From 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.
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Sharply departing from the accessibility of his last novel, the intellectual mystery My Name Is Red
(2001), acclaimed Turkish author Pamuk delivers a nearly impenetrable political novel. After eight years spent living in exile in Frankfurt, Germany, the poet Ka returns to the isolated town of Kars during a historic blizzard. Cut off from the outside world, the town's ingrown tensions are thrown into sharp relief as Ka investigates the epidemic of suicides occurring among devoutly religious schoolgirls who prefer to take their own lives rather than remove their head scarves. The chaos of a military coup and Ka's sudden, obsessive love for an old, very beautiful friend contribute to the poet's sudden burst of creativity after a years-long bout of writer's block. Pamuk mixes elements of the fable, a heavy dose of metaphysics, and great swathes of artificial, stilted dialogue as he slowly, ever so slowly, parses the differences between the secular and the faithful. Strictly for determined readers with a passion for international literature and a familiarity with Islam. Joanne WilkinsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved