The Books of My Numberless Dreams

The price and reward of committment

Posted on: March 20, 2007

INTERVIEWER

Your commitment to fiction has gotten you into trouble. It is likely to get you into further trouble. It has meant severing of emotional links. It’s a high price to pay.

PAMUK

Yes, but it’s a wonderful thing. When I’m traveling, and not alone at my desk, after a while I get depressed. I’m happy when I’m alone in a room and inventing. More than a commitment to the art or to the craft, which I am devoted to, it is a commitment to being alone in a room. I continue to have this ritual, believe that what I am doing now will one day be published, legitimizing my daydreams. I need solitary hours at a desk with good paper and a fountain pen like some people need a pill for their health. I am committed to these rituals.

INTERVIEWER

For whom, then, are you writing?

PAMUK

As life gets shorter, you ask yourself that question more often. I’ve written seven novels. I would love to write another seven novels before I die. But then, life is short What about enjoying it more? Sometimes I have to really force myself. Why am I doing it? What is the meaning of all of it? First, as I said, it’s an instinct to be alone in a room. Second, there’s an almost boyish competitive side in me that wants to attempt to write a nice book again. I believe less and less in eternity for authors. We are reading very few of the books written two hundred years ago. Things are changing so fast that today’s books will probably be forgotten in a hundred years. Very few will be read. In two hundred years, perhaps five books written today will be alive. Am I sure I’m writing one of those five? But is that the meaning of writing? Why should I be worried about being read two hundred years later? Shouldn’t I be worried about living more? Do I need the consolation that I will be read in the future? I think of all these things and I continue to write. I don’t know why. But I never give up. This belief that your books will have an effect in the future is the only consolation you have to get pleasure in this life.

From “The Art of Fiction” interview with Orhan Pamuk, The Paris Review, Fall/Winter 2005

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