Recently finished yet another novel from a Nobel Prize in Literature winner. This time it was “Snow” by Orhan Pamuk. As my readers know, I don’t give synopses. For that, head elsewhere. But here are some thoughts.
First, this massive 426 page novel essentially took place over 3 days. That’s it. Three days. That is, if you don’t count that the narrator wrote the book some four years after the main character’s death and that there is some commentary that ties loose ends up from the narrator after the fact. By the way, this isn’t that big of a spoiler because the narrator tells you this midway through the book.
Second, Pamuk does for social and political commentary what Jose Saramago did, but he does it in the style of Haruki Murakami. His prose are easily readable by most standards and hold a surrealist slant that dips in and out of consciousness. Not that I don’t enjoy a tough read. Tough reads make me feel like I’ve actually learned something and grown as a reader, as a writer, and as a human being. But there’s something to be said for readable prose.
Now to the topics Pamuk brings to the reader in “Snow.” There’s discussions of Eurocentric understandings of the world. The story takes place in Kars, Turkey and there are constant reference to what Europeans think of Turks, why they think what they think, and why they are wrong, but not for the reasons the average European would think.
The whole story revolves around the “Suicide girls” and cultural questions revolving around revolution, wearing of the hijab, and religion. Unlike where the average Westerner might think Pamuk to go, he goes everywhere else. He manages to paint a picture that does not denigrate Turks or Islam while at the same time not promoting it outright. All this is done while also not playing the “everything is relative and nothing is moral without relativist understanding.”
For the record, I have not missed the irony that a Westerner is telling you how to think about a book written by a Turk about the Western interpretation of Turkish life.