Famous in his native Turkey for decades, novelist Orhan Pamuk has been awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Orhan Pamuk, 54, is the first Turk to win the coveted prize. In his writing, he explores the complex identity of his country through its culture, traditions, its rich past and its present.

In its citation, the Swedish Academy said, "In his quest of capturing the melancholic soul of his native city Istanbul, Pamuk discovered new symbols describing the clash and interplay of cultures."

The author's works have been translated into many languages, and he has a growing fan base in Europe and the U.S.  Pamuk spent several years as a Columbia University scholar in New York.

His books, The White Castle, Snow, My Name is Red and Istanbul have gained him international acclaim.

In each one, the interaction between Western and Eastern culture predominates.  Pamuk is said to have pioneered a style of writing that combines traditional storytelling with the realities of the modern world, where identity and a clash of civilizations are central themes.

No stranger to controversy, the novelist has faced prosecution for talking about the taboo subjects of the murder of Armenians in his native land during World War I and the death of ethnic Kurds in more recent years. 

Charges against him were dropped last year, but his trial was embarrassing for Turkey's pro-Western government, which has introduced several human rights reforms before its European Union accession talks.

The Nobel Academy awards authors the Literature prize for a body of work rather than an individual book. Pamuk will receive nearly $1.4 million, and has been invited to the Nobel award ceremony and banquet on December 10, the anniversary of the death of the prize founder, Alfred Nobel.