The audience packed the house of the old historic church on Copley Square to hear the words of Orhan Pamuk, the keynote speaker for the first annual Boston Book Festival. He was introduced by a medium-sized blond woman with a slight British accent, who made a reference to Mr. Pamuk’s home town of Istanbul, Turkey with the short descriptive statement that read: Istanbul is one of my favorite cities in the world.
So began the speech which ended the first annual book festival. Just by the size of the audience that came to hear the Nobel Prize Winner, the inaugural festival was quite the success. Maybe the dreary weather had something to do with this fact, for book lovers and literary readers collected in droves to hear all the speakers and listen to the many poets.
By the sound of things, Mr. Pamuk may be somewhat of an exile from his native Turkey, but he saw no lack of enthusiasm from this attentive crowd that filled the main knave of the Old South Church.
His troubles with the Turkish government that resulted in a trial in Istanbul in 2005, where he was charged with insulting the Republic or Turkish Grand National Assembly. However, the charges were dropped on a technicality that they were not approved by the Ministry of Justice.
However, Mr. Pamuk’s trial has raised eyebrows around the world and especially with the EU, who is planning to admit Turkey to its ranks in the near future. In fact, so important are good relations between the Turkish government and the European Union that at a recent Frankfurt Book Fair (2008), where Pamuk was speaking, none other than a Mr. Abdullah Gul, the president of Turkey, sat in the audience listening to Orhan’s speech.
Over the past years Mr. Pamuk has sometimes criticized the past deeds of his native country, especially in regards to conflicts with the Turds and Armenians, both past and present. The presence of the president of Turkey in the audience of one of Mr. Pamuk’s speeches pays mute testimony to the power of the written word.