‘Who Do You Write For?’

There is an excellent opinion piece by Orhan Pamuk in the IHT, addressing a question that comes up, again and again, at readings: ‘Who do you write for?’*

For the last 30 years – since I first became a writer – this is the question I’ve heard most often from both readers and journalists. Their motives depend on the time and the place, as do the things they wish to know. But they all use the same suspicious, supercilious tone of voice.

In the mid-’70s, when I first decided to become a novelist, the question reflected the widely held philistine view that art and literature were luxuries in a poor non-Western country troubled by premodern problems.

There was also the suggestion that someone “as educated and cultivated as yourself” might serve the nation more usefully as a doctor fighting epidemics or an engineer building bridges.

Pamuk also addresses the perennial suggestion that writing for certain audiences automatically makes you ‘authentic’ or ‘inauthentic.’ Some great stuff. Read it.

*Relax, I know it should be ‘whom.’