and ballistic missile programme. on friday, the un imposed new sanctions. analysts have told the bbc they are unlikely to be effective and are largely symbolic. pyongyang has described them as an "act of war". evacuation of critically ill patients in a besieged area of syria has begun. it's understood four have been moved from eastern ghouta to a hospital in damascus — the first of 29 to be transported for medical treatment. the un has pleaded with the syrian government to allow about 500 to leave. votes are being counted in liberia, in the presidential election run—off between the former international football star, george weah, and the current vice president, joseph boakai. there are hopes for the first smooth transfer of power in 73 years. now on bbc news — hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm steven sackur. in this age of the internet, we've come to expect instant access
to knowledge but real deep understanding takes longer to acquire and to share. my guest today is one of the world's most acclaimed novelists, nobel prize winner, orham pamuk. he's lived almost all of his life in istanbul, writing stories about turkey which have, over decades, painted a vivid picture of a country and society pulled between east and west, past and future. what is the key to understanding orham pamuk‘s turkey? orham pamuk, welcome to hardtalk. very pleased to be here. i want to start with the book, the novel that has just been published in english, the red—haired woman, your latest. it is built around relationships between fathers and sons. and ijust wonder why you were so drawn to that theme? in 1988, i was finishing one of my novels, during summer, and in the land next to me, an oldish man and his disciple started digging a well, and i was writing my novel and paying attention to them.
after a while, they asked, "sir, can we have some water?" "can we have some electricity?" and a sort of relation developed and in the end, before they left, i asked them to do an interview, that's how sometimes i operate. but what stayed with me was two things, actually. the father, like older traditional — and they were digging a well with their own hands using an axe... he was like the master well digger. he was a master well digger. something that we have in istanbul since byzantium. sometimes people find byzantine coins in old wells, in istanbul, so they were following this tradition as the tradition was coming to an end, like many, many things i have seen in my life. what i observed was this — that master old well digger was shouting and shouting at the boy, and sometimes teaching him things, ordering him things in a very strong, i would say, authoritarian voice. we approached the novel fast.
it was rough, hard, cruel — a cruel father, i thought. but culturally, i also paid attention to their daily lives. they had a portable tv, as in the novel. they built a tent, as in the novel. but the fatherly figure was both scolding, angry, cruel, authoritarian, but at times, after hours, when the work is finished, very tender, very attentive, very elegant to the son and this left a mark on me because perhaps — i was raised with an absent father, a father who never scolded me, who was never a freudian, so to speak, father to me... and why was that? it did strike me, from the very beginning, knowing a little about your life story that, when you address the issue of fathers and sons, the balance between sort of being the guide, the authority figure, but also the caring and loving figure... and it was obvious that the son
liked him in the end. indeed, but you didn't have that because your father, as i understand it, he quit the family over in istanbul for a long period to go and try and find his writer's voice... he disappeared for a while. yes, he went to paris, following the footsteps ofjean—paul sartre, in paris, going to hotels, reading his diaries, which he gave me... did you feel betrayed by that? no, and when you are a child you don't feel betrayed. also since my father was not a freudian father, a father that perhaps baudelaire would have hated oppressing his son, he always said, "i am your best friend," and in fact, my freudian father may be my brother who taught me things, who was stronger. my father always had fun with us and treated us as if — me and my brother — geniuses, never suppressed us. while, on the other hand, this other father was more attentive to the boy than my father. so your book raises this fascinating question about the way
in which individuals develop, the balance between being taught and disciplined and finding your own path, your own identity, and individual personality. you seem to suggest that if the character in the book, cem, had had an active father, throughout his life, he might have been different and he might actually have struggled to find his own voice more. i wonder if you feel that about this your very self. i am influenced by my father first because he had a good library and he was continuously reading books but never telling me that you have to read this, you have to read that, just being an example without doing anything and also my father — this is more important — my father's heroes were not as in most of the time in turkey, soldiers, bullies, religious notables, political notables, statesman. but my father's heroes were jean—paul sartre
or albert camus or other fashionable but deep philosophical authors of the time and i thought, i have to be like that. but he never said to me, "you have to be like that." in the end, in those years, i was raised to be a painter, the family, everyone around me, when i went to primary school, said, "oh, he has so much talent, he will be a painter." i thought up until the age of 22, i would be a painter in the future but as i wrote in my book, istanbul, a screw was loose in my head and suddenly i switched from painting to literature but everyone is asking me, was it hard? no, i prepared myself to the solitary life of a writer. i was not prepared to give orders or take orders from others during this 15 years when i was raised to be a painter and ready for the artistic or literary life. it's a life you've chosen which is truly individualistic, very much so, solitary, even.
