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“Snow” by Orhan Pamuk

Orhan is a Nobel Prize winner in literature in 2006. Orhan Pamuk’s novel “Snow” is both challenging to read, melancholic and deep. I like reading difficult literature as it allows for some space to fill the gaps and requires you to think about the implicit meanings. The first challenge for me was to understand the historical context of Turkey. The novel relates to several historical events and key figures in Turkish history such as Ataturk. I must admit, I was not very familiar with the history of Turkey and the Ottoman Empire, so I had to do my internet search to fully understand the context. The city where the main action takes place is called Kars located in northeast Turkey. This city has experienced major transformations during World War I previously part of Armenia, Kars was transferred to Turkey. I think this town was deliberately chosen to be the center place of the novel. It is a town where history is still visible in old Armenian and Soviet buildings.

The main hero of the novel is Ka – a Turkish expat living in Germany. He is a poet and came to Kars to write about an increasing number of girls’ suicides happening in Kars. He spends three days in Kars, yet the time seems to be very slow in the novel and it feels like he’s been there much longer. Ka’s challenge is to find his identity: he feels that he is not German yet, but he is also considered a foreigner in Turkey. Ka grew up in an intelligentsia family in Istanbul and seems to embrace pro-western views and lifestyles. As he spends his time in Kars, Ka seems to rethink his identity.

The narrative of the story is reminiscent of “The Castle” by Kafka with references to spiritual search and spiritual awakening. When Ka walks in Kars and meditatively observes the fall of snowflakes, these moments in the book are so beautiful and deep and remind me of importance of finding meaning in simple things around us instead of searching for external pleasures. The dialogues in the story revolve around issues of faith versus secularism and east versus west. What is unique about this novel, though, is that arguments of both sides are well presented. We learn more about misperceptions of each side and the absurdity of dividing people into eastern and western. The idea of pride of headscarf girls is so deep and fundamental. I am not sure if we in the West really understand the Turkish notion of pride. Pamuk talks about topics that are taboo in modern culture and I love this.

It is also interesting how Pamuk describes the creative process of poem writing. It is sporadic, illogical and almost transcendental.

4 thoughts on ““Snow” by Orhan Pamuk”

      1. Most people don’t like challenging books I think. I don’t take much notice of GoodReads. I put my books there but I take little notice of the reviews because many are not considered. That’s fair enough. It’s a different, broader, demographic but it means that it’s not, really, my demographic. I’m more interested in seeing what my preferred bloggers think.


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