Elias Khoury on Orhan Pamuk

A fascinating piece on Orhan Pamuk in Al Ahram, the Cairo-based English-language weekly. Below, the opening paragraphs. You can read the whole piece here. Elias Khoury is a Lebanese novelist who is Editor-in-Chief of the weekly literary supplement of the Lebanese daily Al-Nahar , and teaches Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies each spring at New York University. Five of his eleven novels have been translated into English : Little Mountain ( 1989 ), Gates of the City ( 1993 ), The Journey of Little Gandhi ( 1994 ), The Kingdom of Strangers ( 1996 ) and Gate of the Sun ( 2006 ).

The Novel of Ambiguity

Last year, at the Göteborg Book Fair, where dozens of writers from the four corners of the globe meet at the Swedish dining table that offers a main course called the Nobel Prize, I sat down to breakfast at my hotel with Orhan Pamuk. The Turkish novelist looked distracted, worn down with waiting. The newspapers were full of the news of the legal charges brought against him on account of his statements about the genocide of Armenians and rumours were rife among journalists and other gossips that he was a likely candidate for the Nobel. I jokingly said that anxiety did no good and that waiting for the award may mean that it will never come. I went over the well-known story concerning the prominent Turkish novelist Yashar Kemal who was led to believe that renting a house in Stockholm would place him on the scene and the award jury would, as a consequence, find him hard to overlook. The result was that the prize eluded him; he became a prime example of miscalculation.

Pamuk made no comment and contented himself with a smile. It was the first time his name had been mentioned among possible nominees. I suggested that nomination by the newspapers was not a good sign and that the prize usually goes to a name not bandied about in the media. He asked me about Adonis and I said that in the Arab world we considered that he had long ago won the award and was no longer in any need of it.

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