life, and the life of the imagination.
The pleasure I take in this confession, and the fear I feel when speaking honestly about
myself--together, they lead me to a serious and important insight that I would now like
to share with you. I would like to propose a simple theory that begins with the idea that
writing is a solace, even a remedy, at least for novelists like me: we choose our subjects,
and shape our novels, to suit our daily daydream requirements. A novel is inspired by
ideas, passions, furies, and desires--this we all know. To please our lovers, to belittle our
enemies, to speak of something we adore, to delight in speaking knowledgeably of
something about which we know nothing, to take pleasure in times lost and
remembered, to dream of making love, or reading, or engaging with politics, to indulge
in one's particular worries, one's personal habits--these and any number of other obscure
or even nonsensical desires are what shape us, in ways both clear and mysterious. These
same desires drive the daydreams of which we speak. We may not understand where
they come from, and we may not understand what our daydreams signify, but when we
sit down to write, it is our daydreams that breathe life into us like a wind from an
unknown quarter. One might even say that we surrender to this mysterious wind like a
captain
who
has
no
idea
where
he's
bound....
But at the same time, in one part of our minds, we can pinpoint our location on the map
exactly, just as we can remember the point toward which we are traveling. Even at those
times when I surrender unconditionally to the wind, I am able, at least according to
some other writers I know and admire, to retain my general sense of direction. Before I
set out, I will have made plans, divided the story I wish to tell into sections, determined
what ports my ship will visit, what loads it will carry and drop off along the way,
estimated the time of my journey, and charted its course on the map. But if the wind,
having blown in from unknown quarters and filled my sails, decides to change the
course of my story, I will not fight it. For what the ship with full sails seeks is a feeling
of wholeness and perfection. It is as if I am looking for that special place and time in
which everything flows into everything else, everything is linked, and everything is
aware of everything else. All at once, the wind will die away and I will find myself
becalmed in a place where nothing moves. I'll sense that there are things in these calm
and misty waters that will, if I am patient, move the novel forward.... What I most long
for is the sort of spiritual inspiration I described in my novel Snow. It is not dissimilar to
the sort of inspiration Coleridge described in his poem "Kubla Khan." I also long for
inspiration to come to me (as poems do to Coleridge and to Ka, Snow's hero) in
dramatic ways, preferably in scenes and situations that might sit well in a novel. If I
wait patiently and attentively, my dream comes true. To write a novel is to be open to
these desires, winds, and inspirations, to the dark recesses of our minds and their
moments
of
mist
and
stillness.

For what is a novel but a story that fills its sails with these winds, that answers and
builds upon inspirations that blow in from unknown quarters and seizes upon all the
daydreams we've invented for our diversion, bringing them together into a meaningful
whole--a story? Above all, a novel is a basket that carries inside it a dreamworld we
wish to keep forever alive, and forever ready. Novels are held together by the little
pieces of daydreams that help us, from the moment we enter them, forget the tedious
world we long to escape. The more we write, the richer these dreams become; and the
more we write, that second world inside the basket becomes broader, more detailed,
more complete. We come to know this world through writing, and the better we know it,
the easier it is to carry it around in our heads. If I am in the middle of a novel and
writing well, I can enter easily into its dreams. For novels are new worlds into which we
enter happily through reading, or even more by writing: novelists shape them in such a
way that they can carry the dreams they wish to elaborate, and with great ease. Just as
they offer happiness to the good reader, so, too, do they offer the good writer a solid and
sound new world in which he can lose himself and seek happiness at any hour of the
day. If I've been able to create even a tiny part of this miraculous world, I feel happy the
moment I reach my desk, my pen, and my paper. In no time at all I can leave behind the
familiar, boring world of the everyday and step into this other, bigger place to wander
freely, and most of the time I have no desire to return to real life or to reach the end of
the novel. This feeling is, I think, related to the good reader's response upon hearing that
I am writing a new novel: "Please make your novel really long!" I am proud to boast
that I hear this a thousand times more often than the bad publisher's entreaty: "Make it
short!"
How is it that a habit made from a single person's joys and pleasures can produce a
work that interests so many others? Readers of My Name Is Red like to recall Sekure's
remarks to the effect that trying to explain everything is a sort of idiocy. My own
sympathies in this scene are not with Orhan, my little hero and namesake, but the
mother who is gently poking fun at him. But if you will permit me to commit another
idiocy, and act like Orhan, I'd like to try to explain why dreams that work as medicine
for the writer can serve the same purpose for the reader: because if I am entirely inside
the novel and writing well--if I have distanced myself from the ringing phone, from all
the troubles and demands and tedium of everyday life--the rules by which my freefloating heaven operates recall the games I played as a child. It is as if everything has
become simpler, as if I am in a simpler world where I can see into every house, car,
ship, and building because they are all made of glass, because they have begun to tell
me their secrets. My job is to divine the rules and listen: to watch with pleasure the
goings-on in each interior, to step into cars and buses with my heroes and to travel about
Istanbul, visiting places that have come to bore me to tears and seeing them with new
eyes, and in so doing, transforming them; my job is to have fun, be irresponsible,
because while I'm amusing myself (as we like to say of children), I might just learn
something.

