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Focus on Turkey 2013-14 > novel: SNOW. Orhan Pamuk

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message 1: by Betty (last edited Feb 05, 2013 10:16AM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Snow by Orhan Pamuk Study Questions (revised)

Ka, Kadife, Kars! Ka's memories of a happy-ish, lonesome childhood and youth in Istanbul surface during a three-day visit in snowbound, depressed, chaotic Kars, his reputation as a great poet preceding him. He is perceived as westernized and atheistic because of his outsider origins. Ka believes in love and happiness, tempered with pessimism about the future: "Ever ready to fight for happiness, to tell any lie, play any trick to make his dream come true, he hurried back to the hotel, musing upon an image of İpek he had conjured in his mind" (Chapter 27). This statement becomes significant later in the novel.

The hexagonal snowflake in Chapter 29 of Memory, Imagination, Reason--the spirituality of a person.

On his first day, his arrival coincides with that of the theatrical producer Sunay Zaim and the troupe of players, who revive an early-Turkish-republic play "My Father Land or My [Head] Scarf" in the National Theater; it's the first local live broadcast from Kars and reaches a diverse audience of the city's factions (Chapters 15-19; Sunay Zaim's story and his strategy Chapter 22).

On his third day, the actors and Kadife adapt of Thomas Kyd's revenge play The Spanish Tragedy, renaming it "The Tragedy in Kars", which merges Sunay's idea of magic, reality, political debate, and modern art with the volatile theme of liberation from traditional and religious mores. Kadife's starring role is linked to Blue's release from prison but also to her leadership of the head-scarf girls who oppose the state's intervention in their dress.

Standing on principle and belief v. fitting in and adventuresomeness is argued among Ka, Blue, Kadife, Hande and others. Their reasoning is in contrast with the surrounding violence and with the impetus for westernization. E.g., Hande considers the implications for freedom in being able to envision an act of free will v. being unable to envision an act of free will in Chapter 14.

Characterization--Ka of Istanbul feels peaceful security that he's from Istanbul; but it exacerbates his being an outsider. Initially, his emotional composure takes in everything around him until he is greatly affected by several turns of events which splash reality over his isolated dreams; he also is fearful of disappointed happiness in Frankfurt. By contrast to Ka's general disinterest in events outside his range of feelings, Sunay Zaim takes an active involvement in turning art into reality, staging during a performance an authentic coup "to push the truths of Art to their outer limits, to become one with Myth" in the interest of modernizing the city: "...they know nothing about modern art, they'll never be modern!". Blue symbolizes Turkish identity in his statement: "I refuse to be a European, and I won't ape their ways. I'm going to live out my own history and be no one but myself...To be a true Westerner, a person must first become an individual". Kadife's character is seconded to her older sister İpek's until the final chapters, when she proves an independent-minded women and steals the show. There also are other distinctive characters. There also are character-like groups--watchers of soap operas; frequenters of teahouses; idealistic school youths; scatterings of soldiers.

Poetry--Along with Ka, many characters are literary, writing poetry or translating a Russian novel. Ka is the melancholy "pure poet", sensitive to otherworldly transmissions of his poetry. Seems romantic until he is faced with reality: "Happiness and poetry can only coexist for the briefest time. Afterward either happiness coarsens the poet or the poem is so true it destroys his happiness. I'm terribly afraid of the unhappiness that could be waiting for me in Frankfurt" (Chapter 14). Also, "Happiness is finding another world to live in, a world where you can forget all this poverty and tyranny. Happiness is holding someone in your arms and knowing you hold the whole world." And, "For the first time in four years, a poem was coming to him; with a poem, he knew it to be already written before he heard the words...even as it waited in its hiding place, it radiated the power and beauty of destiny. Ka's heart rejoiced."

Time--The city's better past, depressing present, and more modern future are evident in memories and in the physical art of buildings, street names, and statues, all of which seem to hold information if someone would be perceptive enough to see it. Ka's introverted thoughts are unbounded by time. The narrator looks back from the future (four years after Ka had left Kars) to his remembered association with Ka and to what later happened to Ka in Frankfurt and Kars; he reads Ka's "minute-by-minute" notebook entries, tries to locate Ka's poems, retraces Ka's life as if the "ghost" of Ka were with him, and visits Kars as if he were Ka.

