27 Ocak 2007 Cumartesi

Scratches On The Face And The Terror of Pamuk

This article by Kaan Arslanoğlu is published in Cumhuriyet at 18.01.2007

Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel prize for his belief in freedom of thought and literature. Yet – ironically - the wave this award has triggered in the media has manifested itself as a very campaign against literature and free thought. Newspaper editors in chief, influential columnists and TV commentators, all by an overwhelming majority, expressed to us how pleased we should be and that we should not hesitate to embrace our Nobel Laureate. Moreover, people who had an aversion to Pamuk’s writings were accused of being simpletons, fascists, green with envy, or worst, in an odd campaign to discredit dissenters. In the end, many older established writers, once fiercely critical, ended up having to reluctantly endorse and celebrate the Pamuk phenomenon.

The extraordinary breakthrough of Orhan Pamuk, whom many in the literary establishment considered little more than an unexceptional writer, was indeed a triumph of marketing, advertising and above all good connections that deserve scrutinizing. After a barrage of international awards, the Nobel Prize was to be the cherry on top of the cream.

The first sentence of the self-help-book “NLP- The New Technology of Achievement” (1) published in the USA in 1994, reads: “This book will change your life”. Similarly the first sentence of Mr. Pamuk’s book “Yeni Hayat” (New Life) (2) published towards the end of the same year reads: “One day I’ve read a book and my life changed”. I do not suggest that Pamuk, who is apart from his skills in building up connections, a master of “uncredited referencing”, has been inspired by that book. Nevertheless, Mr. Pamuk’s success clearly has an American flair to it and it is not without pleasure to find similarities between his methods and the approach suggested in the book mentioned above and other flashy “how-to-succeed” books. Spielberg, who is one of the leading figures admired in the NLP book, has also touched success and fame through his sympathetic relationships with the Zionist movement; and this is just one of the resemblances. It’s no wonder that the frenzied admirers of the Nobel Laureate happen to be mostly domestic American sympathizers or americanist Europeans.

Among others, Cengiz Çandar, Hasan Cemal, Mehmet Barlas, Hadi Uluengin, the Altan family, Taha Akyol, M. Ali Birand, Murat Belge, etc. Still the most remarkable comment has been made by Serdar Turgut. After describing the detesters of Pamuk as a pack of barbarians and fascists, Turgut continues by saying that “the power that will boost Turkey are the brains of the ‘White Turks’ and the modern brand of nationalism they will nurture” (3). Yıldırım Türker’s article is even more hostile; it is a masterpiece of a manifesto pointedly directed at the middle-classes, that elegantly combines insults against those that dislike Pamuk’s works with rude gestures and foaming at the mouth.(4)


Yet the point I am trying to make is not to look into the differences between philosophically tangible achievements and brilliant but superficial achievements; it’s to ponder over the phenomenon in terms of freedom of thought. Many psychology books theorize on how to stop the vicious cycle of conflict breading conflict, born from ancient beliefs, prejudices and hostilities within groups, societies and nations. As indicated in the well-known work of Muzaffer Şerif, hostility between groups can be lessened by making the opponent groups collaborate in pointing them towards a mutual enemy. (5)

In my opinion, the mutual enemy is global capitalism that leads the world into biological extinction. However, since the proponents of globalism thoroughly know this, they provoke wars between nations, religions and local societies. The real enemy of the Turks, Kurds and Armenians is the provocation of the most primal emotions through demands of redrawing borders under the guise of “freedom”, “progress”, “redemption” and other popular slogans of the day. On one side Pamuk and the like, and on the other, forces promoting radicalism and fascism. It’s difficult to talk about the virtues of thought when primal instincts are reinforced.

Strangely enough, the media elite who celebrated Pamuk’s success in the name of literature and free speech and those tabloid TV and newspaper barons who seem intent on emptying the public’s minds are in effect one and the same. The same old usual suspects who can’t stand the proliferation of a single unchecked thought and who try to throw any controversial idea or any sparkle of wit into the waste bin just because they find it “marginal”. The local and international cartels of literature merchants for whom only a well marketed bestseller or a prize winner constitutes a “good novel”; and those whose very reason d’etre is nothing more than the outright regurgitation of the same policies that the EU commissioners once dictated to them.

