Orhan Pamuk: What are you working on now?

April 29, 2020
Painting of a man in a river.

We asked Nobel Laureate and Columbia University School of the Arts Writing Professor Orhan Pamuk what he is working on and what he is thinking about now. Remarkably, he has for some time been writing a new novel called Nights of Plague. 

From the New York Times, Orhan Pamuk's opinion piece, "What the Great Pandemic Novel Teaches Us."

The following are his responses to our questions and his original drawings made of ink, watercolor, and various pencils on paper.

Painting portrait of a woman.

School of the Arts: What are you working on now?

Orhan Pamuk: I am working hard trying to finish Nights of Plague, a historical novel that takes place in 1901 during the third plague pandemic. I started writing this novel four years ago. Suddenly all the plague stories that I have been reading and writing about started to happen out in the streets. This surprised me and slowed me down for a while. But now I am motivated again to finish my historical novel.

In the last decade the visual artist in me wanted to get involved in my literary projects. The Museum of Innocence was such a project, a novel and a museum where the novel is a sort of annotated catalogue for the museum.

I am also planning to put some drawings, pictures, and maps in Nights of Plague. Influenced by all the medical texts and photos I have seen over the last three years, I am trying to illustrate — in a naïve way — the world I am inventing. 

Drawing of a man with a mask looking towards a bird.
Drawing of a man looking into someone's eye.

School of the Arts: What are you thinking about now?

Orhan Pamuk: I am thinking about simple stories that will express mine and everyone’s anxieties and fears. I am thinking about all the projects that I have started. I always have different projects that I am working on. An exhibition made up of replicas of fourty of the boxes from the Museum of Innocence was going to tour five cities in China. This has been postponed. This March, Steidl published my second photo book, Orange. Gerhard Steidl will curate an exhibition in June in Potsdam, Germany. “Will I go?,” they are asking. Can I go? In fact on the way to Germany, I planned to stop in Paris and finalize a project with designers, a book with my French publisher Gallimard. Memories of Distant Mountains is a selection of painted pages of my diary which I've been keeping for many years. That project was also postponed because the publisher’s offices are closed. When will the bookshops and museums open? If I finish my books, will they be published properly? What can I invent by writing to avoid frustration? I optimistically believe that when you have pen and paper and time to imagine, you can always work out a creative solution.

A gallery of original drawings made of ink, watercolor, and various pencils on paper by Orhan Pamuk:

Headshot of Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk is one of the most prominent novelists today. His work has been translated into over 60 languages and he has received numerous awards, including Dublin Impac Award, the Prix Medicis, Peace Prize of German Book Trade, and others. In 2006, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Full profile.

In 2017, Pamuk read from his new novel, The Red-Haired Woman, followed by a conversation with Bruce Robbins, English and Comparative Literature. You can watch the full presentation online now.