Pamuk Gives Last Norton Lecture

Turkish Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk delivered his sixth and final Norton lecture at Sanders Theatre yesterday, highlighting the importance of finding a novel’s “secret center.”

“When we first open a novel, we are looking for its secret center, its greater meaning,” Pamuk told an audience of over 700.

“Reading a novel is the act of investigating what the secret center of the novel is and enjoying the aesthetic pleasure of the details along the way.”

Pamuk concluded his Norton lecture series with a discussion on the “secret centers” of various literary works, ranging from “Moby Dick” to “Crime and Punishment.”

The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures have been a Harvard tradition since 1926 to spotlight “poetry in the broadest sense” and are now hosted by the Humanities Center.


As Pamuk took the podium, he playfully commented on the size of the audience.

“I spoke at Princeton many years ago to a crowd of barely 40. I’m happy to say that 22 years later, the crowd’s gotten a bit better,” Pamuk quipped.

Pamuk’s series this semester has attracted over 700 students, faculty, and Cambridge locals every lecture, the Humanities Center’s events coordinator Sarah M. Razor said. The novelist has sparked discussion among audience members about the experience of reading and writing novels.

“I believe the greatest height a novelist can attain is the ability to construct the form of the novel as an enigma,” Pamuk said. “Writing or reading a novel requires us to integrate all of our knowledge about the world.”

Audience members praised both the delivery and content of his lectures.“With his words, he got us to think deeply about the way that novels work,” Turkish studies professor Cemal Kafadar said. “And we can’t help but emerge from this experience with a greater appreciation of his works.”

Pamuk won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006. The native of Istanbul is now a professor at Columbia University, where he teaches comparative literature and writing. His books have sold over seven million copies, and his statements on politics have generated much controversy, especially in Turkey.