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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  September 21, 2017 4:30am-5:01am BST

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the search for survivors of the mexico earthquake continues, with emergency crews and volunteers digging through rubble with their hands. more than 200 people are known to have been killed across the country, including at least 21 children at a school in mexico city. dozens more children are feared to be trapped. emergency officials in puerto rico say hurricane maria has knocked out power to the entire island which is home to 3.5 million people. the head of the disaster management agency said it had damaged everything in its path. demonstrations are expected to continue for a second day in the spanish city of barcelona after tens of thousands of people protested late into the night against government attempts to stop a regional vote on independence. now on bbc news stephen sackur speaks to the turkish novelist orhan pamuk on hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm steven sackur.
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in this age of the internet, we've come to expect instant access to knowledge but a real deep understanding takes longer to acquire and to share. my guest today is one of the world's most acclaimed novelists, nobel prize winner orham pamuk. he's lived almost all of his life in istanbul, writing stories about turkey which have over decades painted a vivid picture of a country and society pulled between east and west, past and future. what is the key to understanding orham pamuk‘s turkey? orham pamuk, welcome to hardtalk.
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pleased to be here. i want to start with the book, the novel that has just been published in english, the red—haired woman, your latest. it is built around relationships between fathers and sons. and ijust wonder why you were so drawn to that theme? in 1988, i was finishing one of my novels during summer and in the land next to me, an oldish man started digging a well with his disciple and i was writing the novel and paying attention. after a while, we asked if we could have some water and electricity and a relation developed and in the end before they left, i asked them to do an interview, that's how i operate. but what stayed with me was two things, actually. the father, like older traditional, and they were digging the well with the road hands using an axe.
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he was like the master well digger. he was a master well digger. something we have in istanbul since byzantium. sometimes people find byzantine old wells, so they were following this tradition. what i observed was this. that master old well digger was shouting and shouting at the boy, sometimes teaching him things, ordering things in a very strong authoritarian voice. we approached the novel fast. it was rough, hard, cruel. but culturally, i also paid attention to their daily lives. they had a portable tv as in the novel. they built a tent, as in the novel. but the fatherly figure was both scolding, angry,
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cruel, authoritarian but at times, after hours, when the work is finished, very tender, very attentive, very elegant to the son and this is a mark on me because perhaps, i was raised with an absent father, a father who never scolded me, who was never a freudian father, so to speak. and why? it struck me knowing your story when you address the issue of fathers and sons, the balance between being a guided authority figure but also the caring and loving figure. and it was obvious, the son in the end. you didn't have that because your father, as i understand, he quit the family in istanbulfor a long period to find his writer's voice. yes, he went to paris, following the footsteps ofjean—paul sartre, going to hotels, reading his diaries. did you feel betrayed?
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no, and when you are a child you don't feel betrayed. and since my father was not a freudian father, a father that perhaps baudelaire would have hated oppressing his son, he always said, "i am your best friend," and in fact, my freudian father, would have been maybe my brother who taught me things, he was stronger, my father always had fun with us and treated us as if me and my brother were geniuses, never suppressed us. while, on the other hand, this other father was more attentive to the boy than my father. so your book raises this fascinating question about the way in which individuals develop, the balance between being taught and disciplined and finding your own path, your own identity and individual personality. you seem to suggest that if the character in the book, cem, had had an active father, he might have been different
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and he might have struggled to find his own voice more. i wonder if you feel about this yourself. i am influenced by my father first because he had a good library and she was continuously reading books but never telling you have and he was continuously reading books but never telling you have to read this, you have to read that, just being an example without doing anything and my father, this is more important, my father's heroes were not as in most of the time in turkey, soldiers, bullies, religious notables, political notables, statesman. his heroes were jean—paul sartre or albert camus or other philosophical authors of that time and i thought, i have to be like that. he never said i did. in the end, in those years, i was raised to be a painter, the family, everyone around me, when i went to primary school, people said, "oh, he has so much talent, he will be a painter."