An imaginative novelist's greatest virtue is his ability to forget the world in the way a
child does, to be irresponsible and delight in it, to play around with the rules of the
known world--but at the same time to see through his freewheeling flights of fancy to
the deep responsibility that will later allow readers to lose themselves entirely in his
novel. He might be spending the whole day playing, but at the same time he carries the
deepest conviction that he is more serious than others. This is because he can be looking
directly into the center of things the way that only children can. Having found the
courage to set rules for the games he once played freely, he senses that his readers will
also allow themselves to be drawn into the same rules, the same language, the same
sentences, and therefore the story. To write well is to allow the reader to say, "I was
going to say the same thing myself, but I couldn't allow myself to be that childish."
This world I explore and create and enlarge, making up the rules as I go, waiting for my
sails to fill with a wind from an unknown quarter and poring over my map--it is born of
childlike innocence that is at times closed to me. This happens to all writers. A point
arrives when I get stuck, or I will go back to the point in the novel where I've left off
some time before and find that I am unable to pick it up again. Such afflictions are
commonplace, and I may suffer from them less than other writers: if I can't pick up
where I left off, I can always turn instead to another gap in the novel; because I've
studied my map very carefully, I can begin writing in another section of the novel. This
is not so important. But this autumn, while I was grappling with various political
matters and running into the same problem, I felt as if I'd discovered something that also
casts light on novel-writing. Let me try to explain what I mean.
The case that was brought against me, and the political quandaries inside which I then
found myself, turned me into a far more "political," "serious," and "responsible" person
than I wanted to be. A sad state of affairs, and an even sadder state of mind--let me say
it with a smile. This was why I was unable to enter into that childlike innocence without
which no novel is possible ... but this was easy to understand, it didn't surprise me. As
the events slowly unfolded, I would tell myself that my fast-vanishing "spirit of
irresponsibility," my childish sense of play and childish sense of humor, would one day
return, and that I would then be able to finish the novel I'd been working on for three
years. Nevertheless, I would still get up every morning, long before Istanbul's other ten
million inhabitants, and try to enter into the novel that was sitting unfinished in the
silence of midnight. I was exerting myself because I so longed to get back into my
beloved second world. After exerting myself greatly, I'd begin to pull bits of the novel I
wished to write from my head, and I'd see them playing themselves out before me. But
these were not from the novel I was writing--they were scenes from an entirely different
novel. On those tedious, joyless mornings, what passed before my eyes was not the
novel on which I'd been working for three years but an ever-growing body of scenes,
sentences, characters, and strange details from some other novel. After a while, I began
to set down the fragments of this other novel in a notebook, and I noted down thoughts
that I had never before entertained. This other novel would be about the paintings of a
deceased contemporary artist. As I conjured up this painter, however, I found myself

