Between Public and Private: Orhan Pamuk on the Intentions of Words and the Heart

Katherine Q. Stone in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

A-Strangeness-in-My-Mind-243x366In the summer of 2014, three years after I read Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence for the first time, I flew to Istanbul. It was one year after the anti-government protests in Gezi Park that brought international attention to Turkey’s widespread political corruption, media censorship, and police brutality. Though I had obsessively followed the protests and attended rallies of support in New York, my reasons for coming to Istanbul weren’t political. Instead, I came for Pamuk. I wanted to see if the way he described the city in his novels would match my experiences; or if, as a yabancı, a foreigner, the city’s best secrets would always remain out of my reach.

I arrived in Istanbul two days after the Soma Mining Disaster, when the entire city was collectively mourning the 301 men who had died in the explosion. A resulting conflagration had just been extinguished. The country came to a standstill as, one by one, survivors, and then bodies, were lifted from the mine. Talk of dangerous working conditions began to spread, with miners saying they had been too frightened to speak up for fear of losing their jobs. Thousands of protesters gathered in Istanbul, Izmir, and several other major cities, including Ankara and Bursa. Photographs surfaced of Yusuf Yerkel, an aide to then-Prime Minister (and now President) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, kicking a protester in the face, which led to further protests. The government issued a ban on public protests, sending water cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas onto the streets. Lawyers on their way to assist the victims’ families were detained. YouTube had been banned.

More here.