but i come back to this thought about fathers. i seems to me, all orhan pamuk novels work on many different levels and many of them are somewhat allegorical. it seems to me this relationship between the well digger and his apprentice, who sees him as a father figure for the absent father that he never really had, it is also an allegory, it seems, for turkey and a desire in turkey to look up to a figure of authority and the balance between individualism and authoritarianism in your country and today, you have president erdogan, who perhaps would like to see himself as the father of the nation, was that in your night your mind as you wrote this book about fathers? at the beginning, it was not in my mind. that this story of fathers and sons stayed with me many, many years, and then i thought about it, and i have, i must confess, projects like that all around me. i did the interview,
someone typed it up, and i carried it with me, even in my travels, thinking what to do with it. then, after a while, i decided to write a book comparing sophocles‘ oedipus rex, which is about killing the father without knowing it, and ferdowsi, the most distinguished persian classic, which also influenced the whole ottoman empire, ferdowsi's so—called book of kings, shahnameh, in which there is a sea of stories in which there is one particular story, rostam and sohrab, which almost mirror—images, mirror—reflects oedipus and his father... a western classic sort of myth which is the son killing the father by accident, and then you have an eastern persian similar mythical story in which, in the end, the father kills the son. would it be right to say that
what you portray is, again, a lot of allegory is involved, but you use these two myths, one that comes classically from the west, one that comes from persia and the east, you show the way that both play out in the story of the characters in your book and in essence, what you seem to be saving is that turkey remains pooled in these different directions. western tradition, eastern tradition, somehow finding a path between the two but is it your feeling that right now, the eastern tradition, to use the allegory, the father kills the son, the authority figure is the survivor, is that you're feeling about turkey today, that authoritarianism is... to answer your previous question where you said, is this an accident, coincidence, that you wrote this? no, the story stayed with me but i thought, my god, then associating the father who kills his son, then i can also write this book in such a way that alludes
to what is happening in turkey. yes, turkey is increasingly getting authoritarian. though i had this story, the well digger and his disciple, a desire to compare sophocles and ferdowsi, but yes, in the last two years, when i was busy with this book, i was thinking also, i am alluding and writing almost a fictional enquiry into the roots of middle eastern, asian, muslim authoritarianism. orhan pamuk, let's be honest — do you have to write in this form of allegory and almost code because if you wrote directly about what you see happening in turkey today, you would run the risk of frankly censorship, repression and, as we've seen with some writers, even imprisonment? good question. i never had, even in this horrible state that we are politically in, and maybe i will explain why i'm calling it horrible,
you know, everyone knows that some 15 months ago, there was a horrible attempt to do a military coup and after that came a purge and during the purge, 130,000 people were fired from theirjobs and these people cannot go back to their work and some of them even cannot work in private business... hundreds ofjournalists and writers and academics locked up. and 50,000 people are jailed and the government needs more prisons and around 170 journalists are injail, this is the situation of the country and i'm writing my novel in this situation but even in this situation, i don't think i will ever have a problem with any novel that i want. this never happened to me. in turkey, not to anyone but... why is that? is it because you self—censor? no, no, no.
