Kahlil Gibran. The first time I met him, I was too callow to allow him commove me. Nevertheless, I kept on reading him irrespective of fact whether I understood or not (as was my wont, to just eat words and drink rhythm).
It ended as abruptly as it started. And there was a pause. A long pause.
And he came again in my life. Years afterwards. No, he didn’t come; he actually stormed into my life. I was left just to see where he carries me away, and where he drops. Till date, my predicament continues.
Neither does he require nor do I have any adjectives for him.
Excerpt from "The Prophet"
And she hailed him, saying:
Prophet of God, in quest of the uttermost, long
have you searched the distances for your ship.
And now your ship has come,
and you must needs go.
Deep is your longing for the land of your memories and
the dwelling-place of your grater desires; and our love would not bind you nor
our needs hold you.
Yet this we ask ere you leave us, that you speak to us
and give us of your truth.
And we will give it unto out children, and they
unto their children, and it shall not perish.
In your aloneness you have
watched with our days, and in your wakefulness you have listened to the weeping
and the laughter of our sleep.
Now therefore disclose us to ourselves, and
tell us all that has been shown you of that which is between birth and
And he answered:
People of Orphalese, of what can I speak
save of that which is even now moving within your souls?
Then said Almitra,
speak to us of Love.
And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and
there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:
beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions
may would you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice
may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even
as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to
your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you
to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you
to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets
of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s
But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and
apss out of love’s threshing floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall
laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is
sufficient unto love.
When you love you should not say, “God, is in
my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”
And think not you can
direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your
Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love
and must needs have desires, let theses be your desires:
To melt and be like
a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too
To be wounded by your own understanding of love,
bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give
thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to
sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon you
The plot of the novel is, in general, a regional one. So to say, a typical story of oppression, social tensions, conflicts of cultures (western vs. eastern; although for us Indians, both Turks and Europeans form west), influence of politics on cultural values (and vice versa, too), ethics, ethnicity, broken hearts, unsaid affection, debates over religious stuff and anarchism. In a way this much is more than enough for a clobbering novel and perhaps a movie too.
However, what makes this book special is the manner in which it is written, The author has the art of striking the balance in sensitive limning of each of such emotions and the realistic analysis of the situation. On one side, he depicts the central character “Ka” as if he (the author) himself has lived Ka’s life, and on the other, he never lets you fall in the trap of emotional melodrama (perhaps this is what Bertolt Brecht calls alienation).
It is snowing when Ka arrives in the small town of Kars, and the snow continues to fall, cutting off the town from the rest of the world. There is tension there: an upcoming mayoral election, the struggle between religion and secularism, a heavy-handed police presence. The conflict between Islam -- and, for example, the right of girls to go to school wearing head-scarves -- and the secular society the government has imposed causes the most problems; it is also an explanation for why the girls are killing themselves.
Ka is also racked by self-doubt -- and god-doubt, as the question of his atheism constantly arises. Resurgent Islam doesn't accept half measures, however: Ka is warned:
"If you want to save your skin, I would advise you to increase your faith in God at the earliest opportunity. It won't be long, I fear, before a moderate belief in God will be insufficient to save the skin of an old atheist. "
Even when he thinks he believes, the artist Ka clearly has a different conception of godliness, as he is reminded by one of the Islamic leaders when he describes it:
"Before I got here, I hadn't written a poem in years," he said. "But since coming to Kars, all the roads on which poetry travels here have reopened. I attribute this to the love of God I've felt here."
"I don't want to destroy your illusions, but your love of God comes out of Western romantic novels," said Blue. "In a place like this, if you worship God as a European, you're bound to be a laughingstock. Then you cannot even believe you believe. You don't belong to this country; you're not even a Turk anymore. First try to be like everyone else. then try to believe in God."
The conflict is everywhere: even Ipek's family, which runs the hotel where Ka is staying, is half-torn, as Ipek's sister Kadife is active in the Islamist movement and a strong believer, while Ipek's marriage broke up over her husband's embrace of Islam and his unacceptable (to her) demand that she wear a head-scarf।
A locally televised performance, at which Ka also reads one of his poems, goes catastrophically (and surreally) wrong, leading to a mini-coup and curfew, and a further clamp-down on the Islamists -- who, however, have much local support. The city remains cut off -- for a few days a world unto itself -- and the conflict continues, its many players as active as ever. Ka, meanwhile, is pushed back and forth between them, unable to extricate himself -- while all the while pursuing Ipek.