thinking just as much about his paintings. After a while longer, I understood why I'd
been unable to recapture the child's spirit of irresponsibility during those tedious days. I
could no longer return to childishness, I could only return to my childhood, to the days
when (as I described in Istanbul) I dreamed of becoming an artist and spent my days
doing
one
painting
after
another.
Later on, the case against me was dropped, and I returned to The Museum of Innocence,
the novel on which I had already spent three years. Today I am planning this other novel
that came to me scene by scene during those days when, unable to return to
childishness, I returned instead to the passions of my childhood. But this experience
taught me something important about the mysterious art of writing novels.
I can explain this by taking "the implied reader"--a principle put forward by the great
literary critic and theorist Wolfgang Iser--and twisting it to my own ends. Iser created a
brilliant reader-oriented literary theory. He said that a novel's meaning resides not in the
text, nor in its context, but somewhere between the two. He argues that a novel's
meaning emerges only as it is read, and so when he speaks of the implied reader, he is
assigning
him
or
her
a
special
role.
When I was dreaming up the scenes, sentences, and details of another book, instead of
continuing the novel I was already writing, it was this theory that came back into my
mind, and what it suggested to me was this: for every unwritten but dreamed and
planned novel (in other words, my own unfinished novel), there must be an implied
author. So I would only be able to finish that book when I'd become that book's implied
author. But when I was immersed in political affairs, or--as happens so often in the
course of normal life--my thoughts were too often interrupted by unpaid gas bills,
ringing telephones, and family gatherings, I was unable to become the author implied by
the book in my dreams. During those long and tedious days of politicking, I could not
become the implied author of the marvelous book I longed to write. Then those days
passed, and I returned to my novel, just as I had so longed to do, and whenever I think
how close I am to finishing it, I feel happy, too (the novel is a love story that takes place
between 1975 and the present, among the rich of Istanbul or, as the papers like to call it,
"Istanbul society"). But having come through this experience, I have understood why,
for thirty years, I have devoted all my strength to becoming the implied author of the
books I long to write. This may be important to me because I only want to write big,
thick, ambitious novels, and because I write so very slowly. It is not difficult to dream a
book. I do this a lot, just as I spend a great deal of time imagining myself as someone
else. The difficult thing is to be your dream book's implied author.
But let's not complain. Having published seven novels, I can safely say that, even if it
takes some effort, I am able to become the author who can write the books in my
dreams. Just as I've written books and left them behind me, so, too, have I left behind
me the ghosts of the writers who could write those books. All seven of these implied
authors resemble me, and over the past thirty years they have come to know life and the

world as seen from Istanbul, as seen from a window like mine, and because they know
this world inside out and are convinced by it, they can describe it with all the
seriousness
and
responsibility
of
a
child
at
play.
My greatest hope is to be able to write novels for another thirty years, and to use this
excuse to wrap myself up in other new personas.

In Kars and Frankfurt


By Orhan Pamuk
Translated by Maureen Freely
It is a great pleasure to be in Frankfurt, the city where Ka, the hero of my novel, Snow,
spent the last fifteen years of his life. My hero is a Turk and therefore no relation of
Kafkas; they are related only in the literary sense of the word. I shall be saying more
about literary relations later on. Kas real name was Kerim Alakuolu, but he was not
very fond of it, so he preferred the shorter version. He first came to Frankfurt in the
1980s as a political refugee. He was not particularly interested in politics - he didnt
even like politics: his whole life is poetry. My hero was a poet living in Frankfurt. He
saw Turkish politics as someone else might see an accident something that he got
mixed up in without ever willing it. I would, if I have enough time, like to say a few

words about politics and accidents. It is a subject about which I have thought a great
deal. But do not worry: though I write long novels, today I shall keep my comments
brief.

It was in the hope that I might describe Kas stay in Frankfurt during the eighties and
early nineties without making too many mistakes that I came here five years ago, in the
year 2000. Two people in the audience today were particularly generous in their help,
and it was while they were showing me around that we visited the little park behind the
old factory buildings near Gutleustrasse where my hero would spend the last years of
his life. To better imagine the walk Ka made each morning from his home to the City
Library1 where he spent most of his days, we walked through the square in front of the
station, down Kaiserstrasse, past the sex shops and the Turkish greengrocers, barbers
and kebab restaurants of Munchenerstrasse as far as Clocktower Square 2, passing just in
front of the church where we are gathered today. We went into the Kaufhof where Ka
bought the coat he would wear so happily for so many years. For two days, we roamed
around the old, poor neighbourhoods where Frankfurts Turks have made their homes,
visiting their mosques, kebab restaurants, community associations, and coffeehouses.
This was my seventh novel but I recall taking such needlessly extensive notes that I
might as well have been a novice, writing my first novel and agonising over every
detail. Asking questions like, did the tram really pass this corner during the eighties.

