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Excerpts from “My Father’s Suitcase” ~ Orhan Pamuk’s Nobel Lecture 2006

August 31, 2009

You can read the whole thing here.

Excerpts on writing:

“A writer is someone who spends years patiently trying to discover the second being inside him, and the world makes him who he is.

…it is the person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and, alone, turns inward. Amid his shadows, he builds a new world with words…

To write is to transform that inward gaze into words, to study the worlds into which we pass when we retire into ourselves, and to do so with patience, obstinacy, and joy.

…The writer’s secret is not inspiration—for it is never clear where that comes from—but stubbornness, endurance. The lovely Turkish expression ‘to dig a well with a needle’ seems to me to have been invented with writers in mind.

…[an] independent writer[is] one who reads to his heart’s content, who, by listening to the voice of his own conscience, disputes others’ words, and who, by entering into conversation with his books, develops his own thoughts and his own world…

…once we have shut ourselves away we soon discover we are not as alone as we thought. We are in the company of the words of those who came before us, of other people’s stories, of other people’s books—

…I believe literature to be the most valuable tool that humanity has found in its quest to understand itself. Societies, tribes, and peoples grow more intelligent, richer, and more advanced as they pay attention to the troubled words of their authors—and, as we all know, the burning of books and the denigration of writers are both signs that dark and improvident times are upon us.

…A writer talks of things that we all know but do not know we know.

…The question we writers are asked most often, the favorite question, is: Why do you write? I write because I have an innate need to write. I write because I can’t do normal work as other people do. I write because I want to read books like the ones I write. I write because I am angry at everyone. I write because I love sitting in a room all day writing. I write because I can partake of real life only by changing it. I write because I want others, the whole world, to know what sort of life we lived, and continue to live, in Istanbul, in Turkey. I write because I love the smell of paper, pen, and ink. I write because I believe in literature, in the art of the novel, more than I believe in anything else. I write because it is a habit, a passion. I write because I am afraid of being forgotten. I write because I like the glory and interest that writing brings. I write to be alone. Perhaps I write because I hope to understand why I am so very, very angry at everyone. I write because I like to be read. I write because once I have begun a novel, an essay, a page I want to finish it. I write because everyone expects me to write. I write because I have a childish belief in the immortality of libraries, and in the way my books sit on the shelf. I write because it is exciting to turn all life’s beauties and riches into words. I write not to tell a story but to compose a story. I write because I wish to escape from the foreboding that there is a place I must go but—as in a dream—can’t quite get to. I write because I have never managed to be happy. I write to be happy.”

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