Is the narrator's identification a complete surprise? What's behind his sleuthing in Kars and Frankfurt?

What is memorable? What might you change?

Chapter 15's 'what do you want most out of life'? In Chapter 43, İpek wants, "To reconcile and grow old in peace, and have the wit to want nothing from the world..." However, the novel though tragic ends on a happier note.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) Thoughts on the first chapter - I had read this first chapter before, then set the book aside. I see that a lot, people starting this book but not finishing. I think part of it is a somewhat strange (let's call it unique) storytelling style of making big hints of things that are to come without telling them. The narrator knows everything, and keeps hopping around. I hope it calms down a bit, maybe becomes more linear, as the story settles in.


message 3: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Jenny wrote: "The narrator knows everything, and keeps hopping around. I hope it calms down a bit, maybe becomes more linear, as the story settles in..."

I read this morning from each of its chapters to get the big picture about plot, etc. It does look like a "suspenseful" read. The style didn't bother me, but the appearance of the "I" narrator did make me change my mind about a gist of the story--the narrator's biography of sorts about Ka and his poems.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) I also found this small Flickr photoset, Pamuk Route.


message 5: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 177 comments I'll be reading this one, but will have to fit it in amongst others I'm committed to read for other groups, both RL and virtual. Maybe toward the end of January.


message 6: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments We will be reading Snow until January 31. The comments about it probably never close.


message 7: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 177 comments One of the things I like best about on-line book discussions is that you can miss it and still participate because the questions/comments are there for you to review and then you can add your own as well.


message 8: by Silver (new)

Silver This is my 2nd book by the author, but I think he is a beautiful writer. I loved the opening paragraph and I think Pamuk's prose is so lyrical and captivating.

I very much enjoy the physical descriptions of snow within the book and I think it will be interesting to see how the landscape as well as some of the symbolic associations with snow will play within the story and the characters.

One random thought which I could not help but notice while reading is that the main characters name (or nickname) Ka is also the name of one of the seven souls the Ancient Egyptians believed in. The Ka was your double when you died and is a changeable personality.


message 9: by Betty (last edited Jan 02, 2013 09:25PM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Jenny wrote: "I also found this small Flickr photoset, Pamuk Route."

The photos of head-scarfed women in Kars 2008 before the controversy about the scarves ban had reached its latest conclusion in 2010 (Headscarf controversy in Turkey-Wikipedia) probably sparked more divisiveness than in Istanbul.


message 10: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Maggie wrote: "One of the things I like best about on-line book discussions is that you can miss it and still participate because the questions/comments are there for you to review and then you can add your own a..."

And the computerized comments unlike a notecard or Ka's green notebook are at your fingertips.


message 11: by Marieke (new)

Marieke | 155 comments I learned about Ka in Specters, which i just read. I'm excited to start Snow. I got my copy today.


message 12: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Silver wrote: "...I very much enjoy the physical descriptions of snow within the book and I think it will be interesting to see how the landscape as well as some of the symbolic associations with snow will play within the story and the characters..."

Snow (weather), Snow (title of Ka's poetry collection), and Snowflakes (weather), Snowflakes (each person's "spiritual course"), and perhaps other associations of snow in the novel (Kars=Snow?) exemplify the author's talent or like Ka's poetic inspiration given by a muse.

I didn't know about the Ka of the ancient Egyptians.


message 13: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Marieke wrote: "I learned about Ka in Specters, which i just read. I'm excited to start Snow. I got my copy today."

I am very much interested to find out more about the resemblance of Ka and the narrator, given the latter's interest in Ka's poems and Ka's own "exegesis" of his own same poems, though the narrator might not think himself equal to bringing off Ka's romantic image of snow.