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i thought up until the age of 22, i would be a painter in the future but as i wrote in my book, istanbul, a screw was loose in my head and suddenly i switched from painting to literature but everyone is asking me, was it hard? no, i prepared myself for the solitary life of a writer. i was not prepared to give orders or take orders from others during this 15 years and i was raised to be a painter and ready for the artistic or literary life. it's a life you've chosen which is truly individualistic. solitary, even. i come back to this idea of fathers. all orhan pamuk novels being somewhat allegorical. it seems to me this relationship between the well digger and his apprentice who sees him as a father figure for the absent father that he never really had, it is also an allegory,
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it seems, for turkey and a desire in turkey to look up to a figure of authority and the balance between individualism and authoritarianism in your country and today, you have president erdogan, who would like to see himself as the father of the nation, was that in your night your mind as you wrote this book? at the beginning, it was not in my mind. that this story of fathers and sons stayed with me many, many years, and then i thought about it, and i have, i must confess, projects like that all around me. i did the interview. and i carried it with me, even in my travels, thinking what to do with it. then, after a while, i decided to write a book comparing sophocles‘ oedipus rex, which is about killing the father without knowing it, and ferdowsi, the most distinguished persian classic, which also influenced the whole ottoman empire,
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ferdowsi's so—called book of kings, shahnameh, in which there is a sea of stories in which there is one particular story, rostam and sohrab, which almost mirror—images, mirror—reflects oedipus and his father. a western classic sort of myth which is the son killing the father by accident, and then you have an eastern persian similar mythical story in which, in the end, the father kills the son. would it be right to say that what you portray is, again, a lot of allegory is involved, but you use these two myths, one that comes classically from the west, one that comes from persia and the east. you show the way that both play out in the story of the characters in your book and in essence, what you seem to be saving is that turkey remains pooled in these different directions.
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western tradition, eastern tradition, somehow finding a path between the two but is it your feeling that right now, the eastern tradition which to you is the allegory, the father kills the son, the authority figure is the survivor, is that you're feeling about turkey today, that authoritarianism is... to answer your previous question where you said, is this an accident that you wrote this? no, the story stayed with me but i thought, my god, then associating the father who kills his son, then i can also write this book in such a way that alludes to what is happening in turkey. yes, turkey is increasingly getting authoritarian. though i had this story, the well digger and his disciple, a desire to compare sophocles and ferdowsi but yes, in the last two years, when i was busy with this book, i was thinking also, i am alluding and writing almost a fictional enquiry into the roots of middle eastern, asian, muslim authoritarianism.
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orhan pamuk, let's be honest — do you have to write in this form of allegory and almost code because if you wrote directly about what you see happening in turkey today, you would run the risk of frankly censorship, repression and as with scene with some writers, even imprisonment? good question. i never had even in this horrible state that we are politically in, and i will explain why i'm calling it horrible, you know, everyone knows that some 15 months ago, there was a horrible attempt to do a military coup and after that came a purge and during the purge, 130,000 people were fired from theirjobs and these people cannot go back to their work and some of them cannot even work in private business. hundreds ofjournalists and writers
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and academics locked up. 80,000 people are jailed and the government needs more prisons and around around 170 journalists are injail, this is the situation of the country and i'm writing my novel in this situation but even in this situation, i don't think i will ever have problem with any novel that i want. this never happened to me. in turkey, not to anyone. why is that? is it because you self—censor? is it because you are so careful in selecting your subject matter, your characters and your words with the knowledge of how to sort of send messages without upsetting the system ? if i want to send messages like that, as we are going to do now, i am always in trouble with my interviews.
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i am always outspoken in my interviews. and when we said 170 journalists are injail, some of them my friends, and they are also novelists, but they are not in jail for writing the novels. they are injailfor making political commentary. writing novels, say in stalin's time in russia, we had a lot of reparation, separation, people self censor, but people self—censor in interviews and political comments. you go fast to jail if you criticise the government too much, if you attack erdogan too much. and i never intend to write a novel attacking a president. i never wrote that, so to speak. in no sense do you fill creatively paralysed by the current situation? no, but i am paralysed, if the word is right, repressed, angry, confused sometimes, you feel guilty because i am out, ifeel angry
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that i have to do more. do you feel actually guilty that you are free when some of the your writer colleagues are in prison? sure. dostoevsky said we are responsible for everything and i think this is the moral, writerly thing. and what do you do, you look at what the other writers are doing, so, for example, they are going to courts, the doors of the courts, and backing. and i also did, for example, there is this prominent intellectual, murat belge, whom i respect, he had a case, so i went there, i am there, it makes a difference. but let me tell you this, the biggest turkish newspaper before the referendum in march or april, asked to do an interview with me. i was very happy, this was the biggest turkish newspaper and i going to publish my views and i'm going to say no to the referendum, no to erdogan, we did a nice interview butjust
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before the interview, the editor—in—chief who is sort of a friend called me to say, i am sorry, we can't publish this and really, i cannot accuse the editor too much, they are pressured so much and in the end, they're all my friends. we are in the same atmosphere and i couldn't address my turkish leaders. therefore, what fascinates me is you... this atmosphere you talk about is so constraining, as a campaigner, as a man who cares about your national life, and yet you are telling me that all of those constraints, the anger and guilt you feel, it does not affect you when you go to your writing room, wherever it is, istanbul, the building you have occupied for a long time, and you can shed all of that frustration and anger and constraint and write as free as a bird?
