I’m having trouble keeping up with all the legal challenges Orhan Pamuk is facing in Turkey. Apparently Pamuk keeps giving interviews about the lawsuits against him, which only results in more lawsuits. It’s kind of like that scene in Breakfast Club where the teacher keeps saying “You want another?” and Judd Nelson keeps saying “Yeah.” As Molly Ringwald would whisper: Orhan, stop …
Seriously, much is murky about this whole situation, which makes the nation of Turkey appear ridiculous to the rest of the world. It’s sad because Pamuk was originally greeted as a proud literary representative of a Turkey that had advanced beyond its Midnight Express image (remember that one?). As Laila Lalami reported last month on Moorish Girl, the bad reflection these lawsuits cast on the Turkish national government may not be fully deserved, or at least is probably not well understood.
I’m about 2/3 of the way through Pamuk’s breakthrough novel, Snow, and I’m loving it. It’s a breezy read, warm and funny even as it bristles with soft-spoken political rage. In its humor and humanity, it often reminds me of Isaac Bashevis Singer or Franz Kafka (not Kafka when he’s being Kafkaesque, but Kafka when he’s writing hilarious dialogue between kooky townspeople, which was certainly one of his specialties and is one of Pamuk’s as well).
A couple of grace notes that stand out in my mind: the newspaper editor who prints a review of the hero’s poetry reading before the reading takes place, going so far as to make up the title of the poem the hero must then write. That’s what reminds me of Singer. Then there’s the moment when Ka pauses to allow the detective who is shadowing him to catch up with him. The detective asks if Ka could possibly just tell him where he is going to make things easier, and Ka agrees, except that he doesn’t know where he’s going. That’s the part that reminds me of Kafka.