American writer refuses to visit Turkey, comes under extraordinary attack by Turkey’s prime minister

The postmodern novelist Paul Auster (my cousin) is in the news:

Turkey’s PM takes aim at writer Paul Auster over Israel
ISTANBUL | Wed Feb 1, 2012 10:57am EST

(Reuters)—Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan branded acclaimed novelist Paul Auster as ignorant on Tuesday for refusing to visit Turkey in protest at the jailing of journalists, accusing the Jewish American writer of double-standards for visiting Israel.

Though a foreign novelist made an easy target, there is rising unease over press freedom under Erdogan among Turkish liberals, many of whom had supported his mission to strengthen democracy and tame Turkey’s coup-making generals. [LA replies: How’s that for an Orwellian statement from Reuters—“his mission to strengthen democracy and tame Turkey’s coup-making generals”? Of course the Turkish military has been since the time of Kemal Ataturk the principal guarantor of the non-Islamic regime that Ataturk founded, along with its freedoms—namely its freedoms from Islamic law. Further, Erdogan’s increasing suppression of the military has meant the effective end of the Kemalist regime and the return of Islamic rule. But lying, leftist Reuters tells its readers that Erdogan, by taming the generals, was seeking to strengthen democracy—the exact opposite of the truth.]

Some 100 members of the news media are in jail in Turkey, one of the highest numbers worldwide. The government insists they are not being prosecuted because of what they wrote.

“If you come so what? If you don’t come, so what? Will Turkey lose prestige?,” Erdogan said in a mocking voice to applause from provincial leaders of his ruling AK Party at a meeting in the capital Ankara.

He criticized 64-year-old Auster, author of “The New York Trilogy” and more than a dozen other novels, for visiting Israel, with which Turkey has frosty relations, accusing the Jewish state of repression and rights violations.

“Supposedly Israel is a democratic, secular country, a country where freedom of expression and individual rights and freedoms are limitless. What an ignorant man you are,” Erdogan said.

“Aren’t these the ones that rained bombs down on Gaza? The ones that launched phosphorus bombs and used chemical weapons. How can you not see this?” Erdogan said. [LA replies: Hey, let’s have the debate about “Turkish freedom” versus “Israeli repression” that Erdogan obviously wants to have! Then it will become clear to more and more people that what Erdogan and other Muslims mean by “freedom” is the imposition of the tyrannical Islamic law and the destruction of non-Muslim societies, and that what they mean by “repression” is non-Muslim societies defending their existence and the lives of their people from mass-murdering jihadists.]

“This gentleman can’t see the repression and rights violations in Israel … This is serious disrespect to Turkey.”

In an interview with the Turkish daily Hurriyet published on Sunday, Auster was reported as saying he was refusing to visit Turkey to protest the imprisonment of writers and journalists,

Auster’s most recent book Winter Journal has been translated into Turkish and published before the English version.


The AK Party, a socially conservative party that sprang from a banned Islamist party, won a third consecutive term in power last June, and concerns over press freedom has dogged Erdogan’s government for the past few years.

Erdogan’s critics have rallied round the cause of 11 journalists on trial over alleged links to a secret network conspiring to overthrow the government. They have been held in prison since last March.

One of Turkey’s best known writers, Mehmet Ali Birand described media cases before the courts as “frankly a disgrace.”

“You are all liars,” Birand raged in the Hurriyet Daily News on Tuesday. “I’m talking about you: politicians in power, business circles, military, members of the judiciary.”

“You credit those who protect your interests as “good journalists,” but drag through the mud those who have contrary views. And then you dare to talk about freedom in this country.”

The United States, European Union and rights groups have all criticized the prosecution of journalists which they say taints Turkey’s image as a role model for democracy in the Middle East.

Last month, Erdogan filed libel cases against the editor of the Taraf newspaper Ahmet Altan and a correspondent at the paper, Perihan Magden, over articles criticizing him.

[end of Reuters article]

While Paul Auster is on the left, his novels do not deal with politics and he has not to my knowledge been involved in politics. The exception is that from time to time he has, both as an individual and as a member of the writers’ organization PEN, expressed solidarity with persecuted writers such as Salman Rushdie. His boycotting of Turkey over its jailing of journalists is consistent with that long-time position.

The left is, of course, vociferously anti-Israel, and thus at least implicitly pro-Islamic, as a general matter. So it is interesting, and perhaps heartening, that a leftist like Paul has taken this stand against Turkey’s Islamist regime. The Islamic world is becoming so bad that even leftists can’t abide it. This is a small but significant sign of growing realism about the nature of Islam. I admire what Paul has done.

- end of initial entry -

Anthony Damato writes:

Maybe you won’t believe me, but I was at the Strand Bookstore two days ago and in their display window, the section reserved for either very valuable books or desired classics, was Paul Auster’s “The New York Trilogy.”

These books were placed in a prominent spot, in sequence, on a display. I never read him, but noticed the photography utilized for the covers on these three volumes, it’s hard to disregard the mystique evoked from those night NYC cityscapes on the covers- very captivating.

Anyway, I’m glad your cousin angered the Turkish tyrant.

LA replies:

That’s most interesting that the new edition of that trilogy (first published in the 1980s) uses romantic pictures of New York on the covers, since the books are, to put it mildly, the opposite of romantic. As I remember, the first volume is about a man who lives on garbage; the protagonist would make Joseph K., in Kafka’s The Trial, seem like a jovial, happy-go-lucky fellow by comparison. For the publisher to put romantic, evocative photographs of Manhattan on the covers of these novels is like liberal movie reviewer David Denby praising the movie The History Boys as a wonderful evocation of British culture, when in fact the movie is an expression of poisonous animus toward British culture. The left is always looking for new recruits, and one of their methods is false advertising which gets unsuspecting members of the public to buy—and buy into—their wares.

Anthony replies:


Yes, the cover shots were very well done. They were of a consistent bluish hue, but very clear. I thought that the pictures were taken at the same time, in anticipation of the finished product.

Ron L. writes:

The left has by no means reached the point that they can criticize Islam.

All such capability died on 9/11. We declared war on them, and therefore they became victims of Western oppression and any violence by them is merely anti-colonial activity. Turkey may be Muslim and now run by an Islamist party, but it is a member of NATO and an attempted entrant into the EU. Therefore it is sufficiently Western that it can be denounced by liberals without breaking any rules.

LA replies:

Good point. Certainly it is true that any oppression that Western leftists discern in the Islamic world will be immediately translated by them into some generic, non-Islamic form of oppression, and thence into a specifically Western form of oppression. The classic example of this finesse is the left condemning the anti-freedom tendencies in Islam, not as being inherently Islamic, but as being “theocratic,” a generic term which then gets translated into what is for the leftists the main threatening theocratic force in the world, Western Christianity. Thus what seemingly starts out as a warning against Islam becomes a warning against Christianity, the left’s true hate-object and target. See the 2006 entry, “Secularists who oppose religion instead of Islam,” my response to a manifesto by European and Muslim secular leftists including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ibn Warraq, Salman Rushdie, and Bernard-Henri Levy against Islamization, which turned out to be a manifesto against “religion.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 01, 2012 07:24 PM | Send

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