Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Turkey redux

I just finished Snow by Orhan Pamuk, a writer whom everyone says is "narrating his country into existence", or something like that. Evidently, a lot of people are reading this book, although I got it because GF gave it to me as a present.

It's a remarkable work, both for its immediacy as a political novel and the intimacy with which the grandly political is made insular and personal. There were a lot of dimensions to this book, but they cut along the lines of Islam versus secularism, radical Islam versus the West, city versus rural, poverty versus affluence, happiness versus unreasonable expectations, and love versus love. All well reflective of the social divergences I saw in Turkey when I was there two months ago. And given the recent protests, somewhat common knowledge now in the world more generally.

Which leaves me wondering several things about the book. First off, there was a line at the very end where a character asks the author (also named Orhan) to include his statement that readers shouldn't believe anything Orhan writes about them. That's not a real question, but something that leaves a pall over all my questions. Second, I wonder how genuine the conversations are, how reflective they are of what a secularist and an Islamist would say to each other given the chance. Because the interactions/discussions portrayed in the book oftentimes startling in their brutality, duplicity, and general lack of awareness. Pamuk (the real author) seems to place most of this onus on the Islamists, so I wonder how genuine this portrayal is or if it is a sign of his political sensibilities. In either case, the fifth chapter or so when the Director for Education is shot is an illuminating look into Turkish Islamism, or at least Pamuk's understanding of it.

And finally, was I supposed to hate all the characters about 3/4 of the way through? At that point, I wanted to throw up my hands, go to Kars (the setting for the novel), and straighten them all out, if only because a solution seemed so blindingly obvious. But, then I think Pamuk wanted readers to feel that way, because it sets up some greater tension and meaningful disappointment later on.

But overall, a great read, especially for knowing more about the tensions in a really interesting (and strategically important) country. Can't wait to read "My Name is Red."

1 comment:

hcduvall said...

I have not finished it. The last bit of fiction I finished was Nexus, Volume 1.

I hear he's a handsome fellow.

Might be interesting to you: