[Paleopsych] Orhan Pamuk: Snow--Reviews and Interviews

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Orhan Pamuk's _Snow_ is nearly an ideal book for my project of abandoning 
reality as a source of knowledge of human nature and turning to fiction 
instead. Again, I thank Trish for enthusiastically recommending this book.

It's a beautifully written and moving novel, as the reviewers mostly all 
agree. The main theme of the novel is the protagonist's struggle to decide 
between the Western world, where he exiled to, and the increasingly 
religious Turkey of his upbringing.

But does it show vast differences in mentalities between Western and other 
processes of thought? I must say that it does not and that I'll have to 
read fiction from sources further removed from the West than Turkey.

Recommendations welcome!

There are about sixty reviews and interviews below. So this is a very long 
e-message. It documents how many times a book can get independently 
reviewed in the English speaking press. Some of these reviews got printed 
in several papers.


Financial Times (London,England)

May 10, 2003 Saturday

To have and have not Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk tells Robert
Cottrell the west has pushed the world's poor towards envy and


    The view from the terrace offers a vision of earthly riches so sweeping 
and extravagant that if the Devil were trying again to tempt Christ after 
40 days in the wilderness, I would recommend his doing it in Istanbul. The 
city seethes and glitters for miles on all sides, its hills laden with 
palaces and mosques and gilded domes. Its lights dance, reflected on the 
dark waters of the Bosporus below. Hong Kong or San Francisco may be as 
picturesque, but neither can rival Istanbul for sheer drama. Here two 
continents begin and end. On the near side of the Bosporus lies Europe. On 
the far side lies Asia. And Turkey straddles the space between them, 
geographically, historically and intellectually.

    The terrace, not far from Taksim Square in the heart of the city, 
belongs to Orhan Pamuk, widely considered Turkey's greatest living 
novelist. The view is one great delight of this flat that he keeps for 
writing. The other is the mass of books lining the walls, thousands of 
them, roughly arranged by topics from Japanese fiction to French 
philosophy. I think for a moment that Pamuk has all my favourite books, 
then I realise he probably has everybody's favourite books.

    He is a tall man, a fit-looking 50, dressed casually in the American 
fashion, soft-spoken and courteous. His grandfather made a fortune early 
last century building railways for the Ataturk regime. His father, who 
died just a few months ago, spent the fortune living well, investing 
badly, and translating French poetry - a lifestyle choice that Pamuk 
clearly admires, even though it left him less rich than he might have 
been. John Updike, the American novelist, has compared him with Proust. 
The analogy is one that Pamuk himself also makes, a little wistfully, as 
we talk.

    Western readers know Pamuk best for My Name is Red, an intricate and 
seductive murder mystery set among 16th-century Ottoman miniaturist 
painters, which was published in English in 2001. The plot is a fine weave 
of theological disputes, court etiquette and miniaturist techniques, shot 
through with sex and violence. The critic Maureen Freely called the book 
"almost perfect... All it needs now is the Nobel prize".

    He is working on a book about Istanbul that will be part-memoir and 
part-meditation. He wants to test his own sense of the city, where he was 
born and grew up, against the Istanbul that others have remembered and 
imagined down the centuries. After that he has a novel planned, "about the 
idea of museums, collections, the attachment to objects and the loss of 

    But if all this sounds a little abstract, a little bookish, there is 
another side to Pamuk, a political engagement. He made headlines in 1999, 
and risked prosecution, when he signed an international petition urging 
the Turkish government to give members of the country's Kurdish minority 
"constitutional guarantees" of their rights, and so rescue Turkey from the 
"shame" of past repressive policies. In the last five years, says Pamuk, 
he has become "more and more political". Attacks on his liberal views in 
the Turkish press have only made him "more angry and more involved", he 
says. "It is a son-of-a-bitch kind of anger and it turns out to be part of 
your life."

    An article of his which sticks in my mind is one he wrote in September 
2001 soon after the attack on the World Trade Center in New York. He 
describes meeting a neighbour on the street, an elderly man, who says to 
him: "Sir, have you seen, they have bombed America? They did the right 
thing!" Pamuk muses on what could prompt an old man in Istanbul to condone 
terror in New York, or a Palestinian to admire the Taliban, and he arrives 
at a formulation that does not quite blame the west, but which assigns it 
a contributory negligence. The basic problem, he says, is "not Islam, nor 
what is idiotically described as the clash between east and west, nor 
poverty itself. It is the feeling of impotence deriving from degradation, 
the failure to be understood, and the inability of such people to make 
their voices heard." The west has not tried enough "to understand the 
damned of the world".

    Pamuk, who professes no religion, has made his own bid since then to 
understand Islamic fundamentalism by writing a political novel about its 
place in provincial Turkey today. His aim, he says, was to "understand 
what a fundamentalist is, in his own terms. Not why he is so right, but 
why he is so angry." The subject is a highly sensitive one for Turkey, 
which has an overwhelmingly Muslim population, but has proclaimed itself a 
secular state since 1923. The government allows freedom of worship, but 
keeps a close eye on it through a Directorate of Religious Affairs, and 
clamps down smartly on what it regards as signs of fundamentalism - such 
as the wearing of headscarves by women, which is forbidden in official 

    This latest novel, called Snow, has sold 140,000 copies at home since 
publication last year, and is now being translated into English. It made 
him enemies on two fronts. First were "the ultra- secularists, who were 
not pleased to see me going into the inner (thoughts) of religious 
fundamentalists," he says. "They did not want to see Islamists as human 
beings, they wanted to see them as fanatics, midway to barbarians." Then 
there were the Islamists, angered that he gave his religious characters an 
active sexual life. "They said, 'How can an Islamist, a true believer, 
have sex outside marriage?'" The Islamists, like Marxists before them, 
"wanted writers to portray an idealised version of people".

    Pamuk accepts cheerfully enough that he makes an easy target for 
critics. "I have my subscriptions to the TLS and The New Yorker," he says, 
"while other people are more limited here. My name is on the billboards. I 
am from the spoiled upper class. People are very resentful."

    But when it comes to the war in Iraq, at its height when we talk, Pamuk 
is very much in tune with the popular mood. He thought it a dangerous 
mistake, as did everybody else I met in Turkey, from a bus driver in 
Ankara to a professor of economics in Istanbul. They saw the war as a 
foolish adventure promoted by a wilful US president, a US government 
wanting Iraqi oil, and a US industrial sector hungry to profit from 
reconstructing the country once the war was over. Saddam may be a bad man, 
they say, but that did not give the US any right to depose him.

    So far, so familiar. The same sort of criticisms could be heard almost 
everywhere in the world at the time. But in Turkey they were voiced with a 
special anxiety. The country's border with Iraq made it a front-line state 
in the war, exposed to stray bombs and refugees. Ninety per cent of the 
public was appalled, according to Pamuk, when the Turkish government 
seemed ready to join the US war effort in exchange for a big enough 
package of US aid - many billions of dollars - which Turkey desperately 
needed. That plan was scuppered unexpectedly by the parliament in Ankara, 
which voted against letting US combat troops invade northern Iraq from 
Turkish soil.

    Pamuk compares the US intervention in Iraq to a strong person 
"slapping" or "insulting" a weak one: bad behaviour even when the strong 
person believes he has been provoked. The US can do such a thing, he says, 
partly because it believes Muslims are "lesser people, backward, stupid, 
lazy orientals who don't know about things, who torment women. You have 
the feeling that one American life is more important than thousands of 
these people. The justification of the war starts with these things."

    Reading my notes of the conversation later, I have to remind myself 
that Pamuk is an outspoken admirer of western values, western culture, 
western democracy. He welcomes globalisation, and Amazon.com cartons 
litter his floor. He believes the US is a highly successful social and 
economic model. What he objects to is the manner of exporting it. The US 
is becoming "fanatical" too, he believes. If the Americans would only 
"take all the money they have spent on this war, and spend it like Soros 
has done on civil societies in these countries, then in 10 years they 
would have wonderful results."

    He sees the divide widening between what he calls "this relentless 
civilisation of the west, superior in arts, science, education" on one 
side, and "85 per cent of the human race, with much lesser, 
disintegrating, unsuccessful civilisations" on the other. But he dismisses 
the idea that the divide is mainly a religious one, even between the US 
and Arab countries. "The Koran is a small part of it. It is not a text 
that makes this history, it is history itself: the people, the land, the 
climate, the geography. The fact that there is less democracy in the 
Middle East, that the Middle East is poor, these are things shaped not by 
the Koran but by layers of history and of interaction with the west."

    The real gulf, he says, is the material one, between wealth and 
poverty. The real question is why it should have become such an acute 
problem now. The answer he comes to is that global media have become so 
successful, so universal in projecting images of western wealth, that the 
picture is getting "impossible to accept, impossible to come to terms 
with" in poor countries. The poor have no comparable means of celebrating 
their own culture, their own way of life, which might otherwise give them 

    They are left only with "material envy", says Pamuk, "it is inevitable, 
they want the things the Americans have." So long as they lack those 
things, he feels, "the only consolation for such a time is nationalism, 
past glories, the enjoyment of this or that terrorist attack. They may 
know that ethically, morally, this is not right, but secretly they enjoy 

    In an ideal world, I say, we might debate this, try to understand that 
envy of the east and moderate the stereotypes of the west. But in the case 
of Iraq, the rich part of the world believed the angry part of the world 
was posing a direct threat to it, and was acting to block that threat. Not 
so, says Pamuk. In Iraq it is "the rich part of the world making a direct, 
violent attack on the poor, disorganised part of the world". The west may 
or may not be right to worry about dangers from "ruthless dictators" in 
the Middle East, he says, but right now it is part of the west that is 
controlled by "a vulgar and brutal and not very sophisticated ruler, 

    The other big Turkish worry about the war concerned the Kurds, whose 
communities straddle the borderlands between eastern Turkey and northern 
Iraq. The Turks feared the war might lead to a Kurdish state in northern 
Iraq, and with it a new spur to Kurdish separatism in eastern Turkey. Only 
four years have passed since the last wave of guerrilla warfare subsided 
with the arrest of the Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan and the 
collapse of his movement, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or the PKK. The 
separatist campaign, and Turkey's brutal suppression of it, cost 30,000 
lives, most of them Kurdish. It cast a long shadow over civil liberties 
and human rights. It soured relations with the European Union so badly as 
to set back Turkey's hopes of joining the EU by at least a decade. Nobody 
in Turkey, liberal or conservative, wants to go back to those days.

    Alternatively, there is Pamuk's approach, which has the merit of 
simplicity. "Kurds in northern Iraq should have every right to decide for 
themselves what they want to do," he says, "and if they want to have a 
state that is their business." If Turkey fears a contagion of separatism 
among its own Kurds, it should treat them more kindly and so make them 
less restive. Besides, he adds, Turkey is a fragile country economically, 
and "the geopolitics of a fragile country should be: 'I am polite to my 

    I imagine Pamuk (pictured below) is polite to his neighbours too, even 
when they applaud the knocking down of the World Trade Center. He loves 
Istanbul and everything in it. While researching his new book he has 
studied engravings of the city, and finds them full of "nationalistic and 
nostalgic sentiments", above all "the feeling of melancholy that comes 
from loss of empire". He feels an echo there "of the decay of my family, 
as it disintegrates from a big family with uncles and grandmothers to just 
the four of us, parents and children, moving from big house to apartment 
building, then on our different ways." The big house he knew as a baby was 
home to an extended family of 12 or 14 people. Now, after a recent 
divorce, he lives alone.

    We talk more about melancholy, and I begin to sense how he can admire 
the US so much, while criticising it so strongly. "Countries without much 
history, or without much sad history, are more naive," he says. "But in 
their naivety they are realists, they can see their problems easily. Here 
we have lots of melancholy which blurs the vision and which saps the 
energy to invent, to invest, to create."

    Robert Cottrell has recently completed a spell as the FT's Moscow 
bureau chief Orhan Pamuk's novels

    The White Castle

    The Black Book

    The New Life

    (all three published in Faber's Threebies series at oe12.99)

    My Name is Red (Faber oe7.99)

    Snow (will appear in the UK in January 2004)

LOAD-DATE: May 12, 2003
Turkish Daily News

April 15, 2004


    ANKARA - Internationally renowned Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk said he 
was not uncomfortable with his sophisticated style becoming more 
accessible to the masses but said he was aware his true audience were few 
in number.

    Pamuk addressed students attending a conference at Ankara's Middle East 
Technical University (METU) on Wednesday, sharing the experiences, ironies 
and conflicts he has had over the past 31 years while building his career 
as a novelist.

    "I don't think it's a bad thing that a large number of people are 
buying my novels. This is not a loss. However, I also don't believe that I 
write for everyone. There are a number of people in Turkey who read books, 
and I am writing for them," said Pamuk.

    Upon a question of whether he wanted to be a popular novelist or a 
novelist with a limited but devoted audience base, Pamuk said, "These are 
not contradictory, because I have both."

