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(April 19, 2002)


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In Solomon's mind, not wanting and not knowing form part of a much larger question about the world in which he finds himself.

José Saramago

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Friday, August third, 2012

🦋 Peter, dropping names

(This post is a continuation of the earlier Peter's Voice thread -- I am trying among other things to make my reading of La universidad desconocida be Peter's reading, trying to get in his head and read through his eyes and hope to fully realize his character. Hope that anybody's going to be interested in reading about this guy and the books he is reading and translating; but of course this hope has always been intrinsic to the READIN project...)

Walking down Partition Street in the light summer rain and watching the lightning across the river past Rhinebeck. A really impressive storm but it's far enough off, the air's not moving here. You have to strain to make out the thunder. Nice -- I'm glad to fantasize the soundtrack and just watch the show, glad to get a little wet, glad to get home and inside and dry off.

Laura's a little spacey tonight. Dale and them had a gig down at Tierney's, we smoked some grass on the way over there and she really got into it --the intoxication goes very nicely with Megan's chops on the washboard, with Dale singing "Rag Mama Rag," it must be said... a lovely time but all too short as they only had a half-hour set. The other acts? Nothing really that interesting, so here we are back home and Laura's prowling catlike by the bookcase. I'm smiling and asking her what she's reading.

-- Eh, nothing's really grabbed my attention much since Snow.

I grin, and flash on the "Love and Happiness" scene and Al Green singing, and feel the little twinge of uncertainty that's always present around Pamuk, like I'm not really getting it or am getting the wrong thing. (And hm, I should really mention that song to Dale...) -- Want to check out some poetry I've been working on? I found these pretty intense old Chilean poems over at Calixto's blog... and don't mention, or perhaps it goes without saying in this context, these poems from Ávala seem to me like good trip material -- but I've mentioned Chile, and Laura would rather listen to Bolaño. Nice --I open The Unknown University at random and hit on "El dinero"; and it seems to me like this is the perfect poem for today, being as I am in receipt of a check from the Reality Fusion job, feeling confident about our rent for the next few months, even about a shopping trip over to Amazon...

Still not much headway on the literary translation thing. But I remain hopeful; how could I not be, with Laura snuggled against me here on the couch as I read to her.

posted evening of August third, 2012: 7 responses
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Saturday, April 5th, 2008

🦋 Reading order

Tyler Cowen says of Pamuk's books that "The Black Book is the one to read last, once you know the others." I wonder how true this is, and why. I am, coincidentally, reading The Black Book last (leaving aside that I never finished The New Life -- Cowen thinks I would understand it better if I had knowledge of "how Dante appropriated Islamic theological writings for his own ends," which is certainly possible), and it does seem like a good position in the reading order for it. On the other hand I have recommended it to some friends who have not read any Pamuk, principally on the basis of their liking Pynchon -- this book seems to me to have a lot in common with Pynchon's writing, which I don't think any of Pamuk's other books do, particularly much.

I think Snow is a great book to have read first -- principally because I relate very strongly to the lines from its first few pages that I quoted here -- Ka driving into the blizzard is (in certain ways) like me starting to read Snow.

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

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

With the sojourn in Güdül, The New Life is starting to feel more like a book than it was before. I mean it is still very weird and different from other books -- but I now have the sensation that I'm reading a novel, which I didn't really before. I'm seeing some intimations of Snow -- the narrator's reaction to the town is a bit reminiscent of Ka in Kars; his desire for Janan is like Ka's desire for İpek -- and this though they are very different characters individually and pairwise; and the militant fundamentalism in Güdül, and the sense that the place is on the edge of breaking down -- these are some bits that I think come out more fully in Snow.

posted evening of December 15th, 2007: Respond
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Monday, September third, 2007

Al-Ahram Weekly looks like a very useful resource for learning about what's going on in the Islamic world. I am reading an essay about Snow right now, written on the occasion of Pamuk's receiving the Nobel Prize; and a review of My Name is Red.

posted afternoon of September third, 2007: Respond
➳ More posts about My Name is Red

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

🦋 Shame

Snow and My Name is Red are very different books. One thing I am thinking (at this early point) they might have in common, is a theme of embarrassment and shame motivating the principal characters. Is that too broad I wonder?

The only electronic source I have been able to find for Nezami's poetry in translation, is this version of the tale of Hüsrev and Shirin at the Mediæval Sourcebook. -- Oh wait, strike that, that is only an excerpt, and the exact same text is at the Wikipædia link as well.

(Note: a difference between the books is, My Name Is Red seems to be much faster reading than Snow, where reading 15 or 20 pages in a day would seem like a lot, and where I would put the book down for a couple of days and have plenty to chew on. This book is much more difficult to put down, at least in its early portions. I think I will go read some more.)

posted afternoon of August 25th, 2007: 1 response
➳ More posts about Orhan Pamuk

Monday, August 20th, 2007

🦋 Musing on Snow

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.

posted morning of August 20th, 2007: Respond
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Friday, August 17th, 2007

🦋 Love and happiness

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 they 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.

posted evening of August 17th, 2007: Respond

Saturday, August 11th, 2007

🦋 Love and happiness

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.

posted evening of August 11th, 2007: Respond

Friday, August third, 2007

🦋 Spoilers

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.

posted afternoon of August third, 2007: Respond

🦋 The Heart of Snow

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.

posted afternoon of August third, 2007: Respond

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