Reading Orhan Pamuk's <italic>Snow</italic> as Parody: Difference ...

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same time. The stark opposition of these terms reappears in My Name Is Red, .... with difference and similarity not limited to Turkish identity politics. Even where ...

Comparative Critical Studies 4, 3, pp. 403–432 DOI: 10.3366/E1744185408000098

© BCLA 2007

Reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow as Parody: Difference as Sameness ˙ SIBEL EROL


In presenting the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature to the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, the Swedish Academy commended him for his discovery of ‘new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures’.1 The deliberate choice of ‘clash’ is a coded, evocative way of simultaneously bringing up the now well-worn phrase ‘the clash of civilizations’ and disavowing it by replacing ‘civilizations’ with ‘cultures’. This is also carefully balanced with the more positive word ‘interlacings’. However, the impression remains that concerns of political correctness on the Academy’s part have affected their language formulation more than their actual thinking. After all, does not the reformulation of this cliché convey cum grano salis the same message as the original that was alluded to, indicating that Pamuk’s main problematic is the clash of civilizations ? Either version of this formulation is reductive, reflecting the kind of complacent reading that I hope to contextualize and complicate in this essay. What appears as ‘a clash’ in Pamuk’s works is his working out of his central trope of East and West. Throughout his novels he does indeed play with the terms East and West because of their primacy as organizing and relational concepts and the multiplicity of their mimetic references. However, as I will show in my discussion of Snow, this is rather subordinated to an entirely different interrogation of the creation of meaning and construction of identity. Pamuk uses East and West as provisional terms for understanding and representing his real topic of investigation, which is the relationship between similarity and difference. This abstract philosophical exploration of the connection between similarity and difference, which resembles what Derrida defines as différance, is the end point of the evolution that the ‘East and West’ trope goes through in Pamuk’s œuvre. In his early novels, the East and 403



the West are political terms that denote clear-cut and easily identifiable ideological positions within Turkey. Their meaning is expanded into an international arena in his middle novels in order to portray a contrast between two world views. The force of the trope lies in its oppositional duality at this stage. In Snow, as in his other work from the same period, Pamuk offers a wider view on this duality by placing it in a relationship of a series that has at least three terms, demonstrating that the oppositional difference depicted in the contrastive formulation of East versus West is only one feature of a larger system of relationships generated and held together by the principle of similarity.2 One important series established in this novel is the relationships between the three stages of the East/West trope outlined above. Pamuk depicts each stage separately, but also links them in a series. He puts them in a relationship of encapsulation,3 where the largest term, the philosophical investigation of difference, subsumes, but also keeps intact as its building blocks, the other two stages out of which it grows. The original source of the ‘East and West’ terminology is a specifically internal discourse of modernization within Turkey. Consequently, these terms evoke considerable historical and political resonance for Turks and how they define their lives and identities. They constitute immediate demarcators of life choices and political position even though their perceived content and meaning have shifted over time in a relational ebb and flow. However, their centrality to Turkish political and historical discourse, both in terms of Turkey’s internal understanding of itself and of its external relationship with other nations, has remained constant. Turkish official history narrates the smooth emergence of a Western nation out of an Eastern empire through a process of negotiation and synthesis. Pamuk’s work, on the other hand, points to ruptures and losses that have created a split-consciousness and led to either fragmented or one-dimensional lives. Dwarfs, limping people and characters with missing limbs abound in his fiction. Their bodies are the visual and physical embodiments of historical erasures, the cost of the repression obfuscated by the purportedly successful story of Westernization. The ruptures are also experienced as unconscious mourning, which Pamuk ˙ has named hüzün in his memoir Istanbul (2003). Although this term has only recently been defined as a state of loss in the memoir, his characters have manifested it from the outset. Pamuk’s as yet untranslated first novel Cevdet Bey ve Oˇgulları (Cevdet Bey and His Sons, 1982) deals directly with the history of Westernization

Reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow as Parody


in its various phases, from the Tanzimat (Reform) of 1839 to the political turmoil of the 1970s, as reflected in the lives of the three generations of a family whose name, I¸sıkçı – which means anything from a light seller to a light giver – sums up their Enlightenment vision while giving a metaphorical slant to the meaning of the family’s light bulb factory. This novel covers the same ground traversed by the nationalist Turkish novel of the 1930s, but is delivered from the vantage point of the late 1970s and with the novelistic idiom of that later era. His next novel, Sessiz Ev (The Silent House, 1983), which also remains untranslated, covers the same historical terrain, but looks back at it from the perspective of the late 1970s. The eponymous house belonged to the grandfather, a deceased physician, and is now occupied by his ailing wife, the grandmother, and his illegitimate son, a dwarf born out of an affair he had with the housekeeper. This son is the sole caretaker of the grandmother and the house that is falling apart. The narrative revolves around the summer vacation of the three grandchildren in this house, through which Pamuk presents a highly political story that deals with class difference as well as the politics of representation. The novel, made up of a series of first-person narratives, shows that truths are multiple because each person views and comprehends the same events from a different perspective. The ‘house’ of the title, however, may crucially be understood as referring to the legacy both of the positivist spirit of the nineteenth-century Turkish Enlightenment and of the more traditional Islamic belief and practice embodied by the grandfather and grandmother, respectively. While the grandfather, who here takes on a metaphorical last name, Darvinoˇglu, son of Darwin, undertakes to write a multi-volume encyclopedia in the vein of the eighteenth-century French Encyclopédistes, the grandmother burns the encyclopedia, fearing it was the work of Satan. This easily visible, broad-brush opposition between a secular Western stance and a conservatively religious Eastern view forces the novel to be read, at least on the surface, as a political allegory of Turkish modernization because of the centrality of this opposition in defining modernization within Turkey. Pamuk’s first two novels, even as they experiment with narrative techniques, are mimetic works in the realist tradition. They deal with the foundational problematic of modern Turkish identity within the internal idiom of Eastern and Western positions that chart the official historical narrative of the nation. Although these novels claim that fiction has a better chance of capturing and representing the past than history, thus revealing an understanding of history as a kind of fiction, both were


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loved by traditional critics. With their specifically Turkish thematic constellation and corresponding vocabulary, these novels have a familiar feel, written as they are with realist techniques that foster identification. Readers instinctively sympathize with the characters and care for them. Pamuk carried the East-West problematic into an international realm when he contrasted Ottoman and European identities in The White Castle (1985) and My Name Is Red (1998). Both focus on the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, but whereas the former concentrates on science, the latter is about art. Despite dealing with highly traditional and stereotypical definitions of East and West, both use postmodernist techniques. Indeed, The White Castle represents a turning point in Pamuk’s literary career. In this book, he cast a quintessentially Turkish brand of inquiry into identity formation as a postmodernist quandary of how one becomes oneself at a time when this novel’s global readership was still divided into first, second and third worlds. The answer was equally postmodernist and liberating: one is whoever one chooses to be. Yet, in order to demonstrate the very concept of choice, the book reduces the content of the choices to the extremely narrow and stereotypical. In The White Castle, to be Western means to be hard-working, ambitious, driven, and individualist; conversely, to be Eastern means to be pleasure-loving, indolent, and sensuous. As the Sultan keeps repeating throughout the novel, people are exactly the same everywhere in the world. This is made literal by the fact that the Venetian and the Ottoman Hoja, who are the central protagonists, look identical. The novel also indicates that the ideal is the wholeness embodied in the co-existence of the Hoja and the Venetian. This is encapsulated by the object of the title, the white castle Doppio, which symbolically expresses the doubleness in its literal meaning. But the white castle is only ever a vision that is glimpsed for one moment like Kafka’s castle; it can never be reached. However, its existence enables the exchange of places. Hoja and the Venetian pass beyond this castle on the mountain, taking on the identity that better suits and defines them. Because he is an ambitious scientist, Hoja becomes a Westerner, and because he enjoys socializing and pleasure more than work, the Venetian ends up as an Easterner. The novel shows how, while Hoja and the Venetian share the name Abdullah and are parts of the same whole, they can each be Abdullah only one at a time in sequential order.5 Their freedom to choose is made available at the cost of the superficiality and limitedness of definitions, which are depicted as free-floating terms unconnected with any specific origin. This is highlighted by the fact that the Venetian can duplicate his Edenic

Reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow as Parody


childhood garden in Gebze without needing to go back to Venice. One can be Eastern or Western in any geographical location, just like one can be an introvert or an extrovert, although it is impossible to be both at the same time. The stark opposition of these terms reappears in My Name Is Red, where the idea of the West is represented by Renaissance painting and its central concept of perspective, which dictates that objects be painted verisimilarly in their ‘proper’ spatial relationship with one another. Size was thus determined by perspective. The Eastern counterpart of Renaissance painting, by contrast, is presented through the masters of Persian painting and their followers at the Ottoman court. Although they too use the line of horizon, they depict objects in their figurative relationship to one another in terms of value rather than verisimilitude. Nothing in the picture can be bigger than the Sultan, who by definition is the most important figure in the painting. Also, while Renaissance paintings are lifelike and realistic, Eastern painting is ruled by convention; this is why Shekure, the heroine of the novel, laments the fact that if her picture were to be painted, it would have to be in Chinese face as demanded by tradition. But while the novel locates such characters as Elegant, Enishte, Master Osman and Olive across the spectrum of a dichotomized East-West paradigm as people either with more Eastern or with more Western sensibilities, it also intimates that the encroachment on the Eastern by the Western is inevitable. The theme of the East and West as a set of ruling oppositions in Pamuk’s novels thus exhibits a specific trajectory: it shows the development of Turkish discourses on identity from a specifically Turkish manner of speaking to a language that resonates internationally because it provides an easy vocabulary to delineate difference. These novels make it possible for one to speak of East and West as constructs, without addressing problems of inequality, whether of circumstances or power, while maintaining the brotherhood and equality of humanity as a whole. In Pamuk’s fictional world, East and West are not static categories of thought. Rather, they are provisional concepts that are constituted differently throughout his works, each of which explores the idea of difference in terms of a specific historical context. East and West are signifiers that develop their meaning through their relationship to each other as opposites contained by the larger similarity and commonality of humanity. Another manifestation of Pamuk’s preoccupation with opposites that are effectively each other’s double is his prevalent usage of intertextuality,



through which he constantly pairs his narrative with other narratives that can be called its doubles. All of Pamuk’s works engage intertextually with at least one text from either the Eastern or Western ‘tradition’, represented by a variety of genres ranging from novels, poems and plays to paintings, photographs, films and songs. The Black Book (1990), for example, uses Sheyh Galip’s mystical allegory Beauty and Love (1783) as an organizing principle for its central search. The love story between Black and Shekure in My Name is Red, to cite another example, is modelled on Nizami’s rendition of the Shirin and Husrev story from the twelfth century even though Firdowsi’s name is also brought up as an homage to his earlier telling of the same love story in the tenth century in his Shahnameh.6 Pamuk, by mentioning these two previous masters, provides the genealogy of his own narrative. He encapsulates these two canonical renditions in his own narrative, which he offers as the next development in the evolution of a shared master story. This linking of texts in a series that can be read dynamically forward or backward injects an open-ended, evolutionary telos into their interpretative possibilities. Pamuk anchors his own text within a tradition and a past while opening up those master texts for contemporary and future meanings. Although the source texts alluded to provide an interpretive frame for their updated counterparts, they also serve as the models against which difference can be articulated, engendering ironic rereadings. The pinnacle of this intertextual enterprise is The New Life (1994), which pronounces everything to be a text. There is no way of escaping this framework, which, as G. A. Phillips reminds us, is a theoretical position associated with deconstruction and in particular Derrida’s central thesis that ‘a “text” [. . . ] is henceforth no longer a finished corpus of writing, some content enclosed in a book or its margins, but a differential network, a fabric of traces referring endlessly to something other than itself, to other differential traces’.7 But Derrida’s infinite deferral is not only the novel’s organizing principle; Pamuk’s novel epitomizes the contraption shown at the gadgets fair episode, made with mirrors that infinitesimally reflect everything in an endlessly regressive manner. Unsurprisingly, the protagonist keeps reading and rereading a book (which also happens to be the book we are reading) whose meaning can only be understood in terms of other works. In its madcap multiplication of texts that ricochet off each other, Pamuk’s book shows that difference is created out of similarity. There are thirteen Mehmets, each of whom is a different person, even though they all share the predicament of being the original readers of the book who were

Reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow as Parody


mesmerized by it. Reminiscent of Borges, one of the Mehmets, who was originally Nahit but then became Osman, argues that when he copies the same text over and over, even though the text may remain the same, he still produces an original book. Each repetition yields difference by virtue of the very act of repetition itself. This abstract formulation of the relationship between similarity and difference is an extension of the East-West opposition. Concerns about Eastern and Western influence and the Turkish modernization period are very much present in the novel, but these are no longer the central terms of reference through which the problematic relationship between similarity and difference is articulated. The ontological question is rendered epistemological and textual, and is relegated to the background as only one manifestation of the question of difference. This marks the third and last stage of the East-West opposition, as conceived by Pamuk, in the progression of his work, which started as a specifically local Turkish issue, then was cast as a global phenomenon, only to be finally turned into an abstract and theoretical inquiry into the very mechanism of the conceptualization and representation of difference. THE PLACE OF SNOW IN PAMUK’S ŒUVRE

In turning to Snow, Pamuk’s most intertextual novel to date, one will quickly discern that it combines three of these levels of East-West correlation. Like his previous novels, Snow also exhibits direct allusions to Pamuk’s earlier works, for example to The New Life, which appears in this novel as the name of a pastry shop. In Snow, Ka’s encounter ˙ with Ipek and others, as well as the murder of the head of the religious institute, all take place there. The limping dog wanders in from My Name Is Red and appears not only in Kars, but also in Frankfurt, two key locations in Snow. Pamuk even gives away the title of his next book, The Museum of Innocence, when Snow’s narrator Orhan talks of the book he is currently writing. Clearly, Pamuk is deliberately flaunting the fact that each work is an extension of the previous ones. Growing out of each other, they are to be read as different manifestations of the problems he is most centrally interested in. A fuller understanding of any individual work requires the study of its particular place within the cosmos of Pamuk’s complete œuvre. Snow is dense with citation from Pamuk’s previous works as well as allusions to the works of other authors; it builds upon them by serving as their summation. Events in Kars allow for the further investigation



of the East-West question within the Turkish context by touching upon the topical issues of Kemalism (Turkey’s founding ideology based on a strict separation of religion and state), secularism, fundamentalism and militarism. Elections, coups and suicides of headscarf girls are other local concerns that make it a particularly Turkish book. In this regard, Snow, which deals quite expressly with the history of military coups in Turkey, is as specifically a Turkish book as Cevdet Bey and His Sons or The Silent House. Pamuk’s Turkey in Snow, symbolized by Kars, is a tapestry of the country’s rich and complex history. Located in the east of Turkey, Pamuk’s Kars is one manifestation of Easternness and all the attendant values associated with this term as compared with Istanbul; Kars is also an amalgamation of Russian, Armenian, Ottoman and Turkish pasts. The East-West question is interrogated against this historical and cultural background but is simultaneously given an international dimension, as is the case with The White Castle and My Name Is Red, when the view shifts to Germany on the one hand, and when, on the other, the various political factions of Kars, in preparing their manifesto, try to envision their other, their invisible interlocutor first as Europe, then as the West and, finally, as Humanity. Here, Snow’s intertextuality with both Eastern and Western material locates its discourse within a broader preoccupation with difference and similarity not limited to Turkish identity politics. Even where Pamuk derives questions, methods and techniques of inquiry from his other novels, in Snow he combines them in a new dual structure. The work is constructed around a foreground and a background whose mode of functioning can best be captured by one of the central metaphors of the book: the theatre. Drawing on Hegel’s highlighting of the similarity between the theatre and history,8 a key character in Snow, Sunay Zaim, the famous actor, turns theatre into history by making a theatrical coup real. I will borrow this image from the book to propose that the characters of Snow are like actors on a stage. The reader watches them as the plotline of the foreground proceeds, and this plotline is constituted of everything that the characters say and do. This foregrounded stage, however, is embedded within a background of hyperintertextuality that envelops and contextualizes the narrated events. The background is the totality of what the reader or the audience sees above or beyond the view of the characters. The characters know only what they believe in and what happens to them, but the audience or the reader sees this together with the commentary provided by the intertextual material. This layer of intertextuality creates dramatic

Reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow as Parody


distance from the characters and becomes the basis of the dramatic irony that guides the reader’s interpretation of the novel.9 Dramatic irony and thus the relationship of the readers to the characters are modulated by the limited way in which the latter view their world. This view is conveyed in the way the characters in Kars are defined in terms of a schematic dichotomy. For example, being a Westerner automatically means being an atheist. Being religious, on the other hand, is immediately understood as a marker of fundamentalism. Interestingly, these one-dimensional and mutually exclusive definitions are not imposed from the outside, but are articulated by the characters themselves. Hande, who faces expulsion from school if she does not take her headscarf off, is afraid that she may become somebody else. Then she reassures herself: ‘Even if I did take off my headscarf, I don’t think I’d become the kind of woman who flirts with men, or who can’t think of anything but sex.’10 This disclaimer, once made, prepares the ground for its reversal. Hande confesses that without her headscarf she would become ‘either an evil stranger [. . . ] or a woman who can’t stop thinking about sex’ (125). A similar kind of reductive associative logic is at work when Necip, one of the young Islamist students who ends up having a special spiritual bond with the main character, Ka, tells the parable of the school principal who loses his faith as a result of an encounter with a mysterious stranger in an elevator. The principal immediately turns atheist, and consequently loses all of his former principles and character. His fallen state is described as follows: ‘Infected by the disease of atheism he began to put unreasonable pressure on his lovely little pupils: he tried to spend time alone with their mothers; he stole money from another teacher whom he envied’ (83). Lack of religiosity is immediately read in the same way by everybody without any ambiguity. As we see here, other interpretations do not seem possible. Similarly, Ka accepts his description as an atheist and earnestly tries to answer questions from Necip and Fazıl, the two young Islamists in the book, as to whether or not, as a representative of this general Westernized and therefore atheist type, he thinks about suicide all the time. He could easily have dismissed the boys’ assumptions both about himself and atheism. Later, the use of this term in the local paper will lead to his murder, uncovering the danger of such clear-cut definitions. One of the most flagrant instances of this kind of one-dimensional thinking is provided by the terrorist Blue’s definition of the West and, consequently, of the East as everything that is its opposite. When Ka



suggests that Westerners do not like being regarded as a homogeneous group, Blue asserts, ‘There is, after all, only one West and only one Western point of view. And we [that is, Easterners] take the opposite point of view’ (233). We see the same irreconcilability of differences in the local political arena at the scene of the meeting where the various political factions come together to produce a manifesto. Rather than speaking to one another in a way that might lead to a synthesis, they each deliver a monologue. They define themselves oppositionally, thinking they embody an intrinsic difference that cannot be eliminated or overcome. They are so involved in their separate causes that they can see neither their similarity nor their commonality. The irony is that we, as readers, are informed via the background that other characters who exhibited the same kind of passionate devotion to their causes have easily switched sides, with Marxists becoming fundamentalist like Muhtar or militant like Z. Demirkol or even fascist, as some of Ka’s and Muhtar’s former friends have done in Germany. The reader is able to see that these ideological camps, as different as their belief systems may be on the surface, make use of a similar kind of thinking, and hence are fundamentally related. Although the characters define East and West as mutually exclusive and irreconcilable terms that cannot co-exist, Pamuk belies precisely this in the intertextual background that draws equally on Eastern and Western sources. The striking contrast between the foreground, where univocal characters act out a one-dimensional plot, and the multidimensional, polyvalent background brings pressure to bear on the developments of the plot, undercutting, destabilizing and overturning its givens. The discrepancy between the overwhelming interconnectedness between the East and the West in the intertextual fabric of the narrative, and the anxious separation of them in the plot which politicizes that very separation, not only allows, but requires the reader to interpret the novel as a parody. PARODY IN SNOW AND SNOW AS PARODY

Contemporary theoretical discussion of parody is dominated by Linda Hutcheon,11 who observed in A Poetics of Postmodernism: ‘Parody – often called ironic quotation, pastiche, appropriation, or simply intertextuality – is usually considered central to postmodernism’.12 Hutcheon posits that postmodernist intertextuality rehistoricizes texts13 by dismantling and exposing implicit assumptions of a natural continuity.14 In its deliberate

Reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow as Parody


echoing and recontextualization of a past work in a new historical, social and aesthetic context, parody also foregrounds the politics of representation and highlights the interconnection between a text and its particular social and historical context. According to Hutcheon, parody involves a double process of ‘installing and ironizing’, simultaneously legitimizing and distancing critically without resolving this paradoxical duality at its core.15 She insists that parody cannot be defined through periodization, but rather that it manifests a variety of styles in different eras and contexts, reaching from the ‘witty ridicule to the playfully ludic to the seriously respectful’.16 In analyzing the role of parody in Pamuk’s Snow, I will be following Hutcheon’s inclusive definition. The most notable aspect of Snow is the discrepancy Pamuk creates between the claims of the characters, who define themselves in one-dimensional extremes and through their differences, and the multi-dimensionality of interlinkings and similarities created through intertextuality, to which the characters in the novel themselves are not privy. This contradiction between the foreground and the background intensifies the monovalence of the characters; indeed, the richness of possible meanings renders their self-righteous lack of awareness rather ironic, if not ridiculous. Their world view reframed and deflated by the dialogic contrast established within and through this intertextual discourse, the characters are made to appear like stick-figures enclosed in a snow globe.17 The parody in Snow resides in this sad humour and, more importantly, in its central irony that is sharpened by the interchangeability of Eastern and Western texts, which has a deflating effect in the portrayal of the characters and their limited world view, even as this intertextuality expands the scope of the novel’s own polyphony. The trajectory of irony in the novel is not unidirectional; the texts referred to, in the process, also acquire new nuances, new accentuations. The novel is a parody not least due to this latter kind of dialogism. The first and main event of the novel is the coup staged by the actor Sunay Zaim. Inspired by Hegel’s observation that history and theatre are similar because they are both based on performance, and that a good actor and a successful historical leader are those who bring out the potential alternative meaning in their sphere, he performs a ‘theatre coup’ which becomes real. Sunay has always wanted to play the nationalist leader Atatürk. He looks like Atatürk and when he is on stage he completely becomes Atatürk, speaking like him and radiating a soft saintly light: ‘People who watched him spoke of the light shining in



Sunay’s eyes, radiating in every direction’ (400). Having once won the part of Atatürk in a film, he went on to act like him in public. When he claimed he could also take on the role of the prophet Mohammed, he lost both parts and was banished from the business. Believing in Atatürk’s ideals and wanting to serve his nation, Sunay subsequently forms an itinerant theatre group, which performed in little towns of Anatolia and took up the mission of educating the masses. This didactic mission is the original and main reason for the founding of Turkish theatre, and Sunay identifies completely with this intellectual burden, performing his ‘Brechtian, Bakhtinian’ (141) plays, albeit always adapting to public taste defined by low comedy. In his taking on these intellectual responsibilities and historical figures, Sunay exhibits what Wolfgang G. Müller calls interfigural intertextuality.18 As an actor his job is to create this intertextuality, but he actually wants to be the person he plays, eliminating intertextual reference and seizing identity instead. He finally achieves this when he stages the coup. Although he contributes the vision and the appropriate role-play for the coup, the real authority stems from his friend from the military high school he attended, Nuri Çolak, who, despite being of a very low rank, happens to be the highest ranking authority left in Kars when the city is closed-off by heavy snow for three days. Nuri Çolak goes along with his friend because he thinks the government will be happy. The coup succeeds in containing the victory of the religious party candidate who was sure to win the election that was to take place a couple of days later. Sunay’s theatrical coup represents nothing less than a parody of Turkish history, which is marked by a series of similar coups. The fictional coup becomes real not only because Sunay demonstrates military power, but also because people are complicit with it – they want the coup as a means of security. Pamuk here amply exposes the hypocrisy of the Turkish public, who on the one hand criticize any military coup as a loss of democracy while on the other hand want the status quo ˙ guaranteed. Their dilemma is similar to that of Ipek’s father, the former Marxist Turgut Bey, who has to decide whether he will choose the topdown perspective of the Enlightenment or what is perceived to be its opposite, a bottom-up democracy, when trying to make up his mind about signing the manifesto. He makes a typical Turkish choice when, siding with wholesale change dictated from the top, he weighs in on the side of the Enlightenment, accepting as well what would be considered its authoritarian civilizational mission.

Reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow as Parody


Another important intertext for the coup is the play Buzlar Çözülmeden (Before The Ice Melts) by Cevat Fehmi Ba¸skut, which was published in 1965 following the military coup in 1960. The basic plotline of a takeover of a town government by outsiders – a takeover that remains unnoticed because of the lack of access to the town for three days as a result of heavy snowfall – is lifted from this play, which depicts patients who escaped from a psychiatric hospital solving all the problems of a small town within the three days of their rule. They collect taxes from the rich to bring electricity to the town and to build roads, and they make the rich donate the land they appropriated to the poor, for which the poor of the town regard them as miraculous heroes. The title comes from the phrase ‘before the ice melts’ which the patient who impersonates the governor keeps repeating because he knows full well that he has only until the snow melts and the roads open up to finish all his reforms. The novel alludes to this play by name. Sunay Zaim is associated with it because he was kicked out of military school partly ‘for staging a secret performance of a play called Before the Ice Melts’ (193). What makes the staging of the play such a crime is not merely disobedience to school authorities in playing hooky, but also the fact that this play was and is still considered a socialist work that critiques governmental ineptitude. It seems to be arguing for a revolutionary zeal that only the crazily foolhardy will exhibit. We see its manifestation in Sunay Zaim who is also pronounced crazy because of his association with the play’s characters. Yet another example of this behaviour is seen in the figure of the murderer who takes it upon himself to kill the head of the religious institute in order to implement his principles. The source play then is used to crystallize the schema of the novel and allows it to be recognized in the book. These associations between the play and the novel’s delusional characters, however, also render the initial, earnest reading of the play ironic because, even though these characters are pronounced ‘real crazy’ in the play, they are at the same time admired for their integrity and sense of mission. This is still indeed the canonical reading of the play in Turkey. When the characteristics of these crazy ‘»heroes«’ appear exhibited by self-righteous zealots in the novel, their naïve idealism becomes ironic, and the source play is turned into a parody that elicits laughter. By connecting this play with his novel, Pamuk also opens up new possibilities for rereading the play. Snow engages intertextually with another landmark play by the Young Ottoman Namık Kemal, Vatan yahut Silistre (My Fatherland or Silistre, 1873). The play during the staging of which the military coup in the novel



takes place is entitled My Fatherland or My Headscarf as an homage to this earlier play. Namık Kemal, one of the first authors to write a play in Western form, believed that literature had a didactic purpose. He famously declared that a night spent at the theatre was better than sleeping at home because of the moral and intellectual edification theatre afforded its audience. His play was significant for introducing the concept of vatan (fatherland) and the idea that ‘fatherland’ was worth dying for. It privileges service to the fatherland over the pursuit of individual happiness, represented by the romantic relationship between the young ˙ protagonists Zekiye and Islam Bey. In fact, Zekiye dresses up as a man in order to gain the ‘equal opportunity’ to die for her fatherland. The fulfillment of the romantic plot is subordinated to the success of their shared cause, to which they contribute equally. It is through their patriotic endeavour that they create a future for their love. The two get married only after risking their lives and saving the castle of Silistre. The effect of the play’s initial performances at the end of the nineteenth century was so electrifying that the audience chanted Namık Kemal’s name after each performance.19 The play struck a chord with the public’s sentiments at a time when they were demanding reforms from Sultan Abdülaziz. Namık Kemal seemed to have achieved his goal in eliciting political action through his play. His glory was, however, short-lived. The Sultan promptly sent him into exile and he eventually died in Cyprus in 1888. Sunay’s play in Pamuk’s novel borrows from Kemal’s work not only the mandate to serve the fatherland and to turn thought into action, but also the focus on a female protagonist’s clothes as the basis for defining her identity. While Kemal’s Zekiye hides her femininity behind men’s clothing, the protagonist of Sunay’s play, in an ironic reversal, is made to take her headscarf off and show her femininity in order to claim her modern identity as an unveiled woman. If Kemal’s My Fatherland or Silistre, refashioned as Sunay’s My Fatherland or My Headscarf, leads to the military coup in the novel, the end of this coup is marked in a symmetrical move by yet another play, A Tragedy in Kars, Sunay’s rewriting of Thomas Kyd’s English play about murder and revenge, The Spanish Tragedy. Sunay chooses Kyd’s work as the basis for his second play in the novel, telling us that Shakespeare in fact stole the plot of The Spanish Tragedy for Hamlet.20 In both English tragedies, there is a play-within-a-play that is used as a way to identify the murderer, therefore effecting change in the plot of the frame play. In both instances, the action in the play-within-a-play spills into the frame play and takes over its ‘reality’. The two plays Sunay stages in

Reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow as Parody


Snow similarly take over the ‘reality’ of the novel. Müller identifies the play-within-a-play form as a paradigmatic example of ‘intratextual interfigurality’, which establishes a connection between the characters of different contexts in the same work. It not only allows for the ‘intersection and interpenetration of different fictional contexts’, but also an examination of the relationship between fact and fiction.21 Pamuk, indeed, uses this play-within-a-novel format to explore the relationship between fact and fiction. Fiction here is not a reflection of truth or a means of revealing an already existing truth. As Pamuk turns the mimetic process on its head through Sunay, reality comes to be constructed by fiction both in the first play, My Fatherland or My Headscarf, that becomes the coup, and in the last play, The Tragedy in Kars, that resolves the coup and prepares the ending of the novel. Sunay Zaim adopts Kyd’s plotline in order to have another chance to enact the modernization allegory of the ‘unveiling’ of his first play, My Fatherland or My Headscarf, which is interrupted by the coup. To have Kadife, the girlfriend of the terrorist Blue and the leader of the headscarf girls, take her headscarf off on the stage will seal the success of Sunay Zaim’s secular coup. He pushes Kadife into participation by offering to set Blue free in return. After an ironic negotiation between Blue and Kadife mediated by Ka, who makes each of them believe that they are really making the decision about what she should do, Kadife decides to take her headscarf off without resorting to wearing a wig or having another woman show her hair at the scene of unveiling. However, just as she is about to go on stage, the constraint on her is removed: the fake coup will soon be quashed now that government vehicles are spotted on the re-opened roads. More importantly, Kadife finds out that Blue has been murdered (together with her friend Hande) in an ambush. In fact, Sunay gives Kadife the option to back out, but she goes on the stage to play her role anyway. After she uncovers her hair, Sunay gives her an unloaded gun to shoot at him – he shows her and the audience several times that the barrel of the gun is empty. Kadife knows that Sunay will die that night because she has read about it on her way to the theatre in the Border City Gazette, which habitually prints news of events before they actually happen. She pulls the trigger and Sunay falls down, dead. Both Kadife and Sunay use the play as a mask for their real intentions in order to achieve their own ends. Kadife avenges the murder of her lover as well as her own humiliation. Sunay, the master of the plot, seizes upon the opportunity provided him by the snowstorm, and plays out



before the very eyes of the audience his carefully planned suicide. He is dying of heart disease, as we learn from the outset of the novel. In a book that opens with an investigation into suicide girls, Sunay lays out the anatomy of his suicide and ironically emerges as the only character in the book who commits suicide for his ideals. KA: MEDIATOR BETWEEN THE FOREGROUND AND THE BACKGROUND

Fiction in this novel is anti-mimetic; it creates reality rather than reflecting it. The two plays within the novel are two important instances of this kind of creation of reality. The way in which the local newspaper anticipates real events also demonstrates this principle. One also sees this dictum at work in the way the life of the main protagonist of Snow, Ka, unfolds. For example, Ka has no intention of going to the National Theatre on the night of the coup. When the newspaper publishes an article announcing that he will read a new poem in public that night, ˙ he laughs it off. He will have dinner with Ipek’s family. And, he hasn’t written a poem in four years. But the news comes to pass that night exactly as the newspaper announces. With that precedent in mind, Ka worries when the newspaper describes him as an atheist. Although the owner of the paper promises to change this piece of news and to reprint the paper, when he does not, Ka knows that his death warrant is signed and that he will be killed by a fundamentalist, someone like the murderer of the principal of the religious institute. This instance of telling, which becomes foretelling, is another illustration of how Pamuk pushes the boundary between fiction and reality in his intertextual construction of parody. This is not the only postmodernist twist in the depiction of Ka. He is, in essence, a textual hero made up of a plethora of intertextual references to Eastern and Western sources. Pamuk flaunts Ka’s meaning as an overdetermined signifier. Yet, he is also the central hero of the modernist narrative of loss, alienation, suffering and hopeless love. His ‘Chekovian’ (4) search and ‘Turgenevian romanticism’ (31) constitute the affective core of the book, staining everything he views with his melancholy. As a hero of both postmodernist conventions and of modernist sensibilities, Ka’s character embodies in microcosmic form the dual structure of the book. He is also the mediator of the modernist foreground and the postmodernist background in moving back and forth between these two levels. Because of this structural duality and ambiguity, he inspires a variety of responses and readings. Although he is a hero par excellence

Reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow as Parody


of similarity because he is either like the people he meets or he wants to be like them, he is tragically and, at the end, fatally misread as a mark of difference. The reason Ka goes to Kars in the first place is to find a place of familiarity where he will feel at home, where he can remember his younger self. When he returns to Turkey after having spent twelve years in Germany, he chooses to go to Kars because Istanbul, his home town, has changed to such an extent that it no longer feels like home. Kars is an amalgamation of various historical times all at once, summed up by its description in the archeological vocabulary of layers of excavation. There, he can regress to a past in a way that will erase his present pain and troubles. His mother has just died and he is seeking the comfort and consolation of familiarity in the mental state of a ‘return to the womb’. The narrator tells us that ‘Ka’s sudden decision to travel to Kars was motivated [. . . ] by a desire to return to his childhood’ (18). Kars, much more like the Istanbul of his childhood, allows him to recall his memories and relive his past experiences (including the last military coup). He ˙ can also recoup his youth by courting Ipek, a friend from his university days. And while he finds consolation from Necip, who holds Ka’s head between his hands as his mother would have typically done, he asks for ˙ a similar gesture from Ipek, revealing that he is feeling like a lost child and is searching for the maternal even in the sexual. He hears a favourite song from his past, Roberta, spilling out from a little store several times, sending him back to his youth. He speaks with young people engaged passionately in life-and-death discussions. Most importantly, after a barren spell, he starts to write poetry again. In providing consolation and renewal for him, Kars emerges as a psychological space or even an allegorical realm where Ka’s past and youthful promise have been preserved intact. His need for parental certainty and affirmation finds a fulfillment in Kars, where, we might even say, this psychological need motivates the military coup as part of a return to the past. Although as a textual signifier of innumerable sources, Ka has a literary richness and depth that no other character has; he is very much like the other characters in Kars because he cannot experience his own meaning, which is only available to the reader. Like the people of Kars, Ka lacks self-knowledge. He has had a miserable life in Germany. He has little money and no success to show for himself. He has no contact with anybody there; he cannot speak German and considers himself different ˙ from the Turks in Germany. Yet he aspires to marry Ipek and take her back to Frankfurt. By ironically cutting to Ka’s bare and disorderly room



in Germany after the love-making scene, Pamuk shows his readers that ˙ Ka’s wish to marry Ipek is delusional because he has no place to take her and no income for them to live on. But Ka continues to hope for this outcome until the very end. In fact, he even betrays Blue to achieve this end. Ka’s psychological similarity to other characters in Kars is repeated as a physical similarity in his uncanny resemblance to the young Islamists Necip and Fazıl. These characters are rendered as a kind of allegorical, alternative representation of his youth, strengthening the feeling that Kars holds Ka’s past. He is an older version of Necip who identifies Ka as somebody he himself will be in twenty years. Necip confidently tells Ka, ‘You are my future. And my instinct also tells me this: when you look at me, you see your own youth, and that’s why you like me’ (137). Taken aback by this, Ka asks, ‘So, you think you’re the person I was twenty years ago’ (138). They both quickly accept that they are the younger and older manifestations of the same character. Fazıl adds another dimension to this Doppelgänger relationship. He is Necip’s identical twin in not only looking exactly like him, but also in thinking like him. In fact, Fazıl, a quieter and more passive character, comes into his own only after Necip dies and he takes on Necip’s dream of writing a science fiction novel and marrying Kadife, which were also his own secret, guilty desires. Necip clarifies the difference between his connection with Fazıl and his similarity to Ka: first referring to Fazıl and then to Ka, he says, ‘We think the same thing at the same time. But with you and me, there is a time difference’ (138). Pamuk links these characters in a relationship of similarity. Necip and Fazıl are readily perceived as the same. Moreover, even though they appear to be different from Ka, they are also the same person as him. This latter sameness is not easily visible because it is expressed through a time difference of twenty years and encapsulates this temporal interval in its representation. Pamuk signals that Ka is part of a larger whole and refers to at least one further character when Ka admits he is ‘a Gemini’ (118), a twin. However, since his double Necip already has a double in Fazıl, these three characters are linked in a relationship of series. This linkage is also reinforced by the fact that their names Necip, Fazıl and Ka, are parts of a whole; together they add up to the name of the famous religious poet Necip Fazıl Kısakürek, who is referenced in Snow when his work Büyük Doˇgu (The Great East) is mentioned. We are told that Necip and Fazıl ‘would repeatedly read The Great East, their master’s greatest book’ (106).

Reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow as Parody


This usage of a constellation of names that add up to the name of an author is copied from Kafka. For example, stringing together the names of two characters in The Trial – Franz and Joseph K. – gives us Kafka’s name. K. is the protagonist both of The Trial and The Castle. The latter work is alluded to when we hear of the castle in Kars at the very end of the novel (418). As Ka is one way of pronouncing the letter ‘K’ in Turkish, there is clearly a deliberate linkage between Pamuk’s Ka and Kafka’s K. This is buttressed by the similarity between them. Ka is very much a Kafkaesque character; he too is engaged in a surreal search. Ka is, however, more than Kafkaesque; he is a Romantic too. His openness to everybody is a mark of his Romantic nature. Orhan, the narrator, romanticizes Ka as a poet who creates out of his genius while describing his own novel-writing as pedantic and technical. Ka is associated with Coleridge who, together with Wordsworth, wrote the creed of English Romanticism in their preface to The Lyrical Ballads. Ka’s method of composition is reminiscent of Coleridge’s experience of writing Kubla Khan in that the poems come to him as a whole. Just as Coleridge forgot a part of the poem when the man from Porlock knocked on his door, Ka loses some lines of a poem due to an unfortunate interruption. This method of Romantic composition is, however, tempered by a reference to divine revelation, for poems ‘come to’ Ka in the same way that the Koran came to the Prophet Mohammed, namely by vahiy, that is, divine inspiration. These are positive associations for Ka’s sympathy and openness to others. However, this fluidity of opinion and judgement has a downside in Ka’s moral ambiguity. He is a liar. He never does what he promises. He does not give Necip’s letters to Kadife, nor does he give Muhtar’s poems to their editor friend as Muhtar requested, nor Kadife’s lighter to Blue as he was supposed to. He is also a plagiarizer. The poem he reads at the theatre, ‘Where God Does Not Exist’, is actually Necip’s. He betrays Blue to the secret police in exchange for an arrangement that would get ˙ him and Ipek out of Kars alive. He is like the character played by Marlon Brando in the film mentioned in the novel, Queimada, in that his very plan inevitably leads to his death. The item that easily identifies Ka for his killer is his coat, which is described in detail on the first page of the novel as something that sets Ka apart. In Pamuk’s use of the coat as identity-marker there is an allusion to Gogol’s Overcoat, a story in which the protagonist’s new coat also marks him out for violence.22 Another work mentioned in Pamuk’s novel, the tenth-century Persian epic Shahnameh, presents a variation on the role of



such identifying markers. In Shahnameh, the hero Rostam kills Sohrab when he fails to see the wristband that identifies the latter as his son. Whereas the unavailability of the sign leads to death in the Shahnameh, it is its availability that facilitates the murder in Pamuk’s novel. But the coat in Snow is also important for identifying its seller, whose name serves as yet another indicator of the novel’s deep dramatic irony. The clerk at the department store who sold Ka’s coat is called Hans Hansen. Later when he needs to invent a liberal journalist to whom the manifesto is to be delivered, Ka uses the clerk’s name. It is ironic that the elaborate discussions, planning, and negotiations surrounding the manifesto and its delivery to a made-up character are undertaken ˙ ˙ in order to get Ipek’s father Turgut Bey out of the hotel because Ipek says that she cannot have sex with Ka in the hotel, when her father is there.23 However, this lie that forms the basis of a central irony in the novel connects to another intertext, Thomas Mann’s Tonio Kröger.24 Hans Hansen is a character in Mann’s novella who represents the kind of easy happiness the protagonist, a tortured and isolated artist, cannot have. The uncomplicated happiness that Tonio imagines for his blueeyed, blond friend is not far removed from the happy life that Ka paints for his Hans, who is naturally also blue-eyed and blond. LOCI OF SNOW ’S POSTMODERNIST IRONY