    Having experienced the success of becoming a best-selling novelist in a 
country in which the book-reading public is extremely small, Pamuk has 
often been the target of criticism for the conduct of advertising 
campaigns for his books -- complete with his picture plastered on 
billboards in big cities -- a style to which traditional Turkish readers 
are unaccustomed.

    Still, he doesn't seem to be surprised by his every move causing 
controversy and questions in people's minds, especially since his 
perceptions of things going on around him, his political stance and his 
way of life -- which seem to belong nowhere and which appear to be unlike 
those of any other group of people -- are considered.

    Tragedy of novelists on world's periphery

    In response to a question posed at the conference, Pamuk said: "When an 
author in the West writes about the ordinary elements of life -- the pain, 
the sorrow, the happiness he sees around him, it is characterized as a 
story of humanity. But when an author from a country on the periphery does 
the same thing, he is perceived as having voiced ethnic problems. This is 
the tragedy of an author living on the periphery but who borrows knowledge 
and techniques accumulated by West."

    As to his discomfort in being perceived as voicing generalizations, 
Pamuk added: "However, it is also meaningless to display hostility towards 
the West because such an approach may turn into prejudice against the 
West, which is not a good thing."

    Who is Orhan Pamuk?

    Pamuk is by far the country's most prolific best-selling novelist, and 
his books have been translated into more than 20 languages. His first 
novel, "Cevdet Bey and His Sons," a dynastic saga of the Istanbul 
bourgeoisie, appeared in 1982 after an eight-year search for a publisher.

    His second novel, "The White Castle" (published in 1979 but translated 
in 1990), the story of a Turkish master and his European slave, is a 
perfect example of his melding of modern with traditional Eastern 
elements. By the end of the novel the two main characters are 
indistinguishable. One of them dies, but we are not quite sure which one.

    With his fourth novel, "The Black Book" (1990), a mystery that arrives 
at no obvious solution, Pamuk confirmed his international reputation.

    Pamuk's novel "My Name is Red," a detective story of sorts, a 
multi-layered tale of revenge and jealousy growing out of the Ottomans and 
the rise of the Christian West, also attracted the attention of many 
Western readers.

    His novels are rich with allusion to old Sufi stories and traditional 
Islamic tales as well as the tinsel of popular culture.

    His other books are "Secret Face, Silent House, New Life, Other Colors, 
Snow" and his latest, "Istanbul, Memoirs and the City."

    In an article that appeared in Time magazine, journalist Andrew Finkel 
wrote: "His work is a rejection of an intellectual tradition that aspired 
to be Western by forgetting about the past. 'If you try to repress 
memories, something always comes back,' Pamuk says. 'I'm what comes 

LOAD-DATE: April 20, 2004
The Irish Times

May 1, 2004

Lukewarm on the heels of the story
Snow By Orhan Pamuk, translated by Maureen Freely Faber, 436pp. £ 12.99


     Ka, a poet and political exile living in Frankfurt, returns to Turkey 
on a mission. He has a job, the investigation of a series of suicides 
taking place in Kars, an isolated city near the Armenian border. As he 
sits on the old bus taking him there, we are informed of the significance 
of the glamorous coat he is wearing.

    Right from the outset there is something slightly odd, almost 
half-hearted, about this novel. No one could appear less like a journalist 
hot on the heels of a suicide epidemic story. Ka's 12 years in Germany may 
have rendered him an exile, but Orhan Pamuk is not content to allow the 
reader to speculate. He steps right in and within a page is offering a 
rather thorough pen-portrait of a character he is presumably hoping will 
retain our interest for the next 435 pages. The real reason Ka has come to 
Turkey is to bury his mother. And oh yes, there is a girl. He was never 
involved with her, but now he knows he loves her.

    Snow is a novel in which there is a great deal of talking and not very 
much said. It is a disappointment not only because it comes from the Orhan 
Pamuk who wrote The White Castle (1979), which impressed on the appearance 
of its English translation in 1990, The Black Book (1990, English 
translation 1994) and The New Life (1993, 1997), but especially because it 
comes from the author of a flamboyantly rich 
picaresque-thriller-cum-art-history tour de force, My Name is Red (1998, 
2001), which won last year's Dublin International IMPAC Literary Award.

    Always a metaphysical, determinedly intellectual writer, with echoes of 
Calvino, Borges and Paul Auster, Pamuk is also a daring voice combing 
subversion as well as an awareness of Turkey's extraordinary culture and 
the ongoing East-West, or Oriental-European, tensions that frustrate, 
confuse and intrigue all who explore them. This novel Snow is consistently 
at odds with its ambitions and achievement.

    Apparently the source of much debate in Turkey, where it managed to 
outrage both Islamists and westernised Turks on its publication in 2002, 
it presents an unflattering, near-comic portrait of Kars as a place in 
which no one is all that sure of anything aside from the fact that several 
young girls have killed themselves. In tone, it is reminiscent of Kazuo 
Ishiguro's offbeat yarn The Unconsoled (1995). In common with that book it 
suffers from being very long, but whereas Ishiguro succeeded in making his 
novel's bizarre nature its ultimate strength, Pamuk's narrative merely 
emerges as longwinded and improvisational.

    For all the sideswipes at the confused politics of several of the 
characters who are presented as revolutionaries but are in fact fanatics 
and failed lovers mainly at war with themselves, Pamuk has here missed an 
opportunity to consider the internal cultural confusions of a country that 
is as much torn between its notions of Europe and its place within that 
Europe, as Europe itself is confused about where exactly Turkey fits.

    Snow is more than the title, it also describes a state of mind or, at 
least, the notion of perception as it exists within the book. Ka is a 
drifter whose politics are well overshadowed by his poetry and by his 
obsessional love for Ipek, a girl whose beauty is one of the major themes 
in the narrative. Once in Kars, Ka - whose name also means snow - begins 
writing poems with a frenzy akin to the way other people suffer panic 
attacks. The poems simply happen.

    At no time does it seem that he will be writing any news story. For a 
western reader, there is something very confusing about this novel in that 
Pamuk himself does not seem to have any opinion regarding the Kurds or 
anything else. Belief is throughout treated as a common cold, merely a 
nuisance but not all that important. Elsewhere there is a throwaway remark 
when Blue, a revolutionary of sorts, remarks to Ka: "Contrary to what our 
own Europe-admiring atheists assume, all European intellectuals take their 
religion, and their crosses, very seriously. But when our guys return to 
Turkey, they never mention this . . ."

    The same character later announces: "I refuse to be a European . . . 
I'm going to live out my own history and be no one but myself."

    Some of the stilted exchanges are funny, as are the sexual digressions, 
if only because the entire novel is so odd. There are also a couple of 
almost comic sequences, such as when one young would-be revolutionary 
wants to tell Ka ,the poet, about the science fiction novel he wants to 
write. Ka, a Woody Allen without the wit, a study in dozy ambivalence, 
never engages the reader because he does not exist beyond Ipek's beauty.

    One would wonder at Pamuk's intentions in this rambling, heavy-footed 
and slight-as-cake performance. He has populated Kars with a cast of 
misfits who spend their days watching television and the snow, who 
complain but will only undertake the craziest of projects, and who have 
somehow missed the point of both their country and their culture.

    Snow, written in a heavy prose not helped by the preening authorial 
intrusions, is not only lacking Pamuk's proven metaphysical intelligence 
and imagination, it is also without his sense of direction, or conviction.

    Eileen Battersby is Literary Correspondent of The Irish Times

LOAD-DATE: May 1, 2004
The Spectator

May 08, 2004

Rather cold Turkey;

John de Falbe

     SNOW by Orhan Pamuk Faber, GBP 16.99, pp. 436, ISBN 057121830X

     In 1919 my grandfather was in Kars, near what is now Turkey's 
north-eastern frontier, as part of a British occupation force connected 
with what might be regarded as the first oil war. Kars had recently been 
abandoned by the Russians after nearly a century (Pushkin stayed there) 
and was soon to be handed over to the Turks. Twenty years ago I happened 
to visit this dilapidated town myself; the colonial buildings still 
endowed it with pathetic grandeur.

     The Russians and Armenians who once lived here hover like shadows 
behind the modern Turks of Snow, and the prejudices and politics that 
bedevil the characters of this remarkable novel echo the forces that 
ejected their predecessors from the city.

     What was once a place of some sophistication is now as poor and 
backward as anywhere in Turkey - which is partly why Pamuk has chosen to 
set Snow here.

     Another reason is the town's name. The Turkish title is Kar, the 
Turkish for snow.

     During the three days of Snow's action Kars has been cut off from the 
outside world by heavy snowfalls. It won't give much away to say that the 
denouement occurs during what the Border City Gazette describes as 'an 
adaptation of a drama penned by Thomas Kyd . . .' If this doesn't make you 
want to read the book, then it might stir your curiosity to learn that the 
main performers are Sunay, a washed-up actor who staged a coup in a 
performance two days previously, and Kadife, a beautiful 16-year-old girl 
who is about to remove her headscarf before an audience that includes many 
politicised Muslims.

     The novel's main character is Ka, a poet who has returned from 
political exile in Germany to write a piece for an Istanbul newspaper 
about the spate of suicides by Kars girls. An innocent abroad, he is 
caught up in a bloody coup. He only wants to get back to Frankfurt with 
Kadife's sister but instead finds himself used as a gobetween by the 
Ataturk-loving Sunay, and Blue, a terrorist loved by Kadife.

     Regarded as an atheist by the Islamists and credulous by the secular 
group, his position is complicated by the fact that poems start crowding 
in on him. The title of his Kars collection is, of course, Snow.

     Pamuk uses the snow metaphor to dizzying effect (there is an echo, 
too, in Ka's name). Snow isolates people but also draws them together, it 
smothers and freezes them but it also reminds Ka of God, 'of the beauty 
and mystery of creation, of the essential joy that is life'.

     Snowflakes, like people, are unique.

     Pamuk is persuasive about Ka's religious sentiments, but he isn't in 
the business of offering solutions: he is persuasive from every direction, 
so that we feel sympathetic to Blue's contempt for the West's cult of the 
individual just as we despair at the confusions of political Islam.

     Snow has already been a bestseller in Turkey - given Pamuk's stature 
as a novelist and the novel's content it could hardly fail to be. But what 
makes it a brilliant novel is its artistry. Pamuk keeps so many balls in 
the air that you cannot separate the inquiry into the nature of religious 
belief from the examination of modern Turkey, the investigation of 
East-West relations, and the nature of art itself - and, by implication, 
life, for the stage(d) coup is certainly deadly, and art and life mimic 
one another with hideous, occasionally hilarious, persistence. All this 
rolled into a gripping political thriller.

LOAD-DATE: May 10, 2004
The Guardian (London) - Final Edition

May 8, 2004

Saturday Review: Profile: Orhan Pamuk: Occidental hero: Orhan Pamuk: 
Occidental hero: Born in Istanbul to a wealthy family, he abandoned 
architecture studies to write his first book, but struggled to find a 
publisher. Now Turkey's best-selling novelist, his newly translated Snow 
depicts a military coup. His opposition to the Rushdie fatwa and support 
for the Kurds means he is seen by some as a political renegade, but he 
remains outspoken. Nicholas Wroe reports

Nicholas Wroe

     In 1994, billboards appeared all over Istanbul bearing the words: "I 
read a book one day and my whole life was changed." They formed part of an 
advertising campaign for Orhan Pamuk's novel of that year, The New Life , 
and the phrase was the book's opening line. The marketing of popular 
fiction in this way is nothing new -although it was innovative in Turkey 
at the time - but what made the approach so unusual was that Pamuk's 
writing would not be immediately recognisable as the stuff of mass-market 

     John Updike, praising The New Life , said Pamuk "in his dispassionate 
intelligence and arabesques of introspection suggests Proust". But Updike 
also noted that Pamuk was that most unusual of literary creatures, "both a 
best-selling author and an avant-garde writer". Pamuk's novels exuberantly 
embrace postmodernist narrative trickery and his work has been compared to 
Kafka, Borges, Calvino and Garcia Marquez. "I was as surprised as anyone 
about my sales," he says. "My first novel ( Cevdet Bey and His Sons, 1982) 
sold 2,000 copies in Turkey in the first year. The second ( The Quiet 
House, 1983) sold 8,000 copies, which was very good. But then the third 
book ( The White Castle, 1985) sold 16,000 and the fourth ( The Black 
Book, 1990) 32,000. So I was joking with friends that The New Life would 
sell 64,000 but it sold 164,000 copies in its first year." It was by some 
distance the fastest-selling novel in Turkish publishing history and the 
print run for his next novel, My Name is Red , in 1998, was the 
largest-ever in Turkey.

     The flat where Pamuk writes in Istanbul overlooks the Golden Horn and 
has views of the Topkapi Palace on one side and the suspension bridge that 
links Europe and Asia on the other. To the periodic accompaniment of a 
muezzin's call to prayer from the next-door mosque, he attempts to make 
sense of his unprecedented commercial success.

     "When I was first published, the Marxists and the conservatives and 
the political Islamists were all fighting against each other and fighting 
among themselves," he recalls. "So, because I was a newcomer they all kind 
of welcomed me, although a bit suspiciously. But it meant that I got all 
the prizes. And then a media boom began in Turkey and suddenly the 
interest in books was huge."