I did the same thing when I visited Kars, the small city in the northeast of Turkey where
most of my novel takes place. Because I knew very little about this city, I visited it
many times before using it as my setting; during my stays there, I met many people and
made many friends; I explored the city street by street and shop by shop. I visited the
most remote and forgotten neighbourhoods of this, Turkeys most remote and forgotten
city, conversing with the unemployed men who spent their days in coffeehouses,
without even the hope of ever again finding jobs, conversing, too, with lycee students,
the plainclothes and uniformed policemen who followed me wherever I went, and the
publishers of the newspaper whose circulation never rose above 250.
My aim here is not to relate how I came to write a novel called Snow. I am using this
story as a way into the subject that I am coming to understand more clearly with each
new day, and that is, in my view, central to the art of the novel: the question of the
other, the stranger, the enemy that resides inside each of our heads, or rather, the
1Please change as necessary

2ibid

question of how to transform it. That my question is not central to all novels is selfevident: a novel can, of course, advance the understanding of humankind by imagining
its characters in situations that we know intimately and care about and recognise from
our own experience. When we meet someone in a novel who reminds us of ourselves,
our first wish is for that character to explain to us who we are. So we tell stories about
mothers, fathers, houses, streets that look just like ours, and we set these stories in cities
weve seen with our own eyes, in the countries we know best. But the strange and magic
rules that govern the art of the novel can open up our families, homes, and cities in a
way that makes everyone feel as if they can see their own families, homes, and cities
reflected in them. It has often been said that Buddenbrooks is an excessively
autobiographical novel. But when I first picked up this book as a boy of seventeen, I
read it not as the authors account of his own family - for at the time I knew very little
about him; for me it was a book about a universal family which which I could easily
identify. The wondrous mechanisms of the novel allow us to take our own stories and
present them to all humanity as stories about someone else.

So, yes, one could define the novel as an art that allows the skilled practitioner to turn
his own stories into stories about someone else; but this is just one aspect of the great
and mesmerising art that has entranced so many readers and inspired us writers for
going on four hundred years. It was the other aspect that drew me to the streets of
Frankfurt and Kars: the chance to write of others lives as if they were my own. It is by
doing this sort of thorough novelistic research that novelists can begin to test the lines
that mark off that other and in so doing alter the boundaries of our own identities.
Others become us and we become others. Certainly a novel can achieve both feats
simultaneously. Even as it relates our own lives as if they were the lives of others, it
offers us the chance to describe other peoples lives as if they were our own. Novelists
wishing to enter into the lives of other do not necessarily need to visit other streets and
other cities, as I did when preparing to write Snow. Novelists wishing to put themselves
in others shoes and identify with their pains and troubles will draw first and foremost
from their imaginations. Let my try to illustrate my point with an example that will call
to mind what I was saying earlier on about literary relations: If I woke up one morning
to find that I had turned into an enormous cockroach, what would become of me?
Behind every great novel is an author whose greatest pleasure comes from entering
anothers form and bringing it to life whose strongest and most creative impulse is to
test the very limits of his identity. If I woke up one morning to find myself transformed
into a cockroach, I would need to do more than research insects: if I were to guess that
everyone else in the house would be revolted and even terrified to see me scuttling
across the walls and the ceilings, and that even my own mother and father would hurl
apples at me, I would first have to find a way to become Kafka. But before I try to
imagine myself as someone else, I might have to do a little investigating. What I need to
ponder most is this: who is this other we so need to imagine?

This creature who is nothing like us addresses our most primitive hates, fears, and
anxieties. We know full well that these are the emotions that fire up our imaginations
and give us to power to write. So the novelist enjoying the rules of his art will feel that
only good can come of identifying with this other. The novelist will also know that
thinking about this other whom everyone knows and believes to be his opposite will
help to liberate him from the confines of his own persona. The history of the novel is
the history of human liberation: by putting ourselves in others shoes, by using our
imaginations to free ourselves from our own identities, we are able to set ourselves free.

