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Writing against himself

He may deny it, but Orhan Pamuk is Turkey's most important political voice. Even Dostoevsky would have agreed

By Thomas de Waal   July 2008

In a list of global intellectuals dominated by names from Turkey and the Islamic world, one Turkish name stands out.

Orhan Pamuk evidently feels uncomfortable with the notion that he is a world intellectual and political oracle. His remarks about Turkey’s historical responsibilities towards Armenians and Kurds have made his life difficult and distracted attention from his novels. But his country is experiencing a profound existential crisis, one he has illuminated more profoundly than anyone.

When I interviewed Pamuk for the BBC World Service last year, he said: “I was harshly criticised by the previous generation of Turkish writers, my…

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