Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Orhan Pamuk

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Orhan Pamuk

Article excerpt

Your novel Silent House, which has just been translated into English, was published in Turkey nearly 30 years ago. How did it feel to return to the book after so long?

There was some nostalgia in revisiting it. I remembered the struggles of the 1970s, the political fights and killings in the streets of Istanbul.


The little fishing village described in the book has developed into a fancy summer resort for the new rich. At that time, it was outside Istanbul. Now it's part of the city.

The book is set in the late 1970s, immediately before the military coup of 1980, when the country was poor and the promise of change--political and social change--was not visible. Something I have learned from rereading it is that there was more frustration among people like my characters than we have in Turkey today but the political struggles--the reaction to modernity, whether it's Islamist or nationalist, anti-western or anti-establishment--are still around.

Because of the belated appearance of the book here, will English-speaking readers have a distorted picture of the trajectory of your career?

No, "distortion" is too strong. Let me put it this way: all my novels represent the same dilemma, Turkey's grappling with modernity. Tradition and modernity, family: these are my subjects.

Has Turkey settled the political anxieties that this novel deals with?

Authoritarianism, an unrealistic occidental imagination--these issues will never be settled. Turkey will continue to take Europe as a model; it will continue to pursue its search for democracy.

Will the tensions between east and west, modernity and tradition, always be your themes as a novelist?

These themes are not my starting points, really. I just want to portray daily life. Silent House is a portrait of a family. But the radically secular, pro-western ambitions of the first generation of that family are cerstainly modelled on [those of] the founders of the Turkish Republic.

Idealism, unrealistic idealism, is always contrasted with the reality of the people, of the man in the street. …

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