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Slugs leave trails, sheep leave droppings, bees make honey, and humans leave two things: art and garbage. Where these meet is called entertainment.

Robyn Hitchcock


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Friday, July 26th, 2013

Pamuk y Death in the Andes

Aprecio la observación de Pamuk en "Mario Vargas Llosa y la litaratura del tercer mundo" (ensayo de su collección Otros Colores) de como Vargas Llosa hace uso de una yuxtaposición Faulkneriana de escenarios varios y saltas en tiempo. Me intriga mucho la manera en que esas escenas se van desenrollando.

Lo que Vargas Llosa en Santuario alaba — la yuxtaposición de escenarios y las saltas en tiempo — queda aún más en evidencia en las novelas de Vargas Llosa mismo. Hace con maestría uso de esa estrategia — cortando despiadosamente entre las voces, los cuentos, los diálogos — en Death in the Andes.

posted evening of July 26th, 2013: Respond
➳ More posts about Orhan Pamuk

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

Pamuk on prose

In the Paris Review interview of Pamuk (from 2004):

Pamuk: I was [in Snow] underlining the clerical nature of the novelist as opposed to that of the poet, who has an immensely prestigious tradition in Turkey. To be a poet is a popular and respected thing.... After Western ideas came to Turkey, this legacy was combined with a romantic and modern idea of the poet as a person who burns for truth.... On the other hand, a novelist is essentially a person who covers distance through his patience, slowly, like an ant. A novelist impresses us not by his demonic and romantic vision, but by his patience.

Interviewer: Have you ever written poetry?

Pamuk: ...I did when I was eighteen and I published some poems in Turkey, but then I quit. My explanation is that I realized that a poet is someone through whom God is speaking. You have to be possessed by poetry. I tried my hand at poetry, but I realized after some time that God was not speaking to me. I was sorry about this and then I tried to imagine -- if God were speaking through me, what would he be saying? I began to write very meticulously, slowly, trying to figure this out. That is prose writing, fiction writing.

At Orbis Quintus, paledave links to a bunch of other Paris Review interviews.

posted evening of May 9th, 2009: Respond
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Monday, July 7th, 2008

Something to check

My Name is Red is set in 1591 -- I am reading Pamuk's essay on "Bellini and the East," from Other Colors, and find out about Bellini's portrait of Sultan Mehmet II, dated 1480. I don't remember any specific reference to this painting in My Name is Red, but I am sure now that there must have been some -- I must have passed over it as something unfamiliar, not bothered to look it up.

Pamuk says,

The portrait has spawned so many copies, variations, and adaptations, and the reproductions made from these assorted images have gone on to adorn so many textbooks, book covers, newspapers, posters, banknotes, stamps, educational posters, and comic books, that there cannot be a literate Turk who has not seen it hundreds if not thousands of times.
It seems logical that this painting would have been an important element of the debate about artistic style and representation in the Ottoman empire, a century after it was painted. I should keep an eye out for this next time I read the book.

(I see that with this entry, Pamuk becomes the first author about whom I've written 100 posts. Not exactly sure what to make of that, beyond that I'm totally gaga about his writing.)

posted morning of July 7th, 2008: Respond
➳ More posts about My Name is Red

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

Omission

At the end of the second chapter of Autobiographies of Orhan Pamuk I learn that Other Colors, ostensibly a translation of Pamuk's 1999 collection Öteki Renkler: Seçme Yazılar ve Bir Hikaye, is actually a separate collection, with only about a third of the contents taken from the older book.*

All the essays on Turkish literature and politics were omitted from the English version. Replacing them were... assessments of the works of authors he admires -- ranging from Fyodor Dostoyevsky to Salman Rushdie -- ...others are autobiographical or contain thoughtful reflections on his own novels.

This is surprising to me. I like the selection in Other Colors; but I'd be very interested to read Pamuk's essays on Turkish literature and politics as well. McGaha quotes a passage from Pamuk's essay (which he had written in 1974, at the outset of his career) on the Turkish author Oğuz Atay:

Pamuk argues that critics were bewildered by the novelty of Atay's novels, in which the author's voice and attitude, his peculiar tone of intelligent sarcasm, were more important than plot or character development. What is most distinctive about these novels is their style:
When the novelist puts the objects that he saw into words in this or that way, what he is doing is a kind of deception that the ancients called "style," manifesting a kind of stylization. There are deceptions every writer uses, like a painter who portrays objects. This is the only way I can explain Faukner's fragmetation of time, Joyce's objectification of words, Yaşar Kemal's drawing his observations of nature over and over. Talented novelists begin writing their real novels after they discover this cunning. From the moment that we readers catch on to this trick, it means that we understand a little bit of the novelistic technique, what Sartre called "the writer's metaphysics."

