Pamuk goes ‘naive, sentimental’


Orhan Pamuk’s new book gathers his series of Norton Lectures at Harvard University as the author prepares to open his ‘Museum of Innocence’ in Istanbul
Orhan Pamuk. AA photo
Orhan Pamuk. AA photo

Orhan Pamuk’s new book “Naive and Sentimental Novelist” gathers a series of lectures that he gave at Harvard University as part of a Charles Eliot Norton Lecture series that explained his experience as a novelist.
The Norton Lectures were very prestigious speeches, Pamuk said, adding that in the past the lecture series has seen contributions by Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino, Igor Stravinsky, Jorge Luis Borges, Frank Stella and Frank Kermode.
“That’s why it makes the writer very nervous,” he said, speaking to the daily Hürriyet. “For example Italo Calvino’s wife once blamed Harvard University’s Norton Lectures for killing her husband.” Pamuk said Calvino died of a heart attack before he gave his sixth and likely final Norton Lecture.
“I can understand this feeling. Imagine that you are a writer and you are far away from the academic world and you have to talk in an academic environment. I get nervous also, but I drink a glass of wine before the lectures,” he said.
The hardest part of the lectures is that they are only 45 minutes, said Pamuk, adding that he must limit his thoughts on his work to within that timeframe.
Pamuk said he studies his lectures or speeches as if they were a performance. He rehearses everything. “This year I received a professor title from Columbia University. But I was never an assistant professor or part of the academic life.
“However I have many things to say, I had a story to tell,” he said, adding that being a writer is a lonely job and it is a profession that shy people do.

When it comes to public speeches, Pamuk said he becomes shy and nervous but has had to grow used to giving interviews and appearing on television.

Pamuk said he feels his accent can be an issue but that he has no problems speaking English. “The important thing is to know the right words, where to use which word and to speak fluently.”

He said it is hard to write comfortably in Istanbul because of his ongoing work and efforts to build a “Museum of Innocence.” “There are many bureaucratic works in opening a museum and things moved very slowly. During those times I wanted to escape and write my novel.”

Pamuk said he is proud that he can write everywhere, from waiting lounges to airplane cabins. “Twenty years ago I wrote half of the ‘Black Book’ in New York.”

Pamuk novels in 60 languages

Pamuk’s novels have sold 11 million copies. When he was only 30, Pamuk’s novels were translated into Arabic and French. His novels are now translated into 60 languages to his amazement. “When I was young I heard aussie pokies that the works of a writer were translated into 25 languages, and I always thought that these are very high figures.”

In his lectures, Pamuk said he explains his writing method, emphasizing the importance of the opening and closing sentences in his work. He said he thinks deeply about the first sentence as it leads the path the novel will take.

“It should reflect the novel’s soul. I always take notes on the first and last sentences of my novels,” he said.

Pamuk’s new novel is about the life of a “boza” (a Turkish-style malted corn or wheat beverage) seller who lives in Istanbul. “The book will also tell the story of other boza sellers, people who live in districts such as Gültepe, Ku?tepe and Tarlaba?? and immigrants.”

Pamuk said when speaking about a novel like this, one remembers the words of social realists. “My novel will also focus on the thoughts of social realities and the name will be ‘Peculiarity in my Mind.’” However, he added, he is still working on the novel and it will take time.

From a young age, Pamuk said he dreamed of becoming a painter. He has confessed this in his recent work “The Naive and Sentimental Novelist,” and he said he wrote about how being an artist and a novelist is similar. “When I was 22, I suddenly quit drawing and became a novelist,” Pamuk said, adding that he started drawing again 35 years later.

‘Museum of Innocence’ has finished

Orhan Pamuk said he has accomplished his big plan to build a “Museum of Innocence.”

“My museum is finished. I can open it whenever I want,” he said.

Pamuk wanted to open his museum before the biennial but then he decided to open it another time.

“I will leave Istanbul to give lectures in the United States. I would like to be here when the museum opens,” he said.

Pamuk said he wants to work for the museum but the opening and working processes have been hard. He likened them to finishing the Black Book.

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