Snow by Orhan Pamuk – 20 Books of Summer

Snow by Orhan Pamuk was first published in the UK in 2004, was originally published in Turkey in 2002 and was translated by Maureen Freely. This is the thirteenth book that I’ve read from my 20 Books of Summer list and I put it on the list because it’s one of the many books in translation that Jack has bought over the years and I thought it was about time I gave some of them a go.

I must admit that I had a hard trudge through the first half of this book. The setting is Kars which is a remote city in Turkey, it’s where the poet Ka grew up, he has been living in Frankfurt for the last few years and he has returned supposedly to gather information to help him write an article for a German newspaper. The trouble for me was that the modern day Turkey kept getting in the way as everything at the moment in Turkey is the opposite of what it was in this book. Now the country is ruled by a supposedly fundamentalist Islamic leader. In Kars young women are beginning to cover their head with scarves and are even being banned from school and colleges if they refuse to remove their headscarves. There has been a spate of young women committing suicide, possibly because of the pressure to go bare headed but it might be because of the pressure their parents put on them to marry. Ka wants to investigate but he becomes embroiled with the political situation, the Islamists, army and the never changing plight of the Kurds feature. As the city becomes cut off due to the heavy snowfall there’s a clash between the political Islamists and the army. Ka had already witnessed a murder – it’s not a healthy place for him to be.

He has also fallen in love/lust with Ipec a beautiful woman that he has known since they were at school together so there’s romance of a sort here too. Strangely the author himself appears in this book towards the end, I’m told this is normal for a Pamuk book. Half-way through the book I thought I would probably give it three stars but by the end I upgraded it to four.

Edited to add:

One character more or less predicts the future in Turkey exactly as it is now when he says –

“If they don’t let the army and the state deal with these dangerous fanatics, we’ll end up back in the middle ages, sliding into anarchy, travelling the doomed path already well travelled by so many tribal nations in Asia and the Middle East.”