My father was surprised that I stole an hour a day for a week, from noon to one, from the lovely French summer to watch the FINA swimming competition on tv.
I surprise myself to be trudging through Snow at the end of August, when we are all (except for those in Dubai) holding so tight to summer days, squeezing the last carefree days of the season.
Instead, I am reading a depressing and langorous novel by Orhan Pamuk entitled Snow. It was the French translation I found at the bookstore; My Name is Red wasn't available there. I pledged to read another Pamuk, but in French translation this time, just to escape the overtly pretentious use of English translation of his lighter Museum of Innocence.
While I can guess that the French is better adjusted to the novel (I will never know lest I revert to the very difficult study of Turkish), I do know for the fact that I am not reading a light love story like Museum of Innocence, but rather a profound and symbolic novel about Turkey and its multifaceted issues.
The narrative is extremely slow. It develops in intricate and repetitive detail. It is always snowing and everyone in this snowed-down village is always watching a tv set (most probably a black and white one, thus adding to the colorless scenes). I trample in the snow with the poet-protagonist, influenced by the lethargy of the villagers, who bore me in their monotony. His style is deliberately anthropological and documentary style and I cannot grip to the story.
I don't want to enter the undescribed landscapes. In this novel, its not about detailed landscapes, but about the general vision of snow as an element, covering everything, endlessly. Things do occur, amplified. A murder. A furitive kiss. A clandestine political conversation. Awfully violent reunions. Endless debate about religion and culture.
The Islamic veil is debated in a so-called secular nation, where it was discouraged or even at one time forbidden. And the snow covers, symbolically, like the veil. Does Pamuk not approach God in the Pantheist manner of Rousseau or Voltaire? Does he not see God in the beauty and power of Snow? Pamuk philosophies and debates delicate issues.
I wish the cover of the book had been a snowscape by Abbas Kiorostami. Those photographs convey the imagery and poetry of Orhan Pamuk. He is an intellectual from the Middle East, as we have few. I must grant him the study and respect for his contribution to our imagination. However, and based on two novels I have read by him, I often wonder why Pamuk has to explain and exhibit "the Turkish elements" to a foreign readership, rather than have us and his Turkish readers discover them in a less obvious way.
I must read the remaining three quarters of the book. I didn't say it was going to be easy. Nor did I expect it to be fun.