Havel at Columbia


Literature and Citizenship

Photo: Literature and Citizenship Arthur Danto and Orhan Pamuk
Nov 02
Miller Theater

Orhan Pamuk, the 2006 Nobel prize-winner for Literature, joins Arthur Danto for a discussion on Literature and Citizenship in the Miller Theatre Thursday November 2nd. This is the first event in the Havel at Columbia series.

Also available:


Is there a transcript available of the Nov. 2 Discussion?

I was wondering why there was no Q&A section. And also I was hoping to meet and talk to Orhan Pamuk after the conversation about his books. That wouldn't happen either. I really enjoyed his inspirational talk.

It was a pleasure to hear Mr. Pamuk speak last night. However, although Mr. Danto had some good questions, he seemed to be off the mark on a number of others. There were several questions I'd like to have asked Mr. Pamuk and I'm sure other audience members felt the same. For Mr. Mosher to cut off that possibility for us seemed a bit high handed and was a lost opportunity to speak more directly with one of the world's great authors and of course, a recent Nobel winner...I do hope audience questions will be part of your upcoming Havel events. Sincerely, Donna Drewes, Adj. Assoc Prof. of Humanities, NYU

Thanks for organizing such a great event. It was informative and gave an in depth insight to these two wonderful thinkers.


Very interesting evening: Danto was a fine foil and Pamuk was interestingly quirky.

I am wondering what the chances are of getting in to the Havel/Clinton evening? Or at least seeing it broadcast or re-broadcast? I would appreciate information on this.

Pamuk was well-spoken and intelligent. Danto seemed not to get it at some points, but I suspected he was just trying to draw Pamuk out. I was very pleased with this talk and now must get started on Pamuk's novels!!

The conversation was insightful and very entertaining! I was disappointed, however that the Q&A with the audience was cancelled at the end.

Literature and Citizenship. Hmmmmm. Walk into any corner bar across the country or any tea house in Turkey and you will discover almost immediately two of the greatest desires of humankind - to belong (citizenship) and to share your story (literature). What should have been an engaging conversation between two great minds regarding such basic human needs and their course through history seemed only a failed attempt at an awkward interview. This was not the first literary event I've attended where the topic of the evening is lost to the public reverence of the artist in attendance. Research, research, research. Do your homework. If you don't have time to read Orhan Pamuk's novels then don't discuss them. I'm sure he wouldn't mind finding a new topic to cover or referencing his own work when applicable. And if you're still interested in a little literature, citizenship and Poe, may I recommend Luis Fernando Verissimo's "Borges and the Eternal Orangutans". Thank you for letting me attend. I am very interested in the Havel at Columbia upcoming events.

Interesting to read these posts and find I was not the only one who found Mr. Danto slowed the conversation rather than facilitating it. Aside from his eloquent introduction of Mr. Pamuk, his best contribututions were those times he got out of the way and let Mr. Pamuk ramble on entertainingly. I too would have enjoyed a Q and A period except that in these kind of events, those with Q's take up valuable time with their own intros to often unfocused questions. Split the difference and have written questions submitted, with half a dozen or so picked at random to answer? Wonderful to find that Mr. Pamuk is grateful for the opportunity to do "nothing" with his life but "reading and writing" and revels in it.

I agree that a Q&A session would have been good, perhaps one in which a selection is made from written questions to avoid the "love-your-work-where-do-you-get-your-inspiration" questions or the three-minute oratorical statements about modern Turkey, Kurds, women, Islam, and the EU followed by "could you please comment?"
Clearly Mr. Pamuk had already thought a great deal about citizenship and literature (he couldn't have written Snow if he hadn't) and doubtless was answering some questions for the thousandth time. Nevertheless he took them seriously and made some excellent points, speaking as both a writer and a reader, about peripheralness and the canon in the context of citizenship. It was clear at the beginning that he was not going to talk about passport-oriented citizenship; rather, his points about his father and growing up in Istanbul emphasized identity-oriented citizenship, which (pace Pamuk's not wanting to be labelled a Turkish writer) is something that I think is particularly significant for people who identify somehow with Turkey (of whatever ethnicity they may be).

I thought Pamuk's comments on the "inferiority of the periphery" were illuminating, a way of understanding not only the mindset in European nations on the margins, but also for the muslim street in the middle east. The lack of
a Q&A was striking because we lost the opportunity to see Pamuk responding to questions from informed countrymen.

I too was disappointed that there was no Q&A. I think someone might have asked Mr. Pamuk if his unwillingness to discuss the Armenian issue was an example of self-censorship resulting from intimidation by Turkish law and, therefore, (1) a failure of citizenship, and (2) a failure of democratic institutions in Turkey, which is a major concern of the EU member states considering Turkey's admission to the EU. I understand Mr. Pamuk's unwillingness to again subject himself to threatening legal process in his country, but do both literature and citizenship suffer as a result?

Like many who have already posted here, I wanted a Q & A and like Donna Drewes found Mosher's decision to drop it "high handed." Also, I felt Danto talked too much; I was getting restless; Pamuk seemed to be getting restless, even irritated. I would've asked Pamuk: So how do you like teaching? Exhausting day job--or thought-provoking encounter? Also, I thought a rich discussion about how we categorize and assess literature could've developed from Pamuk's remarks that he doesn't want to be seen as a Turkish writer; that the U.S. has some kind of imperial cultural presence that casts all writing outside its geographical boundaries as peripheral--as somehow less transcendent "ethnic" writing. I have heard American writers complain about their writing being pigeonholed as "ethnic literature" rather than "Literature." How we "categorize" writing seems an important and interesting issue to discuss.
Adjunct lecturer, English Dept., Hunter College