After having to cancel his German book tour due to death threats in February, Turkish author Orhan Pamuk has finally set out across Germany to present his latest autobiographical work "Istanbul."
The Nobel Prize winner began his book tour Wednesday evening in Hamburg. Two and a half months earlier, Orhan Pamuk had called off his appearance there after receiving public death threats from Turkish ultra-nationalists.
Hamburg's Deutsches Schauspielhaus was bursting at the seams and extra chairs had to be pulled in. Some were curious to learn more about the cancellation of the February book tour, while others came to hear the 55-year-old author's opinion on the current political turmoil in his home country.
Yet the evening turned out completely differently than expected.
No mention of death threats
Pamuk didnít say a word about Februaryís cancellation, which happened after his friend, Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, was shot and killed on an Istanbul street on January 19. The perpetrators then warned Pamuk, in front of rolling cameras, to be cautious.
Their warning referred to an interview the author had given in which heíd said: "30,000 Kurds and one million Armenians were murdered in Turkey and not a single person talks about it. So I have to."
Since then, Pamuk has feared for his life. He devoted Wednesday evening to his new book "Istanbul."
In the autobiographical narrative, Pamuk weaves together the story of the city with that of his family. Since both are marked by disintegration, hŁzŁn -- the Turkish word for collective melancholy -- plays an important role in the book.
"This collective feeling of hŁzŁn has to do with loss, the loss of the former kingdom," said Pamuk through an interpreter Wednesday in Hamburg. "Itís also about the feeling of living on the border to the West. On the other side of the border there are wealthy countries and on this side weíre so poor."
The bridge builder
Pamuk has been called a "bridge builder between the Orient and the Occident."
"Even though itís not my job, I do it anyway because I donít want the East and the West, Islam and Europe to be in conflict," he said. "I donít want that, because I belong to both."
Although Pamuk didnít mention the recent death threats, in the end he didnít need to. The half-dozen well-built men standing silently behind the author while he autographed books spoke volumes for his experiences over the past few months.
In what might be called prescience, in his Nobel Prize speech in 2006, Pamuk said: "Itís a known harbinger of dark and foolish times in a country when books are burned and writers are humiliated."
Orhan Pamukís "Istanbul: Memories and the City" is also available in English. It was published by Vintage in 2006.
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