March 15, 2002,
( Second page)
Sobiesky, Faulkner & Pamuk:
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
(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
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:
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Pamuks of today, the Faulkners of tomorrow will establish
contact with the Turkish reality still through Jan Sobieski's
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