3.6 57
by Orhan Pamuk, Maureen Freely, Maureen Freely

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The Nobel Prize–winner’s second novel to appear in an Everyman edition is a spellbinding story of a poet seeking his lost love in a remote Turkish town riven by religious conflict and cut off from the world by a blizzard.

Returning to Turkey from exile in the West, Ka is driven by curiosity to investigate a surprising wave of suicides among religious


The Nobel Prize–winner’s second novel to appear in an Everyman edition is a spellbinding story of a poet seeking his lost love in a remote Turkish town riven by religious conflict and cut off from the world by a blizzard.

Returning to Turkey from exile in the West, Ka is driven by curiosity to investigate a surprising wave of suicides among religious girls forbidden to wear their head scarves in school. But the epicenter of the suicides, the eastern border city of Kars, is also home to the radiant and newly divorced Ýpek, a friend of Ka’s youth whom he has never forgotten and whose spirited younger sister is a leader of the rebellious schoolgirls. As a fierce snowstorm descends on Kars, violence between the military and local Islamic radicals begins to explode, and Ka finds his sympathies drawn in unexpected and dramatic directions.

Editorial Reviews

Margaret Atwood
This seventh novel from the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk is not only an engrossing feat of tale-spinning, but essential reading for our times.
The New York Times Sunday Book Review
Ruth Franklin
Pamuk's work is reminiscent of the great storytelling classics -- The Thousand and One Nights, Boccaccio's Decameron or Jan Potocki's Manuscript Found in Saragossa, with their bawdy comedy, intricate design and mystical overtones.
— The Washington Post
Richard Eder
Even the symbols get affectionate treatment. Cutting off the town, the blizzard may stand for the isolation from any universal truth or value; one that history seemingly requires by history while it conducts its contorted affairs. The snow, though, is of surpassing beauty and hauntingly rendered. For Mr. Pamuk beauty does not redeem the tragic horrors begotten by human passions and obstinate memory. Neither do the horrors diminish it.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
A Turkish poet who spent 12 years as a political exile in Germany witnesses firsthand the clash between radical Islam and Western ideals in this enigmatically beautiful novel. Ka's reasons for visiting the small Turkish town of Kars are twofold: curiosity about the rash of suicides by young girls in the town and a hope to reconnect with "the beautiful Ipek," whom he knew as a youth. But Kars is a tangle of poverty-stricken families, Kurdish separatists, political Islamists (including Ipek's spirited sister Kadife) and Ka finds himself making compromises with all in a desperate play for his own happiness. Ka encounters government officials, idealistic students, leftist theater groups and the charismatic and perhaps terroristic Blue while trying to convince Ipek to return to Germany with him; each conversation pits warring ideologies against each other and against Ka's own weary melancholy. Pamuk himself becomes an important character, as he describes his attempts to piece together "what really happened" in the few days his friend Ka spent in Kars, during which snow cuts off the town from the rest of the world and a bloody coup from an unexpected source hurtles toward a startling climax. Pamuk's sometimes exhaustive conversations and descriptions create a stark picture of a too-little-known part of the world, where politics, religion and even happiness can seem alternately all-consuming and irrelevant. A detached tone and some dogmatic abstractions make for tough reading, but Ka's rediscovery of God and poetry in a desolate place makes the novel's sadness profound and moving. Agent, Andrew Wylie. (Aug.) Forecast: Pamuk's reputation-bigger outside the U.S. than in-enjoyed a boost with 2001's My Name Is Red. This timely, thoughtful and demanding book may see it grow further. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Upon returning to his home in secular Turkey, a poet named Ka discovers two things that will change his life: Ipek, the girl he loved as a child, still lives in the city of Kars, and the community has been stunned by a rash of suicides of zealously religious girls who refused to remove their head scarves while in public. With an investigator's eye, Ka seeks out information about the tragedies from all sources, eventually leading to the man at the eye of the storm-"Blue," a charismatic Islamite who will not let the message that these girls carried be silenced. While in Kars, the normally reticent Ka dares to approach "happiness"; where once he suffered terrible writer's block, his poems now flow effortlessly, and his new-found love appears to love him back, but the figure of Blue and the deep waters in which Ka has immersed himself threaten his promising future. Like Pamuk's previous My Name Is Red, this story is thick with detail concerning the country's background; it does take some time to introduce all the characters. Once everyone is in place, however, the novel picks up and ultimately is a worthwhile read for those interested in a closer look at the hot topics of religion, its devout followers, and what arises from such passions. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/04.]-Marc Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Internationally acclaimed Turkish writer Pamuk (My Name is Red, 2001, etc) vividly embodies and painstakingly explores the collision of Western values with Islamic fundamentalism. An omniscient narrator, identified only on the penultimate page, tells the story of Kerim Alakusoglu, a 40-ish poet known as Ka who returns to Turkey from political exile in Germany. Ka travels to the remote provincial town of Kars in "the poorest, most overlooked corner of Turkey" near the Armenian border, where a seemingly endless snowfall persists, a rash of recent suicides by young women stirs political and ethnic debate-and Kee is reunited with his beautiful former schoolmate Ipek, now estranged from her husband. Pamuk distributes conflicting commitments to Muslim traditions and secular, Westernized concepts in such compellingly realized characters as Ipek's "radical" sister and sometime actress Kadife, her "terrorist" lover Blue, Ipek's unctuous husband Mukhtar (a mayoral candidate in Kars's upcoming municipal elections), brutal military police official Z. Demirkol, and National Theatre luminary Sunay Zaim, who appears to be staging his own martyrdom in an adaptation of Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy that will feature Kadife's onstage protest against Islam's suppression of women's rights. This richly detailed tale is in effect a dialectic made flesh by a thrilling plot ingeniously shaped to climax with the aforementioned theatrical production and to coincide with the narrator's revelations of Ka's last hours in Kars, which ironically consummate the flurry of poetic creativity released in him by his experiences there. The novel's meanings inhere memorably in the controlling title metaphor, which signifiescleansing, silence, sleep, obliteration, "the beauty and mystery of creation," and the organizing principles for Ka's late poems, the last of which he entitles "The Place Where the World Ends."An astonishingly complex, disturbing view of a world we owe it to ourselves to better understand. Author tour. Agency: Wylie Agency
From the Publisher
“Astonishingly timely . . . A deft melding of political intrigue and philosophy, romance, and noir.” —Vogue

