segunda-feira, 14 de fevereiro de 2005



Essay by Murat Belge

"... I end up recalling some other story in which the only way to be oneself is by becoming another or by losing one's way in another's tales; and the tales I want to put together in the black book remind me of a third or forth tale just like our love stories and memory gardens that open into one another ..."

"After all, nothing can be as astounding as life. Except for writing. Except for writing. Yes, of course, except for writing, the sole consolation."

Orhan Pamuk, The Black Book

What distinguishes Orhan Pamuk from most other Turkish writers is that for him the activity of writing is a mode of existence. By this I do not mean to say that Orhan Pamuk is more committed to the vocation than others. It is not so much a matter of the degree of commitment, but rather the form of it -his way of defining, limiting and specifying himself as "a writer", first and foremost. For most writers writing is self-expression, a passion usually, a gesture to cope with life and reality and an effort to produce meaning. For Orhan Pamuk these and other motivations may also be relevant, yet for him writing is a job, a career. His relationship to writing is cool, cerebral, and impassionate. It is an objective predicament that becomes identical with, and directs personal life, preferences, choices, etc.
His career as a writer does not limit his interests in various walks of life but delimits or structures his way of involvement in them. He is Orhan Pamuk, the writer, the novelist and not simply Orhan Pamuk, the individual, when he deals with, or ponders on a historical, political, social, aesthetic or merely existential question.
The publication of Cevdet Bey and His Sons in 1982 marks the beginning of his career. This was an almost naturalist novel, a dry and detailed (sometimes to the point of getting dull) family saga in the good old realist tradition. It was followed by The Silent House in 1983 where Orhan Pamuk had shifted to the "point of view" technique. We had to make up our own picture of what was happening through the internal monologues of a number of characters whose psycho-sociological formations were carefully studied by the author. The White Castle (1985) was erected on terrain already highly "post-modernized", but here the writer was re-constructing the ways of thinking of people who lived in a past age. The Black Book (1990) and New Life (1994) are clearly in the post-modern tradition of novel-writing. They are, in the words of Frederic Jameson, "national political allegories", in the sense that they present a general and historical vision of the society to which Orhan Pamuk belongs; but in form and technique they possess the entire arsenal of the post-modern novel born in the West.
So, the avatars through which the Orhan Pamuk Novel has progressed form a whole that looks like "A Condensed History of the Development of the Novel Form". Being the man of literature par excellence, his biography as a novelist is shaped in line with the history of the novel in general, his overall career, as well as his individual works, makes references to the world of literature.
Orhan Pamuk has been an innovator in the context of the Turkish novel in many ways, but I would like to dwell on one -very basic- trait of his work. He has introduced what I can call an architectural principle into Turkish fiction. His novels resemble meticulously constructed edifices where the elements are all functionally interdependent. They support and reflect one another, comment on and modify each other in an impeccable order. Nothing sags, no single piece of stone is laid haphazardly or without structural purpose. The overall plan of the book provides an explanation for every component.
Whereas for most writers a novel begins to grow and to take life during the process of writing, this process for Orhan Pamuk is merely the stage execution of the already highly perfected design. Rather than trying to create the illusion that art is life, he prefers to emphasize the novel's mode of existence -and its insertion into life- as an artifact, a product of the human mind, a response of the human intelligence, seeking meaning in order, to the challenge of life with its neutral complexity, infinity and chaos.

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