A pink taxi

A pink taxi

August 30, 2011

Trudging in Snow



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.

2 comments:

  1. The Swiss A340 landed at JFK after a smooth 8 hours flight without a bump or a hitch.Having taken an early flight,we landed a little after noon time.The lady at the border immigration was cheerful and welcoming,then she whispered:the NY airports will be closed for the weekend,a first time even with heavy snow storms.Basically,it was a welcome to the eye of the Hurricane Irene,which was expected to approach the NE of the US by Saturday.
    The weather outside was normal,that took us straight to Manhattan where we checked in and called my daughter,who with others were panicking where to take refuge and how much food and water to stock.Stores were depleted,batteries became extinct ,and candles popular .
    I opened my TV early morning at 4 am enjoying my jet lag,to see Mayor Bloomberg surrounded by his lieutenants announcing the closure of all metro and public transportation,again a first in the history of the Big Apple.I looked at my wife and wondered what a good timing it was for us to witness Manhattan floating into the Atlantic.
    I went out to Fifth Ave to walk mybjet lag and found it deserted as if a curfew was announced in the City.The few passersby were hurrying home carrying more supplies.I was relieved we were staying at an old hotel that can take hurricane battering,and felt safe that we will have backup electricity and ample supplies.I suggested to my daughter and her family to take refuge with us at the hotel.Her scientist father in law suggested to her to take refuge in Allentown,Penn,which is high enough. It started feeling like Noah's Arch,especially that all TV stations had nothing else but news and updates about Irene.
    Irene hit the Carolinas first,and started approaching Manhattan by midnight.The City was divided into sander zones,the most dangerous was Wall St atbthe tip of the island.As if the US economy and the Dollar
    needed to drown more.I went into deep sleep,not able to witness history anymore,especially that my jet lag was getting heavier.
    Woke Sunday to some heavy rain,and good news that Irene,like any female would,has changed it's mind and decided to go West,saving Manhattan from danger.
    Having said all that,it does not mean that the Hurricane did not create havoc and destruction in other areas of New England.The area was declared a federal disaster by Obama who certainly did not need another Tea Party with Irene.Many say Mayor Bloomberg exaggerated his reaction to Irene,but many blamed him for not being ready forth snow storm of December 2010!

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