by Orhan Pamuk


Atina Hartunian: In the ancient Armenian city of Kars, our main character finds himself caught in a storm of love, politics, betrayal, and loss, all recorded in the poems written in his green notebook, all veiled under a thick sheet of snow. Snow, is about the authorís search for the green notebook of his deceased friend, Ka. While the structure of the novel is a bit confusing at times with only a few references to Armenia or Armenians, the story is intriguing, and the sincerity of the authorís voice is genuine and heartfelt. However, at times the emotional impact suffers, because something seems to be lost in the translation.

In the course of the story, the author switches point of view as well as time. The novel contains both Kaís experience while he is in Kars and also the authorís experience, four years later. In the first fifteen chapters, Orhan Pamuk writes from his friendís perspective, which heís gathered from the notes and journal entries Ka had written while in Kars. In Kars, Ka tries to find traces of his childhood while the cityís landscape is covered in snow. The snow, no matter how incessantly it falls or floats from the sky, cannot deter Kaís attention from the decrepit state of the city. The dilapidated condition of the people is something the snow is unable to shroud under its pristine blanket either. And underneath this cool white cloak, the political tension in Kars is high, especially when a girl commits suicide by hanging herself with her head-scarf.

The tension escalates when the secularist actor Sunay Zahim stages a coup díetat on the stateís behalf. Meanwhile, the elusive criminal known as Blue directs underground religious revolutionary agents trying to stop the takeover. Ka is caught in the middle of this feud and reluctantly becomes the mediator between these two camps.

This is where the author and narrator departs from Kaís story to his own. The author breaks the narrative wall in the second part of the novel and expresses grief over his friendís untimely death as he rummages through Kaís things and even travels to Kars looking for the green notebook, the one Ka had mentioned several times in his letters to Orhan. According to these letters, every time Ka felt a poem forming he would pull out his green notebook and quickly jot the words down as they delicately drifted like snowflakes in his ear. The only way had Ka endured the political strife in Kars was because he was writing poetry again: moments of keen and extreme joy would fill within him when the urge to write a poem struck Ka. These bursts of inspiration were so powerful that Ka believed he was being inspired to write them through divine intervention. The writing was precious to Ka and it becomes priceless for Orhan.

It is at this intersection that we begin to see the symmetry the author, Orhan Pamuk, lays for us and continues throughout the book. From here till the end of the novel both Kaís and Orhanís story in Kars are weaved seamlessly together. The two stories, though four years apart, live and coexist between the pages of this book. Itís as if it were two souls residing in one body. It is the delicate symmetry between these two stories that hold the whole book together. Though it is the green notebook that pulls the story forward, itís also the reason why this novel was written and why it bears the title of the poetry collection Ka would have published if he ever had the chance. Orhan Pamuk may have never found the green notebook but in some small way he preserves them within the pages of this book.

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