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Orhan Pamuk, Secularism and Blasphemy: The Politics of the Turkish Novel

In this book, Erdağ Göknar, the award-winning translator of Orhan Pamuk’s novel, My Name Is Red, has set himself the task of explaining why Pamuk’s novels have received comparatively little critical attention both in his native Turkey and elsewhere. According to Göknar, most of the educated reading public in Turkey disdains Pamuk because they believe he has betrayed Kemalism (the combination of French-style secularism and nationalism that has become a sort of state “religion” in the Turkish Republic) in order to curry favor with foreign readers. This is the “blasphemy” to which the book’s title refers. At the same time, foreign readers have generally misunderstood Pamuk’s work because they are unfamiliar with Turkish literary and the political context from which it emerged. Göknar’s burden is therefore the dual one of clarifying Pamuk’s real political views for Turkish readers and educating foreign readers about his indebtedness to earlier Turkish writers. 

 

In this book, Erdağ Göknar, the award-winning translator of Orhan Pamuk’s novel, My Name Is Red, has set himself the task of explaining why Pamuk’s novels have received comparatively little critical attention both in his native Turkey and elsewhere. According to Göknar, most of the educated reading public in Turkey disdains Pamuk because they believe he has betrayed Kemalism (the combination of French-style secularism and nationalism that has become a sort of state “religion” in the Turkish Republic) in order to curry favor with foreign readers. This is the “blasphemy” to which the book’s title refers. At the same time, foreign readers have generally misunderstood Pamuk’s work because they are unfamiliar with Turkish literary and the political context from which it emerged. Göknar’s burden is therefore the dual one of clarifying Pamuk’s real political views for Turkish readers and educating foreign readers about his indebtedness to earlier Turkish writers.

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