So Defoes great novel conjures up not just Robinson Crusoe but also his slave, Friday.
As powerfully as Don Quixote conjures up a knight who lives in the world of books, it
also conjures up his servant Sancho Pancho. I enjoy reading Anna Karenina, Tolstoys
most brilliant novel, as a happily married mans attempt to imagine a woman who
destroys her unhappy marriage, and then herself. Tolstoys inspiration was another male
novelist who, though he himself never married, found his way into the mind of the
discontented Madame Bovary. In the greatest allegorical classic of all time, Moby Dick,
Melville explores the fears gripping the America of his day and particularly its fear of
alien cultures through the intermediary of the white whale. Those of us who come to
know the world through books cannot think of the American South without also
thinking of the blacks in Faulkners novels. In the same way, we might feel that a
German novelist who wishes to speak to all of Germany, and who fails, explicitly or
implicitly, to imagine the countrys Turks along with the unease they cause, is somehow
lacking. Likewise, a Turkish novelist who fails to imagine the Kurds and other
minorities, and who neglects to illuminate the black spots in his countrys unspoken
history, will, in my view, produce work that has a hole at its centre.

Contrary to what most people assume, a novelists politics have nothing to do with the
societies, parties and groups to which he might belong or his dedication to any
political cause. A novelists politics rises from his imagination, from his ability to
imagine himself as someone else. This power makes him not just a person who
explores the human realities that have never been voiced before it makes him the
spokesman for those who cannot speak for themselves, whose anger is never heard, and
whose words are suppressed. A novelist may (like me) have no real reason to take an
interest in politics as a young man, or if he does, his motives may end up mattering very
little. Today we do not read the greatest political novel of all time, Dostoyevskis The
Devils, as the author originally intended as a polemical novel attacking Russian
westernisers and nihilists; we read it instead as a novel that reflects the Russia of its day,
that reveals to us the great secret locked inside the Slavic soul. This is a secret that only
a novel can explore. Obviously, we cannot hope to come to grips with themes this deep
merely by reading newspapers and magazines, or by watching television. To understand
what is unique about the histories of other nations and other peoples, to share in unique

lives that trouble and shake us, terrifying us with their depths, and shocking us with
their simplicity - these are truths we can glean only from the careful, patient reading of
great novels. Let me add that when Dostoyevskis Devils begin to whisper into the
readers ear, telling him of a secret rooted in history, a secret born of pride and defeat,
shame and anger, they are illuminating the shadows of his own history, too. Behind this
recognition is a despairing writer who loves the west and despises it in equal measure, a
man who cannot quite see himself as a westerner but is dazzled by the brilliance of
western civilisation, who feels himself caught between the two worlds.

Here we come to the East-West question. Journalists are exceedingly fond of the term,
but when I see the connotations it carries in some parts of the Western press, Im
inclined to think that it would be best not to speak of the East-West question at all.
Because what it means most of the time is that the poor countries of the East should
bow to everything the West and the US might happen to offer them. There is also a
strong suggestion that the culture, the way of life, and the politics of places like the one
where I was raised provoke tiresome questions, and an expectation that writers like me
exist to offer solutions to the same tiresome questions. But of course there is an EastWest question, and it is not simply a malicious term invented and imposed by the West.
The East-West question is about wealth and poverty, and about peace.

In the 19th century, when the Ottoman Empire began to feel itself overshadowed by an
ever more dynamic West, suffering repeated defeats at the hands of European armies,
and seeing its own power slowly wane, there emerged a group of men who called
themselves the Young Turks; like the elites that would follow in later generations, not
excluding the last Ottoman sultans, they were dazzled by the superiority of the west, so
they embarked on a programme of westernising reforms. The same logic lies at the
heart of the modern Turkish republic and Kemal Atatrks westernising reforms.
Behind this same logic lies the conviction that Turkeys weakness and poverty stem
from its traditions, its old culture, and the various ways it has socially organised
religion. Coming as I do from a middle-class, westernised Istanbul family, I must admit
that I, too, sometimes succumb to this belief, which is, though well-intended, a narrow
and even simple-minded way of seeing things. Westernisers dream of transforming and
enriching their country and their culture by imitating the West. Because their ultimate
aim is to create a country that is richer, happier, and more powerful, they can also be
nativist, and say what you will powerfully nationalistic: certainly we can see these
tendencies in the Young Turks and the westernisers of the young Turkish Republic. But
as westward looking movements, they remain deeply critical of certain basic
characteristics of their country and culture: though they might not do so in the same
spirit and the same style as Western observers, they, too, see their culture as defective,
sometimes even worthless. This gives rise to another very deep and confused emotion
shame and I see shame reflected in some responses to my novels and to my own

