Dread, yearning, identity, intrigue, the lethal chemistry between secular doubt and Islamic fanaticism–these are the elements that Orhan Pamuk anneals in this masterful, disquieting novel. An exiled poet named Ka returns to Turkey and travels to the forlorn city of Kars. His ostensible purpose is to report on a wave of suicides among religious girls forbidden to wear their head-scarves. But Ka is also drawn by his memories of the radiant Ipek, now recently divorced. Amid blanketing snowfall and universal suspicion, Ka finds himself pursued by figures ranging from Ipek’s ex-husband to a charismatic terrorist. A lost gift returns with ecstatic suddenness. A theatrical evening climaxes in a massacre. And finding god may be the prelude to losing everything else. Touching, slyly comic, and humming with cerebral suspense, Snow is of immense relevance to our present moment.
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From the acclaimed author of My Name Is Red ("a sumptuous thriller"–John Updike; "chockful of sublimity and sin"–New York Times Book Review), comes a spellbinding tale of disparate yearnings–for love, art, power, and God–set in a remote Turkish town, where stirrings of political Islamism threaten to unravel the secular order.
Following years of lonely political exile in Western Europe, Ka, a middle-aged poet, returns to Istanbul to attend his mother’s funeral. Only partly recognizing this place of his cultured, middle-class youth, he is even more disoriented by news of strange events in the wider country: a wave of suicides among girls forbidden to wear their head scarves at school. An apparent thaw of his writer’s curiosity–a frozen sea these many years–leads him to Kars, a far-off town near the Russian border and the epicenter of the suicides.
No sooner has he arrived, however, than we discover that Ka’s motivations are not purely journalistic; for in Kars, once a province of Ottoman and then Russian glory, now a cultural gray-zone of poverty and paralysis, there is also Ipek, a radiant friend of Ka’s youth, lately divorced, whom he has never forgotten. As a snowstorm, the fiercest in memory, descends on the town and seals it off from the modern, westernized world that has always been Ka’s frame of reference, he finds himself drawn in unexpected directions: not only headlong toward the unknowable Ipek and the desperate hope for love–or at least a wife–that she embodies, but also into the maelstrom of a military coup staged to restrain the local Islamist radicals, and even toward God, whose existence Ka has never before allowed himself to contemplate. In this surreal confluence of emotion and spectacle, Ka begins to tap his dormant creative powers, producing poem after poem in untimely, irresistible bursts of inspiration. But not until the snows have melted and the political violence has run its bloody course will Ka discover the fate of his bid to seize a last chance for happiness.
Blending profound sympathy and mischievous wit, Snow illuminates the contradictions gripping the individual and collective heart in many parts of the Muslim world. But even more, by its narrative brilliance and comprehension of the needs and duties
"A major work . . . conscience-ridden and carefully wrought, tonic in its scope, candor, and humor . . . entirely contemporary . . . with suspense at every dimpled vortex . . . Pamuk is gifted with a light, absurdist touch . . . In Turkey . . . to write with honest complexity about such matters as head scarves and religious belief takes courage. Pamuk [is] that country's most likely candidate for the Nobel Prize."
–John Updike, The New Yorker
"Not only an engrossing feat of tale-spinning, but essential reading for our times . . . 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 . . . [Pamuk] deserves to be better known in North America, and no doubt he will be."
–Margaret Atwood, New York Times Book Review
"Powerful . . . Astonishingly timely . . . A deft melding of political intrigue and philosophy, romance and noir . . . [Snow] is forever confounding our expectations."
–Megan O’Grady, Vogue
"From the Golden Horn, with a wicked grin, the political novel makes a triumphant return . . . As if Nabokov and Rushdie had taken their circus act on the road, or Carlos Fuentes were Anatolian instead of Aztec, or Milan Kundera remembered how to laugh."
–John Leonard, Harper’s Magazine
"[A] great and almost irresistibly beguiling novelist . . . [Snow] is enriched by the author's mesmerizing mixes: cruelty and farce, poetry and violence, and a voice whose timbres range from a storyteller's playfulness to the dark torment of an explorer, lost."
–Richard Eder, New York Times
"Richly detailed . . . A thrilling plot ingeniously shaped . . . Vividly embodies and painstakingly explores the collision of Western values with Islamic fundamentalism . . . An astonishingly complex, disturbing view of a world we owe it to ourselves to better understand."
Orhan Pamuk’s novel My Name Is Red won the 2003 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages. He lives in Istanbul.
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