Turkey's best-known novelist Orhan Pamuk, who faced trial this
year for insulting his country, won the 2006 Nobel Prize for
Literature Thursday in a decision some critics said was more
political than literary.
The Swedish Academy declared Pamuk winner of the prize on a day
when, to Turkey's fury, the French lower house of parliament
approved a bill making it a crime to deny the Armenian
In a case seen as a test of freedom of speech in Turkey, Pamuk,
54, was tried for insulting "Turkishness" after telling a Swiss
paper last year that 1 million Armenians had died in Turkey during
World War I and 30,000 Kurds had perished in recent decades.
Though the court dismissed the charges on a technicality, other
writers and journalists are still being prosecuted under the
article and could face a jail sentence of up to three years.
Pamuk shot to fame with novels that explore Turkey's complex
identity through its rich imperial past.
But his criticism of modern Turkey's failure to confront darker
episodes of that past has also turned Pamuk more recently into a
symbol of free thought both for the literary world and for the
European Union, which Ankara wants to join.
Pamuk's work has been translated into many languages and has
earned him a growing fan club in Europe, America and beyond.
"In the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city,
(Pamuk) has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of
cultures," the Swedish Academy said in its citation for the 10
million Swedish crown (US$1.36 million) prize.
Pamuk's writing often plays with the notion of identity and of
doubles, the Academy said.
The Turkish writer's best-selling novels include My Name is
Red and Snow, works that focus on the clash between
past and present, East and West, secularism and Islamism problems
at the heart of Turkey's struggle to develop.
His most recent work, Istanbul: Memories of a City,
intersperses personal reminiscences of childhood and youth with
reflections on the city's Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman past.
(China Daily October 13, 2006)