Thursday, January 13, 2005

I'm reading Orhan Pamuk's Snow now - started it in Istanbul, borrowed it at the hotel we're always staying at, the first fiction book in months - well, except for Cingiz Aitmatov's novel, but that one was in Russian, and I often feel like a different person when I read in Russian, like a bad student I used to be, finally eager to catch up with my high school and college curriculum reading, sort of... and Pamuk's novel is from a different universe - it's an English translation, from Turkish, about the country I thought I knew much about but now realize that was very little, the country I'm beginning to understand, the country somehow so remindful of both Russia and Ukraine, in many aspects, both good and bad... I've had too many interruptions - travel, photography, other books - so I'm still at the very beginning of Snow, but I love the voice, dry and subdued, journalism tinged with sadness...


I've just re-read the post at Aegean Disclosure about Christopher Hitchens' review of Snow - here's the part of it that I totally agree with, even though I haven't finished the novel yet:

Hitchen’s criticism of Pamuk’s style is most clearly summarized when he notes that “Pamuk’s literalism and pedantry are probably his greatest enemies as a writer of fiction; he doesn’t trust the reader until he has hit him over the head with dialogue and explanation of the most didactic kind.” Although I haven’t read Snow, I know this attribute comes up once in a while to bite Pamuk in his other works.

Then on the political side, although praising him for his ambivalence, Hitchens criticizes Pamuk for his lack of courage:

“Some important Turkish scholarship has recently attempted an honest admission of the Armenian genocide and a critique of the official explanations for it. The principal author, in this respect is Taner Akcam, who, as Pamuk is certainly aware, was initially forced to publish his findings as one of those despised leftist exiles in Germany—whereas from reading Snow one might easily conclude that all the Armenians of Anatolia had decided for some reason to pick up and depart en masse, leaving their ancestral properties for tourists to gawk at.”

Hitchens is criticizing Pamuk here for not being blunt enough, for not taking a stand, even though he scolds Pamuk for being too explicit and didactic with respect to other aspects of the novel. However, with such a blunt explanation, wouldn’t the sense of eeriness of Kars subside rather than swell? Pamuk may in fact be guilty of not wanting such an admission to eclipse his entire novel.


Our Istanbul hotel receives Turkish Daily News, "Turkish first and only English daily," each morning, and a few days before our departure I read an opinion piece on the approaching 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide - a piece noteworthy for its author's horrible taste, if nothing else. Here's the beginning:

Be ready for the Armenian tsunami

Tuesday, January 4, 2005
Mehmet Ali Birand

I am writing this article for those who have no idea what we will face during the year. It aims to prepare for the things to come.

A huge tsunami is approaching our shores.

I can almost hear it. The sky is getting darker and the water on the shore is retreating.

The tsunami I am talking about comes as a result of the earthquake among the Armenian Diaspora and will soon be upon us. If the necessary precautions are not taken in a timely manner, we might face a huge calamity. We might never recover.

The reason why this tsunami formed is that on April 24, 2005 is the 90th anniversary of the symbolic date of the Armenian genocide allegations.

Armenians want to utilize this chance fully.

For years, due to Turkish indifference, they succeeded in making the world accept the genocide allegations as a fact. No matter how much we deny them, Armenian efforts have persuaded the international public. If you go anywhere, especially in the western world, you will see 90 percent of the people you talk to believe Armenians had been the victims of genocide at the hands of Turks.

That is why Armenians do not want to waste this opportunity. They want a final assault and finish the matter.

If I were a Turkish citizen, I'd be ashamed to have someone like this man speak for me. But I'm a Ukrainian and we've got plenty of our own shitheads - no need to look elsewhere.

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