Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk’s 700-page novel Nights of Plague explores how pandemics reinforce strongman tendencies, James Ferguson wrote in an article for Financial Times.
Pamuk started to write his book “at a time when Turkey’s own president was ‘getting increasingly authoritarian’,” Ferguson said. “Yet (Recep Tayyip Erdoğan), whose roots lie in Islamist politics, surprised him.”
President Erdoğan’s government quickly banned communal prayers in mosques in March 2020, days after COVID-19 was first detected in the country. Ferguson said Pamuk was “tickled” that Erdoğan was “quick to act while what he calls the ‘civilised west’ was slow to follow suit”.
The only Nobel laureate in Turkey for literature started writing his plague novel 3.5 years before COVID-19 came along. When the deadly virus hit Turkey and the whole world, he says it “taught me fear of death”.
As a writer who has had to keep bodyguards since his 2005 trial over allegedly insulting Turkishness, Pamuk told Ferguson that he was “friends” with Salman Rushdie, a fellow novelist and author of the Satanic Verses who recently survived a stabbing in his neck.
“I’ve been to his home, to his parties. He’s a brave writer. I respect [him] and always felt that I should defend him when he is in trouble,” Pamuk said.
The novelist also said Erdoğan had been losing votes, and that the upcoming 2023 elections would be “the toughest one” that Erdoğan will have faced. “He is going down. Thank god,” Pamuk said.
The current state of the Turkish economy is “a perfect, textbook example of a person who is in power for 20 years getting increasingly authoritarian and making irrational decisions and destroying the wellbeing of the nation”, he said.
Pamuk said Erdoğan would lose, based on polls. “But is he going to accept that?” he asked.