Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Orhan Pamuk

I heard Orhan Pamuk read and talk last night at the Schnitz as part of the Portland Arts & Lecture series. Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. He read from Other Colors: Essays and a Story, and then answered a few questions from the audience, but stayed clear of political questions, saying that the Armenian genocide was a matter of Turkish free speech, rather than international statements.

His favorite authors are Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Thomas Mann, followed by Borges, Calvino, and Nabokov. His favorite novel is Anna Karenina. When asked how he felt about being followed in the Nobel lineup by Doris Lessing, he replied that he had read two novels of hers 30 years ago that he considered great novels, but he was not interested in the rest of her work. (I'm sorry, I did not write down which novels he liked. The Schnitz was packed, and I was in the upper balcony, squashed, too warm, and not in the mood to take notes.)

Pamuk said that one of the most important things a writer can do is to read outside of their experience, and to write about characters who make them uncomfortable. Very interesting. Good advice. Interesting also that his list of favorite authors includes no women, no writers in English.

I was surprised by his choice of readings. He read friendly essays about his daughter. Did he think that we are all hicks in Portland? Was he correct? Certainly the audience chuckled, as if they were listening to someone safe.

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