Capítulo uno. Talk with Orhan Pamuk
On April 19, 2022, Matadero Madrid's literature program, Chapter One, welcomed an exceptional guest: Orhan Pamuk, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature.
The Turkish writer joined us in a conversation led by Patricia Almarcegui, professor of comparative literature and specialist in Orientalism, in which we will delve into the universe of the author, who frequently addresses the antagonisms and confluences between East and West, tradition and modernity. In his novels he portrays "the search for the melancholic soul of his hometown [with which] he has discovered new symbols for the clash and intertwining of cultures," according to the Swedish Academy's ruling. That hometown, Istanbul, with its mix of civilizations, is also reflected in a prose that combines European modernity with the labyrinthine and winding tradition of the East, in an almost poetic exercise of the novel.
Pamuk is a committed intellectual, uncomfortable for Turkey because of his independent voice in the face of military and Islamist pressure, who has courageously addressed important issues such as the persecution of the Kurdish people or the Armenian genocide, issues that have earned him threats and legal proceedings. He defines himself as "a writer who considers politics an inevitable destiny that he does not like".
The recent publication in Spanish of his latest novel The Nights of the Plague (Literatura Random House, 2022) gives us the opportunity to discuss with the author some of the issues that are at the center of our present. Pamuk began writing Plague Nights five years ago, long before the covid-19 pandemic. Without knowing it, through its pages, the author embarked on a dialogue with the present that was anchored in the past.
Orhan Pamuk was born in Istanbul in 1952. He began his studies in architecture, abandoning them to graduate in journalism at the University of Istanbul. Between 1985 and 1988 he lived in New York, working as a professor at Columbia University, returning to Turkey. Cevdet Bey and Sons (Mondadori, 2013), his first novel, was published in 1982. John Updike, upon reading The Astrologer and the Sultan (1985), said of him, "in his dispassionate intelligence and arabesques of introspection he suggests Proust," which granted him instant literary recognition that was cemented with the publication of My Name is Red (Alfaguara, 2003) and the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. His subsequent works include Nieve (Alfaguara, 2005), El museo de la inocencia (Mondadori, 2009), Una sensación extraña (Literatura Random House, 2015), and La mujer del pelo rojo (Literatura Random House, 2018). Internationally recognized, he has received the Grinzane Cavour Prize 2002 (Italy), the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2003 (Ireland), the Medicis Foreign Prize 2005 (France), the German Booksellers Peace Prize (2005), and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Complutense University of Madrid in 2007. It has been translated into more than 60 languages.
Patricia Almarcegui is a writer and professor of Comparative Literature. Her research focuses on Literary Aesthetics and Cultural Studies. She has been a visiting professor at The American University of Cairo and at the Sorbonne, Paris IV. She has done research stays at the Institute for Comparative Literature and Sociology at Columbia University, New York. Her books include Ali Bey y los viajeros europeos a Oriente, El sentido del viaje (2nd Fray Luis de León Essay Prize), El pintor y la viajera (translated into French and Persian), Una viajera por Asia Central, Conocer Irán, La memoria del cuerpo and Los mitos del viaje. She is a contributor, among other media, to eldiario.es, the cultural supplement of ABC, La Vanguardia and El País. As a result of her residence in Shiraz, she is the author of the contemporary art and poetry project: El murmullo de la tumba de Hafez. She has just published Cuadernos perdidos de Japón (Candaya, 3rd edition, soon to be translated into French by Intervalles).