Snow by Orhan Pamuk

i finally finished¬†snow by orhan pamuk. my head is still swimming a bit from all the quotes i want to save up there. it is set in turkey…i was drawn to reading it because i have a friend who is over there right now and it made me feel like i’m sort of traveling to turkey with her to read this story. i feel as though this author has given me a grasp of the cultural framework of modern day turkey, even though a character in the book warns the reader that there is no way he or she could possibly understand in the most remote way what it is truly like to live in eastern turkey from just this story. and the reader would be most presumptuous to believe differently. still, i credit the author’s brilliance (he did win the nobel prize) for including this disclaimer while still giving the reader an intimate picture of the town of kars and the variety of its people.

i am saving my snow quotes here for my own personal reference use. i am finding it more and more useful to house things i want to remember on this blog instead of in my less than trustworthy brain. and alas, the book must be returned to the library so i shouldn’t underline in it. the main character, a poet named ka says frequently in the book that the silence of snow reminds him of God. since he is (mostly) an atheist, the snow in its constancy is sort of his only connection to belief in God. and it is bewitching to watch the snow (it was snowing here this morning) fall and cause so much change and accumulate everywhere without making any noise. simon and i braved the snow this morning to watch the big kids show us their stuff on their skis and as the cold cut through all my layers (many many technically superior layers), i was glad my residence is not a place overtaken with snow and cold in the winter like the town of kars.

here is a great quote from a student when all different kinds of people are sharing (for a mythical newspaper article) what they would say to the “west” if they could only say one thing. “the west” is constantly personified in this book (and in many cultures, i suppose) as this one sort of idea or group of ideas that all people in europe and other parts of the developed world must ascribe to. it is for this reason that i feel it is so important that more westerners, especially those who are gracious and kind, travel to all different parts of the world. an idea of “the west” can only be dispelled by a relationship with a westerner. an individual.

anyway, this student’s one thing he wishes he could say to the west is this:

we’re not stupid, we’re just poor! and we have a right to want to insist on this distinction.

mankind’s greatest error, the biggest deception of the past thousand years is this: to confuse poverty with stupidity.

throughout history, religious leaders and other honorable men of conscience have always warned against this shaming confusion. they remind us that the poor have hearts, minds, humanity, and wisdom just like everyone else.

people might feel sorry for a man who’s fallen on hard times, but when an entire nation is poor, the rest of the world assumes that all its people must be brainless, lazy, dirty, clumsy fools.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for writing about this book…I saw it and other ones by the author OP in bookstores and didn’t quite know what to expect. I’ll have a chance to visit Turkey this summer, this book will be a good preparation.

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