Print Friendly and PDF
only search

Freedom to write: Orhan Pamuk, Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie

About the authors
Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa in 1939. She is the author of more than thirty internationally acclaimed works of fiction, poetry and critical essays. Her books have been translated into numerous languages and she has been awarded many literary awards and honours from various countries. Her tenth novel, The Blind Assassin, won the Booker Prize and the International Association of Crime Writers' Dashiell Hammett Award. Other books by Margaret Atwood shortlisted for the Booker Prize include The Handmaid's Tale, Cat's Eye and Alias Grace. Margaret Atwood has been inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She has been awarded the Norwegian Order of Literary Merit, the French Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and is a Foreign Honorary Member for Literature of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She currently lives in Toronto, and her website is at
Orhan Pamuk has been described as Turkey’s "greatest living novelist". His works have been translated into over 40 languages. In 2003 he won the International IMPAC award for My Name is Red. His 2004 novel Snow has met with similar acclaim. His most recent book, Istanbul, is a personal history of his native city. His website is at
Salman Rushdie is a Booker Prize winner, a leading post-colonial literary figure and a prominent activist for freedom of speech.

The "Freedom to Write" lecture took place on Tuesday 25 April as the first of many events in the PEN New York World Voices festival. For more information see

Discussed: Günter Grass and conflict, the ruthless limits set on free expression, Arthur Miller and Harold Pinter’s trip to Istanbul, the solidarity of writers, the inextricable bonds between free expression and dignity, internal civil wars, the connection between apples and sex, similarities between children and novelists, the "Dixie Chick" effect, the path from wannabe painters to great novelists.

Listen to the full event (63.19mins)
High bandwidth: 128kbps / Low bandwidth: 64kbps

Part 1: Introduction by Salman Rushdie

In which Salman Rushdie talks about Günther Grass, "Group 47" and dialogue between America and the rest of the world.

"We now stand at a time when a different kind of conflict, which is as much a cultural and intellectual conflict as a physical conflict, engulfs us all. [A kind of conflict] in which it's very difficult to know how to act for the best, and in which we feel that language is often used for the service of untruths rather truth. And in which it may well be important for writers to begin to renew our commitment to language and to truth."

Listen to part 1, the introduction by Salman Rushdie (7.51mins)
High bandwidth: 128kbps / Low bandwidth: 64kbps

Part 2: Orhan Pamuk’s "Freedom to Write" lecture

In which Orhan Pamuk talks about freedom of expression, and the legacy of the Iraq war.

"I always have difficulty expressing my political judgments in a clear, emphatic and strong way. I feel pretentious; as if I am saying things which are not quite true … this is because I know I cannot reduce my thoughts about life to the music of a single voice, and a single point of view. I am after all a novelist, the kind of novelist who makes it his business to understand all of his characters … especially the bad ones. Living as I do in a world where, in a very short time, someone who has been a victim of tyranny and oppression can suddenly become one of the oppressors. I know also that holding strong beliefs about the nature of things and people is itself a difficult enterprise."

Listen to part 2, Orhan Pamuk’s lecture (16.30mins)
High bandwidth: 128kbps / Low bandwidth: 64kbps

Part 3: Margaret Atwood and Orhan Pamuk in conversation

In which Margaret Atwood and Orhan Pamuk converse on shame, taboos, "street scenes", and deciding to be a writer.

Margaret Atwood: As you soon as you tell someone not to do something, immediately they start thinking: how can I do it? It is a very teenage reaction.

Orhan Pamuk: I think being an author is exactly like feeling like a child – occasionally not always. Having a strong sense of responsibility of your doing something very serious, just as children who commit themselves to their play, and forget themselves in play. In one corner of their mind, there is deep devotion to play – its invention, changing rules. Authors also recognise the rules of the world, and in their childish devotion to these rules, move them around, and show us things which we never perceive in life. But, once someone says "Don't play with your toys like that, you might break them," then the whole game is spoilt.

Listen to part 3, conversation between Margaret Atwood and Orhan Pamuk (38.50mins)
High bandwidth: 128kbps / Low bandwidth: 64kbps

We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the
oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.