     While this helps to explain the demographics of his success, in 
artistic terms his work has tapped into the modern Turkish psyche at a 
most profound level. He acknowledges that a common theme in his books has 
been "cultural change; living in a westernised fashion in a country that 
is essentially not western". His work is full of reminiscences and he 
subtly engages with the past of his characters and their societies. An 
aggressive westernising agenda has been the dominant official force in 
Turkish life for more than a century, and Pamuk is a product of a ruling 
class that has benefited from this regime. But his work, like the world 
around him, is also marked by the legacy of a longer social, cultural and 
religious history.

     The novelist and journalist Maureen Freely was brought up in Istanbul 
as a contemporary of Pamuk's and knew his family. She is also the 
translator of his latest novel, Snow , which is published in the UK this 
month. "The rapidity of social change in Turkey has been amazing," she 
says. "And it has also been a source of considerable pain and confusion. 
Everything Orhan writes speaks to that and to the debates people are 
having inside themselves but they can't quite put into words."

     Freely adds that while his "modernist/postmodernist games involve 
using elements from opposing traditions that, when seen together, defy 
reason and make a 'grand narrative' impossible, they are perhaps less 
difficult for a modern Turkish reader to understand in that this is their 
daily experience - living in a part-eastern, part-western culture that 
changes rapidly - and there is never time to sit back and ask how it all 
adds up".

     Professor Jale Parla of Bilgi University in Istanbul has written 
extensively about Pamuk. She ascribes his success to his "rare gift of 
that genius that beguiles at the same time as it challenges. The paradox 
that he is a 'difficult' best-seller is a myth that is created by the 
intellectual community in Turkey who are aware of the complexity of his 
novels but miss their beguiling simplicity." (Parla also acknowledges that 
there are readers who see only the simplicity and "miss the beguiling".)

     In Turkey, the launch of a new Pamuk novel has more in common with the 
release of a Hollywood film than the publication of a book. There is media 
saturation and considerable cachet in being seen with his latest work. 
Although some snipe that he is probably more bought than read, a more 
serious criticism, usually from a left-nationalist perspective, is that he 
has sold out to a European audience, a view apparently given added 
credence when Pamuk was awarded the euros 100,000 Impac prize last year 
for My Name is Red

     "When my sales went up my welcome from the Turkish literary scene 
disappeared," he says. "And I haven't been given any prizes in Turkey 
since the age of 35. I started to get harsh and envious criticism and I 
now don't expect to get good reviews any more. For the last few books they 
haven't even criticised what I have written, instead they criticise the 
marketing campaign." It is difficult to overestimate his public profile. 
"If he puts one foot in front of the other it will get into the papers," 
says one friend. His outspoken stance on the broad human-rights agenda, 
which has included women's and Kurdish rights, democratic reforms as well 
as environmentalism, has made him a lightning conductor for criticism.

     Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the radical French student leader-turned Green 
European MP, first met Pamuk in 2001 on an official visit to Istanbul. He 
invited Pamuk on to his Swiss television show about books. Cohn-Bendit 
says Pamuk "was one of the intellectuals who made me understand the 
importance of Turkey joining the European Union. It is so important for 
democrats in that country. Orhan is not only one of the most important 
modern writers in Europe, he is one of the examples of the possible 
modernity of Turkey."

     But for all the contentious stances he has taken, Pamuk rarely deals 
with political issues head-on in his fiction, and he has even been 
criticised by his natural supporters, who claim the distancing effect of 
some of his postmodernist techniques has made his work too apolitical. 
However, Pamuk says the idea of writing a "Dostoyevskian political novel" 
was in his head while he was working on Snow . "In the late-70s I tried to 
write a political novel about people like me: upper-class or middle-class 
students who went with their families to summer houses but also played 
around with guns and Maoist texts and had fanciful ideas about throwing a 
bomb at the prime minister."

     However in 1980, when the army responded to a parliamentary logjam, a 
deteriorating economy and widespread political violence by staging a coup 
and formally taking over the running of a country much of which was 
already under martial law, it was impossible to publish such a book.

     Pamuk says that 18 years on the vogue for Marxism had passed, "and the 
interesting thing was political Islamists. I had lots of friends who 
secretly admired them. Many hard-core political Islamists learned a lot 
from Turkey's Marxist-Leninists because nationalism and anti-westernism 
are at the heart of both. It is a secret anthropological history how 
similar they are. So I decided to write another novel. I liked the idea of 
this town being cut off from the rest of Turkey by snow; and there is a 
military coup." Set in 1992, the novel is part love story, part political 
thriller and features a poet visiting a remote town in eastern Turkey 
under the pretext of a journalistic assignment. Pamuk used the same ruse 
to undertake his research and many of the details in the book reflect his 
own experiences in the town of Kars, including being picked up by the 
local police who were suspicious of his movements.

     All Pamuk's novels have included autobiographical strands, but in his 
most recent book, Istanbul - published in Turkey late last year and due 
out in the UK in 2005 - he explicitly mixes memoir with his thoughts about 
the city. One of the chapters is about "The Rich", the social group into 
which he was born. "My grandfather was a rich person and my father's 
generation had much money, which they wasted. My childhood was full of my 
grandmother crying because my father or uncles were selling this or that. 
The family wealth came from building railroads in the 1930s. They were 
instigating the new Turkish republic and were literally building the 
nation. By the time I was growing up, the wealth was going down, but they 
still had the instincts of rich people. Even though my grandfather's money 
had evaporated, our lifestyle didn't change. But there were signs that the 
money was going and there were always feuds. People blamed other people 
all the time."

     Pamuk was born in Istanbul in June 1952 and a description of the 
upper-class neighbourhood he grew up in can be found in the The Black Book 
. "I was meticulous and perhaps pompous; I wanted to be like James Joyce 
in getting every detail correct about which shops were there at the time. 
Before I was born my family had a large house, the ultimate Ottoman 
mansion, with the whole family in different parts of the building and lots 
of servants. But that disintegrated and they wanted to be western, so they 
built an apartment block for themselves where the main doors were locked 
but inside all the apartment doors were open, and I would walk between the 
apartments of my uncles and cousins and my grandmother. But as the money 
ran out they began to sell the apartments and my family eventually moved 
to a better one, but one they rented and didn't own." Pamuk has bought a 
flat in the original family block and lives there again.

     His father, who died last year, was a businessman and a "failed poet" 
- "perhaps typical of second-generation wealth". Like the father figure in 
My Name is Red , he would periodically disappear from home. "He looked 
down on the Turkish literary scene but thought of Paris as a cool place to 
be so that's where he went," says Pamuk. "He married early and had chil 
dren and I think he regretted that. He wanted to carry on with his youth."

     Pamuk's mother and elder brother, a professor of economics, still live 
in the city. There is tension between the brothers, says Pamuk, because in 
Istanbul he wrote about the beatings he received from his brother when 
they were children. "People thought that because I am an apparently 
successful, upper-class, happy person I wouldn't write about things like 
that. But it is in our culture and it was my right to write about it. And 
then the media latched on to it and it made headlines."

     Pamuk and his brother attended the American school in Istanbul where 
they were taught in English and Turkish. The school catered for a social 
elite and has produced several Turkish prime ministers, but most of its 
alumni run Turkish industry and academia. "That sort of education makes 
you too secular and too westernised to properly stay in touch with 
traditional voters," says Pamuk.

     Vedit Inal, now a lecturer in economics, was a school and college 
friend and remembers Pamuk as witty, a good student and a basketball 
player. "He hasn't changed much as a character. He was always able to look 
at things from an unusual angle. And at first he wanted to be a painter, 
not a writer."

     Pamuk says he went through childhood being told he had a talent for 
painting, but the family tradition in engineering meant "that only things 
like engineering and mathematics counted. Religion, for example, was 
something just for the poor. The only time I was taken to the mosque was 
by my maid, when she went there to chat to her friends. The ruling 
westernised elite thought religion was one of the reasons for our glorious 
Ottoman empire's decline. But from the 60s they also saw it had an immense 
political power. If you showed the voters you were religious you got more 
votes and since then the upper classes have been scared of the lower 
classes and urban Turkey has been more religious." The arts and humanities 
were similarly disregarded and his family was not enthusiastic about the 
idea of him becoming a professional painter. "But instead of sending me to 
be a civil engineer, they thought because I was an arty guy perhaps I 
should be an architect."

     When Pamuk went to university in Istanbul in 1970 it was a militant 
Marxist campus and he was on the left. "But although I was reading the 
literature of all these little Marxist factions, I never joined any, and I 
would go home and read Virginia Woolf. Although I had my sympathies, I 
saved my spirits by reading Woolf and Faulkner and Mann and Proust. I felt 
guilty but I also felt they were more interesting." Pamuk had been a 
prodigious reader of classic French, Russian and English fiction since 
childhood and after three years studying architecture, "suddenly announced 
that I wasn't going to go to school any more and I wasn't going to paint. 
I was going to write novels."

     Freely says several contemporaries were, like Pamuk, interestingly 
quirky thinkers. "But while they fell by the way side, he pushed on and 
found out who he really was through his writing. And it was difficult. For 
families from his class engineering was everything. Of course there were 
quite a few of us interested in artistic things, but there was a very 
strong feeling that anyone with skills should put them in service of the 
country. His family were not happy at all about what he was doing but that 
wouldn't mean they didn't support him. Your family is your social security 
over there."

     Pamuk says he received "pocket money" from his father until he was 32. 
"But even my father, who had translated Valery, said I should stay on and 
finish that stupid architecture school. Their attitude was that all the 
artists and intellectuals in the country were doomed because there was not 
much interest in what they had to offer. And they were all drunks. So I 
worked very hard to make myself a novelist and finish my first book. I 
didn't want anyone to say - even though secretly I was saying it to myself 
- that I left school for nothing and was wasting my life."

     Although a leftist himself he felt little sympathy with the 
socialist-sanctioned realism of Gorky or Steinbeck or some Turkish village 
novelists. "There were modernist poetry groups and magazines with which I 
sympathised but I didn't really develop any literary friendships in my 
20s. I was arrogant and I looked down a little on them and thought they 
were a bit simplistic. Because of that it was a problem to publish my 
first book." It took him four years to complete Cevdet Bey and His Sons - 
"a family saga that is really about my grandfather making his money" - and 
although it won a competition to be published, Pamuk eventually had to sue 
the publisher before it finally appeared in print three years later. 
"Getting published in England and America and in 35 languages was easy 
compared with first getting published in Turkey," he laughs.

     Throughout his time writing the novel, Pamuk had been enrolled in a 
journalism school just to put off his military service. But aged 30 in 
1982, he did his spell in the military, and when he came out he married 
Aylin Turegen, a historian of Russian descent. Their daughter, Ruya, was 
born in 1991. The couple divorced three years ago. Cevdet Bey was 
published the same year as his marriage, followed the next year by The 
Quiet House

     Parla sees Pamuk "as a very conscious inheritor of the novelistic 
tradition, both with regards to Turkey and the west. It is no coincidence 
that he started his writing in a very classical format, that of the 
bildungsroman, in Cevdet Bey, and moved gradually through the modernism of 
Sessiz Ev ( The Quiet House ) to the post-colonial and post-modern works 
exemplified by The White Castle , The Black Book , The New Life , and My 
Name Is Red ."

     After the 1985 publication of his third novel, The White Castle, about 
a 17th-century Christian slave and his Muslim master who swap identities, 
the Pamuks moved to New York for three years so Aylin could study for a 
PhD at Columbia. Pamuk attended the Iowa writing school and taught a 
Turkish language class, but mostly he occupied a small room above the 
Col-umbia library where he began work on The Black Book , the contemporary 
story of a lawyer searching Istanbul for his lost wife.

     "My cubicle was above three million books and I was very happy there," 
he says. "There was a good collection of Turkish books going back to the 
1930s and many of them had not even had the pages cut. No one had ever 
looked at them before me." The publisher Keith Goldsmith, now with Knopf 
in New York, was working for Carcanet, the British publisher. He was 
recommended Pamuk's work by a Turkish friend and through him The White 
Castle became Pamuk's first book translated into English.

     "Orhan was a very attractive character who was constantly 
chain-smoking, drinking coffee and speaking a mile a minute," says 
Goldsmith. "And it was plain that in his work, although it was cast in an 
historical period, he was addressing something of the essence of what was 
going on in the world today. He has obviously put his finger on something 
that relates to Turkey, but he has a resonance far beyond the place and 
the time he is apparently writing about. He is really a writer for the 

     The books now sell worldwide and Pamuk says the initial impact of this 
was to make him more conscious of his Turkishness. "I was surprised that 
the word Turk was used as a sort of synonym for my name. Instead of 
writing 'Pamuk says this or that' they wrote that 'this Turkish author 
said this or that'. It did upset me a little. If I write an essay about 
Proust or Hemingway I might occasionally write about the French or 
American author, but not all the time. It seems if you write fiction in 
that part of the world your nationality is not that important, but if you 
write fiction in this part of the world your nationality and, even worse, 
ethnicity are important. When an English writer writes about a love affair 
he writes about humanity's love affair, but when I write about a love 
affair I am only talking about a Turk's love affair."

