Pamuk Interview in Granta: ‘What I need most is a certain irresponsibility’

I started reading Istanbul: Memories and the City a few nights ago and found this of particular interest.

Over the past several weeks, Granta, my favorite litmag, has been republishing pieces written by the 12 Nobel laureates whose work has appeared in the magazine since its modern incarnation in 1979.

Among them is an interview with Orham Pamuk conducted on December 13, 2005, one year before he won the Nobel and three days before he infamously went on trial in Istanbul for ‘publicly denigrating Turkish identity’ when he told a Swiss journalist: “Thirty thousand Kurds have been killed here, and a million Armenians. And almost nobody dares to mention that. So I do.” The charges were later dropped on a technicality, but the hatred from the right at home –along with the occasional death threat– continued.

I need certain things to write with some pleasure and intensity. If we leave aside paper and fountain pen, tea and coffee, what I need most is a certain irresponsibility. It is essential for writing fiction, at least for me: I need a playful irresponsibility, to twist everything in life, to turn situations around, to look for childish irony in the gravest drama, to organize the subtle ambiguities from which fiction arises. But now, I’m expected to be clarifying, clarifying, clarifying my statements. This lost spirit of irresponsibility —this childish freedom— is what I’m hoping to gain back. Because the more this affair grows, the greater the social responsibility that I have to face, and it is suffocating.


I am grateful for the international attention, and the backing of the liberal-leftist intellectuals here. It definitely makes me protected. But on the other hand, I feel that I have to answer this attention. One feels obliged. And that affects your imagination. And slowly this responsibility may convert you into a political commentator, or an activist, or a person with strong ideas. I’m not like that and I don’t want to be a person who cares about ideas more than life.

He and interviewer Maureen Freely, who has translated most of his works, then go on a tour of Istanbul, revisiting the setting of his novel, The Black Book.

Intro is here.

photo via wikipedia

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