Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cloudy Characters

"When they write poems or sing songs in the West, they speak for all humanity. They're human beings - but we're just Muslims. When we write something, it's just ethnic poetry."
I've read two books recently where I spent a great deal of time very confused by the characters. I just didn't get why they acted as they did and both of the books seemed to be written in a very realistic style. Snow, by Orhan Pamuk, is said to be a novel that is supposed to open a window into the mind of Islamists and yet I have seldom encountered a book where I less understood the minds of the characters.
"If you write a book set in Kars and put me in it, I'd like to tell your readers not to believe anything you say about me, anything you say about any of us. No one could understand us from so far away... Oh yes, they do believe it... If only to see themselves as wise and superior and humanistic, they need to think of us as sweet and funny, and convince themselves that they sympathise with us as we are and even love us. If you would put in what I've just said, at least your readers will keep a little room for doubt in their minds."
The Crazed by Ha Jin - I'd didn't much like it. It drew me in for sure, but I really didn't understand the motives/emotions/conclusions of the main character in this one either. A university student cares for his ill professor, who is also meant to be his future father-in-law and comes to question his path in academics, except that I never understood why, really.
"Tell me, what is a useful life?"

"Not to be a piece of meat on the chopping board for others to cute. No, let me put it this way: I want to take my fate in my own hands, and when I die, I want to end with the feeling of content and fulfillment. In other words, I don't want to feel that my life should have been used otherwise."

"You're silly if not megalomaniac. Even Hamlet, a prince, cannot control his own fate. Who ever can?"

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