Orhan Pamuk interviewed by Pankaj Mishra

From The New Republic:

Pankaj Mishra: There seem to be two common descriptions of your work in the English-speaking world. One is of you as a Turkish writer, addressing Turkey’s history. The other is of you as an international writer, engaged in the project of creating a world literature. Neither of those descriptions seems to me to be quite right. Your work seems to belong to the tradition of people like Dostoevsky or Junichirō Tanizaki, who are writing about societies where the biggest preoccupation seems to be incomplete modernity, societies that have been prescribed the project of catching up with the West.

Inset_pamukOrhan Pamuk: I agree with this description. One side of me is very busy paying attention to the details of life, the humanity of people, catching the street voices, the middle-class, upper-middle-class secret lives of Turks. The other side is interested in history and class and gender, trying to get all of society in a very realistic way.

PM: What was the initial reaction in Turkey to a writer who belonged very much to the secular elite, drawing upon Ottoman history, Islamic history, in the Western art form of the novel?

OP: At first, some people were a bit upset and grumpy. I was not using the pure Turkish that the previous generation of writers had used. I used, not excessively, the language of my grandmother—including Ottoman, Persian, Arabic words, which Turks use daily. And so they were grumpy about that. I remember also when I was showing some of my early work, people would say: “Why are you interested in all this failed Ottoman history? Why won’t you catch up with today’s political problems?” I wanted to tell a romantic and dark side of Ottoman history that was also slightly political, saying to the previous generation of writers, “Look, I’m interested in Ottoman things, and I’m not afraid of it, and I’m doing something creative.”

More here.