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Snow (2002)

by Orhan Pamuk

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,5651421,221 (3.57)1 / 448
From the award-winning author of 'My Name is Red' comes this political thriller. After 12 years in Germany, a poet Ka returns to Istanbul for his mother's funeral. In a dangerous political atmosphere, the truth concerning the poet and the snow-covered old world city of Kars is revealed.
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» See also 448 mentions

English (117)  Dutch (6)  German (5)  French (4)  Italian (2)  Turkish (2)  Swedish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Polish (1)  All languages (141)
Showing 1-5 of 117 (next | show all)
I read My Name is Red a few years ago and thought it amazing, so I began Snow with anticipation and high hopes. Unfortunately, I struggled to like this book, or even finish it. I think it would have made a good novella.

Ka is a self-absorbed poet who lives in political exile in Frankfurt, Germany. Returning home for his mother's funeral, Ka learns that a woman he formerly had a crush on, İpek, is now divorced and living in a town in the far northeast of Turkey called Kars. When he hears news of a rash of suicides there by girls forbidden to wear headscarves to school, Ka boards a bus for Kars with the intent to write about it for a Frankfurt newspaper. En route it begins snowing heavily, and he barely makes it to Kar before the roads are closed. For the next three days, Ka investigates the headscarf girls, gets involved in a coup, and woos İpek.

The novel is riddled with literary wannabes who seem to have a hand in creating the plot. It is a story within a story with two plays in the middle and peppered with poems which are never revealed to the reader. From page one, the reader is aware that someone is narrating Kars story, and, although he claims omniscience by dint of having read Ka's diaries, the narrator (a novelist) also mimics Ka and seems jealous of him. Is he relating Ka's story or writing it? Ka, who had been in a creative drought prior to his return to Turkey, is flooded with fully composed poems as soon as he arrives in Kars. Is he creating them or simply recording them? Journalists fabricate stories which then come true, actors stage plays with live action consequences, and everyone wants to pass along a message to the West.

The love stories in the book are facile, with little sincerity but lots of angst on the part of our protagonist. I failed to connect with the characters and had little sympathy for their machinations. The only characters I found truly sympathetic are a couple of religious school students and the headscarf suicides whom we never meet.

Pamuk touches upon many issues in his novel—secularism vs Islamist politics, militant nationalism, Kurdish guerilla fighters, the wearing of headscarves, the role of art in Turkish politics—about which I know little. Perhaps if I were more conversant with Turkish history and politics, I would have gotten more out of these sections. As it was I either appealed to Wikipedia or muddled my way through.

Snow was Pamuk's first novel after the wildly successful My Name is Red, and I felt as though he were trying to be as clever and innovative as he had been in that book, but missing the mark. ( )
1 vote labfs39 | Jan 9, 2022 |
This was a complex read and far from uplifting.
Ka is a journalist and Turkish poet in political exile in Germany. He returns to Istanbul for his mother's funeral and upon hearing of the epidemic of suicides in a border town, Kars decides to investigate that and report on the soon to be held local elections being strongly contested by an Islamist party.
Soon after his arrival there is a heavy snowstorm and the town is cut off from the outside world. Ka goes about interviewing families and local dignitaries on the issues and soon becomes embroiled in the town's affairs. He witnesses murder, falls in love and writes 19 poems stimulated by his experiences.
The bleak setting and simple unsophisticated way of life had me struggling to put this in a time period. It is only towards the end of the book that I realised it was late 20th century. It presents a balanced view of what it is to be Islamic in a rapidly changing world. ( )
  HelenBaker | Aug 20, 2021 |
I'm not sure where to start with this book. It's another one of the '1001' list titles that I've had sitting on my shelf for a while and read it at the suggestion of people on here. The book has been rattling around my head ever since I finished it, this rarely happens for me. I've never read anything quite like this before so I'm not sure how it sits with me.

It took me a long time to get into the story, 200 pages in fact and in most cases I would have given up after 100. I decided to stick with it as I knew a few people on BCF wanted my opinions on it (I'm honoured). I felt the story wasn't really going anywhere and was really turgid. This isnt a book to pick up and read quickly, I found it required some effort initially to stick with it. I also couldn't help but feel slightly hamstrung by the fact that I'm not familiar with Turkish customs and culture. For example, the characters seemed to cry far too much for me and provintial Turkish life is completely alien.

I also read afterwards that the names in Turkish are quite symbolic to the the story. For example, the main character (Ka) has a shortened name that would never be found in Turkey. As a further exmaple, the city the story is set is called Kars, Kar being the Turkish for 'Snow'. The main events in the story are symbolized by events in a theatre, the main thing being the stuggle between the secular state and the Islamic government. This is all tied in with poverty, isolation and odd love stories.

