Snow Man

This novel tries to be too clever by half, and falls amazingly short. The narrator, a writer, writes in first person narrative about leaving his war-torn country and arrives in a Canadian university for a new position. The story ends in a snowstorm, in which the author dies. Between these two facts, one totally loses grip on this story.

For the narrator, everything in his new environment is strange, and he moves around in perpetual dislocation and alienation from everything and everyone around him. Is it the war back home or his personal traumas? Or is it the shock of having to leave home and flee as a refugee that has caused this fracture from reality? David Albahari [or is it the translator  Ellen Elias-Bursac?] has failed to draw an universal experience from this particular situation. This loss of meaning and reality could well be the ramblings of a lunatic instead of reflection on the tragedy of war.

There are page-long sentences, which totally lose the thread from beginning to end, and everything ends up looking like gibberish. And in places, it is vice-versa. A save-worthy quote from this untenable volume:

…I should have told him how much I despise the university… It’s not so much as the university as such, I thought, as it is the belief in education, in a system of learning that, supposedly, allows a person to see things more clearly than anyone can from outside that system; in other words, I hated faith in every system, especially faith in anyone preaching that there is nothing that can’t be learned, even writing, or any art form for that matter, as if writing, indeed any art form, is actually a science, a collection of definitions, equations and negations. I will go to the dean, I thought, and tell him that I cannot stay, not because of him, of course, I will make this clear, but because faith in education, especially when it is art that is being taught, implies a lack of faith in art itself, in the stuff from which art is made: from the void between words, from the silence between sounds, from white spaces between images.

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2 Responses to “Snow Man”

  1. Page-long sentences? Who does he think he is, Proust? 🙂

    Thanks for reviewing this book, anocturne, you obviously weren’t enamoured by it so now I know not to read it!

  2. @Lotus: you’re welcome. it was a strain though.

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