Saturday, July 21st, 2007
Chapter 15 is where this story is really beginning to come together for me. I had been liking a lot of disconnected stuff, and feeling fairly befuddled by the whole thing -- now all of a sudden I am grinning in agreement, underlining every other sentence, absolutely wincing when I see some bad news about a character I have come to love.
The moment of transition might have been at the end of chapter 14, when İpek used Ka's phrase "the silence of snow" in a totally natural-seeming way. At this point I realize I am no longer condemning Ka for his narcissism (and myself for sympathizing with him) -- his narcissism seems like the most natural thing in the world to me. Another important cusp:
"I think you're right," said Ka. "As it happens, I've already decided to answer the call that's been coming from deep within me my whole long life and open my heart to God."Up until now, I have been taking Ka's dialogue as generally pretty earnest. I think going forward, reading it with more irony assumed will make things easier to understand. -- Although that was not the case in reading Ka's conversation with Necip later in the chapter -- straight and ironic are both plausible interpretations, and both equally hard to decipher. I am really dreading Necip's fate.
They caught his sarcastic tone -- for what it was worth. Knowing he was very drunk, they all suspected that this witticism might well have been prepared in advance.
I'm really intrigued by Ka's drunkenness -- I am dying to figure out what Pamuk means here. More to say about this but I haven't figured out what, yet.
Sunday, July 22nd, 2007
The events in chapter 17 of Snow have totally knocked me for a loop. The confident grasp of the book's plot and structure that I was feeling in 15 and 16 is out the window. I sort of had an idea what was going to happen based on the spoileriffic back cover blurb; that idea was completely wrong.
Monday, July 23rd, 2007
...And as of chapter 22, I'm back to despising Ka for his narcissism, and myself for sympathizing with it. The lack of awareness he demonstrates for the violence around him (and/or his maintaining ironic distance from it) is really troubling, and is seeming to have real-world repercussions for people not as privileged as he is, for instance the people in the tea house after curfew when he stops in with his police escort, or the Georgian migrant workers whom they pursue.
The violence seemed to me like a farce at first reading, only gradually sinking in how serious were the events being described, and I sort of think this was Ka's reaction as well -- he is so caught up in his constructed reality that he is experiencing the world around him as scripted. And maybe he is in shock? That is the only way I can explain his demeanor at the veterinary college in a way that allows me to remain sympathetic to him.
Saturday, July 28th, 2007
Chapter 23 of Snow contains the most detailed and almost-sympathetic presentation yet of a (bloodthirsty) Turkish nationalist viewpoint. I am not sure what to make of how familiar it sounds to me: it reads almost exactly like thousands of American conservative/hawkish opinion pieces -- ok, more eloquent than 99% of those pieces, but not different in kind.
But where do I go with this? Some possibities:
- The Turkish context is a huge factor which I am missing totally because I am not Turkish. Pamuk is writing for a Turkish audience.
- Pamuk is writing for a western audience and is eliding over distinctions that exist between our nationalists and their nationalists.
- They really are exactly the same.
What else?... Ka's ironic distance is making sense here as the only way to keep himself clear of Sunay's nationalism. If I'm understanding correctly his cosmopolitanism means the presumption is that his sympathies are with the nationalist in a dispute with fundamentalists -- my own sympathies would certainly default that way.
Friday, August third, 2007
Chapters 27, 28, 29 of Snow: The story is changing in important ways here. A lot that has only been hinted at is coming out into the open, along with an affirmation (in 27, "Only much later would he realize that -- apart from Necip -- everyone he met in Kars spoke the same code") that what is in the open is not necessarily the whole story. The narrator, who has been gradually insinuating himself into the story since Chapter 1, now has an identity and a history. And unmasks himself, saying near the end of 29, "Here, perhaps, we have arrived at the heart of our story." The story is about Pamuk the novelist trying to understand the "difficult and painful life" of his character Ka.
I am thinking a lot as I read Snow about how to structure the reading diary so as to avoid revealing important plot points, while still talking about my reaction to the story as it unfolds. I think I'm doing that pretty well.
Saturday, August 11th, 2007
Fazıl's conversation with Ka about atheism in chapter 32 is hilarious, with an edge of tragedy running through it. Some choice passages:
"...but you've been to Europe; you've met all the intellectuals and all those alcohol and sleeping-pill addicts who live there. So please, tell me again, what does it feel like to be an atheist?"
"Well, they certainly don't fantasize endlessly about suicide."
"Just be yourself."
"That's not going to be possible as long as I have two souls inside my body," said Fazıl... "It scares me to have nothing but Kadife inside my head. It's not just because I don't know her. It's because this proves I'm a typical atheist. I don't care about anything except love and happiness. ... And when I think that, my feelings for Kadife become all the more unbearable -- it hurts to know that my only consolation would be to spend the rest of my life with my arms around her."
"Yes," said Ka ruthlessly. "These are the sorts of thoughts you have when you're an atheist."
And much more.
I am beginning to think from little lines like "The pity and annoyance he could see on Ka's face made him blush with shame", that one of the central themes of this book is the experience of being socially at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the person you are speaking with, and the feelings of embarrassment and shame that that gives rise to.
Friday, August 17th, 2007
The first time Ka and İpek have sex, in chapter 28, Ka is detached -- "it was not the act as much as the thought of making love that occupied him." His head is taken up with images from pornography. The second time they have sex, in chapter 34, his experience is much more intense -- "he was outside time, impervious to passion; his only regret was that it had taken him a lifetime to discover this paradise... He forgot the sexual fantasies kept in ready storage at the back of his brain." The third time, in chapter 36, "They made love with such ease Ka could hardly believe it... but the were both aware that their lovemaking was neither as deep nor as intense as the night before."
Hmm... something is going on here. I am upset waiting to find out what fate is in store for their relationship.
Monday, August 20th, 2007
Musing on Snow: I have been doing little else for weeks now, at least here in this space. What about the ending? It must be said, this is a very bleak novel -- a bleak view of Ka's life and of the situtation in Turkey. Fazıl's words in the final chapter do a little to mitigate the sense of bleakness as regards Turkey, and to make it seem like I am having that reaction because I am not familiar with the mores. But: the novel is primarily about Ka -- I think so, and Pamuk at least appears to think so as evidenced by his words in chapter 29.
So: a novel about Ka (and possibly about his reflection in Necip and Fazıl), and a fairly depressing one. But the dread in reading it was also a very sweet experience. And the thinking ahead that Pamuk makes me do was also lovely in its way, kind of like solving a crossword puzzle. I'm not sure right now, what I make of chapter 43, the last chapter but one, which did not concern Ka much -- I guess it was sort of directed at wrapping up the story, I don't think in a totally satisfactory way. It's not clear to me whether İpek and Kadife are fully characters in their own right, or foils for Ka like most everyone else in the book; it could be that if I understood the final two chapters better, I would see that they were fully realized characters.
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