The Swedish Academy that chooses the Nobel Laureates in Literature said Monday it was following the case against Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, who is under investigation for allegedly insulting modern Turkey’s founder in his latest novel.
In a brief statement, the Swedish Academy said it expects Turkey to respect its international commitments and that it was monitoring the “treatment” that Pamuk – who won the literature prize in 2006 – was receiving in the country.
Turkish authorities launched an investigation into Pamuk earlier this year after a lawyer based in Izmir, western Turkey, claimed that the author insulted Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in his latest novel, “Nights of Plague.” The lawyer claimed that passages in the novel were in violation of laws that protect Ataturk’s memory.
The investigation initially resulted in a decision not to prosecute, but the lawyer appealed the decision and the probe has been reopened.
Pamuk and his publishing company, Yapi Kredi Yayincilik, have denied claims that the novel insults Ataturk.
“In the ‘Nights of Plague,’ which I worked on for five years, there is no disrespect for the heroic founders of the nation states,” Bianet news website quoted Pamuk as saying. “On the contrary, the novel was written with respect and admiration for these libertarian and heroic leaders.”
Turks still revere Ataturk, who carved out modern Turkey from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire in the wake of World War I.
Before winning the Nobel prize, Pamuk stood trial in Turkey on charges of “insulting Turkishness” after telling a Swiss newspaper that 1 million Armenians were killed on Turkish territory in the early 20th century.
Historians estimate that, in the last days of the Ottoman Empire, up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks in what is widely regarded as the first genocide of the 20th century.
While Turkey concedes that many died in that era, the country has rejected the term genocide, saying the death toll is inflated and the deaths resulted from civil unrest during the Ottoman Empire’s collapse.
The trial against Pamuk was later dismissed over a technicality. [AP]