Daily Archives: 4 March 2006

Pamuk on Political Means, Personal Ends

“The question is this: Speaking as the Communist modernizing secularist democratic patriot I now am, what should I put first, the enlightenment or the will of the people? If I believe first and foremost in the European enlightenment, I am obliged to see the Islamists as my enemies and support this military coup. If, however, my first commitment is to the will of the people—if, in other words, I’ve become an unadulterated democrat—I have no choice but to go ahead and sign that statement [condemning the coup]. Which of the things I’ve said is true?”

“Take the side of the oppressed and go sign that statement,” said Ka.

“It’s not enough to be oppressed, you must also be in the right. Most oppressed people are in the wrong to an almost ridiculous degree. What shall I believe in?”

“Ka doesn’t believe in anything,” said Ipek.

“Everyone believes in something,” said Turgut Bey. “Please, tell me what you think.”

Ka did his best to convince Turgut Bey that if he signed the statement he would be doing his bit to help Kars move toward democracy. Sensing a strong possibility that Ipek might not want to go to Frankfurt with him, he started to worry that he might fail to convince Turgut Bey to leave the hotel [to go sign the statement]. To express beliefs without conviction was liberating. As he nattered on about the statement, about issues of democracy, human rights, and many other things that were news to none of them, he saw a light shining in Ipek’s eyes that told him she didn’t believe a thing he was saying. But it wasn’t a shaming, moralistic light he saw; quite the contrary, it was a gleam of sexual provocation. Her eyes said, I know you’re spouting all these lies because you want me.

So it was that, just minutes after discovering the importance of melodramatic sensibilities, Ka decided he’d discovered a second great truth that had eluded him all his life: There are women who can’t resist a man who believes in nothing but love. Overcome with excitement at this new discovery, he launched into a further monologue about human rights, freedom of thought, democracy, and related subjects. And as he mouthed the wild simplifications of so many well-intentioned but shameless and slightly addled Western intellectuals and the platitudes repeated verbatim by their Turkish imitators, he thrilled to the knowledge that he might soon be making love to Ipek [once her father was away signing the statement] and all the while stared straight into her eyes to see the reflection of his own excitement.

SOURCE: Snow, by Orhan Pamuk (Vintage, 2004), pp. 242-243

Also see Danny Yee’s review of Snow.

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