     Pamuk says that as soon as he began to publish he realised he was 
expected to have an opinion on everything. "They would ask me what 
deodorants I used and I would answer them so I got a reputation for 
answering every question. For the first three or four years I didn't worry 
much about politics. The previous generation sneered at me as someone who 
became popular after a military coup. They implied my work was a product 
of that coup, which of course was not true. But although I was not in any 
party, I was still a leftist like them and as my fame grew, the new 
generation knew my opinions on things and especially on the Kurdish issue 
and on freedom of speech."

     He, and two other Turkish novelists, Yasar Kemal and Aziz Nesin, were 
the first writers from a Muslim country to speak out against the fatwa 
issued against Salman Rushdie. "Three days later President Rafsanjani 
answered back from Tehran complaining that Iran's neighbours were siding 
with Rushdie, who had insulted the Prophet. I was famous by then, but not 
that famous. No one knew my address, so I didn't worry too much."

     Following the success of The New Life, he agreed to sell a Kurdish 
newspaper on the streets after the bombing of its offices by, it was 
generally assumed, government agencies. Through much of the 80s and 90s, a 
civil war was fought in east and southeast Turkey between government 
forces and Kurdish rebels from the secessionist Kurdistan Workers Party 
(PKK). Pamuk recalls a "horrific atmosphere " at the time and says that 
when some "leftists and liberals and Kurds who were not ultra-nationalist 
tried to do something against the war and they wanted to use me, I said 

     The result was that he was called a "renegade" on the front page of a 
national newspaper, and sections of Turkish society and the state have 
never forgiven him.

     Pamuk began to write controversial articles for German newspapers and, 
in the late 90s, he signed a statement with other writers and 
intellectuals calling the government's Kurdish policy "a huge mistake". 
The government offered him an olive branch with the accolade of "state 
artist", but Pamuk refused it, saying that if he accepted, he couldn't 
"look in the face of people I care about".

     He now says the Kurds lost that war, which he thought "was bad for 
Turkey. There should have been concessions from both sides to reach a 
peace. That would have saved so much time and would have been much better 
for the country. I just hope that over time the Turks forget some of their 
Turkishness and Kurds forget some of their Kurdishness. And my dream of 
Europe is something that can do that. "

     "He has been courageous about human-rights issues," says Freely, "and 
has been very lucky not to have spent time in prison for his views. Any 
classmate of ours who was remotely interested in politics ended up in 
prison at some time or other. The fact that he can get away with saying 
things about the state because of his international reputation makes the 
obligation greater for him to do so when he can. And there is a sense that 
the human rights issue has to be addressed before they stand any chance of 
joining the European Union."

     Inal says that writers have an unusual mission in Turkey. "They are 
not just people working in their rooms. People ask them about social and 
political events and they have to respond. He has to give a provocative 
response so that people can look at things from different angles. 
Personally he is a loner and would prefer to be at home working and 
thinking about nothing more than writing. But he knows he also has a 
mission and he takes his social and political responsibilities seriously."

     "People say I must have had great self-confidence to continue for so 
long without being published," he says. "Perhaps that is true, but in fact 
I had burnt my boats and could not go back. I knew I had to reach that 
shore and this is how I have done it.

     "There are writers like Nabokov and Naipaul and Conrad who exchanged 
their civilisations and nations and even languages. It is a very cherished 
and fashionable idea in literature and so in a sense I am embarrassed that 
I have done none of this. I have lived virtually in the same street all my 
life and I currently live in the apartment block where I was brought up. 
But this is how it has to be for me and this is what I do. And look at my 
view. From here it is not so difficult to see the world."

     Snow is published by Faber & Faber at £16.99. To order a copy for 
£14.99 plus p&p call Guardian book service on 0870 836 0875.

     Life at a glance

     Born: June 7, 1952, Istanbul.

     Education: Robert College, Istanbul; Istanbul Technical University;
Institute of Journalism at the Istanbul University.

     Family: 1982 married Aylin Turegen; divorced 2001(one daughter, 
Ruya,born 1991).

     Some books: 1982 Cevdet Bey ve Ogullari (Cevdet Bey and His Sons); '83 
Sessiz Ev (The Quiet House); '91 The White Castle; '95 The Black Book; '97 
The New Life; 2001 My Name is Red; '03 Istanbul (not yet translated); '04 

     Prizes: 1983 Orhan Kemal Novel Prize; '84 Madarali Novel Prize; 2003 
Impac award.

    LOAD-DATE: May 8, 2004
New Statesman

May 10, 2004

LENGTH: 675 words

Fiction - Veiled hatred; Snow Orhan Pamuk Faber & Faber, 436pp,
GBP12.99 ISBN 0571220657

Julian Evans

     The concept of the 'Turkish novel', like the Moroccan or the Egyptian 
novel, is one we accept without question, though it contains the germ of a 
controversy. The novel, as readers of Cervantes and Dickens understand it, 
is a European form with roots in the Renaissance, individualism and 
romanticism, and an awareness of its own fictitiousness. When it is used 
by a Turkish writer to dramatise the competing claims of European 
secularism and political Islam, the result, at least at the level of form, 
is a foregone conclusion - Europe and secularism win.

     Orhan Pamuk wrestles with this ambiguity on every page of his profound 
and frequently brilliant new novel. Set in the 1990s, Snow presents Turkey 
as a nation far more unsure of its identity, and far crueller on both 
sides of the secular-Islamic divide, than we imagine. Pamuk's device for 
arranging his material recalls the allegories of writers such as 
Durrenmatt and Boll. His hero is a poet named Ka who, returning to Turkey 
after 12 years in political exile in Frankfurt, attends his mother's 
funeral in Istanbul, then accepts a commission to write an article about 
the forthcoming elections in the distant city of Kars, near the Armenian 
border. There has been a spate of suicides by women in the city, and the 
foreign press, despite local obstruction, is starting to get interested. 
Kars is poor, on the road to nowhere. It clings to the remnants of a 
grander Russian past and is uneasily caught between the secular status quo 
and rising Islamist parties. The thickly falling snow blankets its poverty 
and, to the poet's eyes, 'casts a veil over hatred'. It also cuts the city 
off within a day of Ka's arrival.

     That phrase 'casts a veil over hatred' is indicative of Pamuk's style 
and the ambiguities it expresses. Hatred is veiled, but veiling it does 
not resolve it. The snow of the title becomes a potent metaphor, returning 
Ka to 'the happiness and purity he had once known as a child'; he 
remembers writing in a poem that 'it snows only once in our dreams'. Snow 
is beauty and it is obstacle. And blood is brightest - or blackest - 
against snow.

     All Pamuk's characters seek stability within Turkey's fragile, 
undetermined identity. Generally it eludes them. All are tormented by both 
inner and outer uncertainties. Pamuk recognises that politics and 
psychology are one; this is one of his 'hidden symmetries'. How can people 
be free if the state does not free them? How can the state be free if 
people do not allow diversity in the body politic?

     The conundrum is worked through with remarkable clarity. At a 
performance in the National Theatre, where Ka has performed his poem 
'Snow', a coup is mounted by freelance military elements and many pupils 
from the Islamic religious high school are killed. The soldiers' leader is 
Z Demirkol, an ex-communist whose participation provides another symmetry 
- the pardoned ex-communist becomes the protector of the secular state, 
while the passive poor and unemployed are won over to political Islam. The 
subsequent events - the brutal round-up of religious leaders and Islamist 
candidates, the negotiations for a truce, Ka's failed love affair - show 
violence and failure as the blizzard produced by illiberality and 

     Pamuk's modesty as a writer, his refusal to write as if he knows what 
is happening, is one of his finest qualities. There are episodes in this 
novel - such as the con-versation in a coffee shop between the director of 
the education institute and his assassin about the state's banning of 
headscarves - that illuminate the confrontation between secular and 
extremist Islamic worlds better than any work of non- fiction I can think 

     One of Ka's interlocutors, a theologian named Blue, complains that 
because the country has fallen under the spell of the west, it has 
forgotten its own stories. This may be true. But Pamuk shows decisively 
that the European novel (here superbly translated by Maureen Freely) 
remains a form, and a freedom, for which we have reason to be thankful.

    LOAD-DATE: May 6, 2004
The Independent

May 14, 2004


Paul Bailey

    Orhan Pamuk's novel is set in the winter of 1992 in the city of Kars in 
the north-eastern part of Turkey, not far from the borders of Armenia and 
Russia. Snow is falling heavily when Kerim Alakusoglu, who prefers to be 
known by his initials Ka, arrives by bus. He is a poet who has lived in 
Frankfurt for 12 years. He has returned to Turkey to attend his mother's 
funeral in Istanbul, where he was born and raised.

    A liberal journal, The Republican, commissions him to write an 
investigative piece about curious events in the remote city, and that is 
what Ka intends to do at the outset. A number of young women, fervent 
Islamists, have committed suicide rather than divest themselves of the 
headscarves that cover their hair.

    Ka, in his role of disinterested journalist, questions the girls' 
families and friends and visits the police, the editor of a newspaper, the 
Border City Gazette, and other dignitaries. The elegant overcoat he wears 
(purchased in Frankfurt) marks him out for many in Kars as a Westernised 
intellectual. For them, Westernisation is synonymous with atheism. They 
are not to know that during his brief stay among them he is trying to find 
a way back to God.

    The multi-layered story is told by Pamuk himself, with the assistance 
of the notes Ka kept in Kars. These have been retrieved from Ka's flat in 
Frankfurt, four years later. The principal theme is concerned with the 
burgeoning of Ka's love for the beautiful Ipek, a former classmate in 
Istanbul, who is separated from her husband Muhtar, another friend from 
Ka's student days.

    With this romantic obsession comes the reflowering of Ka's poetic 
talent, lying dormant for some time. In beleaguered Kars, he writes 19 
poems with a new-found ease and fluency. It's as if they are demanding 
that he set them down in his green notebook. We know that certain poets 
had these sudden bursts of creativity and Ka, in the midst of violence and 
murder, experiences the always surprising contentment that accompanies 
such fecundity.

    Snow is also an avowedly political work of fiction, of a kind still 
relatively rare in Britain. It finds voices for religious and other 
fanatics, for reactionaries and the occasional moderniser, and those who 
maintain that their arcane beliefs need not be challenged with reason. 
Chief among these disconcerting characters is a dashingly handsome 
terrorist who goes under the sobriquet Blue. He is probably the mastermind 
who instigated the assassination of a camp television host who cocked a 
snook too many at Muhammad.

    His conversations with Ka are teasing and menacing by turns, with Blue 
setting little linguistic traps for the poet. These scenes are very 
cunningly written. Blue is flamboyant in his crafty way, but outmatched in 
flamboyance by Sunay Zaim and his wife Funda Eser, a pair of strolling 
players who have performed in tiny towns across Anatolia, spreading the 
word of republicanism in sketches. They reminded me of Dario Fo and Franca 
Rame, who have been mocking Italian governments for more than three 

    In Snow, Sunay and Funda are responsible for a military coup, following 
a performance at the National Theatre that incites the fundamentalists in 
the audience to hurl abuse at the actors and to riot. Pamuk is aware that 
in certain cultures the theatre has to be subversive. Taking Brecht's 
theories into account, Sunay and Funda use skits on TV commercials and 
belly dancing to make people think, even as they are entertaining them.

    But it's the characterisation of Serdar, editor of the Border City 
Gazette, that best demon- strates Pamuk's penchant for serious 
playfulness. It is Serdar 's gift to provide crudely detailed descriptions 
of events before they happen. Serdar is the classic devious newsman, a 
fabricator of sensational headlines that just occasionally contain a 
scintilla of truth.

    Four epigraphs precede this complex and ambitious novel, two especially 
apropos. The first is from Robert Brown- ing's "Bishop Blougram's 
Apology": "Our interest's on the dangerous edge of things,/ The honest 
thief, the tender murderer,/ The superstitious atheist"; the second is 
from Stendhal's The Charterhouse of Parma: "Politics in a literary work 
are a pistol shot in the middle of a concert, a crude affair though one 
impossible to ignore. We are about to speak of ugly matters."

    That's precisely what Snow does, circuitously and cleverly. At its 
centre is the doomed romantic Ka, who has read the great poets and 
attempts to bring to his work some of their potent confusions. It's a 
novel full of orchestrated surprises and shocks, and perhaps too many 
overlong digressions. Pamuk has fared badly in the past with some English 
translations, but Maureen Freely has served him excellently here. Those 
readers who love, as I do, his previous novel My Name is Red, should be 
warned that Snow is radically different and contemporary. Pamuk is not in 
the business of offering his public more of the same, exotic thing.

