Pamuk Update

Robert McCrum delivers another defense of Orhan Pamuk in the Observer. You’ll remember that, earlier this year, Pamuk was charged with “denigrating” Turkish identity, and that the story had immediate reverberations in the international literary community. I mentioned the story back in February, noting the offending quote (“30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenians had been killed in Turkey”).

The story gathered some momentum again in August, while I was away at a conference. In my attempts to catch up when I got back, my reporting of it became sloppy. For instance, the title of this post refers to a fight between Pamuk and the entire government. In fact, it was a lone, independent prosecutor who is charging Pamuk. In addition, I failed to notice that the quote that is now being reported is different from the one originally mentioned in February (now it includes the rather self-aggrandizing “nobody but me dares to talk about it.”) Lastly, I should also have reminded readers that Snow, Orhan Pamuk’s latest novel, refers to the Armenian genocide more than once, and was published with great fanfare in his native Turkey without incident last year.

Regular reader Elizabeth Angell, with whom I correspond on occasion, is currently living in Turkey, and wrote to me with some of her impressions:

[E]veryone I know is horrified at the
prosecution, but they’re all leftists, academics, artists, etc.– there’s no doubt that it’s popular with right-wing nationalists, which is the constituency the local prosector who brought the charges is trying to pander to. (It’s not actually the turkish govt per se that’s pursuing the case, a distinction that keeps getting lost in the international press coverage…)

Elizabeth discusses the entire affair in this post on her blog, Verbal Privilege. She says:

Turgay Evsen, A single state prosecutor in İstanbul’s posh Sisli district filed the charges in what seems to be an attempt to make a name for himself through nationalist grandstanding–he’s previously made similar charges against a Turkish-Armenian journalist, Hrank Dink. Turkey’s new penal code, which was the subject of much protest by Turkish journalists when it was introduced last spring, includes some worthwhile human rights reforms but also contains a deeply stupid and repressive provision allowing such prosecutions. In the case of Pamuk, I would guess it’s quite unlikely that the current Turkish leadership (i.e., Prime Minister Erdogan and the AK Party) instigated or really support the prosecution–it’s embarrassing to them and very damaging to EU-Turkish relations at a crucial time. But they’re in something of a political bind, given that the prosector’s actions are no doubt wildly popular in nationalist circles.

Read the rest here.

Regardless of whether the charges came from one prosecutor or the government, the fact remains that this is a clear breach of freedom of speech. And we here at Moorishgirl doubt that this case will be resolved without continued pressure.