I think your book "Specters" is on my TBR.


message 14: by MiA (new)

MiA (mirhershelf) | 9 comments You guys make this novel sound intriguing. Can't wait to get my copy.


message 15: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 10 comments I'm in the middle of the book and I have to admit there are times I like it and times I have a hard time getting through it. The more difficult passages, for me, are the ones that read more like an essay. The 'debate' passage about the head scarf could have been submitted as an essay and it almost felt like it was something the author wrote as one, initially, and plugged it in the novel and wrote a story around it.


message 16: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Marwa wrote: "You guys make this novel sound intriguing. Can't wait to get my copy."

I am partly into the novel and am delighted with it.


message 17: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Kathryn wrote: "I'm in the middle of the book and I have to admit there are times I like it and times I have a hard time getting through it. The more difficult passages, for me, are the ones that read more like a..."

I am not at that point, Kathryn, but am pleased that you pointed out that passage. Which chapter should we be looking at for it? Thanks.


message 18: by Silver (new)

Silver I loved the line

"Most the time it is not Europeans who belittle us. What happens when we look at them we belittle ourselves"

I think that this can be applied to humans in general, and our own personal experiences. The presumptuous we make of what others think of, or our own self-criticism that we project upon others.


message 19: by Betty (last edited Jan 09, 2013 07:51AM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Silver wrote: "I loved the line

"Most the time it is not Europeans who belittle us. What happens when we look at them we belittle ourselves"..."


Chapter 8. One effect of literature is to bring out truths of human existence.

There's also Blue's skepticism about Ka's apparent motive of journalistic interviews when that true motivation is not at all undercover spying but Ka's desire to re-experience childhood and to reestablish his romance with İpek.

[Edit: Quite a bit of psychology in this book!]


message 20: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments The recorded transcript of the conversation in Chapter 5 between Dr Yılmaz and the unnamed assassin takes place at the café during Ka and İpek's conversation. Imo, the parallel conversations are interestingly done, and the former one brings out the human and inhumane sides of the government's controversial rule.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) Asma wrote: "The recorded transcript of the conversation in Chapter 5 between Dr Yılmaz and the unnamed assassin takes place at the café during Ka and İpek's conversation. Imo, the parallel conversations are in..."
I just read that chapter last night and found it very interesting. You could almost imagine it reflected on the tv screen in the corner!


message 22: by Marieke (new)

Marieke | 155 comments I just started the book this morning so I have only read through chapter one. Does anyone else have the copy with the introduction by Margaret Atwood? It was quite interesting and made me excited to get started.


message 23: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Jenny wrote: "...I just read that chapter [5] last night and found it very interesting. You could almost imagine it reflected on the tv screen in the corner! ..."

Television-viewing is very noticeable during Ka's going around Kars; available telephones less so for him. Quite a few poets around, too.


message 24: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Marieke wrote: "...Does anyone else have the copy with the introduction by Margaret Atwood? It was quite interesting and made me excited t..."

I have the 2002 instead of the 2011. What is the gist of the Introduction?


message 25: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Did you find the diagram of the Snowflake at the end of chapter 29? Maybe, it is explained somewhere.


message 26: by Silver (new)

Silver Asma wrote: "Did you find the diagram of the Snowflake at the end of chapter 29? Maybe, it is explained somewhere."

I have not yet gotten that far, but I will keep that in mind when I get there.


message 27: by Silver (new)

Silver I really like the dual meaning of snow, and its portrayal within the book. On the one hand we are given the beauty of it, and the way in which it has inspired Ka to write again, as well as bring him closer to God.

Yet on the other hand with the political upheaval, Ka's own exile, his misery you can really feel the bleakness of the snowy landscape and feel how isolating it is.

Snow does appear as both a bringer of death as well as the essence of beauty and purity.

I have also noticed how concepts such as darkness, solitude, and silence seem to be reappearing throughout the book.

It conveys a mix of both hope and sorrow.


message 28: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Silver, I noted the diagram (Reason, Memory, Imagination) from browsing through the chapters and pages which describe each of Ka's poems by way of info, "The Order in Which Ka Wrote His Poems", at the back of the novel in my edition.

