chapter  10
13 Pages

Reading Orientalism in Istanbul: Edward Said and Orhan Pamuk


Countless critics have taken issue with Edward Said’s ideas, but the roll call of writers who have engaged with Said in their creative work is less extensive. Heading the list is the Turkish novelist and Nobel Laureate, Orhan Pamuk. Although many of Pamuk’s novels are preoccupied with the exchange and interaction between East and West, I want to argue that it is his memoir, Istanbul (2005), a deeply personal account of his home city, that functions as a kind of riposte to Said. In this chapter, I offer a ‘contrapuntal’ reading of Orientalism and Istanbul, in the hope of illuminating both texts and fi nding a new way to think about Said’s contribution to cultural criticism.1 I propose to highlight some of the parallels and divergences between the two writers and their texts, to suggest how a reading of Istanbul offers us a new perspective on Said’s arguments and insights. It seems appropriate to adopt Said’s own model of contrapuntal reading, exemplifi ed in Culture and Imperialism (1993), which allows texts to play off one other, and analyses works in the light of other histories and later interpretations.2 The approach seems justifi ed also by Pamuk’s own practice. In Istanbul, Pamuk writes of defi ning his own position ‘in constant and-sometimes fi erce-dialogue’ with other writers.3