Sunday, January 3, 2010

Jetlag, Global Literature, and Pamuk at Midnight

Suffering from jet lag, which is the usual punishment for those trying to live across multiple time zones, I spent some time listening to the always-fabulous (though sometimes too ingratiating) Michael Silverblatt and his interviews of also always-fabulous writers on KCRW’s Bookworm. A two part interview of Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish Nobel Prize winner in literature, is well worth ceding a bit of sleep. And sorry, but I had to include these pictures of Pamuk--he is adorable.

Their conversation used Pamuk’s most recent novel (The Museum of Innocence) as a starting point to discuss the problem of national versus global literatures. Reacting to last year’s comments by one of the Nobel panel that the US “does not have a global literature worthy of winning the Nobel Prize,” Silverblatt said that perhaps it is because in the writings of US authors such as Don Delillo (e.g., "White Noise"), “the city has become a place full of images and slogans rather than people,” implying that a lack of specificity is part of the problem. I was confused by his statement as it seemed to run counter to the complaint that US literature is too inward looking. Pamuk disagreed, however, saying that “the human heart is the same everywhere,” and that “American literature is not so different than other literatures; it captures the essence of American life.” Though I'm not sure this was an endorsement given Silverblatt's characterization. They did agree that novels (and I suggest poems) are ‘museums of everyday life’ and ‘handbooks to a life that is and was.’
Anyway, Pamuk also said that to consider your audience, whether local or global, is to “poison the work.” Do the work. Ignore the audience as best one can, especially those hailing from Sweden. Anyway, I can only ask myself as I type this blog and my poems in the middle of another Israeli night, what audience are they talking about?

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