    Paul Bailey's latest novel is Uncle Rudolf' (Fourth Estate)

LOAD-DATE: May 14, 2004
Sunday Times (London)

May 16, 2004, Sunday
White noise

Maggie Gee

     SNOW by Orhan Pamuk translated by Maureen Freely. Faber £12.99 pp436

     Orhan Pamuk's novel Snow sold 100,000 copies in his native Turkey, 
partly because it managed to offend both the secular Turkish intellectuals 
and extremist "Islamists" it portrays. Reading it now in Maureen Freely's 
excellent translation, this ambitious, faintly frustrating book seemed to 
me, as an outsider, nine parts crowded farce and one part poetic lament. 
Perhaps it offended everybody by taking nobody seriously. It has one 
overriding message -men constantly deceive themselves and others. In 
Pamuk's satirised provincial Turkey the fiercest anti-Europeans have 
pictures of Venice on their walls, the strongest moralists are repressed 
lovers, and poets who meddle with politics get symbolically shot through 
one eye.

     Ka, a solitary, dreamy Turkish poet in exile, returns to the remote 
town of Kars just before snow makes the roads impassable. His visit is 
ostensibly to write an article explaining the epidemic of suicides among 
young Islamic "covered" women, but really he is here in search of a 
beautiful, recently divorced contemporary of his, Ipek. As a famous former 
son, Ka is co-opted by all his home town's countless factions, and acts as 
a passive foil for, among others, the police, the naive, touching students 
from the Islamic religious school and the seductively welcoming old local, 
Sheikh Saadettin Efendi, whose wily kindness makes Ka long to be 
"provincial too...forgotten in the most unknown corner of the universe".

     It is a vain wish, for almost as soon as Ka arrives he sees the local 
head teacher shot dead at point-blank range, and while the snow lasts, 
Kars becomes the site of a revolution. This becomes so exaggeratedly 
theatrical -the two main coups actually happen on stage, when guns waved 
by actors turn out to contain live ammunition -that Pamuk seems to be 
making the point that all political acts are so much posturing, although 
in the best pages in the book the tense dialogue between the head teacher 
and his murderer suggest otherwise. The laughing despair with which Pamuk 
for the most part sketches his characters' predicaments distances him from 
them and leaves the original questions about the inner life of the covered 
women largely unanswered. Ka is too self-conscious and self-obsessed a 
character to evoke much sympathy, and Ipek, Ka's beloved, remains 
elliptical, characterised primarily by her physical beauty.

     But then, as the title suggests, Ka, and behind him Pamuk, is actually 
in love with the quiet beauty of the snow that frames the human acts. 
Snow, "the silence of snow", snow in all kinds of light and at all 
different times of day, make Kars, and the non-human parts of this book, 
beautiful, a grave backdrop to the ant like kicking and struggling of the 
people. Pamuk is looking for "hidden symmetries" just as Ka, in the thick 
of the shootings and interrogations, is listening for "the only sound that 
could ever make him happy: the sound of his muse".

     The complexity of Pamuk's skilful structure reveals itself little by 

     Halfway through the book we discover Ka is the former schoolfriend of 
Orhan Bey, the journalist who is supposedly writing the novel after Ka's 
death. Orhan Bey is in quest of a green notebook containing the sequence 
of poems built around the form of a six-pointed snowflake, which Ka wrote 
during his stay in Kars, and judged to be the best thing he had ever 
written. Their titles lend shape to the novel we are reading, but the 
notebook itself is never found. In a final Pamukian irony, the poems, 
ultimate focus of all the hero's efforts, melt like a silent snowflake as 
this big, noisy novel closes. q Available at the Sunday Times Books First 
price of £10.39 plus £2.25 p&p on 0870 165 8585

    LOAD-DATE: May 17, 2004
Time Out

May 19, 2004

The white stuff;
Books: Preview

Omer Ali

     Omer Ali talks to cultureclash chronicler Orhan Pamuk.

     An emigri Turkish poet known as Ka finds himself trapped in a town 
called Kars, on Turkey's north-eastern border with Armenia, first by a 
blizzard and then by avery Turkish coup: bloody, muddled, steeped in 
jumbled art and political theory,with military help and under the eye of 
the intelligence service.

     Ka's underlying motive for going to Kars is to woo an old flame and 
persuade herto return to Germany with him, but he finds himself embroiled 
in a fundamentalist affair, at odds with the precepts of a secular state.

     Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk has depicted the pressures on a country 
caught between East and West before, but seventh novel 'Snow', his fifth 
to be translated into English, is the first time he has tackled politics 
and religion so overtly. 'This is my thirtieth year of writing fiction, ' 
the 51-year-old explains on the phone from Istanbul. 'For the first 20 
years I neverthought of writing political anything because a previous 
generation of Turkish writers was so political and, frankly, I hated 
political fiction.' Since the mid-'90s he has become well known for 
campaigning on behalf of the Kurds and forfreedom of expression. 'I did so 
much of it that in the end I became notorious and found myself in 
politics. I decided that why don't I get this out of my chest do it once 
and for all. Of course, as a literary form the political novel was 
outmoded. First of all the question was not political but literary: how to 
make this old thing new again?' What about the possible repercussions? 
'Well, I don't want to exaggerate it, but before the book was published we 
were a bit worried about various reactions, including the government's, 
but we didn'thave any problem with the state. But there are two essential 
reactions, first from the conservative or you can even say fundamentalist 
political Islamist side, which was essentially, Islamists are not like 
that. For example, you have an Islamic militant in the book , who the 
reader knows is also a killer, who ishaving sex outside of marriage a 
proper Islamist wouldn't do that, which is party true and partly has 
nothing to do with what happens in life.

     'The other criticism comes from the more Jacobean side of the picture: 
they wereupset by the fact that I was interested in the problems of 
Turkey's Kurds, problems of freedom of expression in relation to political 
Islamists and Kurds, and worried about my critique of the army and Turkish 
bureaucracy and state. They were upset by the fact that I tried to 
understand why a fundamentalist actsin a certain way, how does he think? 
These are the questions any of you should ask, by the way.' As in Pamuk's 
impressive historical mystery 'My Name Is Red', a writer named Orhan works 
his way into 'Snow'. For Pamuk this solves problems of representation and 
honesty; like his creator, Ka is Westernised, from a middle-class Istanbul 
upbringing, and both visited Kars posing as journalists (Ka is there to 
investigate a suicide epidemic among young women, based on recent 
real-life events in south-eastern Turkey), where both were followed by the 
police. As Ka treads the streets from one assignation to another, you 
could create a map of Kars from Pamuk's description, including vignettes 
about its inhabitants. When a Kars youth is asked what he would tell 
Westerners if he was given the chance, the answer comes: 'We're not 
stupid! We 're just poor!' It is avery beautiful book; each chapter reads 
like a short story, an idea that catchesPamuk's imagination. 'I wish I 
could do that: a serialised novel, like nineteenthcentury authors like 
Dickens or Dostoyevsky. Then I wouldn't be worrying about the beauty of 
the whole project, which is a bit pretentious somehow, miraculously, it 
will take care of itself. Writing in instalments wouldsave my soul in a 
way.' And then there is the snow ('Snow' in Turkish is 'Kar'),which works 
its way into Ka's psyche and his poems, occurs at crucial moments of'My 
Name Is Red' and seems to enfold the new book like Ka's characteristic 
'charcoal-grey coat bought at Kaufhof'. ' Snow was one of the delights of 
childhood, as most children know. On the other hand it is also for me a 
very picturesque thing, which I don't want to abuse.

     Perhaps it is related to the fact that I wanted to be a painter and 
everything looks softer, miraculously beautiful, after it snows in my 
corner of the world.

     Since it is such an event it pulls people together; the feeling of 
community, feeling of family and solidarity is stronger after a lovely 

     'Snow' is published by Faber at GBP 12.99.

LOAD-DATE: May 19, 2004
Financial Times (London, England)

May 22, 2004 Saturday

Cold realities Like "a pistol-shot in the middle of a concert",
politics are tackled head-on in this devastating parable



    by Orhan Pamuk

    translated by Maureen Freely

    Faber Pounds 16.99, 436 pages

    An urgent question seethes at the heart of Orhan Pamuk's latest novel: 
"Can the West endure any democracy achieved by enemies who in no way 
resemble them?" Judging by the Turkish author's devastating parable of 
political extremism, the answer is no.

    Snow is Pamuk's seventh novel, and the fifth to be translated into 
English. Its narrator is Orhan, familiar to readers of Pamuk's The Black 
Book. Orhan tells the story of his friend Ka, a poet returning to Turkey 
after 12 years of exile in Germany. For reasons both professional and 
personal, Ka travels to the remote town of Kars near Turkey's eastern 
border. He arrives on the eve of mayoral elections, sent by an Istanbul 
newspaper to investigate an "epidemic" of young women's suicides. 
Secretly, Ka is also hoping to find Ipek, a woman he knew in his youth and 
whose beauty he has cherished ever since.

    When heavy snowfall cuts off all routes to Kars, isolating the town for 
three days, Ka feels "as if he were in a place that the whole world had 
forgotten". As he goes about his journalistic business in this confined 
microcosm, he uncovers a hotbed of intolerance and radical politics 
fuelled on all sides by fear.

    He can draw no easy conclusions within a culture in which women kill 
themselves in defence of their religion, but are shunned by their 
relatives for committing sinful suicide. Although Ka is at ease among the 
town's secular elite, he discovers that his host's daughter - Ipek's 
sister - is leading a group of girls demanding the right to wear 
headscarves. Ipek's ex-husband, once a westernised poet who has since 
embraced political Islam, is the candidate most likely to succeed in the 
impending election.

    Nor are Ka's beliefs as unshakeable as he thinks: a declared atheist, 
he soon meets and sympathises with "the infamous Islamist terrorist" Blue. 
And yet he worries like many others "that the Westernised world he had 
known as a child in Istanbul was coming to an end". The spectre of Iran's 
ayatollahs looms large over the secularists' nightmare.

    "What's more important, a decree from Ankara or a decree from God?" 
asks a zealous Islamist. While Ka merely ponders the question, other 
characters are prepared to act on what they assume is the correct answer. 
Faced by the prospect of an Islamist victory at the polls, a theatrical 
troupe devoted to the modernising mission of Ataturk, founder of the 
Turkish Republic, takes advantage of Kars' isolation to stage a deadly 
coup, brazenly exposing the limits of the democratic principle that 
modernisers claim to embrace.

    In the discord that follows, Pamuk heeds all sides. Atheists are chided 
for relying on the army. Islamists are reminded that they can pray to 
their heart's content only because "godless" modernisers are running the 

    A radical secularist expresses scorn for moderates like Ka, expecting 
democracy and human rights while "buttering up" Islamic fundamentalists.

    A self-proclaimed "communist, modernising, secular, democratic patriot" 
joins forces with Islamists and Nationalist Kurds to protest against the 
coup, but is soon persuaded that "the army is right to want to keep them 
out of politics. They're the dregs of society, the most wretched, muddled, 
brainless people in the city." Caught in the thick of events, Ka's only 
wish is to flee with Ipek.

    Upon meeting the narrator after the tale's tragic denouement, an 
acquaintance of Ka pleads: "If you write a book set in Kars and put me in 
it, I'd like to tell your readers not to believe anything you say about 
me... No one could understand us from so far away." This is the type of 
playfully self-referential twist that has garnered Pamuk well-deserved 
comparisons to Borges, Calvino and Kafka. One might add Auster, Saramago 
and Sebald to the list.

    As in The White Castle and My Name is Red, Pamuk elegantly dissects the 
recurrent quandary in Turkish history - look westwards, or inwards and 

    If Snow is less subtle than its predecessors, if it is often didactic 
and occasionally strident, it is only because its subject matter is more 

    Never one to flinch from the weighty issues of Turkey's past and 
present, Pamuk is here at his most political yet. And, as one of the 
book's epigraphs reminds us, "politics in a literary work are a 
pistol-shot in the middle of a concert... We are about to speak of very 
ugly matters."

LOAD-DATE: May 21, 2004

May 22, 2004, Saturday

Alone in Turkey Tom Payne praises a brave novel that makes us question
our world

by Tom Payne

In 2001, an extraordinary book called My Name Is Red appeared in English. 
It's impossible to recommend it without sounding eccentric - you try 
urging a friend to read a Turkish novel, brimming with stories within 
stories and Koranic dialectic, about murderous miniaturists working in the 
court of Sultan Murat III in 1591. The novel is set around the 1,000th 
anniversary of Mohammed's journey from Mecca to Medina, when Islamic 
reformers were railing against artists in Istanbul. Its opening chapter is 
a monologue about a corpse, and the story takes in points of view from 
other perspectives: Satan says his piece, as does a horse, Death, a coin 
and the colour red.

    Its translation brought its author, Orhan Pamuk, greater fame in the 
West, and, for all the book's violence, it could almost be read for 
entertainment. The book showed Pamuk could do everything - jokes, horror, 
plot, structure, erudition, love.

    In Snow, Pamuk uses his powers to show us the critical dilemmas of 
modern Turkey. How European a country is it? How can it respond to 
fundamentalist Islam? And how can an artist deal with these issues?

