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Publisher's Summary

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, and 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.

©2007 Orhan Pamuk (P)2007 Random House Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • Wiinner, 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature

"Ka's rediscovery of God and poetry in a desolate place makes the novel's sadness profound and moving." (Publishers Weekly) "Pamuk's gift for the evocative image remains one of this novel's great pleasures: Long after I finished this book, in the blaze of the Washington summer, my thoughts kept returning to Ka and Ipek in the hotel room, looking out at the falling snow." (Ruth Franklin, Washington Post Book World)

What members say

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  • Overall

All the good & bad that is Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk is both a brilliant and an intensely frustrating writer, and _Snow_ demonstrates this ambiguity full-tilt. His depiction of Kars--the details he lavishes on it--fully immerses us in small-town Eastern Turkey, with its heartbreak and dignity, corruption and sweet naivete. He honestly admits that it may well be impossible for Westerners (or Western Turks) to fully comprehend. His plot is complex, his love story bittersweet, his characters memorable, his political commentary quite pointed. AND THEN he makes the same points, lavishes us with the same details, weaves the same sidetracks, dissects the same characters, over and over and over again. His protagonist Ka cannot stop talking, his narrator "Orhan" is even worse, and as in every novel I have read of Pamuk's (most of them), I find myself wishing desperately that he had a more severe editor. He is brilliant; how much more stunning would he be with one-third fewer pages?
Listening to an audiobook helps this process, and the reader for _Snow_ is quite good.

23 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

The Mystery of the Turkish Mind

I found the book to be a window into the mystery of the Turkish mind as it wrestles with Islam. Set in a snow storm, it is haunting and surreal throughout. It may take a couple chapters to get into so be patient.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

This book really takes you there

I haven't read any other of Pamuk's works, but this book by itself proves him worthy of the nobel prize. His way of describing the surroundings, the athmosphere and the general mood really draws you in and takes you there. Pamuk also proves himself a mastermind of story telling. This is a deep, intriguing and engaging story. Great to listen to during the winter (especially here in Norway). I highly recommend it.
The narrator is great by the way.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Grace
  • BAGNOLET, France
  • 04-10-07


An exotic look into a culture that few western readers are likely to discover otherwise, translated and read with a feeling for making the strange familar and the familar strange. The "dramatic" coup is underlined by the enigmatic ending that leaves the reader wondering where the lines are drawn between what is real, what we invent for our own, various purposes, and what other perceive as reality. Pamuk well deserves his Nobel.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mirek
  • Lodz, Poland
  • 08-24-09

The Snow, The Conflict, The Love

After reading "Istanbul - Memories and the City" by Orhan Pamuk I knew that his Snow would be a great reading. But the impression I had greatly outgrown my expectations. The book's plot is set in the eastern, border city of Kars (BTW, Kar means Snow in Turkish), the city that bears the memories of its Russian, Georgian and Armenian past. A poet, named Ka, returns to Kars after long life in Istanbul and in Germany. He meets here his love, witnesses a political/religious murder, faces the mysterious young women suicides and gets involved in the conflict - which is no less than the main Turkish conflict between secularism and violent religious extremism - on a microscale. When it comes to this very conflict, still so important in Turkey and other Islamic countries - he is really even-handed. He spurns the murderous nature of some of Islamists, while he condemns despicable and completely unjustified action of Turkish army that led to a military coup in the city.

In beautiful narration, Pamuk uncovers the motifs of both sides, contemplates the deep philosophical questions, and shows how human emotions of love, hatred and jealousy cast shadow on the historical events.

The thread of love between the main protagonist and beautiful, yet troubled woman is described with such truth and tenderness, without false pretence of romantic innocence - that I must say it was one of most beautiful yet not-naive love story I ever read.

The language of Snow is simple but beautiful; the poetry is in flow of thought more than in words and sentences.

Last and not least - Pamuk is another great story teller - at some moment of the book, about 2/3 of it, we are suddenly exposed to the tragic finale of the plot. I was almost sure the book ends just then, or it will no longer be worth reading. However, at this moment the story starts to be even more intriguing, and the fact the reader knows the end - not only spoils the reading - but makes it even more fascinating.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Jimmy
  • Powell, OH, United States
  • 06-26-12

Excellent Insight into the Melancholy of Love Lost

Orhan Pamuk masterfully illustrates the fate of one whom misses his last chance for love. This tragedy is set in a polarized political and religious climate, that lends excitement and illumination to the underlying character analysis.

The book is not one you can turn up to 3x speed and breeze through. I struggled a little with some of the themes, but at the end of the day I really enjoyed this unique world presented in Snow. The story twists and turns and finds truth along the way!

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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The Politics of Precipitation

[rating = A+]
One of my: Best Books of the Year (for 2016)
I have had this novel on my shelf for some time. I actually got around to reading it as an audio book which actually made it more enjoyable. Orhan Pamuk is an incredible writer. He mixes contemporary issues and the art of the tale to create a brilliant work of art. Written as if Orhan is writing a travel-journey for an old friend, Snow takes place in Kars Turkey. The protagonist Ka, a poet of some repute, has came to write about the "Suicide girls", and this is where the political and religious angles come in. The whole story is built around the problem of the Islamists and how they are perceived in their own country and in the West (whose own image is rather condescending and mean). Throughout the novel, Orhan, the mysterious speaker, slowly becomes more present in the narration. I am still not sure if I like this intrusion, or if I think it masterfully constrained. Snow deals with a roguish terrorist Blue, two sister, Kadife and Ipek, and several naïve school boys, who all inspire Ka to write poems about his experiences in Kars. What most impressed me about the novel, is the shear feat of story-telling. In the 5th chapter, Pamuk does something very unorthodox and brings it off magnificently; it is a dialogue between two people, one who is killed by the other, and which discusses the main plot-driving force, religion-controlled vs state-controlled. The prose is swift and crafted to perfection, nothing superfluous, and the image of snow in every chapter may seem tiresome, but it really adds a layer of continuation that helps to drive the narration. A wonderful book, exciting and heart-felt: Orhan Pamuk cares deeply about his country and its place in the world.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Splendid story

Splendid story about East and West, seeking personal happiness versus living by belief and principle, the local versus the cosmopolitan, as well as much beauty and art, love and longing.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Thomas
  • Tujunga, CA, USA
  • 05-27-10


Secularist vs. Islamic Fundamentalist, with an imperfect and complex man in the middle.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


I listen to books while I am driving as I commute many miles each day. I nearly crashed my car over and over again as this book was putting me to sleep. The reader has a melodic british accent which fit the book perfectly but the content was redundant. I waited 5 months and listened to the book on shorter road trips which proved to be safer. I finally finished the book but part 3 proved to be the most interesting. If you can get through part 1 and 2 then by all means don't miss part 3.

6 of 9 people found this review helpful