The trials of Orhan Pamuk and Turkey

Can V. Yeginsu in the Times Literary Supplement:

PamukWillingly or not, Orhan Pamuk has become as much a political symbol as a man of letters. February 7, next week, was the date set for Turkey to try its foremost novelist for the crime of “publicly denigrating Turkishness”. The trial would have been of obvious import both to Europe, which is considering – sceptically in some corners – Turkish entry into its Union, and to the United States, where the President has called Pamuk a “great writer” whose “work has been a bridge between cultures”. George W. Bush, rather like his father when he was President, has often referred to the Republic of Turkey as the bridge between two cultures and, indeed, as a model of secular democracy for all neighbouring countries. There was a strong sense that the trial of Pamuk was a test for Turkey, a test of the substance behind its recent wave of democratic reform, and a test of its commitment to the civil liberty that enables individuals to say or write what they like. Then, after a great deal of media coverage, Pamuk did not go to trial; after uproar came bathos. Two crucial questions remain. First, has Turkey passed its tests? Second, was this the right test set by the international community? The answers lie, as ever, in the detail of the case, and in the Nabokovian caressing of that detail. Pamuk would appreciate the comparison.

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