"One Day You'll Be a Pasha"

Many of you know of my excitement when I visited Istanbul last summer. That jewel of a city nestles between two colliding continents with both the joys and the tensions of that position. Imagine my delight to find that Orhan Pamuk, described as "Turkey's greatest living writer", has been awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize in Literature. I did not know his writing. I am quickly remedying that deficiency.

Pamuk wanted to be a painter, then an architect, and at age 23 decided to become a writer. In "My Name is Red" he has written a murder mystery that examines how Persian and Ottoman artists see and describe the world outside of the West. He has been attacked in the Turkish press for his defense of constitutional rights for Turkey's Kurdish minority. He describes his anger at these attacks: "It is a son-of-a-bitch anger and it turns out to be part of your life."

But it is not his anger that resonates for me. It is his passionate involvement in the crafting of words. We have all written our freshman essay on what art means, but none so brilliantly, I think, as these lines from Pamuk's Nobel Acceptance Speech:

"I write because I have an innate need to write. I write because I can't do normal work as other people do. I write because I want to read books like the ones I write. I write because I am angry at everyone. I write because I love sitting in a room all day writing. I write because I can partake of real life only by changing it. I write because I want others, 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 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 immortalities of libraries, and in the way my books sit on the shelf. I write because it is exciting to turn all life's beauties and riches into words....I write to be happy."

Terry Tempest Williams, recently inducted into the Ecology Hall of Fame, puts it this way: "I want to write my way from the margins to the center. I want to speak the language of the grasses rooted yet soft and supple in the presence of wind before a storm. I want to write in the form of migrating geese like an arrow pointing south."

For myself, I create because I cannot not create. It keeps me sane in a jabberwocky world.

To return to Pamuk: the pure love that emanates from his lines was fostered in him by his father, who encouraged and nourished his son with the words "One day you'll be a Pasha!" Imagine the pride, confidence, and geniune admiration that this brief phrase , repeated often and lovingly, revealed.

My own experience of such love came from Sam, my seven-year-old grandson, when he bought a Christmas present for me two years ago at the tender age of five. He was adamant that he pick out the gift himself. He proceeded to search the pharmacy until he had found a bag of my favorite hard candies (Werther's Originals, if you must), then insisted that he wasn't finished. When he reached the check-out counter, which he could barely see, he had added a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste so that the sweets wouldn't cause cavities.

I still cherish that toothbrush and its companion toothpaste, the candy being long gone. They always make me think,"One day you'll be a Pasha, my grandson."

c. Corinne Whitaker 2007

(As many of you know, Pamuk barely escaped prosecution last year for his frank use of language to describe Turkey's past. An article on the subject may be found at http://haberlerleingilizce.blogspot.com/2006/10/orhan-pamuk-wins-turkeys-first-nobel.html) A further update is provided here, concerning the alleged threat made to Pamuk by the man accused of murdering an Armenian journalist: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070124.wturkey0124/BNStory/International/home.