This passage seems pretty key to an understanding of My Name is Red, and how it fits in with Pamuk's other novels. I'm sorry to see neither of Atay's novels has been translated into English.

* A little thought makes it obvious that many of the essays in Other Colors could not have appeared in the earlier collection, dealing as they do with events occuring in 2005 and later. My grasp of Pamuk's timeline was not as firm when I first looked at this book as it is now.

I also went back just now to reread the preface, which makes clear that this is a separate work from the earlier collection. Look at its beautiful final paragraph:

I am hardly alone in being a great admirer of the German writer-philosopher Walter Benjamin. But to anger one friend who is too much in awe of him (she's an academic, of course), I sometimes ask, "What is so great about this writer? He managed to finish only a few books, and if he's famous, it's not for the work he finished but the work he never managed to complete." My friend replies that Benjamin's œuvre is, like life itself, boundless and therefore fragmentary, and this was why so many literary critics tried so hard to give the pieces meaning, just as they did with life. And every time I smile and say, "One day I'll write a book that's made only from fragments too." This is that book, set inside a frame to suggest a center that I have tried to hide: I hope that readers will enjoy imagining that center into being.

posted afternoon of July 6th, 2008: Respond
➳ More posts about Autobiographies of Orhan Pamuk

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Anticipating new books

At Edge of the American West, there is a fun thread about anticipating new books by your favorite authors. There was no criterion really specified for how to choose the authors you list; here is what I used: an author all or most of whose back catalog I have read*, and if I read about a new book of whose being published, I would run out to the bookstore and buy a copy.

Most books I've bought in my life have been used; buying just-published books is a pretty new experience. I think this is a complete list of the books that I've bought on the day of their publication: Mason & Dixon, The Keep, Against the Day, Other Colors.

(And come to think of it, I've pre-ordered a couple of books from Amazon or similar, so received them at the time of their publication. So probably should add to the list Monk's Music, and Autobiographies of Orhan Pamuk which I await anxiously, and the two volumes so far of Moomin comics.)

*Except Saramago, I've only read two of his books.

posted afternoon of May 15th, 2008: Respond
➳ More posts about The Keep

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

The Novel as History

I have been following the discussion at The Edge of the American West about using fiction in history curricula with great interest. So it was on my mind this evening as I read Pamuk's essay "Mario Vargas Llosa and Third World Literature" (from Other Colors).

Is there such a thing as Third World literature? Is it possible to establish -- without falling prey to vulgarity or parochialism -- the fundamental virtues of the literatures of the countries that make up what we call the Third World? In its most nuanced articulation -- in Edward Said, for example -- the notion of a Third World literature serves to highlight the richness and the range of the literatures on the margins and their relation to non-Western identity and nationalism. But when someone like Fredric Jameson asserts that "Third World literatures serve as national allegories" he is simply expressing a polite indifference to the wealth and complexity of literatures from the marginalized world. Borges wrote his short stories and essays in the 1930s in Argentina -- a Third World country in the classic sense of the term -- but his place at the very center of literature is undisputed.

The essay follows a pattern I have noticed in Pamuk's literary essays: he lays out a great deal of history in a very small space, leaving it to the reader to fill in the elisions. The history here is that of Llosa's relationship with the Existentialists (specifically Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Camus) and his break with Marxism. Of all this I know nothing besides a very general notion of Llosa as the Peruvian writer who was a radical youth but became quite conservative in his adulthood. (All I have read by the man is The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta, and that when I was very young.)

But Pamuk sketches the story so well, he gives me a feeling of familiarity with the actors. He makes me wish very strongly to read Death in the Andes:

This novel takes place in the abandoned and disintegrating small towns of the remote Andes -- in empty valleys, mineral beds, mountain roads, and one field that is anything but deserted -- and follows an investigation into a series of disappearances that may be murders.

...

Though Death in the Andes skirts tired modernist hypotheses about the Third World, it is still not a postmodern novel in the manner of, say, Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. ...[I]t would be wrong to dismiss it as a coarse statement about inscrutable cultures, for it is a playful and mostly witty realist text about everyday life in Peru: in short, a trustworthy history.

Which last bit I guess is what made me think about Dr. Rauchway's post linked above and the comments thereto.

posted evening of May 7th, 2008: Respond

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

Full Moon Fever

Speaking of Other Colors, this blog looks very promising. Orhan Pamuk category and all. Links to video of a conversation between Pamuk and Rushdie.

