And so Nobel Prize-winning Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk delivered the first of his Norton lectures yesterday afternoon in Harvard's Sanders Theater. Pamuk, the author of The White Castle, The Black Book, My Name is Red, Snow, Istanbul: Memories and the City, The Museum of Innocence, and many others, spoke primarily of what makes the novel a unique form and how we are to determine what happens to our minds as we read them. Pamuk, who started out as a painter, elaborated on Schiller's distinction between the naive and the reflective poet as it applies to his own experience with novels, both the Turkish ones he read in his youth (he once "raged" against those naive, unselfconscious storytellers as Schiller raged against the serene, untroubled genius of Goethe) as well as the classics that have shaped him as a novelist and as a person (Anna Karenina is his all-time favorite, we learn; he quoted extensively from the passage where Anna reads an English novel on the train back to St. Petersburg). He offered as well a set of nine points on what distinguishes the novel from other forms, the last and most forceful of which being that novels offer (and we seek in them) "a secret center," a buried object that we feel compelled to search out via clues in the narrative. This, of course, provoked questions about where exactly lies the periphery and how are we to locate that bit (hey, it's an audience of academics!), which Pamuk, a self-described autodidact, promised to address in future lectures.
The lectures, we should point out, are free and open to the public, and there are five more coming; here's the schedule, courtesy of the Humanities Center (each lecture begins at 4pm):
Norton Lectures: Orhan Pamuk on "The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist"
Tuesday, September 22 - "What Happens to Us as We Read Novels"
Tuesday, September 29 - "Mr. Pamuk, Did You Really Live All of This?"
Tuesday, October 13 - "Character, Time, Plot"
Tuesday, October 20 - "Pictures and Things"
Monday, October 26 - "Museums and Novels"
Tuesday, November 3 - "The Center"
||| Norton Lectures at the Humanities Center (PDF link)