I am now about two thirds of the way through "Snow", the Turkish book on my journey.
What fascinates me about this book is its structure (as well as its hugely interesting characters and ideas). The book takes place over only 3 days of the protagonist (Ka)'s stay in the snowbound city of Kars, and this is reflected in the dense nature of the text itself. Furthermore, much of the narrative is currently taken up with the different views of a number of radical and moderate characters within Kars - Islamist, communist and secular - mostly involving an antipathy towards both the West and the central Turkish government. It is these religio-political debates which take precendence in the latter half of this book, whilst certain dramatic events (which I won't reveal for fear of spoiling the plot) are portrayed as almost secondary.
This could lead to a dry and inpenetrable work, yet it is quite the opposite, Orhan Panuk keeps the reader's interest by clearly showing the human side of the exponents of these - often contentious - views.
At the stage I have reached in this book, there is also an unexpected - and jarring - chapter, where Panuk himself appears to step in as a character in the novel itself, reflecting back on events following Ka's stay in Kars. Again, I cannot comment too much else I shall spoil the plot, but this brief chapter (the next chapter returns to the main narrative) gives a shocking new perspective to the events that precede and follow it...
What this demonstrates is that Panuk is a consumate writer who is able to anticipate and confound the expectations of his readers. In my opinion, he is also a writer who is able to articulate the concerns of his native homeland (which straddles Western Europe and the Islamist East) in a way which reflects the viewpoint of his fellow countrymen, yet which is also accessible to readers from outside of this perspective.
Given the current global "East/West divide" - as Governments and the media would have it - this work is especially pertinent in giving a human voice to the fragmented views of a nation which is uniquely placed to represent this wider schism, in microcosm.
I shall be finishing this book within the next week or so, and shall sum up my opinions once finished; but suffice to say I am pleased that I came across this novel at this stage on my journey.
One postscript to this blog: may I thank Deena Dajani, a follower of this trip from Jordan, for their encouraging and kind words, and suggestion for a representative work from Jordan. It is hugely encouraging to know that people from around the world are engaging with this project, and accompanying me on my online "journey" - and I really appreciate all suggestions and comments which I receive.