The Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk has been awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. The prize committee praised Pamuk's work for attempting to bring Europe and Turkey closer together. Aya Bach reports
Orhan Pamuk aimed criticism both at Turkey and Europe in his acceptance speech for the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade on October 23 in Frankfurt's Paulskirche. He used the forum to make an urgent appeal for both sides to engage in mutual reconciliation. The author has been a longstanding proponent of EU membership for Turkey.
During his speech in the Paulskirche, Pamuk vehemently reiterated his position. He criticized the widespread skepticism in Germany with respect to Turkey, especially seen during the recent German elections. According to Pamuk, stirring up public opinion against Turkey is just as dangerous as the confrontation course with Europe adopted by certain Turkish politicians. In terms of the current mood in his native country, he says, "Fomenting hostility towards Turkey in Europe unfortunately leads to the development of a stifling, anti-European nationalism in Turkey."
"Snow" offers a reflection of modern Turkey
Orhan Pamuk has time and again traced the psychology of this mechanism in his books, most recently in his novel "Snow". It takes place in a depressing, small Anatolian town, where the most diverse elements clash – Western-influenced intellectuals, Muslim fanatics, women both for and against the headscarf, atheists, and nationalists. This panorama of characters allows many Western readers to understand Turkey for the first time.
In his congratulatory speech, Joachim Sartorius, the artistic director of the Berliner Festspiele, who himself spent three years living in Turkey, also stressed this point.
"It is an incredible stroke of luck that we have the boundlessly rich literature of Orhan Pamuk to explain Turkey to the world. Others just talk or report. And they all follow specific agendas, whether it be that of the politicians, such as Erdogan, Verheugen, Merkel, or Villepin, the military, or historians. The novelist is the only one who can truly familiarize us with the country."
Turkey as a guarantor of peace and security
It is a country, says Pamuk, that, above all, can offer us peace. Even Turkish Muslims want to participate in the European project, and they can contribute to the security and strength of the EU.
"Whoever believes in the European Union should realize that we are dealing with the alternative of peace or nationalism. This is the decision we have to make – either peace or nationalism. For my part, I am convinced that the ideal of peace is at the heart of the European Union, and the offer of peace that current-day Turkey is making to Europe should not be rejected. The choice comes down to a literary fantasy on the one side, or a book-burning nationalism on the other."
© Qantara.de 2005
translated from the German by John Bergeron