perceived relations with the West. When we in Turkey discuss the East-West question,
when we talk of the tensions between tradition and modernity, (which, to my mind, is
what the East-West question is really all about) or when we prevaricate over our
countrys relations with Europe, the question of shame is always lurking between the
lines. When I try to understand this shame, I always try to link it with its opposite, pride.
As we all know: wherever there is too much pride, and whenever people act too
proudly, there is the shadow of the others shame and humiliation. Wherever there is
someone who feels deeply humiliated, we can expect to see a proud nationalism rising
to the surface. My novels are made from these dark material, from this shame, this
pride, this anger and this sense of defeat. Because I come from a nation that is knocking
on Europes door, I am only too aware of how easily these fragile emotions can, from
time to time, take flame and rage unchecked. What I am trying to do here is to speak of
this shame as a whispered secret, as I first heard it in Dostoyevskys novels. For it is by
sharing our secret shames that we bring about our liberation: this is what the art of the
novel has taught me.

But it is at the moment of liberation that I begin to feel in my heart the complicated
politics of representation, and the moral dilemmas of speaking in anothers name. This
is a difficult undertaking for anyone but particularly for a novelist riddled with the
fragile emotions I was just describing. The freewheeling world of the imagination can
seem treacherous, and never more so than in the mirror of a prickly and easily offended
novelist consumed by nationalist pride. If we keep reality secret, it will, we hope, only
shame us in silence; but if a novelist uses his imagination to transform that same reality,
he can fashion it into a second world that demands recognition. When a novelist begins
to play with the rules that govern society, when he digs beneath the surface to discover
lifes hidden geometry, when he explores that secret world like a curious child, driven
by emotions he cannot quite understand, it is inevitable that he will cause his families,
his friends, his peers and fellow citizen some unease. But this is a happy unease. For it
is by reading novels, stories and myths that we come to understand the ideas that govern
the world in which we live; it is fiction that gives us access to the truths kept veiled and
hidden by our families, our schools, and our society; it is the art of the novel that allows
us to ask who we really are. We have all known the joy of reading novels: we have all
known the thrill of going down the path that leads into someone elses world, and
engaging with that world, body and soul, and longing to change it, as we engross
ourselves in the heros culture, in his relationship with the objects that make up his
world, in the words the author uses, in the decisions he makes and the things he notices
as the story unfolds. We know that the thing we have been reading is both the product
of the authors imagination and of this world into which he has taken us. Novels are
neither wholly imaginary nor wholly real. To read a novel is confront both its authors
imagination and the real world whose surface we have been scratching with such fretful
curiosity. When we retire to a corner, when we lie down on a bed, when we stretch out
on a divan with a novel in our hands, our imaginations travel back and forth between the
world in that novel and the world in which we still live. This novel in our hands might