So far, the novel is maintaining my interest in the characters and their predicament. I'm sure that there is myth and symbolism which takes the story to a different level of appreciation. A bit more of Turkish history in my repertoire would be nice now.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) I hit page 200 today, so I'm a little less than halfway through. A few things that are bothering me about the writing, which I'm going to write severely. Somehow doing so makes it easier to articulate. Feel free to disagree, or offer another perspective, as I suspect I'm missing something:(view spoiler)


message 30: by Silver (last edited Jan 18, 2013 09:41AM) (new)

Silver Jenny wrote: "I hit page 200 today, so I'm a little less than halfway through. A few things that are bothering me about the writing, which I'm going to write severely. Somehow doing so makes it easier to articu..."

As far as the poems are concerned though a part of me was curious about the poems, because poetry is so subject I think that not telling the poems in a way preserves the purity and essence of the poetry and Ka's ability as a poet.

For example the first poem Snow, is described as being this outstandingly beautiful poem, I do not think there is any way the writer could write the poem that would do it justice as it were. If one reading the poem is not as affected by it as the characters in the book it could thus affect ones perception of the reading, but each person reading must imagine what to them the most beautiful poem they ever read would be.


message 31: by Silver (new)

Silver I think the question of Ka's emotional response is a bit more complicated. I do not truly feel that Ka is devoid of emotion, but it is true that he lacks displaying emotional responses to the actions which happen around him.

It maybe a result of a disconnect between Ka and the narrator, because I do get a strong sense of Ka's struggle, his unhappiness, his desire for love. I think he does feel deeply. Perhaps it is also part of his being so much an exile, and the fact that he does not quite fit into Kars he struck between the two different political fractions and so maybe it reelects his isolation, and how alone he feels, the way in which he does not seem to directly interact with his surroundings.

It may also be reflective of the fact that he is a poet, he internalizes things, instead of outwardly expressing them, as it is true that it seems many of his poems are inspired by the major events that happen to him, so perhaps this is the way in which he expresses himself and processes everything that is happening around him.

He is an outsider, and he himself does not know truly what he believes, or what he wants to believe, or what he wants in life.


message 32: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Jenny wrote: "1. The narrator gives a lot away...2. We don't get to read the poems?...3. Does Ka feel ANYTHING?..."

The omniscient narrator had a lifelong relationship (27 years?) with Ka and visited Kars to fill in the gaps about the rest of Ka's life. The narrator looks back after four(?) or several years since Ka's visit, however telling the story as if in the present, divulging the past and future by way of his omniscience and, per your comment, tossing in enough bones of facts to tantalize.

Quite strange the poems aren't printed. Ka mostly wrote them in a notebook, and
they were evidence of his renewed creativity--the poet's receiving a direct transmission from another realm.

The interaction of Ka's character with the rest of the world does seem wooden--a solitary vehicle attentive to and absorbed by a muse and unable to avert destiny, an innocent romantic of love, beauty, and childhood, an inquisitive nonpartisan amidst the roiling issues.


message 33: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Silver wrote: "...If one reading the poem is not as affected by it as the characters in their book it could thus affect ones perception of the reading, but each person reading must imagine what to them the most beautiful poem they ever read would be. ..."

Silver, that explanation helps a lot. Each reader becomes a poet and a participant to Ka's reading. Thanks.


message 34: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Silver wrote: "...It maybe a result of a disconnect between Ka and the narrator, because I do get a strong sense of Ka's struggle, his unhappiness, his desire for love. I think he does feel deeply. Perhaps it is also part of his being so much an exile...he is a poet, he internalizes things, instead of outwardly expressing them..."

Another characteristic of Ka is his frequent meditation of the silently falling snow and his identification with a unique snowflake. He's at its center; his psychological qualities its axes. He's more connected and awed with the divine nature of snow than to anything else. It's a metaphor for his essence; he "internalizes" this as well as human events into his poems.


message 35: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments About Ka's emotional distance from everyday events, the last page of Chapter Nineteen might be helpful: "One of its important ideas was the poet's ability to shut off part of his mind even while the world is in turmoil. If this meant that a poet had no more connection to the present than a ghost did, such was the price a poet had to pay for his art!"