is it because you are so careful in selecting your subject matter, your characters and your words, with a knowledge of how to sort of send messages without upsetting the system ? no, if i want to send messages like that, as we are going to do now, i am always in trouble with my interviews. i am always outspoken in my interviews. and when we said 170 journalists are injail, some of them my friends, and they are also novelists, but they are not in jail for writing their novels. they are injailfor making political commentary. writing novels, say in stalin's time, in russia, we had a lot of reparation, a lot of separation, people self censor, but people self—censor in interviews, in political comments. you go fast to jail if you criticise the government too much,
if you attack erdogan too much, you may end up in a jail. but i never intend to write a novel attacking a president. i never wrote to attack, so to speak. so in no sense do you fill creatively paralysed by the current situation? no, but i am paralysed, if the word is right, i'm repressed, angry, confused, sometimes you feel guilty because i am out, sometimes feel angry that i have to do more... do you actually literally feel guilty that you are free, when some of the your writer colleagues are in prison? sure. dostoevsky said that we are responsible for everything and i think this is the moral, writerly thing. and then what do you do? you look at what the other writers are doing, so they're, for example, going to courts, the doors of the courts, or back in. i also did, for example — there is this prominent intellectual, murat belge, whom i respect, he had a case — so i went there, i am there, it makes a difference. but in the end, let me tell
you this, the biggest turkish newspaperjust before the referendum we had i think in march or april, asked to do an interview with me. i was very happy, this is the biggest turkish newspaper and they're going to publish my views and i'm going to say, no to the referendum, no to erdogan — very happy. we did a nice interview but then, just before the interview, the editor—in—chief, who is sort of a friend, called me to say, "i am sorry, we can't publish this" and really, i cannot accuse the editor too much, they are pressured so much and, in the end, they're all my friends. we are in the same atmosphere and i couldn't address my turkish readers. therefore, what fascinates me is you... this atmosphere you talk about is so constraining, as a campaigner, as a man who cares about your national life, and yet you are telling me that all of those constraints, the anger and guilt you feel, it does not affect you when you go to your writing room,
wherever it is, istanbul, the building you have occupied for a long time, and you can shed all of that frustration and anger and constraint and write as free as a bird? not as free as a bird. but let me tell you about what the product of this repressive authoritarian atmosphere is to a writer who is more concerned about the beauty. first, you don't have to read newspapers until 2pm because it spoils your day, you get angry. and second, this kind of atmosphere makes me work harder, fear and repression. perhaps like in early years when my family did not want me to be a writer and they all accused me of being a bohemian. i worked so hard in these years because i felt so guilty about something. again in the last 15—16 months, i am working a lot, why,
perhaps to avoid these problems. if you are living in a terrible age, an non—democratic, threatening, menacing situation,you feel happy. could you write your books anywhere else but istanbul? ican. i did that. i teach at university in columbia one semester each year. i wrote there. there was a time, we did an interview ten years ago, remember, i was a semi—exile... we ran into some problems for a while because of things you said relevant to both the armenia and kurdish issues. the turkish government sought to charge you and you had to leave the country. in the end, it seems to me you always go home for creative inspiration. not only that, i also don't
want to go to europe.. ..america, and criticise it from a distance. i don't want that. and there is the reality that feeds my optimism, perhaps, that, don't forget that president erdogan‘s polls are going down and the opposition is up to 49%. and it may go up. the opposition are 49% now. it is promising. you don't run out of a sea of trouble, you don't run away, when the opposition is getting 49%! and i am optimistic about the situation, not because, there is so much repression, so much repression, also, in the last referendum, i think the referendum was unfair. that is, there was unfair government propaganda. in a way, they were taking our tax money and making propaganda for their party. but in the end, the results were objective. though it was unfair, the results were objective. if they continue to work, i will be there and i will be part of it. that is what i think. let me get back to one aspect of this book,
the red head woman, which strikes me as very relevant to your own place in turkey. they key relationship really in the book is between mahmoud, the master welldigger, and cem, the assistant, the student. disciple. cem comes from a westernised family, his father is a leftist, and he goes to university and he becomes a property developer. you have the east and tradition juxtaposed with a western mentality and individualistic liberal sort of background. most people would assume yourself coming from a middle—class family, who spent time in america, you are a modernist in turkey, most would assume you identify completely with the western tradition of turkey. i do. do you?
the implication in the book is that turkey draws from all of its history and culture and its different tradition. so i wonder what do you draw from tradition? i identify and i believe in western political values. what are they? in the end it is represented by the french revolution slogan, liberte, fraternite, egalite. in turkey we lack liberte. some people even claim, pro—govermnent newspapers, they are saying our democracy is not european, we have turkish democracy. it seems they are trying to invent a democracy without free speech. i don't think it will work but i am there. i am at least saying this to you, to other journalists, in turkey, outside of turkey. in turkey, the don't print, but hey listen somehow. let me talk to you about istanbul. it is almost like it is a character in the book because you describe evocatively how istanbul changes over a0 years.
