I was just going to post a note about it but Nobel Prize laureate Orhan Pamuk’s lecture at the awards ceremony today is just too good to be relegated to a brief mention. Available online in English, it is a wonderful exposition. Here are just two excerpts.
… The starting point of true literature is the man who shuts himself up in his room with his books.
But once we shut ourselves away, we soon discover that we are not as alone as we thought. We are in the company of the words of those who came before us, of other peoples’ stories, other people’s books, other people’s words, the thing we call tradition. I believe literature to be the most valuable hoard that humanity has gathered in its quest to understand itself. Societies, tribes, and peoples grow more intelligent, richer, and more advanced as they pay attention to the troubled words of their authors, and, as we all know, the burning of books and the denigration of writers are both signals that dark and improvident times are upon us. …
On the proverbial question of why writers writer:
I write because I have an innate need to write! I write because I can’t do normal work like other people. I write because I want to read books like the ones I write. I write because I am angry at all of you, angry at everyone. I write because I love sitting in a room all day writing. I write because I can only partake in real life by changing it. I write because I want others, all of us, the whole world, to know what sort of life we lived, and continue to live, in Istanbul, in Turkey. I write because I love the smell of paper, pen, and ink. I write because I believe in literature, in the art of the novel, more than I believe in anything else. I write because it is a habit, a passion. I write because I am afraid of being forgotten. I write because I like the glory and interest that writing brings. I write to be alone. Perhaps I write because I hope to understand why I am so very, very angry at all of you, so very, very angry at everyone. I write because I like to be read. I write because once I have begun a novel, an essay, a page, I want to finish it. I write because everyone expects me to write. I write because I have a childish belief in the immortality of libraries, and in the way my books sit on the shelf. I write because it is exciting to turn all of life’s beauties and riches into words. I write not to tell a story, but to compose a story. I write because I wish to escape from the foreboding that there is a place I must go but – just as in a dream – I can’t quite get there. I write because I have never managed to be happy. I write to be happy.
The starting point of all this? Pamuk’s father leaving him a small suitcase filled with his writings, manuscripts and note-books two years before his death. From that flows not only these excerpts but exquisitely expressed thoughts on the meaning of place and family.
A writer talks of things that everyone knows but does not know they know.
Orhan Pamuk, 2006 Nobel Lecture