Speaking of Orhan Pamuk on video, here is a recent appearance at the NYPL. And nobelprize.org offers a half-hour interview with the author. Plus, here is Maureen Freely discussing translating Pamuk's work.

posted morning of April 15th, 2008: Respond

Monday, April 14th, 2008

Bond

This evening I saw the first James Bond movie I have ever seen: From Russia with Love. How did I like it? Well, I liked it. It seemed extremely similar to North by Northwest, which is a great movie to resemble. Didn't have Hitchcock's genius, maybe, so a lot of the attempts at wit came off as corny and a lot of the dialog was flat; but the photography was lovely, the action exciting, the plot twists not always expected.

Why did I watch the movie? I saw a reference to Goldfinger in Pamuk's Other Colors, and then read this letter in the NY Times, pointing out that Pamuk had the wrong movie in mind. Thought, I've never seen a Bond movie, maybe I'll see about it, added it to my Netflix queue.

posted evening of April 14th, 2008: Respond
➳ More posts about The Movies

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

Notes on identity confusion in Pamuk

...as he read, he identified first with the usher, then with the brawling audience, then with the çörek maker, and finally -- good reader that he was -- with Celâl.

-- The Black Book

A couple of jottings in furtherance of my essay idea:

  • Identity confusion is important in Pamuk.
    • I started to formulate this statement while I was reading Other Colors, and have since seen it borne out in The White Castle, The New Life, and especially The Black Book.
    • Does this statement also apply to Snow and My Name is Red, which I read before it occurred to me? (beyond the obvious detective-story aspects of Red) -- the answer may well be yes but I think I would need to reread them with this in mind, to be sure. If not, it might seem appropriate to think of this as something Pamuk had "outgrown".
    • The confusion that I'm talking about is (frequently) a confusion between the roles of Author and Reader. So it's an easy step to take, to confuse yourself-as-reader with Pamuk-as-author. Or so I think.
    • As a side note, I wonder how this plays into my impression of these 5 novels, which is that each of them is written in a distinctly different style and voice -- though I think I can hear shades of the same voice underlying each -- if Pamuk is serious about giving up his identity when he writes that would help explain the differences. An alternate explanation is that there are four different translators involved in creating English versions of these five books -- only Maureen Freely has two translations. But I don't think those two are particularly more similar to each other than any other pair.
  • I think the experience of losing track of one's identity while reading a story is a wonderful thing; it might be the primary reason I read novels. Understanding this is something I am taking away from reading Pamuk. Is this the same as saying "I read for escape from my everyday life", which seems banal and not really worth thinking about at length the way I have been doing? In Pamuk's novels it seems to be doing a lot more work than that.
  • What larger ideas if any does this lead to? How is the beauty of Pamuk's books explicable in these terms? Would such an explication be "criticism"? (Note: I've had an ongoing conversation with myself about what is criticism, and is it something I would be able to write, for a while now.)

posted evening of April 5th, 2008: Respond
➳ More posts about The Black Book

Monday, December third, 2007

Great Cinema

My brother asks in e-mail, "Really, did you actually love 'Aguirre, etc.' or did you just understand that it's a Great Film?" by way of saying that he understood it to be Great Film but did not find anything to enjoy in the film itself. This is interesting to me because (a) I did actually, authentically enjoy this film and (b) I worry, when I am liking something that I know is Great, about whether my enjoyment is real.

In "On Reading: Words or Images", Pamuk says,

When we notice [our surroundings while reading], we are at the same time savoring our solitude and the workings of our imagination and congratulating ourselves on possessing greater depth than those who do not read. I understand how a reader might, without going too far, wish to congratulate himself, though I have little patience for those who take pride in boasting.

So that is the worry when I tell myself I loved Aguirre, the Wrath of God or My Name Is Red or whatever -- how do I distinguish between the externally-directed pleasure of fancying myself a connoisseur of fine film or literature, and the internal, actual pleasure of understanding and appreciating the work in question? I have an unexamined prejudice that the former pleasure is in bad faith, is boastful and something to be ashamed of.

Herzog's (and Kinski's) genius is certainly front and center in Aguirre -- it seems to me like it would be difficult to watch the movie without having the thought that it is the work of a genius, that it is Great Film. But, I'm not quite sure how to put this, the movie itself is so powerful and moving, the second-hand attributes of the movie are not primary in my mind while I'm watching it.

posted evening of December third, 2007: Respond
➳ More posts about Aguirre, the Wrath of God

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