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Snow Paperback – July 19, 2005
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Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
All the conflicting political and religious movements of the country are exemplified in Kars--socialism and communism, atheism, political secularism, Kurdish nationalism, and the most rapidly growing movement, Islamist fundamentalism, and Ka comes into contact with all of them. As he investigates the girls' suicides and becomes reacquainted with Ipek, he also witnesses the coffeeshop shooting of the Director of Education, the man who has carried out the government's orders to ban the "headscarf girls" from school. His assailant is a young member of the Freedom Fighters for Islamic Justice, a group Ka comes to know. A military coup at the National Theater begins when soldiers burst in, shoot randomly into the audience, kill a number of people, then round up "dangerous" citizens, including some of the people Ka has visited. Ultimately, Ka's life is in danger, and Ipek must choose whether to go with him to Germany or to stay in Kars.
Articulate in its depiction of almost inexplicable contradictions, Snow is not a western novel and does not adhere to western literary conventions of plot or character. The execution of the Director of Education, the army coup, and the follow-up are used primarily as vehicles for exploring the many competing philosophical and political movements, a focus on abstractions rarely seen in American literary fiction. The plot is absorbing for a reader who is interested in politics and religion, but the novel may be slow for readers looking for a plot- or character-based novel. The characters, while intriguing, are more representative of types than individuals.
Published in Turkey and Europe before September 11, the novel has an ominous prescience to it. Rich with insights into rapidly rising fundamentalist movements and why they seek our destruction, this haunting novel is many-leveled, beautifully wrought, and complex. Packed with ironies, dark humor, and enough symbolism to keep a symbol-hunter busy for days, this realistic depiction of the environment in which extremist movements take root and flourish is a chilling reminder of how the world has changed. Mary Whipple
The book's central character is a poet named Ka. Its setting is the Turkish frontier town of Kars. What falls throughout the book is snow, which, translated in Turkish, is "kar." Hmm. Let this be your first warning that you are deep in the throes of post-modernist art.
The plot of "Snow" is drawn straight from headlines in Turkey today. Religious young women, pressured by the State to take off their headscarves, are committing suicide. While Pamuk has plenty of value to say about this and other issues which define modern day Turkey -- on the crossroads of East and West -- the problem is how he goes about saying it:
'Does your father have to be out of the hotel for you to get into bed with me naked?' asked Ka.
'Yes. And he hardly ever leaves the hotel. He doesn't care for the icy streets of Kars.'
'All right then, let's not make love now. But let's kiss some more,' said Ka.
Ipek leaned over Ka, who was sitting on the edge of the bed, and they enjoyed a long and sensual kiss.
Hmm. Maybe it's not fair to blame Pamuk since his prose must first be dragged through the filter of translation. Is it really possible to create elegant English from Turkish -- a language rich in suffixes but dirt-poor in vocabulary, with paragraph-length sentences that run, from the western perspective, precisely in the wrong direction?
Perhaps not. But so what? "Snow" is boring. It's boring in the same way that "The White Castle" was boring, and in the same way that "The New Life" was boring (and incomprehensible!). And there's just no excuse for boring. Great novels inform -- but great novels also entertain.
This is not a great novel. Once again, Pamuk gives the reader a blizzard of ideas, accumulating to remarkable depth. But reader beware -- this just makes for a long, cold slog.
Note: No need to struggle with Pamuk's high art to get a fictional taste of Turkey. Try "Savarona" by J. Patrick Hart, "Blood Tie" by Mary Lee Settle, and the vintage "Towers of Trebizond" by Rose MacAuley.