Today is a Sunday and it will be a while before this piece will get published. But I could not wait. I read, for the first time, the speech Orhan Pamuk gave when he received the Nobel Prize for literature last October. I was travelling a lot those days, so I had not had the chance to hear his speech. Yesterday, I was in Remzi bookstore in Akmerkez, Istanbul and bought the book that contained both this speech of his and a few others. Actually, the story begins yesterday morning when I was at a printing press to prepare the invitations and posters for my exhibition at the Fethiye Cultural Centre. There I had seen this book on the desk of one of the owners of the place. I knew that for the last 3 or so months, I had been meaning to find the text to read. So much was told about it, and me who is supposedly very interested in literature had not read it.
Most of my friends know that I love to read. I really do. And I cannot help buying books. I feel as if their presence in my environments makes life feel full and secure. And also, when I buy a book I usually do not wait all that long to start reading it. Ok, there are some books I bought years ago and have not read yet. However, when I bought them I was aware that I had no idea why bought them. These books wait until their time come. Yet, this was not the case for “My Father’s Suitcase.” In a way I wanted to wait for the morning.
I woke up. It was around 10:30. I had been meaning to open my eyes maybe for the last 2-3 hours. This morning I was not in a rush. I had no programs for the early hours of the day. A Kabbalah course in the afternoon, but that was after 4 p.m.
The book was by my bedside. It was not a planned move to bring it there, yet I had done it unconsciously. I got up, washed my hands, drank a glass of water and a bit more, and went to bed, this time to read the book.
Pamuk was talking about a suitcase of notebooks his father gave him 2 years prior his father’s death, and at the time Pamuk gave this speech in Stockholm, it had been 2 years since his father had passed away. It had been almost exactly 2 years since my own father had passed way when Orhan Pamuk received the prize. Maybe that was why it took me so long to be able to look at what he had to say about his relationship with his father, and what he had to say about his own life under these lights.
I realized that it is not easy to touch what we are afraid of. Yet, what good does fear do when it causes us to watch our life go by? There are many things I do even if I fear them a lot. However, I was also to see that there are so many other things that I do not do, because I am just afraid. Maybe that was the cry of help of these desires and wishes that do not want to be buried inside me anymore. We’ll see what new days will bring.
I believe that the English translation for this speech is also available for you to read. I really do recommend it. I have only been able to find a piece of the speech to share with you. The translation for this speech and many of Orhan Pamuk’s books are done by Maureen Freely.
“What literature needs most to tell and investigate today are humanity's basic fears: the fear of being left outside, and the fear of counting for nothing, and the feelings of worthlessness that come with such fears; the collective humiliations, vulnerabilities, slights, grievances, sensitivities, and imagined insults, and the nationalist boasts and inflations that are their next of kind ... Whenever I am confronted by such sentiments, and by the irrational, overstated language in which they are usually expressed, I know they touch on a darkness inside me. We have often witnessed peoples, societies and nations outside the Western world – and I can identify with them easily – succumbing to fears that sometimes lead them to commit stupidities, all because of their fears of humiliation and their sensitivities. I also know that in the West – a world with which I can identify with the same ease – nations and peoples taking an excessive pride in their wealth, and in their having brought us the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and Modernism, have, from time to time, succumbed to a self-satisfaction that is almost as stupid.”
Orhan Pamuk’s first novel was out in 1983 and as I remember that was around the time that I read it. I was 13 and maybe the book was a little of my league, yet I remember being very moved by it. It was called Cevdet Bey and His Sons. The second book that I read by Pamuk was White Castle. After that on, Pamuk became a very well-known and popular novelist in Turkey and abroad. As I look back at those times when I was a kid, I remember that I loved my Turkish and English literature classes at my American High School. I loved writing. And I could read for hours. Sometimes I would buy a book on a Friday and almost spend the whole night up and finish the book before I would go to bed. I loved being a part of the adventure of the stories and I loved the feeling of being alive that those books gave to me. The books made me feel, as if they were opening my heart – they made me feel.
My father was an engineer. He was a true, smart, genius engineer. I believe I wanted to be like him. I became an engineer and although I never stopped reading, I stopped writing for a quite a long time, for almost ten years to be exact. When, why and how are not questions that I will discuss today and here. Then, it came back. Slowly at first, but a part of me that was lost came back to me.
I feel prisoned if I do not have a notebook and a pen and a book or two in my bag. I buy books not by ones or twos, but by tens. I feel safe when I have more books than I can read at a time. I feel safe when I have more empty notebooks and pens than I seem to be able to fill. Why? I do not look for the reasons anymore. I go with the flow. Maybe it is true that deep inside I know that the fear of not being able to say the thoughts and feelings that bottle up inside me is one the reasons. And maybe the fear of missing out on all the adventures that the world whispers through the writers of this world.
If and when I do have a kid of my own, I wonder what kind a mom I will turn out to be? Will I have a suitcase to offer? Will I be a parent like Orhan Pamuk’s father or my own father or mother? Will I know what it means to let a child be who he or she truly is or allow him or her to be the person he or she came here to be for? Hard to say. So we will let the time show what it has in store.
With love to you all.