Snow (Pamuk novel)

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First edition (Turkish)
AuthorOrhan Pamuk
Original titleKar
TranslatorMaureen Freely
Publication date
Published in English
2004, Faber and Faber
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages426 pp.
ISBN0-375-70686-0 (United States ed.)

Snow (Turkish: Kar) is a novel by Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk. It was originally published in Turkish in 2002, followed by an English translation by Maureen Freely that was published in 2004. The story encapsulates many of the political and cultural tensions of modern Turkey, including a real suicide epidemic among teenage girls, which took place in the city of Batman.[1][2]

Plot summary[edit]

Ka is a poet, who returns to Turkey after 12 years of political exile in Germany. Ka reunites with a woman named İpek, whom he once had feelings for, whose father runs the hotel he is staying in. The snow ("Kar" in Turkish) has been falling as Ka enters the town, and soon all the roads out of town are blocked. In a café, Ka and İpek witness the shooting of the local Director of the Institute of Education by a Muslim extremist from out of town.

Ka visits Muhtar, İpek's ex-husband, who tells him about his experience of finding Islam, and how he got into politics. He is the current candidate running with the Islamist Prosperity Party in the municipal elections. The police pick up Ka and Muhtar as part of their investigation of the Director's murder. Ka is questioned and Muhtar is beaten.

Though he has suffered from writer's block for a number of years, Ka feels inspired and composes a poem called "Snow", which describes a mystic experience. Other poems follow.

Ka is brought to a secret location to meet with "Blue" (named "Lacivert" in the Turkish original), a charismatic Islamist with a fearsome reputation as a terrorist who Ka alternatively admires and fears. One of Blue's followers, Necip, is a student at the local religious high school. Necip and his friends ask Ka about his atheism, and Necip's earnestness and good-heartedness soon endear him to Ka, and his Islam-influenced science fiction stories inspire more of Ka's poems, one of which he reads out at the National Theatre.

Soon after Ka leaves the National Theatre after his recitation, a play named "My Fatherland or My Headscarf" is acted out by Sunay Zaim, Funda Eser and their troupe of actors. When this play inevitably angers the Islamists who attended the event specifically to protest this play, soldiers ascend the stage and respond by shooting into the audience, killing several people including Necip. Sunay Zaim launches a coup, declaring martial law.

İpek insists that she will not sleep with Ka while her father is under the same roof -- an impossible condition, as Turgut Bey never leaves the hotel. Seizing an opportunity, Ka meets with Blue and Kadife (İpek's sister), pretending to represent a German magazine interested in publishing a statement by the Islamists against the massacre and the coup, and convinces them to arrange a meeting of local politically conscious citizens -- including Turgut Bey -- where they can collectively come up with a statement to publish in the German magazine. The meeting showcases the differences between the various groups in Kars, while Ka is finally able to sleep with İpek.

Ka is taken to meet Sunay Zaim, an actor whose group put on the play at the National Theater and who is now orchestrating the round-ups and investigations of suspicious persons. The isolation of Kars, and Zaim's old friendship with the officer in charge of the local garrison, enabled him to become a revolutionary dictator in real life as well as on the stage.

Ka negotiates a deal with Sunay Zaim that will result in Blue's release, as long as Kadife agrees to play a role in Zaim's production of Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy and removes her head-scarf on live television during the show. The play is scheduled to take place on the second night of the "Theatre Coup", when the melting snow suggests that the roads out of Kars will soon reopen.

Ka's actions immediately after leaving the theater remain a mystery that is never completely untangled. Orhan is, however, able to establish that Ka was later taken by the military to the train station, where he was put on the first train scheduled to leave. Ka complied but sent soldiers to retrieve İpek for him. However, just as İpek said her farewells to her father, news arrived that Blue and Hande were shot. İpek was shattered and blamed Ka for leading the police to Blue's hideout.

In the end it is disclosed that a new group of Islamic militants was formed by younger followers of Blue who had been forced into exile in Germany and based themselves in Berlin, vowing to take revenge for the death of their admired leader. It is assumed that one of them assassinated Ka and took away the only extant copy of the poems he had written.

Awards and prizes[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bilefsky, Dan (2006-07-12). "'Virgin suicides' save Turks' 'honor' – Europe – International Herald Tribune". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-13.
  2. ^ Bilefsky, Dan (2006-07-16). "How to Avoid Honor Killing in Turkey? Honor Suicide". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-13.

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