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Sitting in his publisher Knopf's offices on Friday afternoon, fresh from a public radio interview about his first nonfiction title, "Other Colors," out now, Pamuk says cheerily, "All these friends of mine call this work — this is fun."
Accepting the Nobel Prize for literature, as he did last year in Stockholm's City Hall before a 1,000-plus crowd, now that's daunting. A remnant of that experience, the lyrical acceptance speech he delivered named "My Father's Suitcase," is featured in "Other Colors." Major awards aside, the author is most often inspired by the everyday occurrences that others would blindly let pass. Chapter titles like "Seagull in the Rain," "My Wristwatches," "To Look Out the Window" and "Frankfurter" don't exactly seize the reader.
"The challenge of being a literary writer is to see things differently, to look at an empty living room, a chair, an empty wall or a flat, uninteresting landscape and to have your imagination work over some things. James Joyce called these moments of epiphany," he said.
That doesn't mean Pamuk is afraid to tackle weightier subjects. In "In Kars and Frankfurt," he hints at improving mankind, "By putting ourselves in another's shoes, by using our imaginations to shed our identities, we are able to set ourselves free."
In fact, liberty, whether it be in the traditional sense or freedom of speech, is something Turkey's most famous writer has been outspoken about and subsequently chastised for in his homeland for years. In 2005, he blasted his country's acquired amnesia about the 1915 Armenian genocide and for suppressing the Kurdish minority. Still, Pamuk does not see himself as a political figure. "I see myself as a writer who has fallen into the political side sometimes, based on some comments I made that were taboo. In Turkey, there are so many things we can't talk about. I don't have a political agenda. I have political ideas. But very few go into my novels."