Page last updated at 15:02 GMT, Thursday, 12 October 2006 16:02 UK

Profile: Orhan Pamuk

Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk
Orhan Pamuk has won several international literary awards
Orhan Pamuk, who has won the 2006 Nobel Prize for literature, has earned international acclaim for his writing while also generating controversy in his native Turkey.

The 54-year-old's books have been translated into more than 20 languages, and typically deal with clashes between civilisations and Islam's relationship with secular nationalism.

His best known works are the novels Snow and My Name Is Red.

The Nobel academy said the Istanbul-based author had "in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city... discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures".

Pamuk has won several international literary awards including the German book industry's peace prize in October 2005, in Frankfurt.

He was praised at the ceremony in Germany for novels that trace "the imprints of the East on the West and those of the West on the East".

Free speech

But Turkey's best-known author has also clashed with his country's government and Turkish nationalists.

He has been outspoken about Turkey's treatment of its minorities and its record on human rights.

"We have to be able to talk about the past," he has said.

Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk leaving court in Istanbul
Pamuk's court case thrust him into the international spotlight

Last year he faced charges of "insulting Turkishness" that could have seen him jailed for up to three years. The charges - which drew international condemnation - were dropped in January.

They were prompted by Pamuk's remarks to a Swiss newspaper that "30,000 Kurds and one million Armenians were killed in these lands, and nobody but me dares talk about it".

Following the interview, he temporarily fled Turkey amid what he called a hate campaign.

Turkey is sensitive over the 1915 killings of Armenians, strongly denying Armenian claims that about 1.5 million of their people were killed systematically by Ottoman Turks in a "genocide".

Turkey says that figure is inflated and that the conflict at the time also claimed the lives of many Muslim Turks.

It also denies that its crackdown on Kurdish separatists in the 1980s and 1990s can be classed as "genocide".

The Pamuk case highlighted questions over Turkey's commitment to freedom of speech and drew criticism from the EU. Brussels described it as a litmus test of Turkey's EU membership credentials.

Pamuk himself is a passionate supporter of Turkey's EU membership bid.

Some critics see him as too westernised and aloof from his country.

Pamuk studied journalism and architecture before becoming an author in the 1970s. He also spent time at Columbia University in New York in the 1980s.

His first novel, Cevdet Bey and His Sons, was published in 1982. It was based on his own experience, telling the story of a wealthy Istanbul family living in Nisantasi, the district where he grew up.

Country profile: Turkey
26 Jul 06 |  Country profiles
Armenia remembers 1915 killings
24 Apr 05 |  Europe
Sense of the City: Istanbul
07 Aug 03 |  Europe


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