Orhan Pamuk, Nobel laureate and critically acclaimed novelist, gave the first of a series of six lectures this past Tuesday to a densely packed crowd at Harvard’s Sanders Theater. The Norton lectures were first endowed in 1925 as a yearly lectureship pertaining to poetry, in the broadest sense of the word. Past lectures have been delivered by scholars, poets, novelists, artists, composers, musicologists, architects and conductors. T.S. Eliot, Copland, Robert Frost, Stravinsky, E.E. Cummings, Lionel Trilling, Borges, Harold Bloom, John Cage, Frank Stella, Umberto Eco, and most recently, Daniel Barenboim, have all once stood at the podium the podium that now belongs to Pamuk.
The lectures are usually published by Harvard University Press. In the case of Leonard Bernstein, they have actually been released on video. Pamuk no doubt has some tough acts to follow. On Tuesday he began most humbly with his first lecture, The Naïve and Sentimental Novelist, which, once stripped of its central reference to Schiller’s On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry (and this is easily done), was a most sincere testament to the pleasures of reading novels. Helen Epstein of Arts Fuse wrote an excellent review.
I’ll note that, at least from my seat on Tuesday, he isn’t the easiest speaker to hear clearly. He actually has his lectures translated from Turkish into English. Much of what is spoken is read and rather accented. It was a pleasure nonetheless.
The first drew a large crowd, which will likely dwindle in the coming weeks. I’m sure much of the buzz is due simply to the history and prestige behind the lecture series. I arrived about twenty minutes early and, after waiting in line, was one of the first to take a seat in the balcony.
The Lectures continue through November 3rd at 4:00 p.m. at Harvard’s Sanders Theater, are unticketed, free, and open to the public.Tuesday, September 29: Mr. Pamuk, Did You Really Live All This? Tuesday, October 13: Character, Time, Plot Tuesday, October 20: Pictures and Things Monday, October 26: Museum and Novels Tuesday, November 3: The Center