The main source of irony in Snow is the dramatic kind that juxtaposes two ways of seeing the world. While the characters in the novel seem to insist on the substantive and irreconcilable difference between the East and the West, the novel they inhabit shows precisely the interchangeability of East and West, drawing equally from Eastern and Western sources. To claim that there is a modernist core that is surrounded and enveloped by a postmodernist narrative is to reformulate the same juxtaposition with respect to form and style. Pamuk’s are modernist characters earnestly and passionately searching for artistic accomplishment, political activism, and personal happiness while trying to make a stance, but the text they are enclosed in is postmodernist. Like two concentric circles of different sizes, the monovalent and limited world of the modernist characters is encapsulated in the larger circle of its polyvalent postmodernist narrative. From a technical point of view, Pamuk uses centrifugal and centripetal operations to keep these two worlds separated. The centrifugal impulse is fuelled by intertextuality, which creates ironic parodies by constantly

Reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow as Parody


opening up the narrative to other texts and readings. Through parodic multiplication, the postmodernist circle radiates and expands outward. The centripetal impulse that fixes the monovalence of the characters, and encloses them in their snow globe of a world, works through literalization, which ends up also distancing and flattening them out. The novel achieves this literalization, which strips the characters of their psychological depth and therefore deprives the reader of the chance to identify with them, by flaunting its own textuality. Pamuk engages the reader in a metatextual peekaboo by revealing the technical aspects of his creation as an inside joke, and as a result strengthens the dramatic irony of the novel by fostering an identification with the bird’s eye writerly point of view rather than with the viewpoint and lives of the characters. The novel thus exposes the condition of its creation by foregrounding its own textuality and the fabric of its narrative. Here, clothing becomes a key sign around which the postmodernist irony of the novel is woven; an item of dress functions as an identity marker as well as the cloth out of which identity is cut. I have already discussed the importance of ˙ his coat for our understanding of Ka. Ipek, who dresses in the style of the 1970s, complains to Ka that her conservative former husband did not want her to wear her favourite dress. While packing her suitcase in preparation to leave Kars with Ka, she selects a velvet dress and the silk shawl that goes with it: ‘the beautiful black velvet evening dress Muhtar had bought for her in Istanbul, its back so low that he had only ever allowed her to wear it at home; the embroidered silk satin shawl that she’d bought to conceal the almost equally low-cut front’ (349, emphasis added). The peculiarity of the scene draws the reader’s attention to the correspondence between the materials mentioned and the names of the ˙ two main female protagonists: Kadife literally means velvet and Ipek silk. The colour blue is also literalized in ‘an ice-blue angora sweater that ˙ [Ipek’s] late uncle had brought to her from Germany’ (349).25 Because ˙ this sweater is categorized together with the silk and velvet clothes Ipek cannot wear in Kars, it gains the resonance of the more direct allusions to people, in this case the terrorist Blue. The identification of the characters with the fabrics after which they are named reveals the degree to which these characters are figures cut out of the fabric of narrative. In using clothing as metaphor, whether one speaks of colour, fabric or cut, the novel focalizes on clothing, headscarves, and coats as key markers of identity and, especially, modernity in Turkey. Here as elsewhere in Pamuk’s work, the tailor serves as a metaphor for the enabler of modernity and sewing as a metaphor for the writing of its history.



A tailor’s atelier is the headquarters of the coup. The conceit of the novel overlaps with the idea of theatre as history discussed earlier, but this is also a typically structuralist metaphor in that texts are spoken of as entities made from interwoven tissues and textual creation as weaving or lacemaking.26 The metatextual suggestion that the characters are static and flat cutouts of various fabrics is strengthened by details that underline the fact ˙ that they do not change. Ipek does not seem to have aged in the twenty years she and Ka have not seen each other. She still wears the same kind of clothes she wore at the university. When Orhan, following the example of Ka, falls in love with her, she is still wearing the same large buckled belt and skirt Ka noticed and described as anachronistic four ˙ years earlier. There are reasons for Ipek’s immutability. She is a projected ideal, a fantasy that can only be experienced as nostalgia. Barbie-like (with her very long blond hair and very long neck), she is stuck in the realm of dreams as a projection of nostalgic fantasy (or in the closed-up world of a snow globe represented by Kars), waiting to be discovered or rediscovered. It is no coincidence then that she looks like Melinda the porn star, who is equally fixed in the fantasy world of pornographic tapes because they not only look alike, but represent two sides of the same fantasy. Ka too is static and flat, though in a peculiar way. The pink or red lights constantly haloing him as he moves in different spaces gives one the sense that he has not moved at all. The red light is of special interest. It can come from a street lamp, the headlights of a parked car as on the night of his murder, or a neon sign that usually marks a place whose name begins with the letter ‘K’, the initial of his name, as is the case with the Karspalace Hotel, where he stayed, or the Kaufhof Department Store, where he bought his coat. Ka is like a special icon or even a target for shooting. In returning to this image frequently, Pamuk reminds us that what animates Ka is the force of our reading and imagination. Even as Pamuk creates his characters in the mimetic, realist tradition, he constantly undermines the reader’s identification with them by deflating their reality and exposing their constructedness. This kind of ironic deflation is also at work in the effect created by Ka’s poems. To the reader’s surprise, most of the poems located on the metaphysical snowflake summing up Ka’s accomplishments and spiritual journey refer to actual objects, places and people despite their highly figurative language. ‘All Humanity and the Stars’ and ‘Stars and Their Friends’ have a celestial ring to them, but when we find out that the

Reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow as Parody 425 ˙ last name of Kadife, Ipek and Turgut Bey is ‘Yıldız’, that is, ‘Star’, we are jolted into the realization that these poems really refer to the family and their actual friends. The most important example of this kind of literalization of figurative language relates to the poem ‘The Place Where God Does Not Exist’. This is actually Necip’s poem that he recites to Ka in the bathroom at the theatre before Ka usurps it and reads it as his own on the stage. This poem, reminiscent of the miraculous ‘burning bush’ scene in a story about Moses in The Old Testament,27 describes a tree struck by a lightning-like red flash in a hellish landscape. It represents Necip’s nightmare. Necip believes that if the scene of the poem existed in this world, it would prove that he is in reality an atheist. The place in Necip’s nightmare is, of course, real. It is located right in front of the Aydın Photography Shop (where Fazıl works part-time after Ka’s departure from Kars), the lights of which have not worked for years. The red of the traffic lights near it, the only set in Kars, falls on the tree across the street from it, therefore casting a red halo around it without burning it, not unlike Moses’ ‘miraculous burning bush’. The reader knows this from the outset of the novel, for Ka makes a visual note of the scene as he goes to the theatre during his first night in Kars and he passes by it several times later. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that Necip has always known of the existence of this place in this world; this is revealed in a conversation between Fazıl and Orhan at the very end of the novel. Necip saw it every night from his bed in his dorm room through a hole in the wall and, more importantly, he knew all along that the scene of his nightmare, and the poem, were inspired by what he saw.28 If one follows Necip’s own logic, one comes to an ironic conclusion: he was an atheist after all. Likewise, the poem plays an ironic role in Ka’s case, too. Ka rewrites this poem, ‘The Place Where God Does Not Exist’, which appears first in the novel, as his last poem, ‘The Place Where the World Ends’, which is lost after his death. It is, however, not really lost since it is identical to the first one that remains available on tape. Just before his death, Ka changes the location of this poem on the spiritual snowflake map of his life where each of the nineteen poems he has written in Kars are located on one of the three axes of imagination, logic, and memory.29 Poems are placed on the memory axis only if they are the result of lived experience. Working on the internal symmetry of the map for four years in order to clarify its ‘deep and mysterious underlying structure’ (263), Ka finally moves ‘The Place Where the World Ends’ onto the memory axis, which becomes a coded confession that he has been to Necip’s dorm room from where the



