Literature Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk was awarded Friday the Sonning Prize, Denmark's largest cultural prize, for his contributions to European culture.
Pamuk accepted the one million Danish kroner (around 173,000 U.S. dollars) prize, which is awarded by Copenhagen University to a person deemed to have done commendable work in the service of European culture, at a ceremony in downtown Copenhagen on Friday.
"You have enriched European culture by a work that combines Eastern and Western literary legacies, thus proving that in order to fulfill the old European dream of a universal humanism one has to be able to look outside of Europe as well," said Copenhagen University Rector Ralf Hemmingsen, at the ceremony.
Pamuk, 59, hails from Istanbul, and is widely-regarded as among the world's leading contemporary writers and intellectuals, and his novels have sold over 11 million copies in 60 languages.
"I have spent my entire life at the borders of continental Europe; from the window of my home or office, I've looked out over the Bosphorus to see Asia on the other side; and so in thinking about Europe and modernity, I have always felt, like the rest of the world, just a little bit provincial," Pamuk said in his award acceptance speech.
"I write books partly with the determination to rebel against this feeling, but equally with the urge to embrace it with pride," he added.
Pamuk writes in Turkish, embracing the tradition of the western novel, but explores themes such as Turkey's identity, and its struggles to emerge from its imperial past, and embrace a modern, western-oriented society. His writings reflect his belief in a more inclusive Europe, where cultural barriers are removed and reconciliation between east and west can take place.
Some of his best-known books include "The Black Book," "Snow," for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 2006, and "My Name is Red," a novel which has sold some half a million copies in China.
In his acceptance speech, Pamuk explored the influence of Europe as a modernizing and civilizing force, which the Turkish elite had previously aspired to emulate. He later described the Turkish hope of joining the European Union (EU) in the early 2000s, and how that had been later suppressed by "the chorus of conservative, nationalist protest against Turkey's possible entry into the union," from certain European countries, as well as by Turkey's own social problems.
"I found myself caught in this debate, and did something I would otherwise not have thought to do: I began to ask myself and others too about what Europe really means," he added.
This led him to discuss the role of religion in defining European civilization, on mass immigration into Europe, and on human rights and equality. But Pamuk was keen to stress that he is a writer, not a political force, and went on to discuss the art of the European novel, explaining that many writers have faced the dilemma of being caught between Europe and its ideas, and their own national traditions.
"I think novels work best when they address our ability of understanding others, instead of making any kind of commitment, or propaganda, or agenda of transforming anything," he said, speaking to journalists after the award ceremony.
Pamuk also addressed such themes as making prominent the works of non English-language writers, and the problem that non-Western authors risk being characterized as 'exotic'.
Asked by Xinhua if he feels his own works have been made exotic in this way, he replied Western readers don't necessarily do that to his books, "but even if they do that, I am not upset."
"There is always misrepresentation: the West misrepresents the East, and also, East misrepresents West, and there is a continuous misunderstanding. But.. I am not a victim of that misunderstanding. If they do it occasionally, I am not upset. What matters is whether my book is nice or not: that is more important", Pamuk added, referring to readers' reception of his work.
Continuing the theme of the relevance of writers from the non English-speaking tradition, Pamuk referred to 2012 Nobel literature laureate Mo Yan of China.
"I've met Mo Yan in Beijing three years ago. I am happy to have met him. I liked him a lot and am very happy for his Nobel Prize, not only because of his books, but because a Chinese writer got it," he said.
When asked by Xinhua what Mo Yan's Nobel prize could mean for future generations of Chinese writers, Pamuk replied with a smile, "I can't say. It's not my subject.. why don't you ask the young generation of Chinese writers?"
Previous Sonning Prize winners include Danish physicist Niels Bohr, British philosopher Bertrand Russel, and Italian playwright Dario Fo.