Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Snow in Turkey

As stated before, I am extremely impressed with this book ("Snow" by Orhan Pamuk); which - whilst seemingly straightforward in terms of plot - is actually multilayered on a number of personal, moral, religious and political levels - without hampering its smooth narrative. The story is thus:

Ka is a Turkish poet who spent 12 years as a political exile in Germany. His reasons for visiting the small Turkish town of Kars are twofold: curiosity about the rash of suicides by young girls in the town and a hope to reconnect with "the beautiful Ipek," whom he knew as a youth. But Kars is a tangle of poverty-stricken families, Kurdish separatists, political Islamists (including Ipek's spirited sister Kadife) and Ka finds himself making compromises with all in a desperate play for his own happiness. Ka encounters government officials, idealistic students, leftist theatre groups and the charismatic and perhaps terroristic Blue while trying to convince Ipek to return to Germany with him; each conversation pits warring ideologies against each other and against Ka's own weary melancholy. Pamuk (the author and narrator) himself becomes an important character, as he describes his attempts to piece together "what really happened" in the few days his friend Ka spent in Kars, during which snow cuts off the town from the rest of the world....

Pamuk's sometimes exhaustive conversations and descriptions create a stark picture of a little-known part of the world, where politics, religion and even happiness can seem alternately all-consuming and irrelevant. A detached tone and some dogmatic abstractions serve only to add to the novel's profound and moving tone.

I am currently only a third of the way through but shall update when I am nearer the end of this brilliant novel.

On a separate note I have recently had contact with Prince Regent Michael of Sealand (an abandoned military fort off the coast of the UK, which was claimed by former British Army Major Paddy Roy Bates in the 1960s and declared an independant nation). Whilst unrecognised by the UN, it has operated as a separate 'de facto' state ever since - even surviving an attempted coup (and kidnapping of Prince Regent Michael) and also exchanging fire with the Royal Navy on one occasion in the 1990s... I have added this state to my list, although as I have over 200 countries to visit before returning to UK waters it shall be some time before I get round to reading it. That said, it does show the diversity and complexity of the idea of 'statehood' that this exercise has shown up, and I express my thanks to the Prince Regent for his suggested work.

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