There is much discussion of the proper course of action. Tolerance is shown by individuals, but seems almost impossible to put into practise, as each force seeks to impose its own absolutism (symbolized by the head scarf, but obviously going much further). Each side, too, is undermined from within: suicide is a grievous sin, while the arbitrary show of force by those in power has little to do with actual secular ideals (and show little respect for the rights of individuals).
Art is central to the novel, and two theatrical performances -- each involving at least one shooting -- are the centrepieces of the book. In truly dramatic fashion, revolution is practised on the stage (though the resonance -- as described -- isn't quite as strong as one might imagine). Then there is Ka, who is able to write poetry again: none of the poems are reproduced here, but the genesis of each is carefully noted and often described in some detail; there is even an index at the end of the book, of "The order in which Ka wrote his poems".
It is the desire to write a book about these poems that leads the narrator -- an alter-Orhan Pamuk, and longtime friend of Ka's -- to tell this story। The presentation is unusual, the narrator at the fore in certain chapters, acknowledging that he writes this years after the events and describing his research in Germany and Turkey on the trail of Ka, while elsewhere disappearing entirely and presenting the story as it happens, as if he had witnessed all the events. He reveals some of what happened before he describes it -- Ka's fate, for example --, an odd approach that takes some of the suspense away and yet also serves to focus attention more on the why, revealed only when the events are allowed to unfold.
Snow is a book about the difficulties faced by a nation torn between tradition, religion, and modernization. Set in the farthest east of Turkey, the locals are certain that in Western eyes they're all considered ignorant yokels. They suffer from a dreadful inferiority complex and a need to prove themselves to counter that. Religion is the easiest crutch to rely on (and, in the case of this religion, one that conveniently scares the hell out of the infidels, of course). The struggle is not only with the West, however, but with the strong tradition of secularism in Turkey itself. As one character says:
"To play the rebel heroine in Turkey you don't pull off your scarf, you put it on."
In Snow Pamuk effectively portrays these difficulties, and the many ambiguities in contemporary Turkish life -- there's little that's simply black and white here -- but the book loses steam about halfway through (or bogs down in the snow, which there's an awful lot of here). There's a great deal of dialogueS; Ka's uncertain position -- he's not entirely sure where he stands -- makes him even more of an odd man out, and after a while one longs for more certainty, rather than -- as it seems to become -- less and less. There's also quite a bit of negotiation, as people are asked to do certain things in exchange for other things, but the uneven playing field generally does not lead to satisfying (or at least hoped for) results; that's perhaps realistic, yet not entirely satisfying for the reader. Positions -- especially the locals' inferiority complex vis à vis the West -- are also occasionally too simply presented.
The elements of the book -- even the dominant snow -- are often creative and clever. From the beginning of a science fiction novel written by one boy to the complex affair between Ka and Ipek to the shadow of the suicides hanging over the entire story, Pamuk offers much that impresses and moves the reader -- but his hold is ultimately also unsure. He tries just that bit too much and too hard, and he can't quite sustain it.
I, in those tilts, had tried to render diverse statements (which, I would fairly expect, should not necessarily be mingled up with whatsoever opinions I have about the subject matter) putting on all the theatrical skills I had and creating all the hoax I could, and managed to reel under the feel of a exultant jubilant, only until I had the (ever famous - world famous in my town, so to say) rendezvous with the Superpower of oxymoronic and splendiferous arguments, called Oscar Wilde.
Then I devolve into silence.
(Presenting here one of his masterpieces - preface to “The Picture of Dorian Gray”)
The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.
The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things. The highest, as the lowest, form of criticism is a mode of autobiography.
Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty.
There is no such thing as a moral or am immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.
The nineteenth-century dislike if realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass. The nineteenth-century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.
The moral life of a man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium.
No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved. No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.
No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything.
Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art.
Vice and virtues are to the artist material for an art. From the point of view of form, the types of all the arts is the art of the art of the musician. From the point of view of feeling, the actor’s craft is the type.
All art is once surface and symbol.
Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
Those who read the symbol do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.
Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.
When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself.
We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.
All art is quite useless.