Orhan Pamuk
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Literary Arts

Orhan Pamuk

Past Event: Monday, October 15, 2007

At Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

Sponsored by Stoel Rives, LLP.

Orhan Pamuk was born in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1952 to a prosperous, secular, middle-class family who expected him to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an engineer. He wanted to be a painter. After graduating from the prestigious Robert College, he settled on architecture as his field of study at Istanbul Technical University. Pamuk later studied journalism at Istanbul University, until one day he dropped out of school, locked himself in his bedroom, and began to write.

In that room in his mother’s house, where he lived until he was 30, Pamuk taped pictures of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy to the wall, and the work he produced bears their influence. His stories spin big tales, drawing from both Eastern and Western cultural and religious traditions, blending classical storytelling with cultural critique. And, while he sees himself as a fiction writer with no political agenda, Pamuk’s novels have struck a chord in Turkey and abroad. One of his translators, Güneli Gun, has noted, “Pamuk is the champion of educated New Turks who yearn for a legitimate place in the world of ideas. His work meets the West on its own terms, resonating with philosophic and aesthetic concerns that go beyond national boundaries.” Nonetheless, as an American reviewer in The New York Times puts it, “Older Turkish intellectuals bred on Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s secularist dogma accuse him of playing with religion; Islamists accuse him of blasphemy; old-time leftists accuse him of cashing in.”

In 2005 criminal charges were brought against Pamuk for talking to a Swiss newspaper reporter about the killing of 30,000 Kurds and one million Armenians in Anatolia in 1915—a time in Turkish history that he said “nobody dares to talk about.” Pamuk was charged by the Turkish government with “insulting Turkishness” and insulting Turkey’s armed forces. José Saramago, Gabriel García Marquez, Günter Grass, Umberto Eco, Carlos Fuentes, Juan Goytisolo, John Updike, and Mario Vargas Llosa, along with Amnesty International, PEN America, and others, responded by issuing statements decrying a violation of human rights. The charges came at a time when the European Union was considering Turkey’s membership, and the EU Parliament sent a delegation to observe the trial. The charges were dropped.

A bestselling novelist from the beginning in his native Turkey, it was not until his third book, The White Castle (translated in 1992), that Pamuk made his international breakthrough. His entire oeuvre spans six novels, a screenplay, a collection of essays, and a city portrait, Istanbul: Memories and the City (2006), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Other Colors: Essays and a Story (2007) is his latest work. Pamuk has garnered numerous other accolades and awards, including the Prix Médicis Etranger in 2005 for Snowand the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2003 for My Name is Red. In 2006 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Pamuk divides his time between Istanbul and New York where he teaches at Columbia University. Currently a Fellow with Columbia’s Committee on Global Thought, he also holds appointments in the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures Department and at the School of the Arts. This academic year he will jointly teach a comparative literature class with the noted professor of German and comparative literature, Andreas Huyssen.

Excerpt from Snow (2004)
“I’m going to ask a favor now,” said Muhtar. “In a moment these men are going to come upstairs and take us off to the station. They won’t arrest you, they’ll just take your statement and let you go. You can go back to your hotel, and in the evening Turgut Bey will invite you to dinner and you’ll join him at his table. Of course his devoted daughters will be there too. So what I’d like is for you to say the following to ?pek. Are you listening to me? Tell ?pek that I want to marry her again! It was a mistake for me to ask her to cover herself in accordance with Islamic law. Tell her I’m through acting like a jealous provincial husband and that I’m shamed and sorry for the pressures I put on her during our marriage!”

“Haven’t you already said these things to her?”

“I have, but I got nowhere. It’s possible that she didn’t believe me, seeing as I’m the district head of the Prosperity Party. But you’re a different sort of man; you’ve come all the way from Istanbul, all the way from Germany even. If you tell her, she’ll believe it.”

“Seeing as you’re the district head of the Prosperity Party, isn’t it going to cause you political difficulties if your wife isn’t covering herself?”

“With God’s permission I’m going to win the election in four days’ time and become the mayor,” said Muhtar. “But it’s far more important to me that you tell ?pek how sorry I am; I’ll probably still be behind bars. Brother, could you do this for me?”

Ka had a moment of indecision. Then he said, “Yes, I will.”

Selected Work
The White Castle (1991)
The Black Book (1994)
The New Life (1997)My Name is Red (2001)
Snow (2004)
Istanbul: Memories and the City (2005)
Other Colors: Essays and a Story (2007)

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, the largest event space at Benaroya Hall. 

Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

By Car

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5 via Westbound I-90
    Take the 2C exit for I-5 North. Follow signs for Madison Street/Convention Place and merge right onto Seventh Avenue. Turn left onto Madison Street. Proceed three blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue four blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Public Transit (Bus & Light Rail)

Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).


The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. ChargePoint charging stations are available for electric vehicles. Visit the Benaroya Hall website for event pricing.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.


Open Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where a captioning screen displaying the words that are spoken or sung is placed on stage. This option is present at every event at Benaroya Hall in our 2021/22 Season.

Closed Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where captioning displays the words that are spoken or sung at the bottom of the video during an online event. Captioning is available for all online events; click the “CC” button to view captions during the event.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are devices that people with hearing loss use in conjunction with their hearing device (hearing aids or cochlear implants). Benaroya Hall has an infrared hearing system, which transmits sound by light beams. Headsets are available in The Boeing Company Gallery coat check and the Head Usher stations in both lobbies.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals for both in-person and online events. To make a request for interpretation, please contact us at boxoffice@lectures.org or 206.621.2230×10, or select “Sign Language Interpretation” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process and we will contact you to confirm details. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

Wheelchair Accessible Seating and Accessible Restrooms are available in all sections at our venues, and our venues are fully accessible to ticket holders with physical mobility concerns. Among other features, Benaroya Hall has designated parking spaces adjacent to elevators in their parking garage. Elevators with Braille signage go to all levels within the Hall. To reserve seating for a specific mobility concern, you may select “Wheelchair Accessible or Alternative Seating Options” during ticket checkout, and we will contact you to confirm details. For more details on their accessibility features, click here.

Guide and service dogs are welcome.

Gender neutral restrooms are available.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services at our venues, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive. Our Patron Services Manager is available at boxoffice@lectures.org, or Tuesday-Friday, from 12 noon–5 p.m., at 206.621.2230×10.

For more accessibility information, please head to lectures.org/accessibility. If you would like to make accessibility arrangements you do not see listed here, please contact our box office or select “Other Accommodations” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process, and we will contact you to confirm details.