Thursday, February 02, 2006

Comment: Freedom is complicated

Because I've been so busy lately, I failed to report in that Turkey has dropped the charges against Orhan Pamuk. It's a victory and a relief for the literary world, to be sure -- we've been spared one of our most interesting and insightful contemporary denizens. But many Turkish artists and writers with less international status remain under indictment under Turkey's law. And Pamuk's swift release means that attention won't necessarily continue be leveled at the institutionalized censorship of that country. Slate has a great article about the complex relationship of Turkey, the EU, Pamuk, and the ideas of Justice and Honor in complex and changing cultures. Included is the disturbing fact that while Turks vilify Pamuk for not being "Turkish" enough, some Europeans have denounced him for not being quite dissident enough. I love the conclusion:

"There is surely some irony in that fact that you can now be prosecuted in Europe for denying a genocide and prosecuted in Turkey for asserting that a genocide took place. For a country that has long created fictions out of its own past, it is all the more fitting then, that it is a novelist who starts the dialogue about what really happened."

The clash of cultures makes for wonderful art-- witness the literature of colonialism and post-colonialism, the rich music of African and European fusion in America, the traditions of Catholicism and tribal religions on Brazil. Hopefully such art serves to illuminate our common humanity, as well as highlighting our uniqueness. It's an incredibly difficult balance. Hopefully Pamuk's non-trial will mark the beginning of a new understanding of the complexities of Turkish culture, and the need for change.