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From the acclaimed author of My Name Is Red (“a sumptuous thriller” —John Updike), 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, it is also a profound and profoundly moving story about everyone's struggle to be recognized—indeed, to be loved—a struggle that may lead him to politics, to a woman, to treachery, or to God.
“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
“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
From the British reviews of Snow
“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
“‘How much can we ever know about love and pain in another’s heart? How much can we hope to understand those who have suffered deeper anguish, greater deprivation, and more crushing disappointments than we ourselves have known?’ Such questions haunt the poet Ka . . . [in] this novel, as much about love as it is about politics.” —Sarah Emily Miano, The Observer
“Profound and frequently brilliant . . . Pamuk shows decisively that the European novel remains a form, and a freedom, for which we have reason to be thankful . . . Snow illuminate[s] the confrontation between secular and extremist Islamic worlds better than any work of nonfiction I can think of.” —Julian Evans, New Statesman
“Brilliant . . . Hilarious . . . A gripping political thriller.” —John de Falbe, Spectator
“A melancholy farce full of rabbit-out-of-a-hat plot twists that, despite its locale, looks uncannily like the magic lantern show of misfire, denial, and pratfall that appears daily in our newspapers . . . Pamuk gives convincing proof that the solitary artist is a better bellwether than any televised think-tanker.” —Stephen O’Shea, Independent on Sunday
“A devastating parable of political extremism.” —Angel Gurria-Quintana, Financial Times
“Pamuk uses his powers to show us the critical dilemmas of modern Turkey. How European a country is it? How can it respond to fundamentalist Islam? And how can an artist deal with these issues? . . . He is the sort of writer for whom the Nobel Prize was invented.” —Tom Payne, Daily Telegraph