Michael Balchaitis Balchaitis itibaren Nandra, Maharashtra, Hindistan
This novel has won a zillion prizes, and has received deafening international acclaim for the way it takes on the clash of the Islamic fundamentalist East & secular West while retaining the humanity of its characters. I disagree. The book starts out fine, but it devolves into this really odd stream-of-consciousness craziness that feels like a fever dream and makes little sense of events at the end. In addition, the narrator keeps telling you what’s going to happen – big stuff, like deaths, etc. – and if it was supposed to focus me and keep me from being distracted wondering what was going to happen, it did the exact opposite. I ended up skimming the last third because I was so annoyed with how all plot tension was gone, the protagonist was quickly becoming a snivelly annoyance, and – here’s my main beef – no poems. Ka’s whole character hinges on the fact that he’s been blocked for all his years in the West, and when he comes “home” he has this rush of nineteen poems that just flow out of him. A great deal of time is spent talking about them and dissecting them, but because the green notebook he wrote them in is never found, we never get to actually read them. I find this to be a cheap, lame, cheater literary trick that shirks responsibility. The plot structure even would have allowed at least one poem to be printed, but why couldn’t Pamuk have done even that? The one thing that struck me was listening to characters wrestle with the idea of God and His relationship to life, and even that was presented as either fanaticism or a mind-salve for miserable people – nothing joyful or life-affirming.