By Hans-Joachim Schweigger
FRANKFURT, 1 NOVEMBER 2005—Turkish author Orhan Pamuk received the prestigious Friedenspreis
des Deutschen Buchhandels (Peace Prize of the German Book Trade) at a
Frankfurt ceremony last weekend for works that explore life in a changing
Pamuk, whose latest novel Snow was named 2004’s best book by
The New York Times, accepted the award on Sunday at Frankfurt’s
St. Paul’s Cathedral in an event marking the end of the Frankfurt Book
He took the opportunity to draw attention to his support for Turkey’s
decades-long effort to enhance its ties with Europe.
"Europe deserves recognition that it has been instrumental in spreading
the values of freedom, equality, and fraternity outside of the West. If
Europe’s soul is fed by the spirit of enlightenment, equality and
democracy, then Turkey must also have its spot in this peaceful Europe,"
Once nominated as Turkey’s "national artist" —a title he
declined—Pamuk's controversial statements regarding human rights in Turkey
are currently the source of legal trouble for the Turkish writer. On
16 December, he is due to go on trial for saying in a Swiss newspaper that
'thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands
and nobody but me dares to talk about it.'
He is being tried under a Turkish penal code which forbids insulting
'being a Turk, the Republic or Turkish Grand National Assembly' and has
additional penalties if such statements are made in foreign countries.
Pamuk therefore faces up to three years in jail for his statement and his
impending trial is being seen as a test case for freedom of expression in
Turkey. Pamuk says that he never used the word "genocide" to describe the
Pamuk grew up the grandson of one of the first factory owners in
Turkey. He studied architecture and journalism and spent time at Columbia
University in New York City in the 1980s. One of the most important
Turkish writers of his generation, Pamuk has often been compared to the
likes of Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges. His novels and nonfiction,
which also include My Name is Red and "The White Castle, have
been translated into 34 languages in 100 countries.
"We are pleased to honor a writer who, like no other writer of our
times, has traced the historical paths of both the East and the West, one
that is committed to an idea of culture that is based on knowledge and
respect for others," the German Publishers and Booksellers Trade
Organization said in a statement.
Pamuk’s works have been critical and commercial successes in Germany,
where 3% of the population is of Turkish origin and where the question of
Turkey’s potential inclusion in European Union still looms large in the
Still, some critics have called the choice of Pamuk less of a literary
than a political statement.
The German Peace Prize has been awarded since 1950 to writers from
around the globe who have devoted their work to fostering international
understanding between nations and peoples. The 25,000 Eur ($30,000)
monetary prize is comprised solely of contributions made from German
booksellers and publishing houses.
Last year's winner was Hungarian author Peter Esterhazy and the 2003
winner was Susan Sontag of the
United States. Other past recipients of the prize include Albert
Schweitzer, Theodor Heuss, Ernst Bloch, Max Frisch, Astrid Lindgren, Yehudi Menuhin, Vaclav
Havel, Mario Vargas Llosa and Fritz Stern, just to name a few.