“Not only an engrossing feat of tale-spinning, but essential reading for our times.” —Margaret Atwood, The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage International Series
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5.12(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.96(d)

Read an Excerpt

By Margaret Atwood

Just as Turkey stands at the crossroads of the Muslim East/Middle East and the European and North American West, so Orhan Pamuk’s work inhabits the shifting ground of an increasingly dangerous cultural and religious overlap, where ideologies as well as personalities collide. It’s no exaggeration to say that you have to read Pamuk if you want to begin to understand what’s going on in people’s hearts, minds and souls in such a world. In Turkey, he is far more than a novelist: people rush to read his novels as if he’s a kind of sure-fire prophet, or a hugely popular singer, or a national psychoanalyst or a one-man newspaper editorial page. There is nothing programmatic about his novels; he simply writes out of the center of the whirlwind both his characters and his Turkish readers feel swept up in every day.

Where is Turkey going? How will it come to terms with its once glorious, often troubled history, and resolve the conflict between old and new, and handle the power struggle between secularists and Islamists, and find self-respect, or peace of mind, or inner wholeness or a new direction? Pamuk’s novels don’t provide cut-and-dried solutions, but they follow the tortuous lines of such questionings with anguished and wrenching fidelity. Sometimes his characters are almost literally torn apart by choices they don’t know how to make, but are forced to make. His power as a novelist stems in part from his refusal to judge the choices his characters make: their tragedy is that no matter what path they take, they can’t be at ease; and, worse, some other element in their society is bound to condemn them.

Although it’s set in the 1990s and was begun before 9/11, Snow is eerily prescient, both in its analyses of fundamentalist attitudes and in the nature of the repression and rage and conspiracies and violence it depicts. Like Pamuk’s other novels, Snow is an in-depth tour of the divided, hopeful, desolate, mystifying Turkish soul. It’s the story of Ka, a gloomy but appealing poet who hasn’t written anything in years. But Ka is not his own narrator: by the time of the telling he has been assassinated, and his tale is pieced together by an ‘‘old friend’’ of his who just happens to be named Orhan.

