Westernization in Japan and Turkey

Via bookforum, Kenzaburo Oe and Orhan Pamuk discuss in New Perspectives Quarterly:

Kenzaburo Oe: The modernization of Japan began about 180 years ago, influenced by U.S. political forces and European culture. Both Japan and Turkey began this process using Western countries as a model almost at the same time. But when I read Mr. Pamuk’s “Istanbul,” I found Turkey’s relationship with Europe to be very complicated. Japan tried to learn about Western culture from a great geographic distance. Mr. Pamuk said in his speech when he won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature that everyone knows there’s always a shade of humiliation and contempt in other people when someone has acted proudly, and his novel was written using such emotions as humiliation, pride, suppression and anger.

The degree of another person’s humiliation and contempt may have been one way for the political elite in the Ottoman Empire to understand the people. That reminds me of what has been brought about by the incorporation of Okinawa into Japan, at a time when Okinawa was under the influence of the more advanced culture of China. People who focus on Okinawa’s original culture in the future will provide another perspective on the Japan-China relationship.

Orhan Pamuk: I was moved by the fact that Mr. Oe read my work so deeply. I first met Mr. Oe in New York in 1991 at a party of writers. Mr. Edward Said was among them. Almost all of Mr. Oe’s works can be read in Turkish. I was greatly encouraged by his writings when I was in a difficult situation after criticizing the Turkish military for its past mass killings of Armenians. If writers say something controversial about others, their movements could be severely restricted. Nevertheless, writers must write their works and express their opinions.

Currently, Westernization and secularization are promoted in Turkey with respect to lifestyle and religion. Under the circumstances, I’m aware how Westerners regard us and how they speak for us (in order) to dominate us.