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Tucked in a far corner of Turkey – ‘Snow’ by Pamuk

October 18, 2009



Snow is the story of a forty-two year old Turkish exile living in Germany, who returns to a small town of Kars, situated in the north-eastern Turkey. Kars is suffering from a strange suicide epidemic among women. It is on the verge of a coup, a coup by the Kemalists to save it from falling in the clutches of either the political Islamists or the modernists. An education official who had banned the use of headscarves is brutally murdered by an Islamic terrorist. Kars has complex history with Armenian and Russian layers under the Turkish ones.

Being post-modern, it has its confusing points – a near-absurdist plot, a dreamlike sequence of events, and caricatures which are not individuals enough. The speech of the Islamic terrorist, in which he tells the education official the reason of assassinating him, is the only non-modernist text in the novel. All these things make it a little difficult read. But it has flow and structure. Under all this post-modern paraphernalia, there are real issues discussed, like the rise of political Islam, the Westernization of Turkey, and the struggle between the Kemalists, the Communists and the Islamists. It is the discussion of these real issues which hooks the reader to the book.

A Panorama of Kars

A Panorama of Kars

Istanbul, the non-fiction book of Pamuk makes one wonder that if Pamuk can write in simple non-post-modernist prose then why does he go so post-modernist in his fiction? Perhaps the reason is the nature of the sensitive issues he discusses in his books. In this world of political correctness where criticizing Islam is a taboo; a world dominated by the Islamic apologists like Edward Said and Karen Armstrong, it takes a lot of courage and defiance to write about the issues Pamuk writes. His predecessors from the Islamic world like Naguib Mahfouz and Farag Fouda, who tried to criticize Islam, paid a heavy price. Maybe this is why Pamuk shrouds these issues in his post-modernist plots.

If you are sufficiently interested in all these issues – Islam, Islamization vs. Westernization, the East-West conflict of Turkey – then you will happily wade through Snow.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Razer permalink
    October 20, 2009 4:34 PM

    Very nice blog indeed. I’ve began following u on twitter when I read ur abt me on ur blog. It’s very exciting to find person with same interests, we almost have 90% same interest, the only field seems to be exception is: financial history, stock markets, global markets and their economics. U have done ur M.A in English literature and I’ve done my B.A in English literature. I came to know abt u when I was browsing Burkha Dutt’s twitter profile, there she replied to u on the controversial usage of term Hindu terror. Like u I had also asked him the same question why her organization didn’t use the term Muslim terror or Islamic terror…? But she didn’t reply to me. After reading ur other tweets, especially those done to Sagarika, I was sure we not only have same interests (as u mentioned in ur abt me) but perhaps also have same thinking as well. Nice to meet u guy like u. I apologize if I posted this in wrong place.

  2. Bhushan permalink
    April 18, 2010 11:45 PM

    First time visitor here. Great blog you have got here.

    Snow is indeed one of Phamuk’s best, but, I think his most approachable novel (and the one I feel is his best work) is his latest novel “Museum of Innocence”. Finally you see Phamuk not following the post-modernist approach he uses for other his fiction work. I think you have speculated on the reason in one of your other posts, that, it may be driven by the sensitive nature of topics he is dealing with (i.e. Islam, wonder when it will become not-so-sensitive to talk openly about Islam…may be it is just wishful thinking!). In Museum of Innocence you can sense that Phamuk is not constrained by all the political topics which held him back. I found Museum of Innocence to be very fulfilling read. Highly recommended.

  3. April 19, 2010 10:32 AM

    Thanks for visiting. ‘Museum of Innocence’ is the only Pamuk work translated in English which I haven’t read so far. Actually I was a little fed up with the postmodernist style to pick up yet another long postmodernist read. But as you tell me he has left his customary style and has gone straight in this novel I will buy and read it straight away. Pamuk is indeed one of my favorite authors and without postmodernism he will be like hurray to me!

    Keep visiting and tell me if you blog yourself too. Are you on twitter?

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