As the novel opens, Ka has been in political exile in Frankfurt, but has returned to Istanbul after twelve years for his mother’s funeral. He’s making his way to Kars, an impoverished city in Anatolia, just as a severe snowstorm begins. (Kar is ‘‘snow’’ in Turkish, so we have already been given an envelope inside an envelope inside an envelope.) Ka claims to be a journalist interested in the recent murder of the city’s mayor and the suicides of a number of young girls forced by their schools to remove their head scarves, but this is only one of his motives. He also wants to see Iÿpek, a beautiful woman he’d known as a student. Divorced from a onetime friend of Ka’s turned Islamist politician, she lives in the shabby Snow Palace Hotel, where Ka is staying.

Cut off from escape by the snow, Ka wanders through a decaying city haunted by its glorious former selves: there are architectural remnants of the once vast Ottoman Empire; the grand Armenian church stands empty, testifying to the massacre of its worshipers; there are ghosts of Russian rulers and their lavish celebrations, and pictures of Atatu¨ rk, founder of the Turkish Republic and instigator of a ruthless ‘‘modernization’’ campaign, which included – not incidentally – a ban on head scarves.

Ka’s pose as a journalist allows Pamuk to put on display a wide variety of opinions. Those not living in the shrunken remains of former empires may find it hard to imagine the mix of resentful entitlement (We ought to be powerful!), shame (What did we do wrong?), blame (Whose fault is it?) and anxiety about identity (Who are we really?) that takes up a great deal of headroom in such places, and thus in Snow. Ka tries to find out more about the dead girls but encounters resistance: he’s from a bourgeois background in cosmopolitan Istanbul, he’s been in exile in the West, he has a snazzy overcoat. Believers accuse him of atheism; the secular government doesn’t want him writing about the suicides – a blot on its reputation – so he’s dogged by police spies; common people are suspicious of him. He’s present in a pastry shop when a tiny fundamentalist gunman murders the director of the institute that has expelled the head-scarf girls. He gets mixed up with his beloved’s former husband, the two of them are arrested and he witnesses the brutality of the secularist regime. He manages to duck his shadowers long enough to meet with an Islamist extremist in hiding, the persuasive Blue, said to be behind the director’s murder. And so he goes, floundering from encounter to encounter.

In Snow the line between playful farce and gruesome tragedy is very fine. For instance, the town’s newspaper publisher, Serdar Bey, prints an article describing Ka’s public performance of his poem ‘‘Snow.’’ When Ka protests that he hasn’t written a poem called ‘‘Snow’’ and is not going to perform it in the theater, Serdar Bey replies: ‘‘Don’t be so sure. There are those who despise us for writing the news before it happens. . . . quite a few things do happen only because we’ve written them up first. This is what modern journalism is all about.’’ And sure enough, inspired by the love affair he begins with Ipek and happier than he’s been in years, Ka begins to write poems, the first of them being ‘‘Snow.’’ Before you know it, there he is in the theater, but the evening also includes a ridiculous performance of an Ataturk-era play called My Fatherland or My Head Scarf. As the religious-school teenagers jeer, the secularists decide to enforce their rule by firing rifles into the audience.

The twists of fate, the plots that double back on themselves, the trickiness, the mysteries that recede as they’re approached, the bleak cities, the night prowling, the sense of identity loss, the protagonist in exile – these are vintage Pamuk, but they’re also part of the modern literary landscape. A case could be made for a genre called the Male Labyrinth Novel, which would trace its ancestry through De Quincey and Dostoevsky and Conrad, and would include Kafka, Borges, García Márquez, DeLillo and Auster, with the Hammett-and-Chandler noir thriller thrown in for good measure. It’s mostly men who write such novels and feature as their rootless heroes, and there’s probably a simple reason for this: send a woman out alone on a rambling nocturnal quest and she’s likely to end up a lot deader a lot sooner than a man would.

There are two strong female characters in Snow, the emotionally battered Ipek and her sister, the stubborn actress Kadife. In addition, there’s a chorus: the head-scarf girls. Those scrapping for power on both sides use these dead girls as symbols, having put unbearable pressure on them while they were alive. Ka, however, sees them as suffering human beings. ‘‘It wasn’t the elements of poverty or helplessness that Ka found so shocking. Neither was it the constant beatings to which these girls were subjected, or the insensitivity of fathers who wouldn’t even let them go outside, or the constant surveillance of jealous husbands. The thing that shocked and frightened Ka was the way these girls had killed themselves: abruptly, without ritual or warning, in the midst of their everyday routines.’’ Their suicides are like the other brutal events in the novel: sudden eruptions of violence thrown up by relentless underlying forces.