    The novel is set in Kars, in the far east of Turkey, close to Armenia - 
the Turkish massacre of Armenians in 1908 remains in the characters' 
minds. For the three days of the story's main action, the town is cut off 
by snow, so, when a coup takes place, the world cannot intervene. The 
local paper, the Border City News, has a circulation of 320, and prints 
news before it happens. The residents watch TV constantly, even when 
there's nothing on, and most are paid to spy on one another. There is a 
high rate of suicide among the town's young women.

    Ka, a poet, wants to know why. Some say it's because the women are 
beaten at home; others say they are protesting because they can't wear 
headscarves in school. "Why did your daughter decide to uncover herself?" 
an Islamist asks Kars 's director of education, before shooting him. "Does 
she want to become a film star?" The Islamists don't know what to make of 
the suicides, since the Koran forbids the faithful to take their own 

    Throughout the book, Ka stops to write poetry (mostly taken from the 
dialogue around him). He asks a woman he loves, "Do you think it's 
beautiful?... What's beautiful about it?" As a writer, Ka is at odds with 
the intrigues and fear around him. He is often blissfully happy, and we 
learn that one poem's theme is "the poet's ability to shut off part of his 
mind even while the world is in turmoil. But this meant that a poet had no 
more connection to the present than a ghost did. Such was the price a poet 
had to pay for his art!"

    And yet the artists in the story are lethally relevant. When the coup 
comes, it comes on the stage of a theatre; even as members of the audience 
are being killed, people mistake the events for a fantastic illusion. For 
a while, Kars is run by an ageing actor who regrets that he's never played 
Ataturk. Even Ka, who is mistrusted for being too Western, becomes 
integral to the action.

    At one point, Ka reflects on the writers he's known who have been 
lynched by Islamists, and it's a reminder that writing Snow has been an 
act of bravery, too. It's an unexpected sort of bravery, though, because 
Pamuk has made great efforts to enter the Islamists' heads. The effect is 
like meeting the possessed anarchists in Dostoevsky - these alternative 
views of the world find full expression, and make us question our own.

    If Pamuk wrote about real situations and tried to find sympathy with 
true terrorists, more readers would be alarmed than already have been. But 
he tailors the terrorists to his requirements - the most seductive of 
them, Blue, hasn't killed anybody and dotes on puppies.

    The author's high artistry and fierce politics take our minds further 
into the age's crisis than any commentator could, and convince us of every 
character 's intensity, making Snow a vital book in both senses of the 
word. Orhan Pamuk is the sort of writer for whom the Nobel Prize was 

    Snow by Orhan Pamuk tr by Maureen Freely

    436pp, Faber & Faber, pounds 16.99

    T pounds 14.99 (plus pounds 2.25 p&p) 0870 1557222

LOAD-DATE: May 22, 2004

Independent on Sunday (London)

May 23, 2004, Sunday


STEPHEN O'SHEA Snow on the shores of the Bosphorus near Turkey's Ortakoy

     It comes as a surprise that political prescience should be yet another 
of the many gifts of Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk. Praised as a virtuoso 
of the postmodern highwire - in the company of Borges, Calvino and Eco - 
Pamuk has delivered intellectual delights without bothering his readers 
too much about the times in which they live. My Name is Red, the Impac 
winner depicting a 16th-century aesthetic feud among Ottoman miniaturists, 
was hailed as a work of idiosyncratic genius, as was The White Castle, 
which involves a Muslim master and a Christian slave switching identities. 
Now, with Snow, composed before 11 September 2001, Pamuk gives convincing 
proof that the solitary artist is a better bellwether than any televised 

     Set in easternmost Anatolia in the 1990s, the novel deals with the 
present- day shouting-match between East and West - a subject that is 
second nature to any native of Istanbul like Pamuk. A meeting of Noises 
Off and The Clash of Civilisations, the work is a melancholy farce full of 
rabbit- out-of-a-hat plot twists that, despite its locale, looks uncannily 
like the magic lantern show of misfire, denial and pratfall that appears 
daily in our newspapers. How could Pamuk have foreseen this at his writing 
desk four years ago? Even the beatings and humiliations seem familiar.

     The show takes place during three eventful February days in Kars, a 
shivering has-been of a town hard by the border with Armenia. A snowstorm 
has cut off the place, prompting an itinerant theatrical troupe to stage a 
coup in the name of old-fashioned Kemalist secular values. Their leader, a 
thoughtful drunk whose fame rests in his resemblance to Ataturk, is 
concerned about militant Islamists and Kurdish separatists in Kars, as 
well as a rash of suicides among the city's pious headscarf-wearing girls. 
Enter Ka, a poet returned from exile in Germany, to report on the suicides 
for an article to appear in "Republic" (ie Cumhurriyet), a leading 
Istanbul newspaper read by Westernised "white Turks" like himself.

     What Ka finds, as the snow settles on streets lined with dilapidated 
Tsarist-era mansions, is a city of articulate rage. Angry at being poor, 
provincial and despised by the godless, the townsfolk confront Ka and 
disabuse him of his reflexive feelings of superiority, the most memorable 
harangues spouted by a youth with dreams of becoming "the world's first 
Islamist science-fiction writer". The Western newcomer, who has spent the 
past 20 years not writing poetry, masturbating, and collecting political 
refugee cheques in Frankfurt, is enchanted at finding himself stuck in a 
tendentious backwater straight out of Turgenev and Dostoevsky, to whom he 
refers liberally. Ka's muse returns and his libido revives.

     At his hotel, run by an old socialist with two beautiful daughters, 
the inevitable boulevardier complications arise, one of the love triangles 
pitting the atheist poet against a lusty fundamentalist. Ka goes out 
repeatedly to meet this hunted Islamist mastermind - who came to national 
attention over the murder of a game-show host - to negotiate matters 
political, sentimental, and, in the end, theatrical: whether one of the 
inn-keeper's daughters will remove her headscarf on stage. As the 
intrigues mount and become ever more deadly before the final betrayal, 
Pamuk gives us a florid wink by letting his characters take a break every 
afternoon to watch a Mexican soap opera on television.

     In Turkey, the novel was criticised for its use of caricatures. Not 
those of the foolish pasha of tired European travel writing, but the Turk- 
on-Turk variety: the spent leftist, the brainless policeman, the head- 
scarf passionaria, the miserable Anatolian. True, Pamuk trades on 
stereotypes. But the strength of Snow lies in its failings. The less 
believable the characters, the more true-to-life they appear. It is to 
Pamuk's credit that he saw this sad farce coming before the rest of us.

     Stephen O'Shea is the author of The Perfect Heresy' (Profile). His 
book on Islam and Christianity in the medieval Mediterranean world will 
appear next year

LOAD-DATE: May 23, 2004
The Jerusalem Post

May 28, 2004, Friday

The voice from Istanbul

Talya Halkin


    As Turkey's leading novelist, Orhan Pamuk reluctantly straddles the 
divide between East and West. Box at end of text

     When the five-year-old Orhan Pamuk's parents went off on a 
reconciliation trip to Paris, he was sent to stay with an aunt who lived 
in another part of Istanbul. The aunt and her husband treated him nicely, 
and showed him a European picture of a wide-eyed child who resembled him.

     "This is you," they would say jokingly, pointing repeatedly at the 
picture of the little boy staring out from under a cap. It was during this 
period that he began entertaining the idea he would write about years 
later: Somewhere in the city, he came to believe, there lived another boy 
just like himself. When he was unhappy, he was convinced the other Orhan 
was undoubtedly having a better time. Walking through the streets, he 
would stare into unfamiliar houses, wondering whether any of them was 
where the other Orhan lived. Over the years, this imaginary twin became 
such an important part of his life he felt he could never leave the city 
without forsaking his double.

     "Except for three years spent in New York, I've lived on the same 
street and in the same family apartment building for the past 50 years," 
the 52-year-old Pamuk told me when I visited him earlier this month at the 
Istanbul apartment he uses as an office.

     Today, Pamuk is considered to be Turkey's leading novelist. His 
features, however, still reveal the timid, bookish child he once was, so 
that people familiar with his photographs are always surprised at how tall 
he is when they encounter him in person. His manner is at once boyish and 

     Pamuk tells the story of his childhood double in the first chapter of 
his latest book, Istanbul, which was published in Turkey earlier this year 
and combines memories and essays about the city. And although he 
eventually relinquished his childhood fantasy of an identical counterpart, 
over the past two decades Pamuk has made the relationship between 
self-knowledge and knowledge of the other into the leitmotif of his work. 
One can only truly become oneself, his narratives insist, by becoming 
another - and this process of becoming takes place, more than anywhere 
else, through the act of telling stories.

     PAMUK'S SPACIOUS, book-lined office is directly above the Jihangir 
Mosque, situated on the hillside sloping down to the European bank of the 
Bosphorus. His secularly minded mother, who gave him the money for the 
apartment as a gift, deeply disapproved of his choice because of the 
minarets sticking up right in front of the building like two exclamation 
points after the word "religion."

     Foreign journalists, however, love to describe the view the minarets 
frame. Seagulls flutter picturesquely over the ferries and small yachts 
dot the water at the confluence of the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, and the 
Sea of Marmara, separating the city's European coast from its Asian one. 
Like Pamuk himself, the view can symbolize, for those interested in such 
metaphors, a vision both reassuring and alluring, of the opposing East and 
West conjoined.

     Pamuk, however, is less than happy with this image. Sitting across 
from me on a low couch in a button-down shirt and dark cotton pants, his 
body arches forward like an oversize question mark.

     "What I've written about is not the clash of civilizations or the 
conflict between East and West," he told me. "I hate both the concept and 
the reality of a Muslim world clashing with the West. What I've been 
interested in writing about is what you would call in sociological terms 
'cultural change,' or in psychological, more personal terms 'problems of 

     "Thirty years ago, this used to be only Turkey's problem. Now it has 
become the world's fashionable problem, and I don't like it when 
journalists turn to me because they want Islamic fundamentalism to be 
quickly explained to them by a mellow, civilized Turk like myself, who can 
understand the so-called 'primitives ' and act as a go- between."

     Pamuk, who defines himself as "a Western writer working in a 
semi-non-Western cultural climate," grew up in a secular, wealthy Istanbul 
home. He and his older brother, Shevket, attended the city's American 
school. Pamuk's father, who died last year, was the son of a successful 
industrialist who filled journals with existential quandaries and accounts 
of his Parisian love affairs, translated the modernist French poet Paul 
Valery into Turkish, and - together with Pamuk's uncle - squandered the 
family fortune. He also cultivated a good library, in which his son 
acquired what he describes as "an immense passion to devote my life to 
books and literature."

     His literary heroes include both Proust and Montaigne, both of whom he 
loves and identifies with for the same reason.

     "They were both," he explained to me, "wealthy men who didn't need to 
work and were surrounded by lots of books, which they could read and then 
come back and write. It's a tough position to develop in Turkey, because 
people here are so political and don't want to accept this way of life, 
which I eventually made them accept."

     As a result, Pamuk has accumulated a vast amount of literary 

     "You can tell from reading his books that he has almost literally 
locked himself up in a room all his life," Nuket Esen, a professor of 
modern Turkish literature at Bosphorus University, told me when I met her 
in a cafe around the corner from Pamuk's apartment.

     "He read and read and read, and all of a sudden he began writing and 
writing and writing."

     Pamuk's first novel, Cevdet Bey and His Sons, which he wrote when he 
was 26, was a traditional family novel. It took some time to get 
published, and finally appeared in 1982.

     "As soon as I finished it," Pamuk told me, flashing a smile, "I 
immediately felt it was old-fashioned."

     Over the next two years, he published two more books in quick 
succession, in each of them very consciously adapting a particular 
literary form. In The House of Silence, which appeared in 1983 and has not 
been translated into English, the narrative explodes into polyphony, as 
each chapter is recounted through the consciousness of a different 
protagonist. The novel, which unfolds against the political events of the 
late 1970s in Turkey, takes place in a dilapidated seaside house inhabited 
by an old woman, the dwarf who takes care of her, and the three 
grandchildren who come to visit. The history of the family, which 
parallels the history of modern Turkey, probes the vicissitudes of 
Westernization on both the personal and the collective level.

     Pamuk has a penchant for what literary critics call "intertextuality" 
- referring within his work not only to the texts of other writers, but to 
his own earlier novels. His third book, The White Castle, which was 
published in 1985, begins with a prologue written by an alcoholic 
historian who is one of the protagonists of The House of Silence. The bulk 
of the novel is a historical doppelganger story, in which East and West 
come face to face when an Italian student is overtaken at sea and sold as 
a slave to a Muslim scholar in 17th-century Istanbul (the two turn out to 
be spitting images of one another).

     IN 1982, Pamuk married Aylin Turegen, and the two set off for the 
United States, where Turegen would pursue her doctoral studies at Columbia 
University. Living in New York, he told me, was a welcome change from the 
Istanbul of the 1970s and 1980s, where "everything was very political. You 
had to immerse yourself in one of these local problems - fundamentalism, 
nationalism, militarism, communism. I identified with authors like James 
Joyce, moving from the margins of Western culture to its center, enjoying 
its cultural openness and wealth while still in the back of their minds 
worrying about the little world they left behind."