scene of the poem can be seen, and consequently that he is the one who betrayed Blue to the secret police. Necip’s dorm room, as it turns out, was the headquarters of the secret police responsible for the assassination of Blue. The reader is required to pay considerable attention to these and other details of the narrative in order to perform the kind of deduction required to solve internal riddles such as this. This attentiveness not only puts the reader in opposition to the broad-brush and overgeneralized interpretations the characters give of themselves and their world, but makes him/her feel this opposition as an aspect of his/her reading experience, which leads to the slighting and dismissal of the characters’ views. While the characters may insist on their difference in the novel, the reader well knows that in principle they are the same. Here are some telling details. Regardless of their political orientation, everybody watches the soap opera Marianna at four o’clock every afternoon. And, in spite of what they say they think of the West, they all drink Coke. Coke alludes to the unitary way in which families enjoy a simple pleasure, as well as to television programmes (e.g. soap operas) and films made in Hollywood, which of course are replete with Coke advertisements. Despite their claim to uniqueness, many characters are more similar than they are prepared to accept. For example, Blue and Sunay Zaim, configured as opposites of each other, both limp. Other characters are so alike that they could serve as each others’ doubles. As I have shown, Necip, Fazıl and Ka are connected in a triadic relationship that shows that they are different representations of the same person with a twenty-year time lag. This relationship between the men mirrors a similar relationship ˙ ˙ between Ipek, Melinda and Kadife. Ipek and Melinda both look like each other and are connected through their function as fantasy figures. Their relationship duplicates the connection between Necip and Fazıl in terms of their physical similarity, but also reverses it in that the twin figures in this constellation are the older people. Kadife is the equivalent of Necip and Fazıl in that they are of the ˙ same age. In her relationship with Melinda and Ipek, she represents their alternative future. The same type of temporal twist that exists in the depiction of Necip and Ka across time also appears in the depiction ˙ of Kadife and Ipek, although it is a time difference that first has to be discovered because the reader is not given any indication that Kadife ˙ is also much younger than Ipek. Kadife remembers the frustration of being measured against her ‘perfect’ older sister by the teachers they shared at middle school and tells an anecdote about a biology teacher

Reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow as Parody 427 ˙ who asked if Ipek was late to class on the very day when Kadife was ˙ woefully late herself (228). Yet, Kadife and Ipek could not have been in ˙ middle school at the same time because Kadife is twenty-one while Ipek 30 is forty-two. This time warp can only be explained by the fact that they are representations of the same persona in the way that Necip and Ka are. They are connected directly by the attraction that Ka feels to both, as well as indirectly by the fact that Kadife is the female ideal for Necip and Fazıl, who are Ka’s younger manifestations. The happiness of Fazıl in marrying Kadife and writing his novel serves as a collective resolution for all of these six characters.31 DIFFÉRANCE: DIFFERENCE AS SAMENESS

This connection of characters through a time lapse, or the juxtaposition of two characters to depict different times in the life of the same character, illuminates Pamuk’s way of negotiating difference and similarity. Difference and similarity exist as two separate levels of meaning in the novel as well as two ways of reading it. The idea of difference governs the meaning-making process of the characters in what I have called the foreground or the modernist core of the novel, while the principle of similarity dominates the narrative of the background, which is the basis of the relationship between the author and the reader and the site of the postmodernist parody. Pamuk places the concepts of similarity and difference in a temporal relationship by separating them through time in a manner similar to the way in which he depicts his characters. Derrida’s concept of différance comes in handy here because it conceives of difference as a deferral in time and space of the Same. Anything that is different from a prior and later element in a chain of significations is sameness that is deferred in time and space. All terms in a series are the manifestations of the same thing except in different coordinates of time and space. Ultimately, anything that is seen as an ontological difference, that is, any conceptualization of difference in substance, is encapsulated in a larger system of signification characterized by a chain of moving differences. What allows the representation of the same at a different point in time is the trace (mark of belonging to a different time and place) that separates it from its previous representation, which we simply and mistakenly see as different. However, this is only a condition of its representation. We may read these instances as difference because we may see them as A, B, C, but they are other names for the representation of A at different



times and in different places, and reading them as A1, A2, A3 reveals their essential sameness. Derrida explains this in the following way: It is because of différance that the movement of signification is possible only if each so-called present element, each element appearing on the scene of presence, is related to something other than itself, thereby keeping within itself the mark of the past element, and already letting itself be vitiated by the mark of its relation to the future element, this trace being related no less to what is called the future than to what is called the past, and constituting what is called the present by means of the very relation to what it is not [. . . ] This interval is what might be called spacing, the becoming-space of time or the becoming-time of space (temporization).32

Snow presents this movement of ‘the Same as Different’ at different locations of time through several relationships of encapsulation in which the largest terms both include and hold in place the smaller terms out of which they are generated. The most striking of these is provided by the clear plastic images in The Encyclopedia of Life that Orhan looks at in Ka’s house in Istanbul. That insert shows the different stages of a baby’s growth in a mother’s womb. Each diagram is a different snapshot of the same baby that looks different because it belongs to a different period of growth. The sequence of images depicting the baby’s growth is a representation of what Derrida means by différance because, despite their differences, all of the pictures in the series represent the same baby. This is further emphasized by the fact that the picture of the last stage of growth and therefore of the largest baby encloses pictures of all the previous stages. Furthermore, what the image represents is not the development of only one particular baby, but of all human babies, which strongly drives home the idea of the sameness of all humanity that motivates and guides the usage of intertextuality in Snow. The clear plastic insert becomes a visual symbol of the book’s main thesis about the relationship between similarity and difference, and the ultimate enclosure of difference by similarity. Another representation of Derrida’s différance in the book is the linguistic encapsulation in Kars, the name of the city, of the names of the hero Ka and the title of the novel Kar, which also refers in Turkish to the snow that falls throughout the novel.33 The way in which the city of Kars contains both Kar (snow) and Ka as constitutive linguistic elements of its name and meaning demonstrates the emergence of similarity out of what appears to be different. Significantly, Kars is already in a temporal relationship with Istanbul as its past and as a repository of Ka’s childhood.

Reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow as Parody


Yet, in another example, Pamuk demonstrates the same idea of encapsulation in reverse by moving from the largest to the smallest term of the series. Offering his poetic signature by way of a childhood game, Ka resorts to the image of concentric circles by starting with the largest term, universe, then goes back to the smaller term, world, to end up in Turkey, Istanbul and finally in the neighborhood of Ni¸santa¸sı (291). All the terms that follow are already included in the largest term universe. Through these chains of encapsulations that illustrate Derrida’s definition of différance, the novel shows that any instance of difference that the characters dwell on is a manifestation of sameness that only appears different as a condition of its representation. If the characters keep insisting on difference, it is because their view is myopic, and because what they see is only a single term in a series of relationships. We as readers, on the other hand, see the continuity of what they perceive as difference in a series that reframes it as similarity because a serial relationship establishes the temporal connection between the terms. What appears as different and oppositional in the isolated relation of two terms becomes a relationship of continuity when a longer view is taken and these two terms are placed in the context of three or more terms. It is important that the novel depicts its contrasts through triples and triadic relationships that connect a present with a past and a future, as is the case in the relationships between Necip, Fazıl, and Ka on the one hand, ˙ and between Ipek, Melinda, and Kadife on the other.34 Even the book we are reading has three versions in three different genres. It is originally written by Ka as a book of poetry which is lost. Using the material from Ka’s diaries, Orhan rewrites it as a novel, which opens with a hypothetical sentence acknowledging the ghost of the poetry haunting it: ‘If this were the beginning of a poem, he would have called the thing he felt inside him the silence of the snow’ (3). It is also being written as a science fiction fantasy by Fazıl, who is following a synopsis written by Necip. We may say that the technique of time warp seeps in from this form. Ultimately, the appearance of the same story in various genres shows that there is no definitive, authoritative version and that it can be rewritten infinitely, as the concept of a ‘series’ indicates. The principle of a ‘series’ allows the notation of différance, and therefore also demonstrates the return of the same under the guise of difference. Derrida writes, ‘On the basis of this unfolding of the same as différance, we see announced the sameness of différance and repetition in the eternal return’.35 The novel ultimately reveals this ‘eternal return of the same’ through intertextuality by treating its various Eastern



and Western texts as instances of différance whose matrix is Literature with a capital L. However, the most poignant and economic symbol of différance in the novel is snow because, through its dual reference as both difference and similarity, it also encapsulates difference and similarity in a relationship of continuity. As the encyclopedia article clearly identifies, each snowflake is different: ‘Each crystal snowflake forms its unique hexagon’ (219). However, snow, as we see it throughout the snow-storm in the novel, is not; rather, it returns again and again as the Same.