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) Okay the ending explains why we don't see the poems, but that still doesn't mean I wouldn't have liked to. I think it would have filled in the bits that Ka was experiencing that he was holding from us. I'm going to mull over before saying more, now that I've finished.

I did find that the author's website has some interesting information on the book, links to articles and reviews, etc. You may also see pictures of him, and the space where he works.


message 37: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Very interesting, Jenny. It will continue to be useful for our subsequent reads by the author.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) Asma wrote: "Very interesting, Jenny. It will continue to be useful for our subsequent reads by the author."
Oh, which of his other works are we going to read?


message 39: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Between now and mid-year it's The Museum of Innocence and My Name is Red.


message 40: by Sue (last edited Jan 20, 2013 02:56PM) (new)

Sue | 306 comments Oh, perhaps I will give My Name is Red another try. I just started it last year with MENA, but just couldn't fit it in, couldn't get into it then. I believe I have Museum of Innocence too.


message 41: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Adding this http://www.learner.org/courses/worldl... at this time may be rushing. The book apparently is a classic.

Museum... is also a good reading.


message 42: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments Asma wrote: "Adding this http://www.learner.org/courses/worldl... at this time may be rushing. The book apparently is a classic.

Museum... is also a good reading."


Is this the show that was on PBS? That's what initially got me interested in reading the book. Then I saw the show on Gilgamesh and found that fascinating too.


message 43: by lanalang (new)

lanalang | 8 comments I skipped 'Snow' but sure I'll read "The Museum of Innocence" and "My Name is Red".


message 44: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Sue wrote: "Is this the show that was on PBS? That's what initially got me interested in reading the book. Then I saw the show on Gilgamesh and found that fascinating too. ..."

Quite likely, Sue. There also was The Odyssey, The Tale of Genji, and more cultural classics.


message 45: by Betty (last edited Jan 21, 2013 08:38AM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments lanalang wrote: "I skipped 'Snow' but sure I'll read "The Museum of Innocence" and "My Name is Red"."

'Snow' is full of details and characters and is a bit of a confusion because of the palimpsestic historical events and the mystery of ethereal snow. Imo, a very interesting, artfully done story though takes time to understand its nitty gritty and its larger concepts.


message 46: by Catherine (new)

Catherine (catjackson) Just started the novel last night and absolutely love it. I grew up in Canada and really connect to the "snow". His use of atmospherics to help create mood is wonderful.


message 47: by Betty (last edited Jan 23, 2013 11:52PM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Catherine wrote: "Just started the novel last night and absolutely love it. I grew up in Canada and really connect to the "snow". His use of atmospherics to help create mood is wonderful."

I have mostly good memories of snow and snow falling as a child. One winter my talented father designed a life-sized dome of an igloo from blocks of snow with a jutting out tunnel entrance in front. Of course, us kids crawled inside. It conveys the strength of winters and snow suits back then.

Besides Pamuk's novel Snow, I am reading a poetry collection by the Swedish poet Lars Gustafsson, one of the poems being entitled "Snow". I looked for similarities between them. See what you think.

"Snow" by Lars Gustafsson
Early, in the light grayness after snowfall
I heard the child murmuring rhymes and halfwords.

It was a language from a stranger's mouth,
lighter than ours, more gentle, falling like snow.

In lovers' faces for a helpless moment
there's a glimpse of something, before they know they love

and change everything back to what it was.
When glass bursts you hear a special sound

and cracks run through frozen lakes,
no bird flies so swiftly.

I cannot count the dawns I've seen, and none
was matched by the day that followed.

It goes by. It doesn't wait. The crack runs.

But in the light gray, the indefinite, there we could live.
You know the look of snow just when it's fallen.

#


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) Lovely poem. To me, the difference is that in Sweden, there isn't any violence under the snow.


message 49: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments Love the poem Asma.


message 50: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3657 comments Jenny wrote: "Lovely poem. To me, the difference is that in Sweden, there isn't any violence under the snow."

Sounds as if you know the last half of the story, Jenny.

I think if characters lived in "the indefinite, there we could live", then they would be living in the present moment before its being transformed for other purposes.


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