After having to cancel his German book tour due to death threats in February, Turkish author Orhan Pamuk has finally set out across Germany to present his latest autobiographical work "Istanbul."
Orhan Pamuk's new book recalls childhood memories in Istanbul
The Nobel Prize winner began his book tour Wednesday evening in Hamburg. Two and a half months earlier, Orhan Pamuk had called off his appearance there after receiving public death threats from Turkish ultra-nationalists.
Hamburg's Deutsches Schauspielhaus was bursting at the seams and extra chairs had to be pulled in. Some were curious to learn more about the cancellation of the February book tour, while others came to hear the 55-year-old author's opinion on the current political turmoil in his home country.
Yet the evening turned out completely differently than expected.
No mention of death threats
Pamuk didn’t say a word about February’s cancellation, which happened after his friend, Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, was shot and killed on an Istanbul street on January 19. The perpetrators then warned Pamuk, in front of rolling cameras, to be cautious.
Their warning referred to an interview the author had given in which he’d said: "30,000 Kurds and one million Armenians were murdered in Turkey and not a single person talks about it. So I have to."
Pamuk has been vocal about the Armenian genocide in Turkey following World War One
Since then, Pamuk has feared for his life. He devoted Wednesday evening to his new book "Istanbul."
In the autobiographical narrative, Pamuk weaves together the story of the city with that of his family. Since both are marked by disintegration, hüzün -- the Turkish word for collective melancholy -- plays an important role in the book.
"This collective feeling of hüzün has to do with loss, the loss of the former kingdom," said Pamuk through an interpreter Wednesday in Hamburg. "It’s also about the feeling of living on the border to the West. On the other side of the border there are wealthy countries and on this side we’re so poor."
The bridge builder
Pamuk has been called a "bridge builder between the Orient and the Occident."
"Even though it’s not my job, I do it anyway because I don’t want the East and the West, Islam and Europe to be in conflict," he said. "I don’t want that, because I belong to both."
Although Pamuk didn’t mention the recent death threats, in the end he didn’t need to. The half-dozen well-built men standing silently behind the author while he autographed books spoke volumes for his experiences over the past few months.
In what might be called prescience, in his Nobel Prize speech in 2006, Pamuk said: "It’s a known harbinger of dark and foolish times in a country when books are burned and writers are humiliated."
Orhan Pamuk’s " Istanbul : Memories and the City" is also available in English. It was published by Vintage in 2006.