A Conversation with Orhan, Part II

Thanks to all of you who contacted me to say that you wanted more of my on-stage interview of Orhan Pamuk. Here are some more of his writing ideas/techniques.

Q: What would you say are some of the pros and cons of being a political writer?

To this, Pamuk responded by stating, quite firmly, that he doesn't consider himself a political writer. Only one of his novels, Snow, has overt political content. In the rest, we see the state of the country as it relates to the lives of the characters. Pamuk said that the problem with being a political writer is that immediately there are two sides, mine and the other's. My point of view becomes the right one. The other becomes wrong or harmful. But this is in conflict with the writer's enterprise, which is to try and understand all points of view, to try and treat all characters with compassion.

Q: You sometimes write the first sentence of your novel 50 or perhaps even 100 times. Could you comment on this?

To this, Pamuk responded, smiling, "Doesn't everyone? Well, then, they should!" He went on to explain that to him  that first sentence sets the tone for the entire novel and once he gets it right, he can write the beginning chapter--and often the following chapters-- quite rapidly.

Pamuk brought out many of his ideas about fiction in the Norton lectures he gave earlier this year at Harvard. He told me they will be published in about a year, so watch for them.

My final question to Pamuk--which is often my last question during these onstage interviews, since many of my Creative Writing students are in the audience--was, What advice would you give to young writers?

To which Pamuk replied (the audience loved his answer), "Never listen to an old writer."