I recently read Pamuk's Snow. As the blurbs rightly pointed out, Snow is essential reading for our times. Snow is eerily prescient, both in its analyses of fundamentalism as well as the conflicts arising out of Westernization. It catches the pulse of a nation, Turkey, in eternal transit.It takes us on an in depth tour of the divided, hopeful, desolate and mystifying Turkish soul.
Among all his novels, Snow is closest to realism, but told in an unconventional and sardonoic manner. It is a political allegory, stitched around a melancholy poet cum jounalist. During a week's stay in a small, provincial town of Turkey, Ka the Hero comes up against the shocking suicides of young girls, referred to sardonically as the head scarf girls. The thing that sends shock waves and frightens Ka is the manner in which these girls had killed themselves - abruptly, without ritual or warning, in the midst of their everyday routine of life. These girls maintain that their arcane beliefs need not be challenged with rationale. Also that men may have several means of protest, but women have none - except to die. It is against the backdrop of such a decaying city reeling under the onslaught of the crisis of identity, that love blooms.
It is a tragic love story, all the more so because they are a departure from Pamuk's earlier heroines who were idealised objects of desire as Shekure is in My Name is Red, and Ruya is In The Black Book. The female characters in Snow are strong and hold opinions of their own and they are not willing to trade it for their own pleasure. They have responsiblities from which they do not want to escape, which is what men do, faced with black circumstances like these.
There are flashes of black comedy as also all the other elements that make Pamuk what he is. It is a thrilling and dark journey into the all too familiar Pamuk territory - of mysterious deaths, innovative killings, where the murderer talks his mind to the to be murdered, a format Pamuk has patented in Red. It is also about faith, identity, betrayal and solitude.
In the final act, stright out of a Brechtian play, infact a play inside a play, the leader of the head scarf girl bares her hair and the editor of the small time newspaper who has employed Kar in the first place, actually kills himself on stage, while the audience who do not understand the black humour of it gapes and is then faced with gunfire and bombs. It is a staged coup that has been enacted on stage. Take the case of the unusual character of the editor who writes the story even before it happens. I was reminded of an MT film with Mammtty as the hero when he, a newspaperman, in the clutches of a mortal sickness,stumbles upon his own obituary written neatly and readied for publication.
Ka the outsider leaves the Turkey without realising his dream of taking Ipek, his former girlfriend to Germany. His dreams of living with Ipek away from Turkey is dashed to the ground by Ipek's own denial os self abettment. I shall not leave Turkey or my old father for the sake of my safety and happiness - that is her final argument. There the tragedy sets in.
Snow is also the most contemporary novel of Pamuk, nearer to The New Life which is a commentary against the ills of globalisation.
Like I said at the beginning, Snow is essential reading of our times. Check it out.