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Orhan Pamuk A Private Reading of André Gide’s Public Journal W HEN I WAS EIGHT, MY MOTHER GAVE ME A DIARY WITH A LOCK AND a key. It was made in Turkey in the early 1960s. The fact that this fancy notebook was intended as a “diary” at that time in Turkey was in itself interesting. Until I received my elegant green diaiy it had never occurred to me that I could have a private notebook of my own to write things in, and that I could lock it and put the key, probably the first I had possessed, in my pocket. It implied that I could produce, own, and control a secret text. A very private sphere indeed, which made the idea of writing interesting and encouraged me to write. Up to that time, the idea of privacy and writing had seemed to me to be completely contra­ dictory. One wrote for newspapers, for books, for publication I thought. It was as if the notebook with the lock on it was whispering to me: “Come, come, write something here and don’t show it to anyone.” That the habit of keeping diaries is not common in Islamic culture is something historians and literary historians remind us of every so often. Otherwise not much attention is paid to the subject. The Eurocentric historian sees this as an inadequacy, and sometimes relates it to concepts like private sphere, or insinuates that individual­ ity is curtailed by social pressure. As it can be observed from some annotated examples that have been published, diaries have probably being kept without any Western influence in many parts ofthe Islamic world. For the most part the authors Copyright © 2003 Orhan Pamuk. ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN SOCIAL RESEARCH VOL. 7 0 , NO. 3 (FALL 2 0 0 3 ) social research Vol 71 : No 3 : Fall 200 4 679 have kept these diaries for their own use, for recording and remember­ ing. They were not kept with any idea of writing for posterity, and since there was no tradition of annotating and publishing diaries they were destroyed, either deliberately or accidentally. At first glance, the idea of showing it to others or publishing it eliminates the privacy embodied in the notion of a diary. The idea of keeping a diaiy for publication suggests a certain artificiality and pseudo-privacy. On the other hand, it tends to expand the concept of the private sphere through the power of the writ­ ers and the publishers. André Gide was one of the first to do this. After the Second World War, in 1947, André Gide was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The decision was not surprise; the 78year -old Gide was at the height of his fame and reputation. In those years France was still seen as the center of world literature, and Gide as the greatest living French writer. His outspokenness, the vehemence with which he espoused political causes and the equal vehemence with which he abandoned them, and the endeavors he made to reveal the “sincerity of men,” whom he placed at the center of his intellectual world, had won him plenty of enemies and admirers. Among Turkish intellectuals, whose eyes were fixed with envy and yearning on Paris, Gide also had large numbers ofadmirers. The most nota­ ble of these, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, wrote an article for the republican and pro-Occidentalist newspaper Cumhuriyet when Gide was awarded the Nobel Prize. Before presenting some extracts from this article, I must make a few remarks about Tanpinar for those who know nothing about him. Tanpinar was a poet, essayist, and novelist 30 years younger than Gide. Today his work is foremost among the classics of modem Turkish literature. Not only leftists, modernists, and Occidentalists, but conser­ vatives, traditionalists, and nationalists acknowledge this status, and all frequently exploit Tanpinar’s reputation and prestige. Tanpinar as poet was influenced by Valéry, as novelist by Dostoevsky, and as essayist he learned much from Gide’s uninhibitedness and logic. But his attraction for Turkish readers, particularly intellectuals, and that which made his work indispensable in their eyes, was not that he was inspired by French literature, but that he was committed...


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