The scene of France from other places - Orhan Pamuk: "Simbi is France! It's all there: irony and tenderness.

The scene of France from other places – Orhan Pamuk: “Simbi is France! It’s all there: irony and tenderness.

Philip Labro met the great Turkish novelist, Nobel Prize winner for literature, at the legendary pub of the Gallimard authors.

For the Nobel Prize for Literature, what better place than a ‘literary hotel’? This is how the Hotel Pont Royal, located on the Left Bank in Paris, is defined. In the hall, opposite the reception, on the walls are dozens of black and white photos. Many writers of the twentieth century can be seen there: Malraux, Sagan, Cocteau, Breton, Sartre, Camus (many times), Giono, Ged, Gary, etc. There is no doubt that one day the person I approach will find his place on these walls. He must already have it. This hotel is steeped in history. I remember the bar in the basement of the Pont Royal, which has disappeared. In the 1950s we saw Sartre and Beauvoir drinking their Scotch there, we met Raymond Quinault and Roger Niemeyer there, and there prevailed what my conversation, Orhan Pamuk, calls “this very French literary atmosphere.”

Because, Pamuk, the 2006 Nobel laureate, author of a modern, dense, rich, 688-page mural, “Plague Nights” (Gallmard’s editor), he commissioned the third installment of the series by Match (after Follett and Kennedy), I must ask some questions about his vision of France. His novel tells of a pandemic on the fictional island of Mengir, similar to Crete, at the beginning of the last century. Pamuk has always said that after he read, for the first time, at the age of nineteen, Camus’ “The Plague”, he promised himself to write a novel on the same subject. But this powerful book goes beyond that, dealing not only with the plague, but with the vanity of power, the love and liberation of women, the megalomania of the Caliph, and the torments of the Ottoman Empire. It was created with the skill of the detective novel, documenting the history book and its accuracy, the imagination of the eastern narrator, or rather the storyteller, because the narrator is called Maha. It is a novel that was praised by all critics when it was released. It is a typical work of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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And his acceptance speech at Oslo in 2006 remains, in my opinion, one of the finest of its kind. Pamuk had read, in forty minutes, a text of one height. Finally, in the form of alliteration, “I write because,” he said this: “I write because I want to […] Because I love the smell of paper […] Because I enjoy the fame and the benefit it brings me […] Because I love to read […] Because life and the world are all incredibly beautiful and amazing […] Because I can’t be happy no matter what I do. He concluded: “I write to be happy.” »

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The man is 70, tall, with a flat stomach, a square face, gray hair, framed glasses, long legs and long arms, a regular gray business suit, and a high-profile appearance that gave up the competition for a while but maintained that. His ideal weight. Orhan Pamuk is installed in the hotel library, designated to meet us. There was a misunderstanding: he was waiting for me in his room, I was waiting for him in the hall. The hour has passed. We almost missed each other. This displeased him – because he is a man who respects schedules, organized, organized, meticulous and accustomed to punctuality by an important man. He shrugged off this tiny circumstance with his big, strong-fingered hand. Let’s get down to business: the writer’s job.

A good novelist is a playwright who calculates and a poet who frees himself

“I have been writing for forty-eight years with pens. Black ink for the original text. Red means ‘rewriting’, because I’ve rewrote a lot. I have a desire for perfection. I can’t visualize writing with a computer and checking my words on a small screen. I’d rather raise my head to see What happens through my window.”

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So he looks out over the Bosphorus from his Istanbul apartment, contemplates the Hudson River when, in New York, he’s taking comparative literature classes at Columbia University (“I know ‘Anna Karenina’ by heart”). It is found less and less in Turkey. Soon we will understand why.

“Water, boating activity, my table and paper, I’m happy here. I document myself extensively. People often talk to me about writers who “don’t know where their story is going”. That’s not my case at all. First I make a plan. And I stick to it.” A good novelist is a playwright who counts and a poet who frees himself.
Do you have any models?
I had, of course, always will. Tolstoy, almost before others, has an eye for detail. He has one eye that sees the smallest things. There is intelligence and emotional depth in his work. Balzac had the same taste for details, the same view of life and people, but he wrote faster, Tolstoy was slow. Both had the genius to tackle “human comedy”. »

In his native Turkey, the Nobel Prize is protected by a ‘body guard’

Orhan Pamuk has constantly fought against Turkish power and prejudices, excommunications, and condemnations. Thus, the brilliant Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called him a “terrorist” – although, according to Pamuk, a government spokesperson later wanted to make a correction. “No, no, the president did not say that! Yet: here is the Nobel Prize-winning freedom and democracy, which, when he returns to his homeland, is protected by a “bodyguard.”