The attitudes of men toward women drive the plot in Snow, but even more important are the attitudes of men toward one another. Ka is always worrying about whether other men respect or despise him, and that respect hinges not on material wealth but on what he is thought to believe. Since he himself isn’t sure, he vacillates from one side to another. Shall he stick with the Western enlightenment? But he was miserable in Germany. Shall he return to the Muslim fold? But despite his drunken hand-kissing of a local religious leader, he can’t fit in.

If Ka were to run true to the formof Pamuk’s previous novels, he might take refuge in stories. Stories, Pamuk has hinted, create the world we perceive: instead of ‘‘I think, therefore I am,’’ a Pamuk character might say, ‘‘I am because I narrate.’’ It’s the Scheherazade position, in spades. But poor murdered Ka is no novelist: it’s up to ‘‘Orhan’’ to act as his Horatio.

Pamuk gives us what all novelists give us at their best: the truth. Not the truth of statistics, but the truth of human experience at a particular place, in a particular time. And as with all great literature, you feel at moments not that you are examining him, but that he is examining you. ‘‘No one could understand us from so far away,’’ says a character in Snow. Reader, it’s a challenge.

Margaret Atwood

Meet the Author

Orhan Pamuk was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006. The author of The Museum of Innocence, Istanbul, and My Name Is Red, he lives in Istanbul and New York City.