     Pamuk received a small study at the university's Butler Library, where 
he began writing parts of what would become The Black Book, apologizing 
profusely to the young lovers he stumbled upon as he made his way down the 
long hallway to continue writing at night. That was also the period when, 
having discovered Borges and Calvino, Pamuk found a way of looking back at 
the Islamic literary heritage from a postmodern, secular point of view, 
picking up literary tricks and at the same time becoming aware of the 
power of those texts. In doing so, he had broken completely with the 
realism and political themes of other Turkish novelists.

     The Black Book, which remains perhaps Pamuk's most dazzling literary 
achievement to date, was published in Turkey in 1990. It takes place over 
the course of one snowy week in Istanbul, when a young lawyer by the name 
of Galip discovers that his wife Ruya has disappeared and sets out on a 
quest to find her, which takes him through the city's streets and 
underground passages. When he begins to suspect that Ruya's disappearance 
is related to the sudden absence of her half-brother, the famed columnist 
Djelal, Galip begins impersonating the latter and writing his daily 
newspaper columns. His search for the two becomes a search for his own 
identity and for the identity of Istanbul, which remains forever 

     It was the Istanbul of The Black Book that I had wanted Pamuk to show 
me as we got out of a cab near Divan Yolu, once the main thoroughfare of 
the Byzantine and Ottoman city. We headed west into the booksellers' 
bazaar, then continued north through the gardens and arcade courtyard of 
the Suleymaniye Mosque, heading further west across Ataturk Boulevard and 
uphill into the narrow, winding streets of Fatih, one of the most 
religiously conservative neighborhoods in Istanbul, where women carefully 
cover themselves with head scarves or black chadors.

     These streets, with their dilapidated wooden houses, are where Pamuk 
would wander about when he was enrolled at the nearby School of Journalism 
to avoid the military draft. We stopped in at an old tiled shop for drinks 
made of fermented wheat. The silver glass holder from which Ataturk, 
founder of the Turkish republic, is said to have drunk was enshrined on 
the wall in a specially made reliquary.

     Pamuk, by his own definition, was a bookish, somewhat timid boy, who 
left his house only to occasionally go on long walks throughout the city.

     "In the late Sixties and Seventies," Pamuk told me as we scattered 
nuts onto the surface of our frothy, cinnamon- flavored drinks, "I walked 
endlessly in Istanbul. I was moody and angry, and my walks were these 
furious young man's 'one day I'm going to do something big' kind of 

     Like Galip, who is overcome at times by the strange sensation that the 
entire city is pervaded by a system of signs which speak to him alone, and 
which are embedded in the most banal of everyday objects - the titles of 
volumes at the booksellers' bazaar, neon street signs, bric-a-brac offered 
for sale at the street vendors' stalls - Pamuk would carefully comb 
secondhand stores and bookshops, and would return home with a host of 
acquired objects: Russian or old Ottoman coins, marbles, ashtrays, 
lighters, cigarette holders. Then he would carry them with him for a 
while, until they disappeared.

     Large parts of The Black Book are set in Nisantas, the modern 
residential neighborhood in which Pamuk grew up. Today, it has evolved 
into an upscale shopping district, in which fashion designers have 
replaced the old neighborhood merchants. The store once selling fresh eggs 
and dairy products is now a shoe store. The mansion garden that used to 
abut his school courtyard is now a small public park. Pamuk and his wife 
have been separated now for several years. Their daughter, who was born in 
1991, is called Ruya, after Galip's wife in The Black Book.

     The small shop owned by Aladin - a small, bespectacled man whom Pamuk 
has known since they were both children - is one of the few still points 
in this changing neighborhood. Aladin, who has never read any of Pamuk's 
books, is proud of his new status as a pilgrimage site to some of the 
writer's foreign fans.

     "Will you keep promoting me in your next book, sir?" he asked 
hopefully after The Black Book came out. In the center of the display 
window, standing back to back with a new translation of a Danielle Steel 
novel and just above a set of toy pistols, is a black-and-white picture of 
the smiling young Orhan on the cover of the only remaining copy of 

     PAMUK IS a well-known media personality in Turkey, and people ranging 
from a hip passerby on his own street to the owner of a run-down shop 
bordering an abandoned church near the Golden Horn recognize him. 
Notwithstanding his high degree of intellectual sophistication, he is the 
first Turkish writer to become a best-seller in the Western sense.

     Andy Finkel, an American journalist based in Turkey who attended the 
same school as Pamuk, describes him as "nice and at the same time terribly 
controlled and disciplined, good at knowing what he wants to be and 
hanging on to that in a country where people do all they can to put you 

     Those who dislike Pamuk seem to be bothered not only by the fanfare 
that surrounds the publication of his books, but also by the fact that in 
Turkey, respected novelists have always spent some time in prison - a 
not-insignificant point in some left-wing circles.

     According to Maureen Freely, the novelist and journalist who has just 
translated his most recent novel, Snow, into English, Pamuk's large 
following in Turkey is mostly made up of members of the younger 
generation. Nevertheless, she told me, when he appeared in London several 
years ago, "Everybody mentioned in Snow - the PKK, the secret police, the 
ambassadors, they were all there because they're obsessed with him. 
Looking at them, I realized what conflicting emotions he arouses in people 
- fascination, fear, mistrust."

     The Black Book was followed by The New Life, which appeared in 1994 
and continued the theme of searching out mystical shards of illumination 
in the everyday. In it, a young man infatuated with a book he reads 
abandons his life in Istanbul and embarks on a series of ghostly, 
disturbing bus trips between provincial towns.

     "What remains unchanged in all his books beginning with The White 
Castle," Jale Parla, a professor of modern Turkish literature at Istanbul 
Bigli University, told me, "is a mood of terrible isolation. The major 
characters all know something is wrong, but what they think is wrong is 
not really what's wrong. They are going around enveloped in this isolated 
capsule, finding ways out of it like a caterpillar poking through the 
cocoon. But they poke at the wrong points all the time. It's a very ironic 
quest, which is comic at times and tragicomic at others. It's the only 
continuity in the work of an author who is constantly experimenting with 
new forms of representation."

     While The New Life, like The Black Book, received rave reviews when it 
appeared in English, it was only with the publication of My Name is Red, 
which came out in English in 2001, that Pamuk became more widely known to 
American audiences.

     A historical novel set in the Ottoman court, it revolves around the 
murders of two of the Sultan's miniaturists and deals with the battle 
between Eastern and Western models of representation and the opposing 
worldviews they stood for.

     My Name is Red came out in the US in the first week of September 2001. 
In it, Pamuk had written about problems that he has been preoccupied with 
for many years, but in the wake of September 11, they suddenly seemed to 
take on a new relevance.

     "Today," Pamuk told me, leaning against his terrace balcony the day 
after we first met, "I am much more optimistic about the future of Turkey 
than I was several years ago. It is in the process of stabilizing, and I 
hope this stability continues and that other countries learn from Turkey's 
example that Islam and democracy aren't contradictory, and that you can 
develop civil society in an Islamic country. I don't want my part of the 
world fighting with West. I have my foot in both parts, and I want them to 
be at peace with one another because I want to survive."

     (BOX) The accidental dissident

     Snow, which has just appeared in England, is due out in the US this 
August. It is Pamuk's sixth novel, and the first one to make contemporary 
Turkish politics its direct subject. The year is 1992 when Ka, a Turkish 
poet and political exile, travels to the eastern city of Kars, on the 
Armenian border, to report on forthcoming municipal elections and a series 
of mysterious female suicides for an Istanbul newspaper. When a blizzard 
temporarily cuts off communication with the rest of the world, Ka finds 
himself caught in the midst of religious and political conspiracies that 
culminate in a military coup staged by a theatrical troupe.

     The snowed-in city becomes, in this political thriller, a microcosm of 
the entire country.

     Pamuk had previously refrained from writing on overtly political 
subjects because of what he perceives to be the destructive effect that 
political over-involvement has had on the previous generation of Turkish 
writers. After winning international recognition, however, he began 
signing petitions regarding the war against the Kurdish guerrillas and the 
Turkish state's violations of human rights and freedom of expression. He 
went on to write articles on these subjects for the foreign press, which 
were angrily discussed in Turkish newspapers, and within a decade became a 
political figure in spite of himself.

     "I finally decided to go ahead and write one political novel so I 
could get it off my chest," he told me. Like Ka, the protagonist of his 
novel, Pamuk arrived in Kars carrying a press card from a major Turkish 
newspaper, and used the pretext of researching an article to travel back 
and forth to Kars over a period of four years.

     "It snows so much there," he said, "and I love snow. But I also felt 
this depressing loneliness there, this kind of misery born from the 
horrifying absence of a future. There was a real epidemic of girls 
committing suicide at the time, but that happened in Batman, another 
Kurdish town 200 kilometers south of Kars that is a bastion of Turkish 
fundamentalism. It made the national and international news, and it's 
still a mystery to me why they committed suicide."

     MAUREEN FREELY, an American journalist and novelist who grew up in 
Istanbul and has known Pamuk since childhood, took it upon herself to 
translate Snow into English.

     "It's a kind of endgame, a three-day version of Turkish politics," she 
told me, speaking on the phone from her home in Bath, England.

     "It's all there - the succession of military coups and people pulled 
into prison and spewed out many years of torture later. And apart from a 
few people who keep the records, it's just denied and denied and denied."

     Freely was translating Snow when Chechen rebels took over the musical 
comedy theater in Moscow.

     "What I saw on tape was disturbingly close to what Pamuk had written 
about in his novel, with people marching on stage and nobody knowing what 
to make of them," she said.

     Although his novel pushes Turkish politics to a level of absurdity, 
Pamuk, according to Freely, wrote accurately about "a society held 
together by violence, in which the people in power have the ability to 
make people who have been violently treated collude with the violence and 
refrain from talking about it. In Pamuk's novel, that silence takes the 
form of the falling snow that is present throughout the book. By the time 
the book comes to an end, the city decides the coup has never taken 

     It is no accident, according to Freely, that Pamuk set the novel in a 
formerly Armenian city, whose history can still only be written about in 
Turkey by way of insinuation.

     The day before I called her, Freely told me she had been speaking to a 
Turkish friend who said that Snow made her feel depressed and sad about 
her country.

     "Strangely," Freely said, "sitting and translating the book in Bath, 
England, I just wanted to travel to Kars. Despite my political concerns 
about Turkey, it appealed to me because of the human warmth that Pamuk 
evokes. There's this tiny detail at the end of the novel when it turns out 
that the Kurdish maid at the local hotel is still giving soup to the 
detective. They are simultaneously turning each other in and feeding each 
other - like a big, warm, treacherous family."

     Pamuk's international reputation has come to protect him against a 
government crackdown, but even so his publishers were somewhat worried 
when Snow was due to come out in Turkey. Pamuk is against militarism and 
fundamentalism of any kind. While Kemalists felt he was being too 
pro-Islam, Islamic groups were equally displeased with Pamuk's book.

     "It took my breath away to see how many types of people he chose to 
insult at once," Freely told me.

     "Yet although he examines how extremist groups on both poles of the 
political spectrum operate within a given power structure, he is most 
damning about his own generation of left-wing artists and radicals, who 
have come to very absurd nothings."

     "When I read it," Prof. Jale Parla of Istanbul Bigli University told 
me, "I thought 'this is it, he's in trouble.' The book was simply ignored 
by literary critics and intellectuals - perhaps because it is directed 
very straightforwardly against the military regime and its interference 
with democracy. Other novelists would still be interrogated for making 
half the comments that Pamuk made."

GRAPHIC: 5 photos: The iconoclast. 'Problems of identity used to be only 
Turkey 's problem; now they're the world's. 'Life in Istanbul. Personal 
history often parallels national history in Pamuk's work. Street scene. At 
a certain point, Pamuk broke with the realism and political themes of 
other Turkish novelists. Pamuk's view. He defines himself as 'a Western 
writer working in a semi-non -Western cultural climate.' A traditional 
neighborhood in Istanbul. 'I am much more optimistic about the future of 
Turkey than I was several years ago.' (Credit: Sinan Akyuz)

LOAD-DATE: June 9, 2004
The Times (London)

May 29, 2004, Saturday

What lies beneath

Bel Mooney

     SNOW. BY ORHAN PAMUK. Faber. £16.99; 436pp. ISBN 0 571 21830 X. Pounds 
13.59 (p&p £2.25). 0870 1608080

     Turkey's most acclaimed novelist begins Snow (translated by Maureen 
Freely) with four epigraphs, which are as four signposts at a crossroads, 
turned by a mischievous urchin, leaving the traveller unsure of the right 

     Their authors -Browning, Stendhal, Dostoevsky and Conrad -flag Orhan 
Pamuk's immersion in Western culture. And their meanings are 
kaleidoscopic, teasing us with simultaneous propositions invoking 
religion, politics, and anti democratic intellectual rigour, as well as 
the conflicts and contradictions that are inevitable when we look at other 
cultures with Western eyes.

     All these themes are played out -and with -in that ironic tragicomic 
style which puts Pamuk firmly at the centre of the postmodern European 
narrative which looks back to Sartre as well as Borges. Yet although his 
dispassionate intelligence cannot resist toying with reader and characters 
alike, this novel achieves a genuinely tragic dimension.

