In the spring of 2009 I taught comparative literature for a semester at the University of Venice.

I don't mention that because those days were the most magical of my life thanks to the beauty of the surroundings.

I mention it to make it clear that as a Venetian I am addressing you directly from the city, as a person who lived in Venice and earned his bread there.

From the bottom of my heart I address these words to you, not just as an Istanbul citizen, but also as a Venetian.

Orhan Pamuk's guest contribution in the Turkish original


Yazının Türkçe orijinalini okumak için tıklayın


Dear Prime Minister, it is up to you to save Venice!

On my way to class at Ca 'Foscari University in the morning, I took a gondola from San Samuele to Ca' Rezzonico, then stopped at Ca 'Macane for a coffee in the quiet of the spring morning and thought about it why I was so fascinated to be in this city.

When I then taught in the hall of mirrors in the imposing palazzo, I intuitively understood that one of the most elementary virtues of mankind is to keep history alive and to preserve the past.

Like the verses of a poem

After class, my feet extended the way back to the Palazzo Malipiero, where I was a guest; I went towards Rialto. But every time I got lost in the alleys of Do Draghi, San Pantalon or at the church of San Tomà, I came out on winding paths through side streets at the Rialto Bridge, hours had passed. Within two months I had internalized the route from the Rialto to the palazzo where I lived, but I always strolled through the alleys anew, as if for the first time, full of admiration for everything I looked at, and lost myself this short distance every now and then. Because, as I later realized, it is not a geographical aberration to get lost in the alleys of Venice, rather it is a disturbing feelinglike getting lost in history.

Moved by this metaphysical transformation and feeling, I recited the names of the places like the verses of a poem that came to my mind.

"This is Santa Maria Della Salute!" I said to myself.

“And there the Teatro La Fenice, where I once gave a speech.

There is the Della Madonna Dell'Orto church.

The Accademia Bridge, San Giorgio Maggiore, the Palazzo Santa Sofia ... St. Mark's Square, the Church of San Zaccaria, the Museo Correr ... "

Each of these cities is Venice

Soon I was reading the books of writers who had visited Venice long before I did, and I let my imagination run wild on long walks. Byron once resided here in Palazzo Mocenigo. Thomas Mann's hero from “Death in Venice” must have climbed such a vaporetto when he left the Lido. And there stood the palazzo in which Henry James lived, who wrote "Aspern's Legacy", one of the most beautiful novels to be set in Venice.

Prime Minister, as is well known, an Italian wrote the best Venice novel: Italo Calvino.

But he's playing elsewhere.

In “The Invisible Cities”, the Venetian Marco Polo tells the Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan about the cities through which he came on the journey from Venice to Beijing.

But attentive readers, who like myself like to immerse themselves in Venice's labyrinths and history, will recognize from the description of towers, laundry hanging in narrow alleys, and other features that basically each of these cities is Venice.

Role model for all of humanity

Only an Italian can think like this!

So let me say, inspired by the great Italian writer Italo Calvino: Venice is Beijing, Venice is Boston, Venice is Kyoto, Venice is Calcutta, Venice is St. Petersburg, Venice is Madrid, Hamburg, Paris and Istanbul.

And saving Venice means saving all of humanity, all cities in the world, Lagos, Cairo, São Paulo, New York, Hong Kong.

Because, Prime Minister, the big decision you have to make will not just save Venice.

She will be a role model for all humanity, and we will see that from now on saving and preserving our cities means saving our memories, our minds and our identities.

Prime Minister, it is up to you to save Venice and all the other invisible cities in the world!

The Turkish Nobel Prize for Literature, Orhan Pamuk,

wrote this appeal to the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on the occasion of the World Climate Conference in Glasgow, which is being organized by Great Britain in cooperation with Italy.

Pamuk thus supports the appeal of the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti to Draghi.

Translated from the Turkish by

Sabine Adatepe

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