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1001 book reviews > Snow by Orhan Pamuk

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Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments 3 stars

The protagonist of this book is a poet named Ka, who was exiled to Germany for many years. He returns to his home in Turkey to write an article about the wave of suicides among religious girls in Kars. Eventually it becomes clear that Ka is searching for meaning and love. And when he stumbles into a complicated political situation he is pulled in multiple directions, torn between religion (Islam) and secularism; between East and West.

I really didn't like this book. I do not enjoy politics and this book is filled with a discussion of that subject. I found it frustrating, boring and difficult. If I were to rate this book on enjoyment I would give it 1 star. But I recognize that it is well-written and that its discussion of Turkey was smart and well-researched, so I am giving it 3 stars.


Diane Zwang | 1313 comments Mod
Kelly wrote: "3 stars

The protagonist of this book is a poet named Ka, who was exiled to Germany for many years. He returns to his home in Turkey to write an article about the wave of suicides among religious g..."


I am sorry you didn't like this one. I loved this book.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments Diane wrote: "Kelly wrote: "3 stars

The protagonist of this book is a poet named Ka, who was exiled to Germany for many years. He returns to his home in Turkey to write an article about the wave of suicides amo..."


I know I am definitely in the minority for this one.


message 4: by Pillsonista (last edited Aug 21, 2018 06:06PM) (new)

Pillsonista | 3 comments Just out of curiosity, Kelly, is this the first book of Pamuk's that you've read?

Admittedly, I think this book is terrific, but I only really came to it after reading several of his others, particularly My Name is Red.

It possesses nothing like the kind of overt contemporary politics that is found in Snow and it is easily my favorite book of his. Although I'm not sure I would still proclaim it to be his very best, it's still easily the one I love most (and it's still one of his best as well).

But I know that if I'd read Snow first, there's now way I would regard it as highly as I do now. In fact, the first time I attempted to read it, I got nowhere. It was only after several years later and a number of his other works, starting with My Name is Red, that I got into it.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments Pillsonista wrote: "Just out of curiosity, Kelly, is this the first book of Pamuk's that you've read?

Admittedly, I think this book is terrific, but I only really came to it after reading several of his others, parti..."


Yes, it was my first book by him. I am definitely willing to try other books, so thanks for the recommendation!


message 6: by Pillsonista (last edited Aug 15, 2018 10:48PM) (new)

Pillsonista | 3 comments In addition to My Name is Red, I absolutely adore both The Museum of Innocence and Istanbul: Memories and the City. I'm very glad that I read all three of them before I returned to Snow.

I also read The Black Book before as well, and I liked it a lot, but not quite as much as the other four. It seems be his one novel that divides opinion and there's very little middle-ground: readers either like or they do not.


Tatjana JP | 294 comments I also liked the Snow, but my absolute favourite was White Castle. Try that one.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments Thanks for all the recommendations!


message 9: by Kristel (last edited Sep 21, 2019 07:07PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kristel (kristelh) | 4248 comments Mod
Read 2014
Short synopsis: A story set in Kars, Turkey. Ka, a poet, visits on assignment to write about the suicides of young women. His reason for being there is Ipek who he plans to bring back to Germany as his wife. It is snowing……

Reactions: at first I wanted to like this story, it has been described as poetic and I think that is accurate for the first part of the book but it is also as boring as looking at a snow covered landscape devoid of color. I think the author had something going by using the snow to describe the experience of Ka but then it just “melted”. At first, I felt resentment. I did not like that the Islamist kept telling others how they were thinking. It made me hate this religion. There is no grace or mercy here. Its hard for me to understand the intolerance for Christianity and the blindly tolerant view of Islam. Then there was some enlightenment. The mixed messages that people living in Kars receive through communism or socialism, Islam, etc was evident. The girls raised to wear a scarf, taught that it was expected in their religion and then told to “take the scarf off”. The confusion caused by the mixing of politics with religion and the manipulation used by the various parties. No one seemed to think it was wrong to lie and to harm others if it promoted the agenda.

I first I thought I could like Ka but I could not. I could understand wanting to meet up with a former acquaintance and propose and get married. I think that is an okay goal but when he started being devious and manipulative in his endeavors, then I no longer was happy with him. The interest in pornography had also crippled him, in my opinion. He was a weak man and in the end he just went too far with his jealousies.

The authors purpose: Mr Pamuk states that he wanted to write a novel that would explore the political conflicts in Turkey. He used a small town to give a microcosm view of the whole. He discusses in the postscript how difficult it is to write a political novel about this area and apparently there were political persecutions for which he had to hire a lawyer. The book involved a not of careful editing. The author is a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006. His partner is the author, Kiran Desai.

Why is it included in 1001 Books you Must Read Before You Die? Is there anything that this book adds to the development of the novel? I suspect that because this is a work that looks at political Islam, clash of Western and Islam and that the author is Turkey that this book is unique. The use of lyrical prose and the technique where the author writes himself into the story is not unique. Characters were frequently stereotypes. Ka was developed. The other characters represented certain characters and classes in the microcosm of Turkey. The language did create the scene, the use of snow was ‘smart’ in keeping everyone contained in this drama for three days and the tone was set by the snow. The book had emotional impact though not necessarily positive for me. I am glad to be done. I think the author probably deserved the Nobel Prize for literature for being able to write this controversial and potentially risky novel.

I also wanted to add this quote; "If only to see themselves as wise and superior and humanistic, they need to think of us as sweet and funny, and convince themselves that they sympathize with the way we are and even love us." page 442. I think this is very true (but not for me). I don't like their religion or their politics.


Diane Zwang | 1313 comments Mod
4 stars. Read in 2014

My first book based in Turkey and my first Turkish writer, I was not disappointed. I was hooked from page one and I was thoroughly immersed in the life of Ka. Ka Bey, a Turkish poet, has been living in Germany for many years but recently returns to Istanbul, Turkey for his mother's funeral. “He was a poet and, as he himself had written – in an early poem still largely unknown to Turkish readers – it snows only once in our dreams”. He ends up in Kars, a small town near the Russian border, to report on political happenings and the recent events of girls wearing head scarves committing suicide. As you read the story you are foretold of things to happen in the chapters which I rather liked. Also, I viewed snow as almost another character in the book. It was spoken of so often; in dreams, in relation to God. "The snow here was tiring, irritating, terrorizing". This story is about the journey and not the outcome. I was glad I went on this journey with Ka.


Amanda Dawn | 1234 comments I recently finished this one on audio for a reading the world list I’m doing, and ended up really loving it. I gave it 4 stars. I think it’s already been summarized well here, so I’ll just say my overall thoughts on it.

I loved how this book explored the ambiguity of what defines liberation. The headscarf girls are told through secularist nationalists throughout the book that they are oppressed: Ka describes them as Islamic feminists. The suicide pandemic plays into this: as characters discuss whether they are choosing to die out of despair and hopelessness or because they are exerting their autonomy: are they led into this because they are alone, or because they are united? The lines in the book of who represents freedom and progress and what those things even mean are muddled, which I think is a great demonstration of the complexity of this issue in real life.

The recurring motif of the snow was great too: it’s imagery as a force of isolation, how it obscures things, how some people see majesty and magic in that etc all played masterfully into the themes of the book of community, alienation, faith, and art. I also read that in Turkish, the word for snow is “Kar” which ties in both the town and the protagonist through an extended pun- which I think is great.

While I know some people are not overtly political and don’t care for overt politics in their literature/entertainment, I happen to really enjoy a good political art piece and thought this one measured up. After all, as a popular second wave feminist slogan says- the personal is political. And I liked how this book explored how politics and its overlap with religion in Turkey infiltrates every aspects of people’s existence and their art.

I agree with Kristel that Ka wasn’t remarkably likeable or relatable to me, but that didn’t really detract from the book for me, since I didn’t really feel its value hinged on liking him.

One of the things I didn’t love about this book though was the framing device where Pamuk seems to have inserted himself into the story in the last act. There’s a couple list books where that happens and I find it a little self-important and it takes me out of the story a bit (There’s a Coetzee book that does this too that annoyed me).

Still, really liked it and would read another of his books.


Diane Zwang | 1313 comments Mod
Amanda wrote: "I recently finished this one on audio for a reading the world list I’m doing, and ended up really loving it. I gave it 4 stars. I think it’s already been summarized well here, so I’ll just say my o..."

I am glad that you liked this one.


Hilde (hilded) | 355 comments Snow - 3 stars
Read July 2021 for my TBR challenge

I see most people here really liked this one. For me, I was very ambivalent. Very interesting in parts, and so, so boring in parts. It took me almost whole of July to get through, as I seemed to only manage a chapter at the time before getting sleepy. I think it would have been much better it if was 200-300 pages shorter.

It started strong, and I was pulled in by the plot at first. Then I felt it just dragged on forever with the same issues/politics described over and over, and our main character Ka becoming weaker and weaker. By the end (approx last 100 pages) it got really good again, and came together really nicely. But by then, I was just ready for it to be over. I see from the comments above that I should have started with some of his other works first, maybe that would have made a difference. I have two more of Pamuk's books on my shelf, so I will get to them eventually, but no rush for now.


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