The campaign that uses Pamuk as their poster boy has come to such a point that even admirers of the writer find themselves turned off by the ordeal. Suat Kınıkoğlu writes : “It is as if someone pushed a button and asked our media to facilitate the rehabilitation of Orhan Pamuk in the arena of Turkish public opinion. ”(6) Thus, even the basics become murky: who uses whom? Indeed, some are said to bolster their own success by riding the coattails of Pamuk; and in the process the writer’s persona and artistic individualism is all too happily sacrificed.


Turkish society and societies of the world are decaying; so inevitably is literature. If I was asked to identify the literary critics I trust and admire the most, I would name, on the top of a short list, Semih Gümüş and Ömer Türkeş. But the heavy handed, gung ho terrorization of free thought that has become the Pamuk campaign, has evolved into such an overwhelming force that even they surrendered and were reshaped in the image of the status quo.

The same Türkeş who once called Pamuk a “pop-star” and wrote about the damage Pamuk’s marketing aproach may inflict on literature (7); now says that “it’s time to celebrate”. Similarly, Gümüş had always expressed his irritation of the exaggeration of Pamuk’s talents as a novelist (8). Now he talks about the gains the Nobel prize can bring to Turkish literature. Even worse, he announces him to be a writer of “solitude” who is only concerned about writing the truth as he sees it. What an insult to genuine lonesome writers! To put it in other terms, two men who previously declared that the game is rigged, suddenly decide to stand up and applaud the winning team of the same game. In effect, the behavior of these two respected critics can be viewed as a suicide of integrity for the love of Pamuk or likelier yet, they are the latest victims of the terror campaign against thought.

The “free thinkers”, who hate freedom of expression, use the very notions and thoughts that were achieved through altruistic self sacrifice with blood and sweat, against those that made these sacrifices. Just like the notions of ethics and decency which the big media outlets have turned into hollow clichés, that the ordinary masses and even psychopaths can chew like bubblegum. Even The Guardian (9) and the Independent, two of the most discreet newspapers of England, read the reactions against Pamuk from Turkey, as an act of fringe nationalists When Pamuk sinisterly describes his country as “Turkey is a savage country; there is no understanding for other religious, ethnic, linguistic communities. A wild land where there has been no civilization, where there is no room for different religions, languages and nationalities”, (10) the pro-American and pro-European “liberal elite” in our midst become satisfied. However, the same ears turn deaf to the ideas and opinions of most of the ordinary readers, of socialists, communists and patriotic leftists, all in the name of “freedom of thought”.

The entire notion of nice and peaceful freedom of thought is a deceitful concept. The reality is a never ending dirty war between irreconcilable ideas. Yes, oppressive laws may inhibit thought; but well before that closed minds in key places prevent them in the form of a “free” media which control the agenda and the nature and flow of information to the masses. The oppression is further escalated by a constant injection of fear, panic and confusion. Those who attempted rape, cry out showing the scratches on their face and condemning their victim’s aggression.

(1) Steve Andreas, Charles Faulkner, NLP Comprehensive, 1994
(2) Orhan Pamuk, İletişim, 1994
(3) Serdar Turgut, Akşam, 25.10.2006
(4) Yıldırım Türker, Radikal, 16.10.2006
(5) Peter Scott, C. Spencer, Psychology, Blackwell, 1998
(6) Suat Kınıkoğlu, Turkish Daily News, 13.12.2006
(7) Ömer Türkeş, Milliyet İnternet, 8.1.2004
(8) Semih Gümüş, Puslu Ada, T. İş. Kült. Yay. 2002
(9) Ian Traynor, The Guardian, 13.11.2006
(10) Fernanda Eberstadt, The New York Times, 4.5.1997

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