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not as free as a bird. but let me tell you about what the product of this repressive authoritarian atmosphere is to a writer who is more concerned about the beauty. first, you don't have to read newspapers until 2pm because it spoils your day, you get angry. and second, this kind of atmosphere makes me work harder, fear and repression. perhaps like in early years when my family did not want me to be a writer and they all accused me of being a bohemian. i worked so hard in these years because i felt so guilty about something. again in the last 15—16 months, i am working a lot, why, perhaps to avoid these problems. if you are living in a terrible age, an non—democratic, threatening, menacing situation,you feel happy. could you write your books anywhere else but istanbul? ican. i did that. i teach at university in columbia
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one semester each year. i wrote there. there was a time, we did an interview ten years ago, remember, i was a semi—exile... we ran into some problems for a while because of things you said relevant to both the armenia and kurdish issues. the turkish government sought to charge you and you had to leave the country. in the end, it seems to me you always go home for creative inspiration. not only that, i also don't want to go to europe.. ..america, and criticise it from a distance. i don't want that. and there is the reality that feeds my optimism, perhaps, that, don't forget that president erdogan's polls are going down and the opposition is up to 49%. and it may go up. the opposition are 49% now. it is promising. you don't run out of a sea of trouble, you don't run away, when the opposition is getting 49%!
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and i am optimistic about the situation, not because, there is so much repression, so much repression, also, in the last referendum, i think the referendum was unfair. that is, there was unfair government propaganda. in a way, they were taking our tax money and making propaganda for their party. but in the end, the results were objective. though it was unfair, the results were objective. if they continue to work, i will be there and i will be part of it. that is what i think. let me get back to one aspect of this book, the red head woman, which strikes me as very relevant to your own place in turkey. they key relationship really in the book is between mahmoud, the master welldigger, and cem, the assistant, the student. disciple.
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cem comes from a westernised family, his father is a leftist, and he goes to university and he becomes a property developer. you have the east and tradition juxtaposed with a western mentality and individualistic liberal sort of background. most people would assume yourself coming from a middle—class family, who spent time in america, you are a modernist in turkey, most would assume you identify completely with the western tradition of turkey. i do. do you? the implication in the book is that turkey draws from all of its history and culture and its different tradition. so i wonder what do you draw from tradition? i identify and i believe in western political values. what are they? in the end it is represented by the french revolution slogan, liberte, fraternite, egalite.
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in turkey we lack liberte. some people even claim, pro—govermnent newspapers, they are saying our democracy is not european, we have turkish democracy. it seems they are trying to invent a democracy without free speech. i don't think it will work but i am there. i am at least saying this to you, to other journalists, in turkey, outside of turkey. in turkey, the don't print, but hey listen somehow. let me talk to you about istanbul. it is almost like it is a character in the book because you describe evocatively how istanbul changes over a0 years. you know, where they dig the well in the first place is a little village outside the city. by the end of the book it is just another suburb is sucked up by the city with industrial zones and high rises and condos and everything else. has the change in istanbul changed the people and the character of the city?