you know, where they dig the well in the first place is a little village outside the city. by the end of the book it is just another suburb is sucked up by the city with industrial zones and high rises and condos and everything else. has the change in istanbul changed the people and the character of the city? good question. ok, first, the change, and this is the success of erdogan, the change in the last 15 yearsis bigger than in the first 50 years of my life. it is key to his success as much as religion is. but on the other hand, this party is saying they are conservative. and they are not. these are just buildings and mosques, they are not conserving anything. they are destroying everything. i would love to ask them, you are conservatives, it is not only religious buildings that should be preserved, but the old istanbul you were so lovingly talking about. this book goes into that,
money and politics combined in construction businesses, and the leading party, the ruling party, people who are close around this benefiting from this. do you feel like this is still your city? it is. it is geographically. i overlook the entrance. i have a great view. it is changing, yes. he hills overlooking the bosporus, they are preserving at least the hills overlooking the bosporus, the gardens, but behind that, all the high rises are grazing there, and it is changing. but i cannot say it is not my city. yes. it is also self—imposed, my mission,
i don't want to be a nostalgic middle—class westernised secular person. they only look at the newcomers, immigrants, "i don't want to look, i don't want to even see you." "you are destroying it. just like in germany, they don't see why they need labour and also, they look down upon them. from the beginning i do not want to belong to my class. i betrayed my class because i want to see the totality of the nation in an ethical way. only someone of your class could say that kind of thing. yes! that is the irony of being so full of self—awareness and education, that you can talk about not wanting to be of your class, you are quintessentially of your class. and that is the problem perhaps for some people in turkey. no matter how hard you try, you cannot be anything other than what you are, which is one of the elite. it started small in that book. 65% of turkey's population is not political. they wear some kind of headgear, a scarf, for example. in the early 2000s they did not
allow these people to universities. and then they told the secular parties they would get votes from the people. they paved the way for the success of erdogan‘s party for their cruel authoritarian attitudes. and now erdogan is getting even more authoritarian now! sometimes, whenever these two sides clash, i can find a space in between to talk. if they are happy together, i am afraid. are you happy in turkey today? i am a happy novelist. but i can, first, never be happy in life. when i am too happy i become sleepy. i need to run around and fight people. i have ideas, i have projects. iam! i will be even unhappier, that is the right answer, that i may not be happy, but i will be even unhappier outside of turkey. if they had a decent democracy i would be very happy, no matter where i am. unfortunately, it seems that we are not having it, and we are not going to have it
for some time, because i cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. but i keep, i persist, in staying in my country and being part of what is happening there now. that is a great thought to end on. orhan pamuk, thank you so much for being on hardtalk. it is a pleasure to have you on the programme again. thank you so much. thank you. hello there. some of us have already seen snow already this festive season. for a few more, we're starting wednesday on a wintry note. we have an area of low pressure.
this swirl of cloud drifting northwards in the cold air. while the system is delivering rain, mixed in with that, sleet and snow drifting across southern and south—eastern areas to start the day. further north and west, especially, northern england, northern ireland, scotland, potential for icy stretches with clear skies through the night. through the day, scotland, northern ireland, western areas of england and wales, that will have the best of the sunshine. towards the south and east, struggling to improve through the day. skies improving for the likes of oxfordshire and berkshire. but the london area will stay pretty cloudy. across kent, up into east anglia, here, outbreaks of rain sleet and snow mixed in right through the afternoon, coupled with a strong northerly wind. that combination could actually cause a little bit of disruption. but across northern england, and the heart of scotland, a fine and crisp
and cold sunny afternoon. some wintry showers filtering down into northern scotland. showers filtering into northern ireland. three degrees in belfast. a scattering of showers in wales. the west midlands and parts of the south—west as well. sunny spells in between. temperatures, four degrees in plymouth. a cold and fairly breezy day wherever you are. wednesday night, staying cold. temperatures widely dipping below freezing. again, that will lead to some icy stretches. still one or two showers in northern fringes particularly. temperatures close to freezing, perhaps below in some spots. thursday, this bump in the isobars, the ridge of high pressure, promising a decent day for many. yes, a cold and frosty start. but we will see some good spells of sunshine. still some wintry
showers in the north. then a change to the south—west. clouding over, with outbreaks of rain temporarily. snow on the leading edge, especially on the high ground. cold at this stage, six degrees at best. during friday these outbreaks of rain will slide northwards. a breezy day. notice, down towards the south—west. temperatures just beginning to climb. 10 degrees in plymouth. taking that that trend with us as we go to the weekend. temperatures climbing into double digits in places. but there'll be a lot of cloud, it'll often be windy, and there will be outbreaks of rain at times. this is bbc news. i'm mike embley. efforts to evacuate a group of critically ill syrians from the rebel—held area of east ghouta begin. counting is under way in the run—off presidential election in liberia. a fireworks display in cuba goes horribly wrong — doctors fear for the lives of some of the injured. snowed under — a christmas storm dumps record amounts on some us states but it's not all fun and games. the international committee