Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts
Christina  Bastajian

Link to Christina Bastajian's Senior Art Thesis

Government Denial of Atrocities

Orhan Pamuk: The Search for Happiness

Orhan  Pamuk

Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk illustrates a universal theme, the search for happiness, in his novels Snow and The New Life. Ka, the protagonist of Snow, longs to find happiness in his true-love Ipek, in order to complete his life and reestablish the pure happiness and innocence of his childhood. Similarly, Osman, the protagonist of The New Life searches to find happiness after completing a book which describes a “new life”. Osman sets off on a journey to search for his new identity, as well as his own true-love Janan. Like his characters, Pamuk himself demonstrates his search for happiness in his memior, Istanbul. As a child, Pamuk experienced difficult ocurrences such as his parents’ divorce, his brother’s brutal treatment of him, and his grandmother’s peculiar behavior as she grew older. Like Ka and Osman, Pamuk searched to find happiness in an outside source, who happened to be his own true-love, Black Rose.

In addition to his novels, Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk searched for justice and recognition of the Armenian Genocide, one of two twentieth century atrocities that remained unrecognized by many governments. The Turkish government failed to take responsibility of the Armenian Genocide, just as the Japanese government failed to take responsibility for the Rape of Nanking. In 1915, the Ottoman Turks brutally massacred 1.5 million Armenians; however, the Turkish state denied this event ever occurred. Denial continued throughout the twentieth century, while many activists such as Orhan Pamuk as well as journalist Hrant Dink worked to gain recognition of the issue. Similarly, the Japanese government failed to take responsibility for the atrocities committed against the Chinese in the Rape of Nanking, where tens of thousands of Chinese women were brutally raped and tortured in 1937. Furthermore, the Japanese government aided Japanese soldiers in sexual abuse by instituting legal prostitution centers. Just as in the Armenian Genocide, the Rape of Nanking remained unrecognized throughout the twentieth century, despite the efforts of activists such as Iris Chang, who fought for recognition of the controversial event.

Major Works Consulted:

Balakian, Peter.The Burning Tigris. New York: Harper Collins, 2003.
Chang, Iris.The Rape of Nanking. New York: BasicBooks, 1997.
Pamuk, Orhan.The New Life. New York: Vintage, 1997.
---. Snow. New York: Vintage, 2004.
Photo Credit: Pamuk, Orhan.Snow.New York: Vintage, 2004.