Thursday, October 12, 2006

Turkish Author Wins Nobel Prize for Literature

The Nobel Prize committee has a history of choosing relatively obscure writers for the award of the Lit prize (one reason why my own hopes are still alive), and this year's choice was no different.

Orhan Pamuk is this year's recipient; he's been called the "voice of a divided country" for his lay-it-on-the-line statements about Turkish genocide against the Armenians.

I used to live in California, and I can tell you that there is no better illustration of William Faulkner's dictum that "the past isn't history; it isn't even past" than the absolute hatred that the Armenians feel for the Turks.

So it's really interesting to me that a writer who was recently on trial for "insulting Turkishness" has been elevated to the select ranks of Nobel Prize winners.

Turkey, of course, is caught in the middle. They want to join the European Union so bad they can taste it, but along with that membership is the requirement that they have to give at least lip service to the basic concepts of freedom of speech.

I'll admit that I haven't read any of Pamuk's work, but that's going to change as soon as possible. I was an English major in college, and it's always been a point of pride to me that I read at least one book by each Nobel Prize Lit winner.

And, in a somewhat related story, the French parliament voted to make it a crime to deny the Turkish genocide against Armenia. Of course France has nearly a half a million Armenians, one of the most populous populations in Europe, so maybe that had something to do with it.

Nevertheless, I do find it both amusing and ironic that the French would make free speech a crime at the same time that the Nobel committee is rewarding free speech, and both on the same issue.