Thursday, September 01, 2005

Orhan Pamuk goes on trial in December

This from the Turkish Daily News (subscription required or go to BugMeNot):

Prominent Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk is scheduled to be tried in December for controversial remarks about the so-called Armenian genocide and could end up serving three years in jail, his publisher said on Wednesday.

Pamuk, the widely translated author of such internationally renowned works as "The White Castle" and "Snow," triggered a public outcry when he said in an interview with a Swiss newspaper in February that "1 million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares talk about it."

As a result, Pamuk, who earlier this year won the prestigious peace price of the Association of German Publishers and Booksellers, received several death threats and a local official ordered the seizure and destruction of his works.

The reclusive author has since refused to speak to the press.

A prosecutor in Istanbul indicted the 53-year-old Pamuk on grounds that his remarks amounted to "public denigration of the Turkish identity" and has demanded a prison term of between six months and three years, Iletisim publishing house said in a statement.

The trial is expected to start on Dec. 16, it added.

Armenians claim up to 1.5 million of their kinsmen died in orchestrated killings nine decades ago during the latter years of the Ottoman Empire, the precursor of modern Turkey.

Turkey argues that 300,000 Armenians and thousands of Turks were killed in what was civil strife during World War I, when the Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers.

Friends will note that I happen to love Pamuk's books, particularly His Name Is Red. He is one of the really terrific writers of literature today. I just picked up Snow again and began reading it (I lost my copy in Phoenix last Xmas). The stories are compelling and the poetic language is incredible. He infuses the tales with a mixture of Western and Persian references (a lot of the latter are lost on Western readers). It would be a terrible thing if this man was locked up for speaking his mind. It's not as if he were fomenting revolt after all. It would be a terrible act of censorship by an allegedly friendly state.

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