NOTES 1 The Nobel Committee’s wording seems to have forever fixed the terms of discussing Pamuk. Here is the opening sentence of a review of his most recent publication, Other Colors: Essays and A Story: ‘Orhan Pamuk takes the pundit’s dry talk of a “clash of civilizations” and gives it a human face, turns it on its head and sends it spinning wildly.’ Pico Iyer, The New York Times Book Review, 30 September 2007, pp. 16–17. 2 I am using the term ‘series’ in the mathematical sense or in the sense of abstract logic to describe a set of numbers, terms or concepts, where each term has a deducible relationship of similarity with the ones that precede and succeed it. A mathematical series could be {1, 3, 5, 7} or we can have a non-mathematical series such as {red, apple, yellow, banana}. The relationship is determined by one variable in these series. One can have other series in which the relationship between the terms is determined by more than one variable. 3 I use the word ‘encapsulation’ to describe a relationship of inclusion that is best embodied by the image of Russian dolls. Smaller terms and items are included in the larger one without losing their form and identity. The largest term functions like a container of its own constituents. When you open the container, you can still see the other items or terms as separate entities. Pamuk uses this kind of relationship between the concepts of similarity and difference and flaunts it as a trope. I will give examples of this trope in the last section of the essay. 4 See for example Fethi Naci’s response in ‘Romanda Büyük Bir Yetenek’, in Orhan ˙ Pamuk’u Anlamak (Understanding Orhan Pamuk), edited by Engin Kılıç (Istanbul: ˙Ileti¸sim, 1999), pp. 18–22. 5 One has to deduce the name by following a series of clues. We are told that Hoja has the same name as his grandfather (p. 24), and at the end that the grandfather’s name is Abdullah (p. 80). The White Castle (New York: Vintage Books, 1998). 6 Orhan Pamuk, My Name Is Red (New York: Vintage Books, 2002), p. 17. 7 G. A. Phillips, ‘Sign, Text, Difference’, in Intertextuality, edited by Heinrich F. Plett (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1991), pp. 78–101. 8 “‘It was Hegel who first noticed that history and theatre are made of the same materials,” said Sunay. “Remember that, just as in the theatre, history chooses those who play the leading roles. And just as actors put their courage to the test on the stage, so, too, do the chosen few on the stage of history.”’ Snow (London: Faber and

Reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow as Parody


10 11 12 13

14 15 16 17 18 19 20


22 23


Faber, 2004), p. 202. All subsequent page numbers referenced in my essay refer to this edition. Sunay returns to describing the historical role of the actor on p. 206. Pamuk has used this kind of dramatic irony before by alluding to anachronistic information that his historical characters did not have, but his readers surely did in The White Castle and in My Name Is Red. But these are not extended commentaries, and remain isolated. In Snow, by contrast, this layer of irony has become a developed system of reference like a system of subtitles. Snow, p. 125. See in particular A Poetics of Postmodernism (London: Routledge, 1988) and The Politics of Postmodernism (London: Routledge, 1989). A Poetics of Postmodernism, p. 126. This linking of parody and pastiche (and other terms) may be a response to Fredric Jameson who makes a careful distinction between these terms in ‘Postmodernism and Consumer Society’ (in Postmodern Culture, edited by Hal Foster (London: Pluto Press, 1985), pp. 111–126). Jameson argues that parody is an older form that relies on a recognizable normative framework, one lost with the onset of postmodernity. With individualism and distinct styles having disappeared in this vacuum of values, what is possible now is only pastiche as a form of empty parody. According to Jameson, whereas parody creates humour, pastiche as ‘blank mimicry’ can only engender a nostalgia for the certainty and individuality that are lost (p. 114). Moreover, Jameson suggests that the promiscuous copying and pasting that postmodernist intertextuality involves leads to a further erosion of contexts by uprooting and ahistoricizing texts (p. 112). Hutcheon, ‘Politics of Postmodernist Parody’, in Plett (ed.), Intertextuality, pp. 225–236. Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism, p. 225. Ibid., p. 224–225. The snow globe/dome is a favourite image of Pamuk’s, which appears in almost all of his books. In Snow it first appears on p. 66 where Ka imagines himself inside one. Wolfgang G. Müller, ‘Interfigurality. A Study on the Interdependence of Literary Figures’, in Plett (ed.), Intertextuality, pp. 101–121. Kenan Akyüz, ‘Introduction’, in Namık Kemal, Vatan yahut Silistre (Ankara: Elif Matbaası, 1990), p. 8. With the allusion to Shakespeare’s borrowing, Pamuk identifies the generic plot and form with a better-known example than Kyd’s play. However, he also brings up the concept of plagiarism, which is the end limit, the test case of intertextuality and the name of what Ka does when he recites Necip’s words as his own poem at the theatre. Müller, ‘Interfigurality’, pp. 118–119. It is interesting that Müller singles out Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy as the most salient example of this kind of interfigural intertextuality. Later in the novel there is another homage to Gogol’s Dead Souls when Kars is described as a place full of ghosts and dead souls. Later she changes her mind. Like everything else that originally poses a constraint in Pamuk’s works, this constraint is also shown to change and lose its force. Any event that a character is forced into is always shown to be a choice the second time around, which restores the sense of responsibility to the character.



24 I am indebted to Michael Beard for pointing out that Hans Hansen is a character in Tonio Kröger. ˙ 25 Also in: ‘Ipek opened a drawer and took out the ice-blue sweater she’d never been able to wear in Kars’ (p. 372). 26 Roland Barthes, S/Z (New York: Hill and Wang, 1974), p. 160. 27 This is clearly a reference to Chapter 3 of the The Book of Exodus. However, the image of a tree at the end of the world is already introduced in My Name Is Red (see p. 250 and p. 385). In Snow, Kars is literally ‘the end of the world’. Upon arriving in Kars, Ka thinks, ‘It was as if he were in a place that the whole world had forgotten; as if it were snowing at the end of the world’ (p. 10, emphasis added). 28 The tension about the location of the image is rendered much more dramatic, unambiguous, and facile by its translation as ‘that world’ (p. 426). In Turkish it is more ironically ‘bu dünya’ (this world) which exposes the self-delusion, falsity and compartmentalization at the core of the internal crisis of faith conjured up by the ˙ ˙ sim, 2002), p. 419. image. For the Turkish original, see Kar (Istanbul: Ileti¸ 29 The narrator Orhan explains that Bacon’s Tree of Knowledge was the inspiration for Ka’s usage of a snowflake as a spiritual map (p. 383). However, another model for this kind of usage of a geometrical shape to represent a spiritual biography could be the writings of medieval Muslim mystics. ˙ 30 Ipek is the same age as Ka; they were classmates at university. Kadife is identified as twenty-one by Necip who is seventeen and says, ‘Kadife is four years older than me’ (p. 136). 31 These six characters form the hexagon of the snowflake or the novel as it is identified by its title. 32 Jacques Derrida, ‘Différance at the Origin’, in A Derrida Reader, edited by Peggy Kamuf (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), pp. 61–79. 33 Margaret Atwood has observed this in her review of the novel for The New York Times Book Review: ‘Kar is ‘snow’ in Turkish, so we have already been given an envelope, inside an envelope inside an envelope’, 15 August 2004, p. 9. 34 As if to copy number twenty from the twenty-year difference between the younger and older characters as a proportional yardstick of duration between intervals, events in the novel are reported with twenty-minute intervals. ‘In twenty minutes’ or ‘after twenty minutes’ are the most frequently used markers of time. 35 Derrida, ‘Différance at the Origin’, p. 70. I believe Murat Gülsoy is responding to the same return when he described Pamuk’s works as Escher-like in a talk entitled ‘Yaratıcı Yazar: O, Öteki Ki¸si’ (The Creative Writer: The Other), given at a conference on Pamuk at Boˇgaziçi University in Istanbul on 14 May 2007.

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