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Winter 2002: 8th issue - **2nd Anniversary**

Turkish Times
March 15, 2002,
( Second page)

Sobiesky, Faulkner & Pamuk:
"To Uplift Men's Hearts"


Byline: Ugur AKINCI


"Faulkner's obvious point here is that the only books that are worth writing are those that uplifts men's hearts. Those are the books that say "No to death" and unlocks the doors of immortality, for the writer for sure, but perhaps even for the reader as well."


(Turkish Torque, W.DC.) On September 12, 1683, Polish King John Sobieski unleashed his cavalier on Kara Mustafa Pasa's 200,000 strong Ottoman Turkish army laying a second siege to Vienna. The result of the decisive attack at Kahlenberg, just outside Vienna, sealed both the fate of Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa (who was beheaded in Belgrade on orders of Sultan Mehmet IV, on the Christmas day of the same year) and the Ottoman expansionism in Europe. Today Kara Mustafa Pasa's skinned and stuffed head is still kept at Vienna's Historisches Museum, although mercifully it's no longer on display in its glass case like it had been for over two hundred years. Sobieski, on the other hand, went down in European history as the God-sent hero who saved Christendom from the "Terrible Turk."

"Pamuk's Nobel chances are indexed to re-enveloping the non-Turkish
perceptions with an iconoclasm that pulsates with a  humane Turkish core,
while re-energizing it with a fresh and unorthodox politics."


Fast foreward to November 1953. William Faulkner, the great American novelist who won 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote a foreward in that month to a collection of his works, "The Faulkner Reader," published by Random House in 1954. And all of a sudden, Jan Sobieski emerges from the three-hundred year old mist of history to make a point:

"My grandfather had a moderate though reasonably diffuse and catholic library..." Faulkner begins to tell us. "One of these books was by a Pole, Sienkiewicz - a story of the time of King John Sobiesky, when the Poles, almost single-handed, kept the Turks from overrunning Central Europe." The forward to this particular books said "This book was written at the expense of considerable effort, to uplift men's hearts and I thought: What a nice thing to have thought to say."


Faulkner's obvious point here is that the only books that are worth writing are those that uplifts men's hearts. Those are the books that say "No to death" and unlocks the doors of immortality, for the writer for sure, but perhaps even for the reader as well. This is the same noble message that he delivered three years earlier, at his Nobel prize acceptance speech, when he said "Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up?... I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he ahs a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things."


These words, pronounced shortly after the unprecedented carnage of the Second World War, could have been uttered today and would be just as equally appropriate. However, Faulkner's splendid formulation of a writer's lofty task has a subtle but clear subtext that is perhaps all but transparent to an American reader. Reading about the Turkish defeat outside the walls of Vienna served as a memorable experience "to uplift men's hearts" for one of the greatest writers America has ever produced. One can almost feel how relieved the young Faulkner was that the Turks did not "overrun" Central Europe.


The insurmountable obstacles Turks face in the West to reason their own version of history is not only due to the splendid Turkish ineptitude to invest generously in the next generation of  scholars equally at home in the West.  Lack of  such an intelligentsia limits the Turkish rhetoric to occasional public relations salvos and prevents ratcheting the East-West dialog on these issues to a more sophisticated and sustained level. Politicians rule the funds as well as the day.

"...Turkey, a country of 70 million, still did not produce a single Nobel prize winner."


A second and related reason why Turks have been locked up inside the three- or four-centuries old stereotypes is the lack of Turkish Faulkners. To this day it amazes me that Turkey, a country of 70 million, still did not produce a single Nobel prize winner. Artists and writers are the definers of their age. And since definition of reality is a part of that very reality itself, writers have an indispensable role in laying down the foundation and basement to all the other floors of social reality that are built on their presentations. Good marketers position consumer products and services well. Good writers position social reality so equally well that readers forget that it's positioned at all.

For a while we thought that the great Yasar Kemal had a shot at the Big One not only because of his immensely lyrical stories of depravation, revenge and redemption, but also frankly due to his good connections in Sweden. However, as Egypt's Naguib Mahfouz grabbed the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988 and suddenly passed Kemal on the left lane of literary fame, it looked as though the region exhausted its pool of writers powerful enough to blend a new global voice from local ingredients. Now we have another slim light of hope at the end of the tunnel: Orhan Pamuk, the author of such critically acclaimed novels as The White Castle, The Black Book, The New Life, My Name is Red, and his latest, Kar [The Snow] .


"Singing universal truths through local chords
."


Having concluded a successful book tour in Chicago, Pamuk is on his way to Washington and New York. In his earlier works, and I think especially in My Name is Red, Pamuk accomplished what all world-class authors manage to pull off: singing universal truths through local chords. Until and unless authors like Faulkner and Pamuk make us a part of this journey "to uplift men's hearts" through the ungainly, non-linear and at times embarrassingly inconsistent landscape of human-condition-in-general, we have not seen anything, we have not been anywhere, and we have spent all our years consuming stereotypes for nourishment.

Whether Pamuk's latest novel Kar, chock full of very local and purely-Turkish historical references, diverges from the more universal themes patiently embroidered in My Name Is Red, is an issue remains to be seen. However, Pamuk is as close as any living Turkish writer today to uplift the local Turkish experience to a universal level in which non-Turkish readers would also recognize their own predicaments. Pamuk's Nobel chances are indexed to re-enveloping the non-Turkish perceptions with an iconoclasm that pulsates with a  humane Turkish core, while re-energizing it with a fresh and unorthodox politics.

Without Pamuks of today, the Faulkners of tomorrow will establish contact with the Turkish reality still through Jan Sobieski's of yesterday.

Mr. Pamuk, may you uplift ALL our hearts.

_ _ _ _ _


Special Thanks to Ugur AKINCI, for sharing his article with the Light Millennium. E-mail to the author: Ugurakinci@aol.com

This issue dedicated to such distinguished poet & composer as (alphabetical order):
Nazim HIKMET & Ilhan MIMAROGLU

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