12 October 2006

Retrospective on Orhan Pamuk's Snow

Last March I blogged a few passages from (now) Nobel-prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk's novel Snow.Eamonn at Rainy Day also posts a tribute to Pamuk, ending with the comment:
No fiction writer in recent years has come near Orhan Pamuk in his depiction of the spiritual fragility of the Islamic world and its rage against the "godless West".
I don't know. I think you could just as well say that no fiction writer in recent years has come near Orhan Pamuk in his depiction of the spiritual incomprehension that pervades the secular West and its intolerance of religious expression in the public sphere. (I share the spiritual incomprehension, but not the intolerance of religious expression.) Pamuk engages religion and tries to understand its motivations; he doesn't just dismiss it as benighted.

UPDATE: Christopher Hitchens in October's Atlantic also seems to regard Pamuk's Snow as an indictment of Turkey's morally bankrupt secularism, more than an indictment of Islamism.
In contrast, the Muslim fanatics are generally presented in a favorable or lenient light. A shadowy "insurgent" leader, incongruously named "Blue," is a man of bravery and charm, who may or may not have played a heroic role in the fighting in Chechnya and Bosnia. (Among these and many other contemporary references, the Taliban and al-Qaeda are never mentioned.) The girls who immolate themselves for the right to wear head-covering are shown as if they had been pushed by the pitiless state, or by their gruesome menfolk, to the limits of endurance. They are, in other words, veiled quasi-feminists. The militant boys of their age are tormented souls seeking the good life in the spiritual sense. The Islamist ranks have their share of fools and knaves, but these tend to be ex-leftists who have switched sides in an ingratiating manner. Ka himself is boiling with guilt, about the "European" character that he has acquired in exile in Frankfurt, and about the realization that the Istanbul bourgeoisie, from which he originates, generally welcomes military coups without asking too many questions.
via LaurenceJarvikOnline

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