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Customer Review

on 25 November 2007
In "Snow" the poet Ka returns to Turkey after more than a decade in Frankfurt, and journeys to Kars, far in the east. Among the things he hopes to find there is an old classmate and love, Ipek, now separated from her husband. He also plans to explore and report on a wave of suicides by girls there. It is snowing when Ka arrives, and the snow continues to fall, cutting off the town from the rest of the world. There is tension there: an upcoming mayoral election, the struggle between religion and secularism, a heavy-handed police presence. The conflict between Islam - and, for example, the right of girls to go to school wearing head-scarves - and the secular society the government has imposed causes the most problems.
Ka is an outsider. He begins as a dutiful journalist, talking to a variety of town figures, trying to learn more about the suicides, but finds himself drawn into this larger conflict. Throughout the country, and especially in this region, it is no longer the Kurds that are perceived by the authorities as being the greatest threat, but the increasingly influential Islamists. Ka, respected as a poet but tainted as one who has presumably been polluted by Western thought and ways, is viewed with both suspicion and interest by both sides. The police are reluctant to rough him up - as they do the locals - because of his Istanbul and German connexions, while the Islamists see him as the enemy but warily accept that he might be able to help convey their message. Eventually, he is also used as a go-between by both sides.
It is the desire to write a book about the poems written by Ka that leads the narrator - an alter-ego Orhan Pamuk, and long-time friend of Ka's - to tell this story.
Snow is a book about the difficulties faced by a nation torn between tradition, religion, and modernization. Set in the farthest east of Turkey, the locals are certain that in Western eyes they're all considered as ignoramuses. Pamuk effectively portrays these difficulties, and the many ambiguities in contemporary Turkish life.
The novel is expertly read by John Lee for Random House Audio.
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