My Father's Suitcase

Orhan Pamuk’s Nobel address - My Father's Suitcase- beautifully describes the father-son relationship. Two years before Pamuk’s father died, he gave him a small suitcase filled with his writings, manuscripts and notebooks. He told Orhan that he would want him to read them after he died. Senior Pamuk was looking for a place to rid himself of a painful burden. Ultimately he deposited it quietly in an unobtrusive corner.

This suitcase was a powerful reminder of Orhan’s childhood. Now “because of the mysterious weight of its contents”, he felt he can’t even touch it. By ‘weight’ he meant - “It is what a person creates when he shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and retires to a corner to express his thoughts – that is, the meaning of literature.”

One of the things that kept Orhan distant from his father’s suitcase was the fear that he may not like what he reads. “My real fear, the crucial thing that I did not wish to know or discover, was the possibility that my father might be a good writer. I couldn't open my father's suitcase because I feared this. Even worse, I couldn't even admit this myself openly. If true and great literature emerged from my father's suitcase, I would have to acknowledge that inside my father there existed an entirely different man. This was a frightening possibility. Because even at my advanced age I wanted my father to be only my father – not a writer.”

Orhan Pamuk was fearful, and at the same time did not want to prejudge his father. A father who has never been a “commanding, forbidding, overpowering, punishing, ordinary father, but a father who always left me free, always showed me the utmost respect.” Pamuk believed very deeply “that I had been able to become a writer because my father had, in his youth, wished to be one, too.”

When Pamuk finished his first novel , he was 22, with trembling hands he gave the manuscript to his father to read and tell him what he thought about it. His father’s opinion was very important for him. His father returns two weeks later. “I ran to open the door. My father said nothing, but he at once threw his arms around me in a way that told me he had liked it very much. For a while, we were plunged into the sort of awkward silence that so often accompanies moments of great emotion. Then, when we had calmed down and begun to talk, my father resorted to highly charged and exaggerated language to express his confidence in me or my first novel: he told me that one day I would win the prize that I am here to receive with such great happiness.”

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© 2017 by Dr Purnendu Ghosh