It's this symbolism which probably caused me the most problems as not knowing the story behind the symbolism made it hard to grasp at times. I suspect though that this in large part due to my inexperience in dealing with this kind of fiction. Like I said it required me effort to get through some early parts of the story but it was worth it in the end. I would have probably prefered a more straight forward story but that's personal preference.

All this probably sounds like I felt negatively towards the book but I didn't, I just feel like I should be as thourough as I can. The two main things that stuck me about Pamuk's writing are his environment and his characters. He made the city of Kars feel hugely isolated and oppressive. His use of the city helf to seige by the snow creates a wonderful effect of total isolation. The constant snow feels like the un-relenting drip drip of life breaking you down. It's effect is mirrored by the people who live in Kars, largely un-employed and really down trodden about life.

His characters are also a bit odd. His descriptions lean far more towards the intangibles of the characters rather than their physical attributes. Its like he uses emotion to build a spirit of person rather than the person of person if that makes sense. Due to this and their unique Turkish ways it was hard to relate to individual characters but I suspect they were symbols of group sentiment rather than people in their own right.

One last thing I would say is that when the main events happen, especially the first it completely surprised me and I didn't see it coming at all. I found this to be an enjoyable book of a little hard in places. It doesn't make me want to read anymore Orhan Pamuk soon but certainly doesn't put me off reading his other books at some point in the future. ( )
  Brian. | Jun 14, 2021 |
The last of my self imposed punishment of reading only good books!

This is set in a black and white Turkey some time in the past when everything was black and white and people had philosophies about life and passion.

All the characters have names like Kcirtap and Nivek and Enaj and the main character keeps getting released by his captors while his fellow captors get shot.

It is hard if not impossible to work who are the bad guys, if anyone, while death is everywhere.

I cannot remember if I finished it or not but I still have an indelible impression of snow covered streets that are only black and white.

Not for the faint hearted or busy. ( )
  Ken-Me-Old-Mate | Sep 24, 2020 |
In this novel the Turkish poet Ka, who has spent 12 years in Frankfurt, returns to Turkey for his mother's funeral and to do research for an article on the situation in Kars in far eastern Turkey. A friend from Istanbul now lives there, and is recently divorced. And through a mysterious narrator (who is...the actual author inserting himself into his novel) and Ka's own perspective, we learn about the Islamists, the Nationalists, the Kurds, the communists, and leftists that are trying to coexist in this city.

Cut off from the rest of the country by a snowstorm, a theatrical coup occurs--and Ka has somehow found himself as a go-between. And for the first time in years, he is writing poems again. Really all he wants is to take Ipek back to Germany with him, so they can live happily ever after and he can publish his new book of poems.

I know there is a lot in this book that I missed. The poet's name (nickname) is Ka. The city is Kars. The title of the book in Turkish is Kar (snow). Obviously this all means something, but what, exactly, I don't know. Do "Kar", "Kars", and "Ka" sound alike in Turkish? The city of Kars has a very different history than most Turkish cities, as it had a Russian garrison in the past, and has a lot of Armenian architecture. Does the setting of a Turkish city with a different history than most Turkish cities to explain the various factions in modern Turkey mean anything? What?

So, then story itself is interesting, but I am certain I missed a fair amount due to lack of cultural and historical knowledge about Turkey. ( )
  Dreesie | Apr 28, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 117 (next | show all)
This seventh novel from the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk is not only an engrossing feat of tale-spinning, but essential reading for our times.

» Add other authors (96 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pamuk, Orhanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anna PolatTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bertolini, MartaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carpintero Ortega, RafaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Citak, ManuelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dorleijn, MargreetTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Freely, MaureenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gall, JohnCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gezgin, ŞemsaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heijden, Hanneke van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kojo, TuulaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Our interest's on the dangerous edge of things.
The honest thief, the tender murderer,
The superstitious atheist.
- Robert Browning, 'Bishop Blougram's Apology'
Politics in a literary work are a pistol-shot in the middle of a concert, a crude affair though one impossible to ignore. We are about to speak of very ugly matters.
- Stendhal, The Charterhouse of Parma
Well, then, eliminate the people, curtain them, force them to be silent. Because the European Enlightenment is more important than people.
- Feyodor Dostoevsky, Notebooks for The Brothers Karamazov
The Westerner in me was discomposed.
- Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes
To Rüya
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The silence of the snow, thought the man sitting just behind the bus driver. If this were the beginning of a poem, he would have called the thing he felt inside him the silence of snow.
...Heaven was the place where you kept alive the dreams of your memories. (p. 296)
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From the award-winning author of 'My Name is Red' comes this political thriller. After 12 years in Germany, a poet Ka returns to Istanbul for his mother's funeral. In a dangerous political atmosphere, the truth concerning the poet and the snow-covered old world city of Kars is revealed.

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Average: (3.57)
0.5 6
1 47
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2 107
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