I have just come across Snow the seventh novel from the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk in the NYT list of 10 top books for 2004. According to Margaret Attwood who reviewed it for the NYT:

Although it’s set in the 1990’s and was begun before Sept. 11, ”Snow” is eerily prescient, both in its analyses of fundamentalist attitudes and in the nature of the repression and rage and conspiracies and violence it depicts.

Like Pamuk’s other novels, ”Snow” is an in-depth tour of the divided, hopeful, desolate, mystifying Turkish soul. It’s the story of Ka, a gloomy but appealing poet who hasn’t written anything in years. But Ka is not his own narrator: by the time of the telling he has been assassinated, and his tale is pieced together by an ”old friend” of his who just happens to be named Orhan.

I must follow up on this because I have been looking for a series of non-American texts that might form a counterpoint to my analysis of mainstream American blockbusters. Interestingly Attwood situates Pamuk in a genre she calls the “Male Labyrinth Novel” and places him in the company of DeLillo and Auster who I have also been looking at.

The twists of fate, the plots that double back on themselves, the trickiness, the mysteries that recede as they’re approached, the bleak cities, the night prowling, the sense of identity loss, the protagonist in exile — these are vintage Pamuk, but they’re also part of the modern literary landscape. A case could be made for a genre called the Male Labyrinth Novel, which would trace its ancestry through De Quincey and Dostoyevsky and Conrad, and would include Kafka, Borges, Garcia Marquez, DeLillo and Auster, with the Hammett-and-Chandler noir thriller thrown in for good measure.

Attwood also suggests that narrative is an essential element to Pamuk’s novelising:

If Ka were to run true to the form of Pamuk’s previous novels, he might take refuge in stories. Stories, Pamuk has hinted, create the world we perceive: instead of ”I think, therefore I am,” a Pamuk character might say, ”I am because I narrate.” It’s the Scheherazade position, in spades. But poor murdered Ka is no novelist: it’s up to ”Orhan” to act as his Horatio.

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