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Snow 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 57 reviews.
silencedogoodreturns More than 1 year ago
I bought this book due to the favorable review given its author, Orhan Pamuk, by Paul Theroux in his own book, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star. It is an interesting read if for no other reason that it exposes the reader to the works of a non-traditional author. This was my first reading of Turkish literature of any kind, and while I found the story awkward and "different," it was a worthwhile read to get a different spin on writing styles, themes and stories. My one take-away, however, was not so nice - that men in particular in many non-Western countries are VERY childish and immature, even when they are well past their 20s.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author is on target with today's world. The world is darkening. There is no free will. The people are consumed with one another. It is best to know the enemy and how they think so if you want to be prepared for end times I suggest you read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I came to regard the novel Snow by Orhan Pamuk as a work of magical realism, due largely to the titular weather that serves as a backdrop to the story. It creates a nocturnal atmosphere of mystery, fantasy and enchantment that frames the events in the novel. Kars, the Turkish border city that serves as the setting, is isolated by deep and perpetual snow. You can imagine the city contained in a snow globe that, when shaken¿well¿ you get the picture. The central character, Ka, comes to Kars as a journalist to cover an epidemic of suicides of young women who, upholding Islamic law, refuse to bare their heads. Many of the accolades sited in the Vintage edition of Snow refer to it as a political novel. But this is hard to swallow because the major events are not political as much as burlesque social and cultural upheavals. The novel¿s central conflict is between the modern secular government and traditional Islamic values. That orthodox Islamic women cover their heads with scarves, while contemporary secular values encourage them to bare their heads, becomes the central emblem of this conflict. The setting of the situations in this novel are clearly defined, but it¿s the characters that are hard to pin down. They glide through the story like ghosts. They lack physical definition¿except to note a woman¿s enormous breasts¿and exist almost wholly as psychological beings. This and the fact that the characters are consumed by their own romantic and spiritual passions have resulted in some critics considering this a Dostoevskian novel. And as with Dostoevsky, the author/narrator makes appearances to guide us through the story. So, is Snow a good read? The other night my wife asked me what it was about. I answered that it was about two hundred pages too long. Conversations and situations are repeated throughout the novel. The original premise of the secular v. the devout is diluted by recycled conversations about the meaning of belief, atheism, love and radical Islam, many of which take place in crowded tea houses, of which there are apparently many. I may have the disadvantage of a cultural divide, but Snow becomes, for all of its provocative early setup, an arduous read. This is not a happy novel and the greatest joy it delivers at the end is that, well, you¿ve actually finished the damn thing. Oh, and there is the happy presence of a small dog. Wasn¿t there such a dog in Brothers Karamazov? And is the payoff that people are as individual as snowflakes, as surmised by the author? Is this all the heft this novel has? This is, after all, a story within a story. The author, whose intrusions into the story line are sparse at first, goes full blown at the end and it becomes his story, not Ka¿s. Perhaps you¿ll do as I did. Be intrigued that Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize, wonder why this is so, and take on the challenge of reading Snow. And if you get through the thing, you may look back on a shadowy experience populated by ethereal characters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While I found the contrast of East & West most interesting, the book was a laborious read. Yes, it portrays the differences in cultures quite well, but seemed to plod on at a painfully slow pace.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recently finished up 'Snow' by Turkish author Orhan Pamuk and thought it was exceptional. The first half of the book has a great deal of detail as he's introducing all of the characters--and all of the conflicting ideologies swirling in the town of Kars--and though it slowed my reading speed, it was very thought-provoking and informative. I also saw several parallels with our current situation here in the US. The pace picks up in the second half of the book, though it is equally intense from a psychological and philosophical point of view. Ka the poet (the main character) is a multi-faceted, well-developed character who will live on in my thoughts and imagination for years to come. The issues the book addresses are numerous, and yet they need to be numerous since one of the main points of the book seems to be that such myriad issues DO impact on our lives to varying degrees, even when we try our hardest to ignore them. Try as we might, there is no escape from the role of religion in society, the degree of free speech the government allows, the accommodation of neighbors with differing opinions, fate versus free will, personal happiness versus social responsibility, the worth of the arts and artists, the importance of romantic love...and even our utter inability to control the weather. This is definitely one of the BEST books I have read in a long time. (And thank you, Mr. Pamuk, for constanly referring to 'those Armenians' and 'that Armenian thing' and trying to bring the tragedy to light without getting yourself thrown in jail by your government which still won't admit to it's act of genocide.)
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is not for everyone. the plot does not move quickly and linearly; like all of Pamuk's work it takes it's time and travels in circles, each cirle getting closer and closer to the mark, unfolding new joys as it goes. you must appreciate this style of writing and seeing the world to appreciate this book and his others - if you're looking for fast paced action and simple plot, you will probably be frustrated, as the first reviewer was. this book is to be relished and enjoyed; and there is nothing wrong or lost in the translation. each book this author has written builds on the last, and you wonder if he's constructing a kind of massive snowflake poem of his own, over decades of novels...
Anonymous 4 months ago
Anonymous 4 months ago
"Hey. Hows it going?"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well you see my friend on here have kind of disapeard i at on point had seven friend on here and slowly one by on they left oh i gained one or two but they left as well help
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey there!! Remember me? From snow res 1? Im a Junior in High School and all that stufff? Blah blah. Lets start,Please tell me your troubles. Now....Let the magic come true!! Love Luna:)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*smiles at u*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SNOW!!! TODAY SCHOOL IS CANCELLED!!! We got dumped with a whole bunch of snow and it's melting while its snowing because we are sopose to get snow on Wed. Or thurs. But on both of those days it is going to be in the 40s and we are sopose to get snow!!!! Righ now its a big slushy mess outside!!! MOTHER NATURE WHAT'S WRONG WITH U!!! U GIVE US SNOW AND THEN U MAKE IT MELT!!! But the good sign is that there is about 28 more days untul spring though. But we are still going to have SNOW!!!!!! ATLEAST we probably won't get snow on May 2nd unlike last year. THAT WAS HORRIBLE!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I do! I was just busy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A brilliant work of art--the falling snow caresses the characters, often blinding them as well. The last line of the novel soars, lending grace and humility to this work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The amber shekit pads in and looks around
CR-Buell More than 1 year ago
Orhan Pamuk is a living treasure, and Snow is a masterpiece. At the center of this novel is the explosive issue of balancing religious freedom against governmental stability. Pamuk handles this deftly, and manages to illuminate without taking sides. You see the best and the worst of all parties involved. With beautiful prose, reminiscent of the great Russian masters, Pamuk explores the themes of personal and national identity, expertly drawing us in, and opening our eyes. Snow is a masterfully crafted and deeply profound novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting read about how extremist religious views mix with government. Though setting is in Turkey, it provokes thought on the place for religion in politics. Not a easy read but definitely worth it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
With 'Snow', Nobel winner Pamuk crafted a novel as 'dazzling and complex as a handwoven tapestry', one that brought to life all the disparities in his beloved Turkey: the tensions between East and West, rich and poor, religious and secular.
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