Thursday, October 12, 2006

Insulting Ignorance

Out of Sweden today comes the announcement that Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish writer who recently stood trial for "insulting Turkishness," has been awarded this year's prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature. Pamuk was charged, last year, for telling a Swiss newspaper, in the winter of 2005, that his country was in denial about the massacre of Armenians during World War I, as well as recent guerrilla warfare in southeastern Turkey. Importantly, Pamuk's award is as much a victory for free speech as it is in recognition of the accomplishments of an important novelist.

Apart from a cool $1.4 million, Mr Pamuk receives the satisfaction, along with the rest of the world, of knowing that governments that try to stifle dissent, and freedom of expression can't prevail over the universal movement toward greater, and more open expression which is embodied by technological advances like the Internet. As you know, Harold Pinter, another prominent, outspoken critic of his government's participation in the war in Iraq, was the recipient of last year's Nobel Prize for Literature, so it is that this prize, like its sister the Nobel Peace Prize, is as much about exposing, and engaging oppression as about aesthetics.

The author of "Snow," and "My Name is Red" became the subject of a campaign by PEN American Center, and other champions of free speech, to whom he, and the rest of the world, are hugely indebted. For, if nothing else, granting this award to a novelist who was charged with "insulting Turkishness" is an insult to ignorance. One can hope that the forces of darkness, and secrecy will heed the international call for openness, and light.