take us to another world we have never visited, never seen, and never known. Or it
might take us into the hidden depths of a character who seems on the surface to
resemble those we know best. I am drawing attention to each of these possibilities
singly because there is a vision I entertain from time to time that embraces both
extremes. Sometimes, I try to conjure up, one by one, a multitude of readers hidden
away in corners and nestled in their armchairs with their novels; I try also to imagine the
geography of their everyday lives. Then, before my eyes, thousands, tens of thousands
of readers will take shape, stretching far and wide across the streets of the city, and as
they read, they dream the authors dreams, and imagine his heroes into being, and see
his world. So now these readers, like the author himself, are trying to imagine the other;
they, too, are putting themselves in anothers place. These are the times when we feel
humility, compassion, tolerance, pity and love stirring in our hearts: for great literature
speaks not to our powers of judgment, but to our ability to put ourselves in someone
elses place.
As I imagine these all these readers using their imaginations to put themselves in
someone elses place, as I conjure up their worlds, street by street, neighbourhood by
neighbourhood, all across the city, a moment arrives when I realise that I am really
thinking of a society, a group of people, an entire nation say what you will
imagining itself into being. Modern societies, tribes, and nations do their deepest
thinking about themselves through reading novels; through reading novels, they are able
to argue about who they are; so even if we have picked up a novel hoping only to divert
ourselves, and relax, and escape the boredom of everyday life, we begin, without
realising, to conjure up the collectivity, the nation, the society to which we belong. This
is also why novels give voice not just to a nations pride and joy, but also to its anger, its
vulnerabilities, and its shame. It is because they remind readers of their shame, their
pride, and their tenuous place in the world that novelists still arouse such anger, and
what a shame it is that we still see outbursts of intolerance that we still see books
burned, and novelists prosecuted.

I grew up in a house where everyone read novels. My father had a large library and
when I was a child, my father would discuss the great novelists I mentioned earlier
Mann, Kafka, Dostoyevski, and Tolstoy the way other fathers discussed famous
generals and saints. From an early age, all these novelists - these great novelists - were
linked in my mind with the idea of Europe. But this is not just because I came from an
Istanbul family that believed fervently in westernisation, and therefore longed, in its
innocence, to believe itself and its country far more western than they really wereit
was also because the the novel was one of the greatest artistic achievements to come out
of Europe. The novel, like orchestral music and post-Renaissance painting, is in my
opinion one of the cornerstones of European civilisation; it is what makes Europe what
it is, the means by which Europe has created and made visible its nature, if there is such
a thing. I cannot think of Europe without novels. I am speaking now of the novel as a
way of thinking, understanding and imagining, and also as a way of imagining oneself

as someone else. In other parts of the world, children and young people first meet
Europe in depth with their first ventures into novels: I was one of them. To pick up a
novel and step inside Europes borders, to enter a new continuent, a new culture, a new
civilisation - to learn, in the course of these novel explorations, to express oneself with
new desire and new inspiration, and to believe, as a consequence, that one was part of
Europe this is how I remember feeling.and let us also remember that the great
Russian novel, and the Latin American novel, also stem from European culture.so just
to read a novel is to prove that Europes borders, histories, and national distinctions are
in constant flux. The old Europe described in the French, Russian and German novels
in my fathers library is, like the postwar Europe of my own childhood and the Europe
of today, Europe, a place that is forever changing, and so, too, is our understanding of
what Europe means. However, I have one vision of Europe that is constant, and that is
what I shall speak of now.

Let me begin by saying that Europe is a very delicate, very sensitive question for a Turk.
Here we are, knocking on your door, and asking to come in, full of high hopes and good
intentions, but also feeling rather anxious and fearing rejection. I feel such things as
keenly as other Turks, and what we all feel is very much akin to the silent shame I was
describing earlier. As Turkey knocks on Europes door, as we wait and wait and Europe
makes us promises, and then forgets us, only to raise the bar and as Europe examines
the full implications of Turkeys bid to become a full member, weve seen lamentable
hardening of anti-Turkish sentiment in certain parts of Europe, at least amongst certain
politicians. In the recent elections, when certain politicians took a political line against
Turks and Turkey, I found their style just as dangerous as the political style adopted by
certain politicians in my own country. It is one thing to criticise the deficiencies of the
Turkish state vis a vis democracy, or to find fault with its economy; it is quite another to
denigrate all of Turkish culture, or those of Turkish descent here in Germany whose
lives are amongst the most difficult and impoverished in the country. As for Turks in
Turkey - when they hear themselves judged so cruelly, they are reminded yet again that
they are knocking on a door and waiting to be let in, and of course they feel unwelcome.
The most cruel irony of all is that the fanning of nationalist anti-Turkish sentiment in
Europe has provoked the coarsest of nationalist backlash inside Turkey. Those who
believe in the European Union must see at once that the real choice we have to make is
between peace and nationalism. Either we have peace, or we have nationalism. I think
that the ideal of peace sits at the heart of the European Union and I believe that the
chance of peace that Turkey has offered Europe will not, in the end, be spurned. Weve
arrived at a point where we must choose between the power of a novelists imagination
and the sort of nationalism that condones burning his books.

