Small Talk: Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk, 60, won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006. Born in Istanbul, he studied architecture and later journalism. His first novel, Cevdet Bey and His Sons, was published in 1982. In 2005, Pamuk was put on trial after criticising Turkey’s human rights record; the charges were dropped. He lives in Istanbul but also teaches comparative literature and writing at Columbia University, New York.

What book changed your life?

There isn’t a single book ... but all of Dostoevsky, Borges, Tolstoy, Mann, Calvino, Nabokov; these are the writers that changed my life.

When did you know you were going to be a writer?

It wasn’t planned. Between the ages of seven and 22 my family thought I’d be a painter. Suddenly, a screw came loose in my head and I started to write a novel, which became Cevdet Bey and His Sons (1982).

What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t look at emails, internet or newspapers before 1pm. I wake at 7am, eat fruit, drink tea or coffee, and read what I’ve achieved, or not achieved, the previous day. Then I take a shower, and work on my next sentence until 1pm. After I’ve done emails and so on I write again from 3pm until 8pm; then I socialise.

Where do you write best?

My home is attached to a study – in fact my home is my study and I have a little room to sleep in. I need to write looking on to the street or a landscape. Looking at reality from some distance gives me romantic visions.

What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?

After writing The Museum of Innocence (2008) I opened an actual museum in Istanbul. I collected the objects myself.

Who would you most like to sit next to at a dinner party?

García Márquez or Borges or Dostoevsky – and the most charming or intellectual woman in the world.

What are you scared of?

Organised cruelty and organised misunderstanding.

What keeps you awake at night?

I have the legacy of my father and his nocturnal automatic waking up. But I like those periods. I immediately have a different vision of humanity and my life.

What would you change about yourself?

I would be pleased if someone would invent a pill to remove my impatience, moodiness, and occasional bursts of anger. But if they did I wouldn’t be able to write my novels, or paint.

What book do you wish you’d written?

I’m happy with my books. Wishing I’d written other ones is like wishing you had a different faith, language, mind.

Orhan Pamuk’s second novel, ‘Silent House’, is published in English for the first time by Faber & Faber.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from and redistribute by email or post to the web.