Katie Lambden's Reviews > Snow

Snow by Orhan Pamuk
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May 08, 2007

liked it
Recommended for: those not afraid of a slow pace and gloomy setting for a book!
Read in August, 2007

Somehow I misplaced this book while in the middle of it! Argh...is there anything more frustrating! Well, I'll review it when I find it and finish it.

8/07
Part of the reason I misplaced this book while in the middle of it was that it was taking me forever to get through. Not exactly a page turner. I did eventually find it again, and vowed to plow through to the end. It is, after all, a Nobel Prize winner, and I figured the excruciatingly slow pace and dark, gloomy subject MUST be leading up to a really deep and worthwhile finale. Here's a quick plot sketch (no spoilers):

A lonely, shy, and awkward Turkish poet (named Ka), having lived in political exile in Germany for years, returns for a visit to his native country and decides to visit the remote and derelict city of Kars. He ostensibly makes the trip to report on the sociopolitical happenings of this town (Muslim girls have been committing suicide over the issue of being forced to remove their headscarves, which they've chosen to wear for religious/political reasons). However, his real motivation is to see Ipek, the woman he was in love with many years ago.
Soon after Ka arrives in Kars, a snowstorm shuts off all routes into and out of the city. Many strange things start to happen, including scuffles between radical Islamic students and the government, and finally a coup by a passionate and deranged actor/theater director. Ka is drawn into the middle of the politics through no desire of his own (but a desire to win the love of Ipek). Throughout all the madness, poems are flowing from him as they haven't in years, and Ka struggles to make sense of his own life and unhappiness.

If this sounds like it adds up to a dark, serious, and possibly even depressing book, that's probably because it does. The mood of the book is aptly symbolized by the snow motif: when I recall the book it's with a sense of heaviness, of pewter grey sky and pervading cold.

I think it was, after all, a deep book: with a statement to make about human nature in general, and Turkish nature (both individual and cultural) in particular. However, I was so numbed by the end that I'm not sure Pamuk's philosophical ideas made much of an impression on me. (What was numbing was not only the dreariness of the landscape - literal and figurative - that the book describes, but the crawling pace of the action and the unnumerable characters, parties, and names to keep track of.)

What made the biggest impression on me was a sense of Kars itself as a Turkish city, and the cultural and political struggles of the nation. Although there was a lot of political history in the book which confused me (actually, I would recommend that a reader start with a Wikipedia read on the subject of modern Turkish history - this would probably make the book easier to follow), I did gain a sense of how different elements of Turkish society grate against one another and sometimes violently collide.
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