Over the past few years, I have spoken a great deal about Turkey and its EU bid, and
often Ive been met with grimaces and suspicious questions. So let me answer them

here and now. The most important thing that Turkey and the Turkish people have to
offer Europe and Germany, is, without a doubt, peace; it is the security and strength that
will come from a Muslim countrys desire to join Europe, and this peaceful desires
ratification. The great novelists I read as a child and a young man did not define Europe
by its Christian faith but by its individuals. It was because they described Europe
through heroes who were struggling to free themselves, express their creativity and
make their dreams come true, that their novels spoke to my heart. Europe has gained
the respect of the non-western world for the ideals it has done so much to nurture:
liberty, equality, and fraternity. If Europes soul is enlightenment, equality and
democracy, if it is to be a union predicated on peace, then Turkey has a place in it. A
Europe defining itself on narrow Christian terms will, like a Turkey that tries to derive
its strength only from its religion, be an inward-looking place divorced from reality, and
more bound to the past than to the future. Having grown up in a westernised secular
family in the European part of Istanbul, it is not at all difficult for me or people like
me - to believe in the European Union. Dont forget, since childhood, my football team,
Fenerbahe, has been playing in the European Cup. There are millions of Turks like
me, who believe heart and soul in the European Union. But what is more important is
that most of todays conservative and Muslim Turks, and with them their political
representatives, want to see Turkey in the European Union, help to plan Europes future,
dreaming it into being and helping to build it. Coming as it does after centuries of war
and conflict, this gesture of friendship cannot be taken lightly, and to reject it outright
would be cause for huge regret. Just as I cannot imagine a Turkey without a European
prospect, I cannot believe in a Europe without a Turkish prospect.

I would like to apologise for speaking at such great length about politics.

The world to which I wish to belong is, of course, the world of the imagination.
Between the ages of seven and twenty-two, my dream was to become an artist, and so I
would go out into the streets of Istanbul to paint city views. As I described in my book,
Istanbul, I gave up painting at the age of twenty-two and began to write novels. I now
think that I wanted the same thing from painting as I did from writing: what drew me to
art and literature was to leave behind this boring, dreary, hope-shattering world we all
know so well, and to escape into a second world that was deeper, richer and more
diverse. To achieve this other magic realm, whether I expressed myself in lines and
colours as I did in my early life, or in words, Ive had to spend long hours by myself in
a room every day, imagining its every nuance. Though the consoling world I have been
constructing for thirty years as I sit alone in my corner is most certainly made from the
same materials as the world we all know - from what Ive been able to see of the streets
and interiors of Istanbul, Kars, and Frankfurt. But it is the imagination - the
imagination of the novelist - that gives the bounded world of everyday life its
particularity, its magic and its soul.

I shall close with a few words about this soul, this essence that the novelist struggles all
his life to convey to his readers. Life can only be happy if we can manage to fit this
strange and puzzling undertaking into a frame. For the most part, our happiness and
unhappiness derive not from life itself, but from the meaning we give to it. Ive devoted
my life to trying to explore that meaning. Or to put it differently, all my life Ive
wandered through the clatter and roar of todays chaotic, difficult, fast-moving world,
thrown this way and that by lifes twists and turns, looking for a beginning, a middle,
and an endin my view, this is something that can only happen in novels.Since my
novel Snow was published, every time Ive set foot in the streets of Frankfurt, Ive felt
the ghost of Ka, the hero with whom I have more than a little in common, and I feel as
if I am truly seeing the city as I have come to understand it, as if I have somehow
touched its heart. Mallarme spoke the truth when he said that everything in the world
exists to be put into a book. The book best equipped to absorb everything in the world
- without doubt is the novel. The imagination the ability to convey meaning to
others is humanitys greatest power, and for many centuries it has found its truest
voice in novels. I accept this great prize in recognition of my thirty years of loyal
service to this sublime art, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.