/02 Snow Blind

Max Sher


I changed from an amble to a round trot and arrived that evening at a Turkish village twelve miles from Kars. Having jumped down from my horse I wanted to enter the first hut, but the owner appeared in the doorway and pushed me away with a shower of abuse. I responded to his welcome with my whip. The Turk started bellowing; a crowd gathered. My guide, it seemed, had interceded on my behalf. I was shown a caravan-serai; I entered a large hut resembling a cattle shed; there was nowhere to spread my cloak. I demanded a horse. The Turkish headman came over to me. To all his incomprehensible words I gave the same reply: verbana at (give me a horse). The Turks would not agree. Finally I had the sense to show them money (which I should have done in the first place). A horse was brought immediately and I was given a guide. I rode along a wide valley, surrounded by hills. Soon I saw Kars, standing out white on one of them. My Turk kept pointing it out to me, repeating ‘Kars, Kars!’ and put his horse into a gallop. I followed him tormented by anxiety: it was in Kars that my fate would be decided”.

Alexander Pushkin “A Journey to Arzrum”, 1829, translated by Brigitta Ingemanson.

*Kars is a town in northeastern Turkey near the Armenian border. From 1878 to 1918 it was part of Russia. This is where Orhan Pamuk’s novel “Snow” is set. Turkish for ‘snow’ is ‘kar’.