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ORHAN PAMUK RECEIVES GERMAN PEACE PRIZE

 

 

By Hans-Joachim Schweigger

FRANKFURT, 1 NOVEMBER 2005—Turkish author Orhan Pamuk received the prestigious Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels (Peace Prize of the German Book Trade) at a Frankfurt ceremony last weekend for works that explore life in a changing Turkey. 

Pamuk, whose latest novel Snow was named 2004’s best book by The New York Times, accepted the award on Sunday at Frankfurt’s St. Paul’s Cathedral in an event marking the end of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

He took the opportunity to draw attention to his support for Turkey’s decades-long effort to enhance its ties with Europe.

"Europe deserves recognition that it has been instrumental in spreading the values of freedom, equality, and fraternity outside of the West. If Europe’s soul is fed by the spirit of enlightenment, equality and democracy, then Turkey must also have its spot in this peaceful Europe," Pamuk said.

Once nominated as Turkey’s "national artist" —a title he declined—Pamuk's controversial statements regarding human rights in Turkey are currently the source of legal trouble for the Turkish writer.  On 16 December, he is due to go on trial for saying in a Swiss newspaper that 'thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it.'

He is being tried under a Turkish penal code which forbids insulting 'being a Turk, the Republic or Turkish Grand National Assembly' and has additional penalties if such statements are made in foreign countries. Pamuk therefore faces up to three years in jail for his statement and his impending trial is being seen as a test case for freedom of expression in Turkey. Pamuk says that he never used the word "genocide" to describe the massacres

Pamuk grew up the grandson of one of the first factory owners in Turkey. He studied architecture and journalism and spent time at Columbia University in New York City in the 1980s. One of the most important Turkish writers of his generation, Pamuk has often been compared to the likes of Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges. His novels and nonfiction, which also include My Name is Red and "The White Castle, have been translated into 34 languages in 100 countries.

"We are pleased to honor a writer who, like no other writer of our times, has traced the historical paths of both the East and the West, one that is committed to an idea of culture that is based on knowledge and respect for others," the German Publishers and Booksellers Trade Organization said in a statement.

Pamuk’s works have been critical and commercial successes in Germany, where 3% of the population is of Turkish origin and where the question of Turkey’s potential inclusion in European Union still looms large in the public debate.

Still, some critics have called the choice of Pamuk less of a literary than a political statement. 

The German Peace Prize has been awarded since 1950 to writers from around the globe who have devoted their work to fostering international understanding between nations and peoples. The 25,000 Eur ($30,000) monetary prize is comprised solely of contributions made from German booksellers and publishing houses.

Last year's winner was Hungarian author Peter Esterhazy and the 2003 winner was Susan Sontag of the United States. Other past recipients of the prize include Albert Schweitzer, Theodor Heuss, Ernst Bloch, Max Frisch, Astrid Lindgren, Yehudi Menuhin, Vaclav Havel, Mario Vargas Llosa and Fritz Stern, just to name a few.



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