Orhan Pamuk, in His Own Words

The new Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, in The Nation:

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–Mann, Kafka, Dostoyevsky 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 Westernization, and therefore longed, in its innocence, to believe itself and its country far more Western than they really were. It was also because 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 civilization; 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 Europe’s borders, to enter a new continent, a new culture, a new civilization–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 Europe’s borders, histories and national distinctions are in constant flux. The old Europe described in the French, Russian and German novels in my father’s library is, like the postwar Europe of my own childhood and the Europe of today, 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.