ABSTRACT

In 2005 Orhan Pamuk was charged with “insulting Turkishness” under Article 301-1 of the Turkish penal code.3 Eighteen months later he was awarded the Nobel Prize. After decades of criticism for wielding a depoliticized pen, Pamuk was cast as a dissident through his persecution and trial, events that underscored his transformation from national litterateur to global author. But what had triggered this clash between state and author? What was meant by “Turkishness” exactly? The charges centered on Pamuk’s affirmation of the ethnic cleansing of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 and Turkish Kurds in the 1990s, charges that emerged out of a secular state tradition of enforcing national identity. Yet, contrary to the dominant notion that Pamuk had been an apolitical author, his novels, in both content and form, had been transgressing official versions of Turkish history and identity for decades. So what had changed suddenly to make Turkey’s best-selling novelist an object lesson for state determinations of “Turkishness”?4