Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Nobel statement 

That market I wrote about last week turns out to be a good predictor. The market got Edmund Phelps right in economics on Monday, and today Orhan Pamuk wins the Nobel prize in literature. Pamuk has been prosecuted by the Turkish state for mentioning the death of Kurds in the country as well as the Armenian genocide. Those charges were dropped. Tyler Cowen and I agree that Snow, his latest, is also his best, but for me it was a very difficult read. The area around Kars is the ancestral home of many Armenians. (My grandfather's family was from the Malatya region, closer to the Kurds and a few hundred miles to the southwest of Kars, both in historical Armenia.)

To understand the significance of Pamuk's statement about the death of Armenians, consider the row brewing between France and Turkey over France's lower house passing a law making Armenian genocide denial a crime. The strain within the EU over Turkey's potential admission to the union will increase with this vote, and with the Turkish foreign ministry's response:
Relations between Turkey and France, which have been based on a long history and carefully developed through the centuries, have been dealt a heavy blow as a result of the irresponsible behavior of a group of French politicians who are incapable of comprehending the results of their policies.
You might think I want you to read Snow for loyalty of Pamuk to the genocide, but that really doesn't play a major role in the book. Many times Turkey will deny how many Armenians lived and still live in its east. Pamuk generously refers to homes being Armenian, and even to old buildings having been Armenian churches (something official Turkey will deny to this day.)

But Snow is also a very important book for understanding Islamism's hold on young minds in conditions of economic poverty, the appeal of a radical concept in a world rooted in centuries of hopelessness. For that reason I feel the book is an important work to be read by all.

NPR has some coverage of Pamuk's recent troubles with Turkey, and about his book. his Nobel bibliography recounts his other novels.