“Once upon a time, I had three bodyguards. Nowadays, I only have one. We can conclude that Turkey is ahead! I laugh at it, because it takes humor to survive. I handle everything. I know how to navigate. It required It is courageous to face threats against him by nationalist circles because he admitted the existence of the Armenian Genocide, and to file indictments for “insulting Turkish identity.”, To thwart all gangs. Repeats “sails.” Only last year, in November, the prosecutor’s office opened in Istanbul new investigation, accusing him of insulting Turkish identity.He was, of course, vigorously defended by the international literary community, but faced with this pressure, it would have strengthened and strengthened him.

I like to laugh with Luis de Funes and think with Montaigne

Everyone in his family speaks French. His father would have the strongest influence (his library had 1,500 books). This scholar had lived in Paris, and had frequented the intellectuals of Saint-Germain-des-Pres. It was to him that he dedicated his famous Nobel speech. “My father regrets, and regrets that I do not speak French. But as you know, France, for us, in Turkey, was, and still is, the door to the other world. I have a very close relationship with your country. I have been decorated twice here. I have met your heads of state. I love It’s all in you: the laughter, thanks to de Funes (whose films I watched with my mother when I was a kid in Istanbul) and the thinking thanks to Camus, Sartre and Montaigne – who taught me that the human heart is the same everywhere.
“So you don’t stop at Balzac?”
I must also express my appreciation to Flaubert, with his correspondence, with his “simple heart”, a masterpiece. I visited his house in Rouen. I visit the homes of your writers: the House of Balzac, too. My curiosity about your culture doesn’t stop at books. At twenty-two years old, I wanted to be a painter. Well, I still have a fondness for Pissarro and especially Surat, because he is a ‘pointed writer’, and I sometimes imitate him when I am obsessed with details, when I like to describe everything, watch everything to relive everything: perfumes, colours, costumes, rituals, symbols.
– How do you judge the French character? »
We feel the hesitation in this honest, sometimes outspoken man, who remains in control of his life and destiny. You are dealing with the type of person who would never want to be caught talking nonsense or spewing bullshit.

“You are probably a complex and unpredictable person. But, to us, you are still role models. To move westward, we have all passed through France, those of Troffaut and Tatte, the coast of Honfleur or the shores of the Mediterranean, your cathedrals and museums.” Those of Melville “Samurai” and the autobiography of Simone de Beauvoir. Malraux’s life, his life as an adventure, his “imaginary museum.” Secular France is one of your exceptions compared to the world you come from. »

I’m still, deep down, like an insecure child

I then return to one of the formulations he gave during his Nobel Prize speech in December 2006 (which he had called “My Father’s Briefcase”):
“I said there that the world is ‘incredibly beautiful and amazing.’ When we observe what is happening today, are you still emphasizing it?
– I’m not fooled. I see the desire for violence, the cruelty of life, chaos, but I do not want to complain. We must be able to strike a balance between beauty and drama. I have seen a lot of changes since my childhood in Istanbul. We cannot live in pessimism.
– Your father expected you to be a “Pasha”. What did he mean?
– The “Pasha” in Turkey is an important person. Whoever has power, harem, money. This is not how I see myself at all. I’m still, deep down, like an insecure kid always telling himself, “I could have done better.” »

Heavy with its many awards (Norman Mailer Prize in the United States, Medici Prize in France, Ovid Prize in Romania, etc.), its three seats in three academies (American of Arts and Letters, Arts and Sciences, and Chinese of Social Sciences), holds several Ph. Honorary (Beirut to Rouen, Yale to Saint Petersburg), translated into 60 languages, Orhan Pamuk shows frustration at not having mastered the proper formula to define his vision for France.

Read also. Orhan Pamuk: Nobel laureate next to Turkey

He tells me about the next publication of his memoirs (inspired by a good book), probably in September, which he wants to call “Memories of the Far Mountains” and which he will sprinkle with illustrations and drawings – his own drawings or other. I think this is going to be an interesting document. At the mention of the word “drawing,” Orhan Pamuk suddenly stands up, straightens his tall figure, claps his hands and looks at me with a smile:
“Painting? It’s Slashdot! That’s it, that’s it, French. That’s you! It’s all in Simbi’s work! Sarcasm and tenderness. Feelings are the key to your understanding – even if you don’t understand everything.”
Dot perfection looks satisfied. He found his fall, and thus it fell to me:
– “France Sempy.”

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