“In the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures,” wrote the Swedish Academy in a statement.
Pamuk, who was named among the frontrunners for the world’s most prestigious literature award, will take home 10 million kronor.
He will receive the Nobel Prize, which consists of the prize money, a gold medal and a diploma, from Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10th, the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the founder of the Nobel prizes, in 1896.
Orhan Pamuk’s first novel, Cevdet Bey and His Sons, was published in 1982 and drew the ire of the Turkish state for denouncing the treatment of Turkey’s Kurdish minority and speaking about the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire.
Pamuk’s reputation in Turkey as a social commentator was cemented when he was the first author in the Muslim world to publicly condemn the fatwa against Salman Rushdie.
He later took a stand for his Turkish colleague Yaºar Kemal when Kemal was put on trial in 1995. Pamuk himself was charged after having mentioned, in a Swiss newspaper, that 30,000 Kurds and one million Armenians were killed in Turkey. The charge aroused widespread international protest and was subsequently dropped.
Pamuk’s latest novel is Kar, published in English in 2005 as Snow.
“The story is set in the 1990s near Turkey’s eastern border in the town of Kars, once a border city between the Ottoman and Russian empires,” explains the Swedish Academy.
“The protagonist, a writer who has been living in exile in Frankfurt, travels to Kars to discover himself and his country. The novel becomes a tale of love and poetic creativity just as it knowledgeably describes the political and religious conflicts that characterise Turkish society of our day.”
Pamuk, aged 54, was born in Istanbul into a prosperous, secular middle-class family. He graduated from Robert College then studied architecture at Istanbul Technical University and journalism at Istanbul University.
From 1985 to 1988 he was a visiting researcher at Columbia University in New York and for a short period attached to the University of Iowa. He lives in Istanbul.
Last year, the prize went to British playwright Harold Pinter.
The Literature Prize was the fifth of the six coveted awards to be handed out this month, after the United States swept the science and economics prizes.
Last week, the Medicine Prize went to US research duo Andrew Fire and Craig Mello for their discovery of how to silence malfunctioning genes, a breakthrough which could lead to an era of new therapies to reverse crippling disease.
The Physics Prize went to US space scientists John Mather and George Smoot for a pioneering space mission which supports the “Big Bang” theory about the origins of the universe.
Roger Kornberg of the United States won the Chemistry Prize for work on a key process of life called genetic transcription, while US economist Edmund S. Phelps won the Economics Prize for his analysis of short- and long-term trade-offs in macroeconomic policy.
The Peace Prize, perhaps the most prestigious of the awards, will wrap up this year’s Nobel season when the winner is announced on Friday.
Last year, it went to the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA and its Egyptian chief Mohamed ElBaradei for their efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons.