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Freewheeling Andy

Snow by Orhan Pamuk

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Snow by Orhan Pamuk


I wanted this review to just go like this: "Aaaaaaaaargh!"


Because that's how I felt.


But decided that would probably be unhelpful to those interested in reading the book.


My second thought was to write the review as follows "Zzzzzzzzz...."


But, although that's more helpful, it's probably not enough.


Both "aaaaargh! and "zzzzz..." describe my thoughts about this book, though, which took me three months to read. It's dense, and heavy and therefore does take a long time to read. But it's also utterly dull and un-gripping, and (if I'm allowed to use the word here), shhhhhhh. So I never wanted to pick it up to battle my way through seven long, turgid, dull, badly translated sentences.


As for the book itself? It should be brilliant. Pamuk has just won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and is surely, therefore, a great author (although I've seen no sign of it in the two books of his I've read).


This book is a tale of a revolution and coup in a city in eastern Turkey which has been cut off by snow.


The central themes of the book are how secularism and religious fundamentalism clash, with the extremely topical subject of whether it's fine to wear a headscarfe in secular society (although we've gone beyond that and are arguing about the veil now).


It's also a love story, the tale of a man infatuated and and trying to get a girl to reciprocate and run away with him.


These are elements of what should be a brilliant book. If the brilliant book exists, though, it's not this one.


The main protagonist is annoying, irrational, impossible to follow, spectacularly emotional and fragile. As, it seems, are all poets and authors in literature. I have a strong feeling that writers should never write about writers, or poets (or, for that matter, academia), because it shows a desperate lack of imagination, of ability to see anyone other than themselves, a lack of empathy.


But this character is worse, and we get 500 dense pages of his agonising.


Perhaps there's a deliberate, but I suspect it's accidental, irony that the protagonist is agonising, so Pamuk makes reading the book agonising for us.


My feeling is, though, that the book is just rubbish.


Some people love it, I will add. People whose tastes I trust. But my advice is to steer well, well, clear. There are better Turkish writers, there are better tales of extremism, there's a load of great literature written, and I'm sure more great literature to be written, on the clash between East and West, and Turkey is the center of the battleground. But this doesn't belong in the pantheon. It belongs in the bin.

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