Turkey should follow West's lead on rights: author Orhan Pamuk

(Reuters) - Turkey under President Tayyip Erdogan needs more Westernization, and not less, to bolster dwindling free speech rights and a wobbly democracy, Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO - Nobel-winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk attends a news conference before the opening of the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul April 27, 2012. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

Pamuk, 65, also said in an online chat in the Reuters Global Markets Forum that he laments much modernization and saw his stories, including his 10th novel published last year, “The Red-Haired Woman” as focused on the personal costs people pay for discarding traditions in the rush to adapt to the ways of 21st century.

The following are edited excerpts:

Question: Is Turkey, often described as a bridge between West and East, becoming too Westernized?

Answer: The lack of free speech is so grave that we definitely need to be more friendly with the West and Europe. I am not worried about too much Westernization, especially in these days when government is trying to push us away from Western values.

Q: Do you see gentrification in Istanbul and other Western influence in Turkey as threats or positives to Turkey’s identity?

A: I actually do not want to bring East and West together. I essentially want to write poetic, literary observations about the lives of the people in and around Istanbul. And since Istanbul is made up of things from the West, and modernity, and also things that come from traditional cultures, and East, readers think my intention is to “bridge” them. Actually, there are things from East and West that are already harmoniously together in Istanbul. All I do is invent stories about them.

Q: How is that theme in “The Red–Haired Woman”?

A: My main character carries the weight of having an idealist political father, while he is more busy with making money. I have many friends like that ... They are troubled by moral issues like the ones I discussed in this book. Individuality versus belonging to community ... Or economic development and comforts of modernity versus preserving the past than the old architecture and culture. My books are always about how to be modern without losing your identity.

Q: It is Nobel award season. How did your win in 2006 affect you?

A: My books were already translated to 46 languages before I won the Nobel prize. Now my books are translated into 63 languages. The prize may have helped. It definitely brought me new readers and some diplomatic responsibility of representing my country.

Reporting by Michael Connor and Richard Leong in New York, Yumna Mohammed in London; editing by Grant McCool