Orhan Pamuk

In a dream I came back to the apartment and asked the owner if I could borrow his coolant for the car. When he said he didn’t have one I told him there was one in the back. The back connected to four other tenants, shared through a cross section. The room was plainly painted in an orange coat close to pumpkin. The wainscoting was green as winter grass with frost. The coolant was on the ground in a tall gallon, standing beside a rake and a box.

Is it all right if I borrow it? I asked.

It’s not mine.

You don’t mind if I ask your neighbor.

Be my guest.

I don’t know who my friend was. I had the feeling he was my friend on the account he accommodated me when my car was broken without any queries. He didn’t even question my intrusion into the backyard. He, tall and slim, had a diva attitude. He was bald and had a neatly trimmed mustache that seemed gelled. He left me alone to deal with my problem. I knocked on the door and there appeared Istanbul author Orhan Pamuk. He looked nothing like the man I’d seen in videos or university interviews. His hair was silver and oily. Face had a soft demeanor with the look of fierce inquiry.


I was wondering if I could borrow your antifreeze. My car is overheating.

Oh, sure. It’s yours.

Could I ask you something, sir. Are you Orhan Pamuk?

Yes, I am Orhan.

I didn’t know what to say. I was sure a thousand people asked how to write very well, asked him how he’d endured his trial for desecrating the land.

Thank you, Mr. Pamuk.

He hummed and shrugged his shoulders. Then he closed the door. I delighted to have met the author and borrowed the thing which would fix my car. The antifreeze was cool and pretty heavy, probably fifteen pounds. It had a sticker of a mountain cap with a violet tone over the picture. I imagined Mr. Pamuk answering the door with me on the other end: I woke up in the middle of the night and heard a knock at the door. There was a young man holding a coolant of some kind. I hadn’t seen it for years. Didn’t know the last time I used it on my 94 Chevorlet. It probably found its way in the corner as if it had legs. Looked for the coolest spot to wait for its master like a dog. It has been six years since my father left the American motor vehicle to my brother. The young man in a gray sweater asked if he could borrow it because his car had broken down, and I said take the damn thing, I have no use for it.

I wasn’t sure about all the facts. I carried the bottle of antifreeze under my arms and went back to my friend’s apartment. He didn’t answer the door. I wanted to knock harder with my fist, but was afraid of disturbing the neighborhood. Because I knew Mr. Pamuk’s house I went back to it, with a little excitement that I’d enter his house.

Oh, it’s you again. Mr. Pamuk said.

My friend is not answering the door, I said. Could I exit through yours? I’m just parked on the other side.

He opened the door so I could enter. Already it had led me to his kitchen. The countertop was marble blue with a hint of smoke. On the right was an oil painting by Ciudad Real painter Antonio López Garcia of the apartment complexes in Madrid. An orange horizon stood on one side as the buildings cast a shadow over the streets below. I wondered if it told me the secret to where I was.

We passed the kitchen. In the living roomI saw the walls corrode an off-colored white. Mr. Pamuk owned a very old couch, on which you could tell he read feverishly, considering the books that lay on the far side of the couch and the bookshelf behind it. Because Mr. Pamuk was granting me this favor of passing through his apartment, I didn’t get a good look at his bookshelves, the one he restored after the earthquake.  Before I knew it I was in the foyer, standing beside the green door.

Thank you for letting me pass, I said.

Oh, it’s no problem. He said. I hope you enjoy my coolant.

It’ll only take me a second. I said. I don’t think you use the whole thing, anyways.

No, take it. I have no use for it anymore.

He opened the door wide which meant I had to leave.

Thank you.


I was in disarray to think my access to a writer’s life stopped here. I needed to think of a question that’d lead him to inspire, benefit, and assure the young author, me and many others, as I write the incident down on graph paper with four squares to an inch, that all a writer needed was intuition and a little bit of luck. But even now my mind continued to reach in the pool of my thoughts.

I stepped through the door but turned around.

Can antifreeze sour overtime?


In an interview with Rainer Traube in response to being asked if he wanted to be a “bridge builder” between East and West, Orhan responds,

Bridge is a cliche imposed on me just because I’m a Turk and of course the first thing everyone says about Turkey is that it’s between east and west. But before being a bridge, you have to understand the humanity of the culture, its shadows, dark places, unreasonable sights, its aspirations, its hopes for the future, its daily moments, its weaknesses, its misery.

My job is to see that before saying “I’m a bridge” or something like that. That kind of political representation or agenda – I don’t have that. I am essentially a literary person, who writes stories. Yes, in my books there is also a philosophical side. I’m an essayist, I also make judgments about cultures, politics, but essentially I am a storyteller first, and mainly of stories about people.


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