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Controversial Turkish author Pamuk wins top German literary honour



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BERLIN, Oct 23 (AFP) - Turkish author Ohran Pamuk, who risks a jail sentence for his remarks about the massacre of Armenians during the Ottoman empire, on Sunday defended his political outspokenness as he received the German book trade's prestigious peace prize.

The acclaimed author of novels including "Snow" and "My Name is Red" said in his acceptance speech that political engagement was a natural part of being a novelist.

"When a writer expresses his political opinions it does not mean support for one party or another, but it is natural to use his voice, his force to make you aware of the problems of society," he said, speaking in Turkish.

He said the political aspects of good novels helped reflect the inner life of a particular culture, and cited the work of Russian writer Dostoyevsky as an example.

Dieter Schormann, the head of the association of German booksellers, said Pamuk had managed to build a bridge between the east and the west, as he handed him the prize on the sidelines of the Frankfurt book fair.

"Orhan Pamuk traces the imprints of the East on the West and those of the West on the East," he said.

"Snow", an international best-seller, tells of the surreal homecoming of a Turk, inspired by the hero of Franz Kafka's "The Trial", who has lived in Frankfurt for a decade. The book has been read by many as a critique of Islamic culture.

Pamuk on Sunday reiterated his support for Turkey's bid to join the European Union, saying it was essential for peace in the region and an understanding between cultures.

"I believe peace is the founding bloc of the EU and I think at this juncture the union must decide between peace and naturalism," he said, refering to strong opposition from some member countries to the mainly Muslim nation's quest for membership.

"Just like I cannot imagine a Turkey that does not dream of being part of Europe, I cannot imagine a Europe that defines itself without Turkey."

In his citation for the prize German writer Joachim Sartorius said Pamuk's work was "a blessing" because he shed light on Turkey in a way nobody else did.

"He is the only writer who really allows us to know this country."

Pamuk triggered a public outcry in February when he said in an interview with a Swiss newspaper that "one million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it."

A prosecutor in Istanbul indicted the 53-year-old writer on the grounds that his remarks amounted to "public denigration of the Turkish identity" and has demanded a prison term of between six months and three years.

Pamuk, who has lived in Istanbul for most of his life, is expected to go on trial on December 16.

The massacre of Armenians during World War I is one of the most controversial episodes in Turkish history.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kinsmen died in orchestrated killings nine decades ago during the last years of the Ottoman Empire, the precursor of modern Turkey.

The peace prize is the highest honour of the German literary world and the 55 past recipients include feminist author Susan Sontag, Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe and Hungary's Peter Esterhazy, who won last year.

The prize money was increased this year to 25,000 euros (29,800 dollars) from 15,000 euros.

The Frankfurt book fair, the biggest in the world, ended on Sunday.

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COPYRIGHT 2005 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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