Catching the Drift: Orhan Pamuk’s Snow

screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-3-53-52-pmPamuk, Orhan. Snow. Trans. Maureen Freely. New York: Random-Vintage, 2005.

I have to admit that until a friend/colleague/member of my reading group suggested that we should read this novel I had never encountered Pamuk before. By the time I had finished Snow, I understood why the writer has earned major acclaim. 

The novel begins with the return of Ka an exiled poet to Turkey. He travels to the distant border town of Kars where he is caught up in a major snowstorm that isolates Kars for several days. During this time, he witnesses deaths, reconnects with old friends from Istanbul, meets Islamic clerics, and an actor who rewrites Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy, falls in love, and begins writing poetry again. The novel ends some years later after Ka’s own death in Frankfurt with his novelist friend Orhan searching for Ka’s lost poems

With something of the tenor of some Russian novels, Snow is a multi-layered, thought-provoking work: at times hilariously but tragically funny, absurd yet insightful, extreme yet deftly nuanced, and, given the current state of affairs in contemporary Turkey, prophetic. Pamuk reveals himself a master craftsman in his manipulation of mood, metaphor, and setting. Highly allusive in its intertextuality, Snow raises questions about the fluidity of truth and fidelity when confronted with desire and the imperative of politics. It highlights the apparent impenetrability of the veil of distrust that separates east from west, the colonized from the colonizers, those who know the script from those who don’t.screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-3-53-52-pm

Words and their authority lie at the heart of this novel. Pamuk celebrates the power of stories to beguile, to mislead, and to reveal. The tale that is told, the drama that is performed, whether truth or fiction, can make or change both the individual and society. Pamuk reveals that at times what is believed is more powerful than what is true. How then should/can we live? A question for our times indeed.

























It covers the days when Kars a now Turkish city with a history of being dominated by Russia and Armenia is snow bound and experiences a political coup: all of which is experienced by Kerim Alakuşoğu a poet who prefers to be known as Ka. He has come to Kars from Frankfurt where he lives in exile supposedly to cover the municipal elections that are about to happen and also to investigate the suicides of girls who have been expelled from school for wearing Islamic headscarves. He has also come in search of Ipek

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