Snow, and a Bit of Sadness


Alfred Gelbhaar, Dom im Winter

Admittedly, since I was out of town on Halloween weekend, I missed the first technical snowfall in the city this year, and so I’m not justified in announcing the definitive arrival today of the winter season, via a very light, yet continual drift of frozen precipitation. But from thirty-nine floors up, I can at least allege with some justification that the experience of watching wandering flakes go by the window is a bit different than having those dazed little powder puffs drop shyly onto your shoulders at ground level. Caught in the complicated conglomeration of currents at such altitudes, sometimes, the snow doesn’t even seem to be falling– but just wandering around, checking things out, meandering in between buildings like a peerless space cadet just high on life and wearing a puzzling smile.

As I entered my own near-trance watching it all, I came across a thought in my head of Orhan Pamuk’s Snow. It was the first book I read by him, and it remains my favorite of his: a somewhat back-country love story filled with such delicate and determined ache, I’m afraid to go back and read it again, lest it burst the bubble of wonder I created in reading it the first time. That fear is especially strong after having read The Museum of Innocence a few years ago; what had felt in Snow like art crafted out of a unique, far-seeing passion had somehow degenerated into formulaic sentimentality and the jealously of a boy trapped in the body of a middle-aged man. Maybe that’s exactly what Pamuk was trying to get at: the sappy, possessive desire to control and fix people and situations into which unchecked infatuations can lead us. But the book didn’t feel that reasoned, if that’s the term I’m looking for; it seemed as if the author were sympathizing with the narrator, taking his side, even as he gave a glimmer of the heroine’s fatalistic feelings about it all.

Reading The Museum of Innocence was a stark reminder not to get trapped in a pantheon of self-created idols, a painful lesson I’d learned a few years before, when, after reading almost everything Václav Havel had written, and taken to heart his brave stances and noble calls to service, I found out what a womanizer the guy had been. And although his writing and his actions still inspire me, somehow, that personal foible brought out other less-than-stellar aspects of his thought, such as his almost credulous trust in the capitalist system. Maybe I would have come to see this weakness in his philosophizing sooner or later; maybe, too, it was a good thing I was more open to critique of his work thanks to an unrelated character flaw. But it still felt– still feels– just plain sad to realize your hero is only human.

And to think I was trashing cinematic heroes the other day! What a confused whirlwind the mind can be: like all those aimless flurries. Like humanity itself.


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