Laureate talks of life in writing

By ELIZABETH WILLIAMSON

Orhan Pamuk never planned on becoming a novelist – his plan was to paint.

“I wanted to be a… Orhan Pamuk never planned on becoming a novelist – his plan was to paint.

“I wanted to be a painter and failed, so I ended up being a novelist,” said Pamuk playfully to his audience at the Carnegie Music Hall. “But that desire to be a painter stayed with me.”

Pamuk, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006, spoke last night as a part of the Drue Heinz Lectures.

Born into a family of engineers in Istanbul, Pamuk was expected to go to the same school and follow the same path. But as it turned out, he was the artsy one. At the age of 23, he stopped painting, stopped going to school and started to write.

At one point, Pamuk wrote for no pay at a political magazine in Istanbul. Though he did not write about politics, he wrote simply because he enjoyed it.

Yet he told himself each week that it would be his last.

Every Monday afternoon, without fail, the editors called him, asking for his article. And every Monday afternoon, he gave in to their pleas and wrote an article in two hours. He wrote about whatever interested him, whatever came to him, whatever he experienced.

“It makes me angry that everyone likes these little things that I wrote so fast,” he said.

Pamuk read one of those little articles last night. At the time he was writing it, his young daughter stubbornly resisted going to school. So, he wrote down the monologue she delivered each morning on the agony of adolescence and it was published.

Before the audience had the chance to ask, Pamuk tried to answer the question all writers have tried to answer: Why do you write?

At the end of a long list of musings, he said, “I write because I have never managed to be happy – I write to be happy.”

A member of the audience asked Pamuk about the dual nature of his writing.

“I am a playful author, yes, but that does not stop me from being an angry man,” he said. “Writers do not have one monolithic spirit. We are made of so much stuff.”

Pamuk considers himself a slow writer. He still writes with a pen and paper because he feels like he is staring at an aquarium when he sits at the computer to write.

Averaging about 125 pages per year over a span of 34 years, Pamuk has written 11 books. His works in English include “The White Castle,” “The Black Book,” “The New Life,” “My Name is Red,” “Istanbul: Memories and the City,” “Other Colors: Selected Essays and One Story” and “Snow,” perhaps his most popular novel in the United States.

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