Pamuk was born in Istanbul in 1952 and grew up in a wealthy yet declining bourgeois family; an experience he describes in passing in his novels The Black Book and Cevdet Bey and His Sons, as well as more thoroughly in his personal memoir Istanbul. He was educated at Robert College secondary school in Istanbul and went on to study architecture at the Istanbul Technical University since it was related to his real dream career, painting. He left the architecture school after three years, however, to become a full-time writer, and graduated from the Institute of Journalism at the University of Istanbul in 1976. From ages 22 to 30, Pamuk lived with his mother, writing his first novel and attempting to find a publisher. He is a a devout Muslim.
On 1 March 1982, Pamuk married Aylin Turegen, a historian. From 1985 to 1988, while his wife was a graduate student at Columbia University, Pamuk assumed the position of visiting scholar there, using the time to conduct research and write his novel The Black Book in the university's Butler Library. This period also included a visiting fellowship at the University of Iowa.
Pamuk returned to Istanbul; a city to which he is strongly attached. In May 2007 Pamuk was among the jury members at the Cannes Film Festival headed by British director Stephen Frears. In the 2007-2008 academic year Pamuk returned to Columbia once again to jointly teach comparative literature classes with Andreas Huyssen and David Damrosch.
Pamuk is also currently a writer in residence at Bard College. He completed his latest novel, Masumiyet Müzesi (The Museum of Innocence) in the summer of 2008 and the book was released in Turkey at 29th of August. The German translation will appear shortly before the 2008 Frankfurt Book Fair where Pamuk was planning to hold an actual Museum of Innocence consisting of everyday odds and ends the writer has amassed (the exhibition will instead occur in an Istanbul house purchased by Pamuk.
On 12 October 2006, the Swedish Academy announced that Orhan Pamuk had been awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, confounding pundits and oddsmakers who had made Syrian poet Ali Ahmad Said, known as Adonis, a favorite. In its citation, the Academy said: "In the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city, [Pamuk] has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures." Orhan Pamuk held his Nobel Lecture 7 December 2006, at the Swedish Academy, Stockholm. The lecture was entitled "Babamın Bavulu" (My Father's Suitcase) and was given in Turkish. In the lecture he viewed the relations between Eastern and Western Civilizations in an allegorical upper text which covers his relationship with his father.
• 1979 Milliyet Press Novel Contest Award (Turkey) for his novel Karanlık ve Işık (co-winner)
• 1983 Orhan Kemal Novel Prize (Turkey) for his novel Cevdet Bey ve Oğulları
• 1984 Madarali Novel Prize (Turkey) for his novel Sessiz Ev
• 1990 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (United Kingdom) for his novel Beyaz Kale
• 1991 Prix de la Découverte Européenne (France) for the French edition of Sessiz Ev : La Maison de Silence
• 1991 Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival (Turkey) Best Original Screenplay Gizli Yüz
• 1995 Prix France Culture (France) for his novel Kara Kitap : Le Livre Noir
• 2002 Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger (France) for his novel My Name Is Red : Mon Nom est Rouge
• 2002 Premio Grinzane Cavour (Italy) for his novel My Name Is Red
• 2003 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (Ireland) for his novel My Name Is Red
• 2005 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Germany)
• 2005 Prix Medicis Etranger (France) for his novel Snow : La Neige
• 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature (Sweden)
• 2006 Washington University's Distinguished Humanist Award (United States)