Snow by Orhan Pamuk
I found it hard to follow up Eat, Pray, Love with Snow. Of course I am not comparing the two books since there is no point. As I think people should not be compared against each other probably it is a good idea to keep that in mind for books too. I was eating up the pages of Elizabeth’s quest just as I would enjoy some object of a food craving; “Snow” on another hand I found it unsettling (which is a good thing).
I have not finished it yet. I am 100 pages away. I mentioned before this is the point in my lecture when I am well fond of the characters and the story and we finally resolved our differences and we accepted each other as part of our lives. In this case the melancholy is substituted by the certainty that is has to end soon, it’s intensity only confirms it. You can live with that type of claw around your heart for so long..
And now I finished it (Oct 19,2010), about two weeks after I started the introduction. So here it goes….
I would say this about the richness of the book: a book club may need a few sessions to go through the main ideas. True it depends how long the book club session last but I made the assumption of one to two hour sessions. I picked two points to depict: the headscarf and the burden.
Ka’s journey to Kars starts with the investigation of the increased number of suicides of the “headscarf girls”. The main reported reason was they couldn’t and did not want to live if they were not allowed to express their religion in the day-to-day life. I didn’t get if there was a conclusion on how many of the girls actually committed suicide on this basis.
The only thing I will say on the general idea of wearing or not wearing headscarves is that I can’t agree with anything that feels restrictive or oppressive. And that goes both ways I cannot agree with the idea that women have to wear them or they are not allowed to wear them against their will. I think we are smart and blessed with enough intelligence (human intelligence) to go about expressing ourselves without oppressing or restricting each other. But I diverge this was not the part I found upsetting.
What made me angry was another facet of this topic. As I read it in the bus I was very eager to unleash a proper rant about it. The ‘lucky’ receiver was my partner that evening as he is often the first to hear these things. Maybe with this blog I will lighten his burden … one can hope…
The context was a school director’s last conversation while he was being held under attack, for not allowing girls wearing scarves in class. The part of the discussion I am referring to is: “But the opposite is true. Headscarves protect women from harassment, rape and degradation”.
I was fine all through the religious or personal reasons for wearing headscarves. But when I thought about this particular sentence it made me sad to admit that we live in a world where women instead of being able to convey what they feel or think (even through what they wear) they have to dress a certain way to protect themselves. It angered me to see the harassment, rape and degradation as an accepted fact . So instead of accepting this as if it were some unknown force causing it, maybe we can identify where there is a need to educate and encourage appropriate, non-intrusive way of expressing attraction or whatever it may be. It is unfortunate that there are so many situations when women can only get respect and protection if they cover themselves.
I am keeping in mind the entirety of the dialogue and I am not hung up on this particular bit. But this is the one that provoked in me an immediate reaction and it was hard for me to think some people accept this as a decisive reason for women to wear headscarves.
I know in some instances it is necessary to protect yourself and as a girl/woman you can’t assume safety everywhere and all the time but that doest mean I have to recognize this, as a normal way of things should be.
The burden of choosing a side. I felt it at various times in my lecture. From being on Ka’s side and rooting for him as a man in love and trying to create his world along side his lover from the political and religious sides.
The political burden I can’t say it was that heavy. I tried to understand reasons behind each of the two main quests for power: secularists and political islamists but I ended up with the same feeling I always do: mistrust. I am not sure where I stand when it comes to political views but, as a child I have witnessed my grandfathers reaction to seeing Ceausescu on TV and it was one of tension, sheltering the anger of someone who was robbed. Considering this to be my first contact with politics, I can say that even now not much has changed. To put that in the context of the book, I can rationally understand reasons behind each ones battle for power but I can’t say I would trust any of them. The only thing which was common to both of them was that most of the times innocent people are the ones getting hurt.
I felt the burden of possibly being viewed as an “atheist European”. When faced with having to express to the world what is it I believe in, I felt that there would have been a few people in Kars who would have considered me an “atheist European”. I wondered if I would have looked for way out of this potential label and looked into my Christian Orthodox background for correlations and showcases of religious rigorous behaviour. Its continuous conflict in me where on one side I appreciate the dedication and the love one feels for God but on another I disregard the inflexibility of putting each other down because we have different ways of believing.
Oh and the greatest burden of all of the love which walks hand in hand with death. There is a lot of love in “Snow” from love of God to love of people or love of creation. But it comes with sacrifices and it is also the love, which doesn’t bring only the good in people. As much as Ka’s love brought a heavenly inspiration to create poems again it also brought an insecure, obsessive and compulsive self out. I thought it was beautifully honest when Ipek described what she felt for Ka. She didn’t fall in the spell of this quick and immediate love as Ka did but she did find an opening in her heart for him. She felt ready for her to begin to love him. It was incredibly honest to portray that love does not always have to be an established feeling and that sometimes an opening is all one needs to start the journey.
As the ending approached one predominant idea remained: I can’t pretend to understand what happened nor what is going to happen in similar situations unless I am there. It may be obvious but even the characters underline this idea when asked what would they have liked people to know about Kars. The only thing I can do is thinking about how certain ideas make me feel.
To end this little note I will say that all through the lecture I was entangled in a web made of strings of snow. Reading it felt like breaking a perfect field of snow and struggling through the white perfection.