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Snowby Orhan Pamuk
"Prolix and often clumsy as it is, Pamuk's new novel should be taken as a cultural warning. So weighty was the impression of Atatürk that ever since his death, in 1938, Western statecraft has been searching for an emulator or successor. Nasser was thought for a while to be the needful charismatic, secularizing strongman. So was Sadat. So, for a while, was the Shah of Iran. And so was Saddam Hussein... Eager above all to have a modern yet "Muslim" state within the tent, the United States and the European Union have lately been taking Turkey's claims to modernity more and more at face value. The attentive reader of Snow will not be so swift to embrace this consoling conclusion." Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
Synopses & Reviews
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 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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"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." Kirkus Reviews
"A devastating parable of political extremism." Angel Gurria-Quintana, Financial Times
"A novel of profound relevance to the present moment. The debate between the forces of secularism and those of religious fanaticism is conducted with subtle, painful insight into the human weakness that can underlie both impulses." Bel Mooney, The Times
"[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, The New York Times
"[A]n engrossing feat of tale-spinning...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." Margaret Atwood, The 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
"[T]he 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
"Once [all the characters are] in place...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." Library Journal
"This seventh novel from the Turkish writer Orham Pamuk is not only an engrossing feat of tale-spinning, but essential reading for our times....He deserves to be better known in North America, and no doubt he will be, as his fictions turn on the conflict between the forces of 'Westernization' and those of the Islamists. Although it's set in the 1990s and was begun before Sept. 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." Margaret Atwood, New York Times Book Review
From the acclaimed author of My Name Is Red comes a spellbinding tale of colliding romantic, political, and spiritual passions. Ka, a Turkish poet, is drained of feeling and inspiration by years of lonely political exile in Germany. But when he becomes stranded in a Turkish border town, he will discover whether he is brave enough to seize a last chance for happiness.
About the Author
Orhan Pamuks 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.
Orhan Pamuks My Name Is Red, The New Life, and The White Castle are available in Vintage paperback.
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