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good question. ok, first, the change, and this is the success of erdogan, the change in the last 15 yearsis bigger than in the first 50 years of my life. it is key to his success as much as religion is. but on the other hand, this party is saying they are conservative. and they are not. these are just buildings and mosques, they are not conserving anything. they are destroying everything. i would love to ask them, you are conservatives, it is not only religious buildings that should be preserved, but the old istanbul you were so lovingly talking about. this book goes into that, money and politics combined in construction businesses, and the leading party, the ruling party, people who are close around this benefiting from this. do you feel like this
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is still your city? it is. it is geographically. i overlook the entrance. i have a great view. it is changing, yes. he hills overlooking the bosporus, they are preserving at least the hills overlooking the bosporus, the gardens, but behind that, all the high rises are grazing there, and it is changing. but i cannot say it is not my city. yes. it is also self—imposed, my mission, i don't want to be a nostalgic middle—class westernised secular person. they only look at the newcomers, immigrants, "i don't want to look, i don't want to even see you." "you are destroying it. just like in germany, they don't see why they need labour and also, they look down upon them. from the beginning i do not want to belong to my class. i betrayed my class because i want to see the totality of the nation in an ethical way.
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only someone of your class could say that kind of thing. yes! that is the irony of being so full of self—awareness and education, that you can talk about not wanting to be of your class, you are quintessentially of your class. and that is the problem perhaps for some people in turkey. no matter how hard you try, you cannot be anything other than what you are, which is one of the elite. it started small in that book. 65% of turkey's population is not political. they wear some kind of headgear, a scarf, for example. in the early 2000s they did not allow these people to universities. and then they told the secular parties they would get votes from the people. they paved the way for the success of erdogan's party for their cruel authoritarian attitudes.
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and now erdogan is getting even more authoritarian now! sometimes, whenever these two sides clash, i can find a space in between to talk. if they are happy together, i am afraid. are you happy in turkey today? i am a happy novelist. but i can, first, never be happy in life. when i am too happy i become sleepy. i need to run around and fight people. i have ideas, i have projects. iam! i will be even unhappier, that is the right answer, that i may not be happy, but i will be even unhappier outside of turkey. if they had a decent democracy i would be very happy, no matter where i am. unfortunately, it seems that we are not having it, and we are not going to have it for some time, because i cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. but i keep, i persist, in staying in my country and being part of what is happening there now. that is a great thought to end on. orhan pamuk, thank you so much for being on hardtalk. it is a pleasure to have you on the programme again.
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thank you so much. thank you. the very same weather system that produced a very wet wednesday in northern ireland is gradually pushing further east across the uk during thursday. here it is. at least to begin the day, there will be heavy rain bursts in western areas. we are looking at things at eight o'clock in the morning. you can see it in the west of wales into
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south—west scotland. all points east of that should be fine and dry. a mild morning compared to wednesday. but the overnight rain is pushing away from northern ireland. something sunny not far away. it is a bit lighter the further north you are. some of us in eastern scotland will start the day dry. it is very slowly going east. even by the end of the afternoon it won't be into eastern england. ahead of this weather system, in some sunshine, feeling quite cooler. but the sun will come out. northern ireland, scattered heavy showers. some pushing in the western parts of scotland through the day, especially into the western isles. that weather system is just creeping into western parts of eastern england that stayed dry on thursday. thursday night, a chilly night into friday morning. widely into single figures, low single figures in some spots, a few patches of mist and fog. northern ireland, another system of weather coming in with rain. a gale in the irish sea. that rain is gradually edging into other western and northern parts of the uk into friday.
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again, leaving much of central and eastern england dry. pulling away from northern ireland, with sunny spells coming back. the weekend starts with a frightening area of low pressure, but most of the energy is pushing away to the north. a weaker weather front heading our way slowly as the weekend goes on. a gale in places. a mild breeze blowing elsewhere across the uk. sunny spells developing from the south. the odd spot of rain shifting northwards through the day. a weather front weakening in the west of the uk. ahead of that, we'll see the higher temperatures. some spots are into the low 20s perhaps. hurricane maria is out of mexico and is moving close to the north—east coast of the dominican republic. it could be a major hurricane cloe to the turks and caicos islands by friday. this is bbc news.
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i'm david eades. our top stories: 230 lost lives. the death toll from tuesday's earthquake in mexico. the rescue efforts go on at one primary school where more than 20 children died. others have been pulled from the rubble. hurricane maria knocks out power across the whole of puerto rico, isolating more than three million people. thousands take to the streets of barcelona to protest against attempts by the national government to stop an independence referendum. and i'm sally bundock. the business stories. google strikes a billion dollar deal to buy part of smartphone maker htc. a smart move, or another costly m ista ke ? plus eight years in the making and mired in controversy, today, the ceta free trade deal between the eu and canada finally comes into force.
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