     In 1992 a poet known as Ka returns from political exile in Germany to 
visit his hometown on the Armenian border, ostensibly to report on the 
forthcoming municipal elections, and also the spate of female suicides 
among Muslim women who have over-enthusiastically embraced Islamicist 
fervour and chosen to cover their heads in defiance of the secular state. 
He is trapped in the rundown city by a blizzard, the snow of the title 
becoming a metaphor for spiritual loneliness as well as the blurring of 
the outlines of certainty, in life and in art.

     Later we learn that Ka will be murdered four years on, and that the 
narrator who embarks on a quest to establish the truth of what happened is 
none other than Pamuk.

     The writer has produced a novel of profound relevance to the present 
moment. The core debate between the forces of secularism and those of 
religious fanaticism within modern Turkey is conducted with subtle, 
painful insight into the human weakness that can underlie both impulses.

    LOAD-DATE: May 31, 2004
Irish Independent

May 29, 2004


    SnowBy Orhan Pamuk Translated by Maureen FreelyFaber & Faber, Euro 
Gerry Dukes

Orhan Pamuk came to international prominence when his novel My Name is Red 
won the IMPAC Award in 2003. The new novel Snow has proved to be 
controversial in his native Turkey (he currently lives in Istanbul) where 
it has sold over100,000 copies.

    A poet and political exile who prefers to be known as Ka, returns from 
Frankfurt toIstanbul after 12 years to attend his mother's funeral. He 
decides to extend his stay inTurkey by revisiting the city of Kars near 
the mountainous border with Armenia, a city he had not been to for 20 
years. He procures a valid press card and sets off on a three-dayjourney 
by bus. He arrives in Kars just ahead of road closures caused by 
blizzards. His ostensible reason for being there is to report on the 
"suicide epidemic" that has struckheadscarf-wearing young Muslim girls in 
the city and on the upcoming municipal electionsthat seem set to be won by 

    Just after his arrival, as access to the city is blocked, a coup is 
carried out by a loose combine of soldiers, secret police and a theatre 
company. The object of the coup is,apparently, to block the political 
progress of the Muslimist factions - of which there arequite a few.

    In the midst of this turmoil, mayhem and generalised murderousness, Ka, 
a withdrawnpoet with a small reputation, finds love and confusion as well 
as 19 poems that 'come' to him like the ineluctable descent of snowflakes.

    Pamuk frames his narrative by inserting himself into the novel as he 
researches Ka's timein Kars, reconstructing the events by reference to the 
poet 's notebooks compiled after he had gone back to Germany where he 
struggled to order his 'inspired' poems into asemblance of coherence and 
meaningfulness. The green notebook in which he inscribed the poems 
disappeared after the poet's violent death in the streets of Frankfurt 
four years after his return. Thus, at a stroke, Pamuk absolves himself 
from providing textualevidence for the quality of Ka's experience which is 
merely claimed as disruptive and devastating.

    The novel has some virtues, particularly in its presentation of the 
ethnic and political fragmentation of contemporary Turkey.

    The casual disclosure of institutionalised snooping and spying by 
agencies running divergent agendas, the tacit acceptance of police 
brutality and mindlessness, contrive to underpin the stereotype of Turkey 
as a former 'frontline' state (to use a misleadingAmericanism) in dire 
need of reformation.

    Whatever about the virtues, the vices of the novel compromise its 
readability. At too many points too many characters deliver hectoring 
stump speeches that grate and impede and contribute little to the readers' 
understanding. At many points the novelist's histrionicsseem to slide into 
hysteria and his central character, the poet Ka, seems merely amouthpiece 
for ideological concerns that are, finally, extrinsic to the book.

    Gerry Dukes is MIC Research Fellow,

LOAD-DATE: May 29, 2004
The Guardian (London) - Final Edition

May 29, 2004

Saturday Review: Fiction: Frozen assets: James Buchan enjoys a poet's 
vision of Anatolia, but misses the poetry: Snow by Orhan Pamuk, translated 
by Maureen Freely 436pp, Faber, £16.99

James Buchan

     Orhan Pamuk's new novel is set in the early 1990s in Kars, a remote 
and dilapidated city in eastern Anatolia famed less for its mournful 
relics of Armenian civilisation and Russian imperial rule than for its 
spectacularly awful weather. Snow, " kar " in Turkish, falls incessantly 
on the treeless plains and the castle, river and boulevards of Kars, which 
the local scholars say takes its name from " karsu " (snow-water).

     In this novel, the city is cut off from the world and also, to an 
extent, from normal literary reality by three days of unremitting snow. 
Written, the reader is told, between 1999 and 2001, Snow deals with some 
of the large themes of Turkey and the Middle East: the conflict between a 
secular state and Islamic government, poverty, unemployment, the veil, the 
role of a modernising army, suicide and yet more suicide. Pamuk's master 
here is Dostoevsky, but amid the desperate students, cafes, small 
shopkeepers, gunshots and inky comedy are the trickeries familiar from 
modern continental fiction. The result is large and expansive, but, even 
at 436 pages, neither grand nor heavy.

     Pamuk's hero is a dried-up poet named Kerim Alakusoglu, conveniently 
abbreviated to Ka: Ka in kar in Kars. After many years in political exile 
in Frankfurt, Ka returns to Istanbul to attend his mother's funeral. He is 
then commissioned by an Istanbul newspaper to write an article about the 
municipal elections in Kars and investigate a succession of suicides by 
women and girls in the city. In his role as journalist, Ka trudges through 
the snow interviewing the families of the girls. He learns that they are 
committing suicide because of pressure by the college authorities to take 
off their headscarves in class. (Compulsory unveiling succeeds just as 
well as compulsory veiling, which is not very well.)

     It soon emerges that Ka is not greatly interested in headscarves but 
has come to fall in love with his old Istanbul schoolmate, Ipek, who has 
ended up in Kars and is separated from her husband. Meanwhile, his lyric 
gift returns to him with a force bordering on incontinence, and he is 
forever plunging into tea houses to get his latest poem down in a green 
notebook. Another narrator, called Orhan Pamuk, tells the story not from 
the notebook, which is lost or stolen, but from notes in Ka's handwriting 
that he finds four years later in the poet's flat in Frankfurt.

     The book is full of winning characters, from Ka himself to Blue, a 
handsome Islamist terrorist with the gift of the gab, an actor-manager and 
his wife who tour small Anatolian towns staging revolutionary plays and 
coups de main , and Serdar Bey, the local newspaper editor, who has a 
habit of writing up events and running them off his ancient presses before 
they occur. There are many fine scenes, including one where a hidden tape 
records the last conversation between a college professor in a bakery and 
his Islamist assassin.

     Yet there are literary judgments that some readers will question. The 
first is to omit Ka's poems. The green book has been lost or stolen and 
what remain are Ka's notes on how he came to write his 19 poems in Kars 
and how they might be arranged on the crystalline model of a snowflake. 
That is quite as dull as it sounds: really, in a book so expansive and 
light, the only dull passages. Incidentally, what verse there is in the 
book, copied from the wall of the tea-shop, is worth reading. One senses 
that Ka is a poet visiting Kars because the poet Pushkin visited Kars (on 
June 12 and 13 1829).

     Pamuk also decides to stage his two narrative climaxes as theatre. The 
first of these, in which soldiers fire live rounds into the audience from 
the stage of the National Theatre in Kars during a live television 
broadcast, is a fine job of writing and translating, but the effect is the 
same as with the descriptions of Ka's poems. The second literary layer 
makes the matters at issue both fainter and less persuasive. Pamuk likes 
to undermine and destabilise each character by introducing a degenerate 
counterpart: not merely Ka/Pamuk, but Ipek and her almost-as-beautiful 
sister Kadife, the two Islamist students Necib and Fazil, and so on.

     This playfulness or irony may be a response to a literary dilemma. To 
use a European literary form such as the novel in Turkey is, in an 
important sense, to ally oneself with European notions of individualism, 
liberty and democracy that even when they are upheld (rather than 
breached) are meaningless to traditional Muslims. Liberty in Islam is the 
liberty to be a Muslim, democracy likewise, individualism likewise.

     Pamuk knows that as well as anybody and dramatises it in a raucous 
scene in which a group of leftists, Kurds and Islamists gather in a hotel 
room to write a letter to the Frankfurter Rundschau. He also anticipates 
his critics by having Serdar Bey accuse Ka in the Border Gazette of being 
so "ashamed of being a Turk that you hide your true name behind the fake, 
foreign, counterfeit name of Ka". In fact, the best sentences in the book 
are those entirely without any playfulness, or indeed any artistry, such 
as this one, where Ka remembers the almost permanent state of military 
coup d'etat of his Istanbul childhood: "As a child he'd loved those 
martial days like holidays."

     A more serious challenge to novelists in Turkey, Iran and the Arab 
world is that the events of September 11, the Moscow theatre attack and 
Abu Ghraib are both more romantic and more desperate than even Dostoevsky 
could have dreamed up and written down.

     James Buchan is the author of A Good Place to Die , a novel set in 
modern Iran. To order Snow for £14.99 plus p&p call Guardian book service 
on 0870 836 0875. Orhan Pamuk appears at the Guardian Hay Festival on 
Monday May 31. See www.hayfestival.com for details.

    LOAD-DATE: May 29, 2004

May 30, 2004, Sunday
A taste of Turkish despair

Snow by Orhan Pamuk tr by Maureen Freely

    Faber, pounds 16.99, 436 pp pounds 14.99 ( pounds 2.25 p&p) 0870 155 

    AT THE START of Snow, Orhan Pamuk quotes Stendhal: "Politics in a 
literary work are like a pistol-shot in a concert - crude but impossible 
to ignore." It is a maxim which his book neatly illustrates. Politics are 
everywhere in Snow and, most of the time, they are crude and 
two-dimensional. But the novel has proved impossible to ignore in Turkey, 
where it has infuriated Islamists and Westernised Turks alike. Pamuk has 
hitherto been an acquired taste in the West; but this sprawling, 
emotionally charged story, with its flashes of black comedy, could well 
secure him the readership he deserves.

    The year is 1992 and the setting is Kars, a snow-bound town on the 
Armenian border. Ka, the main character, is a poet and one-time political 
agitator. He has come to Kars for two reasons: to track down a former 
lover and to write an investigative newspaper article about a spate of 
suicides among young women in the town. The suicides seem unrelated, but 
Ka glimpses an emerging pattern. The women involved are Muslims and all, 
in one way or another, are victims of the increasingly fierce climate in 
which traditional Muslim values are being challenged and defended.

    The wearing of headscarves proves the catalyst. Ka, who has spent 10 
years living in Germany, knows where he stands on the issue, confessing 
that he "could never feel sexually attracted to a woman in a headscarf". 
Others are less flippant. The head of a college who has tried to ban 
pupils from wearing head scarves gets a bullet in the head. Then a stage 
revival of an old pre-war Turkish classic, My Fatherland or My Scarf, 
degenerates into open mutiny, with soldiers firing on crowds and 
revolution sweeping the town.

    To a Western reader, the logic of events will be as foreign as the 
cock-fights which seem to be the main after-dark entertainment in Kars. 
But in the excellent, sardonic Pamuk, they have a first-rate guide to the 
social tensions of provincial Turkey. The tempo of the narrative is quite 
slow: think of a leisurely stroll through a bazaar rather than a mad rush 
through Tesco's. But it retains its hold over the reader; and in the 
endless snow-storms swirling around the town, Pamuk has found an 
attractive metaphor for the muddle and obscurity in which political debate 
is so often wreathed.

LOAD-DATE: May 30, 2004
The Observer

May 30, 2004

Review: BOOKS: FICTION: More than a winter's tale: In this complex,
affecting novel about a poet returning from exile to Turkey, Orhan Pamuk
illuminates the many voices in his native land



     By Orhan Pamuk

     Faber £16.99, pp436

     'EVERY LIFE is like a snowflake,' whose forms appear identical from 
afar, but are determined by any number of mysterious forces, making each 
one singular. This metaphor lies at the centre of Orhan Pamuk's profound 
new novel, Snow , a Dostoyevskian political thriller: 'How much can we 
ever know about love and pain in another's heart? How much can we hope to 
understand those who have suffered deeper anguish, greater deprivation and 
more crushing disappointments than we ourselves have known?'

     These questions haunt the poet Ka, who has returned to Istanbul in 
1992 for his mother's funeral, after living as an exile in Frankfurt for 
more than a decade. But the story begins as he travels to a Turkish border 
town called Kars on a journalistic assignment from the secularist 
newspaper the Republican , to cover the municipal elections and an 
apparent suicide epidemic among the Muslim women there. Ka is disheartened 
by the changes he has seen in Istanbul, and hopes to recapture his 
childhood farther afield, but with an ulterior motive: he has heard that a 
former classmate, the beautiful Ipek, has separated from her husband, and 
he wants to win her heart. This novel is as much about love as it is about 

     In Kars, a blizzard shuts down the roads; the city can only hint of 
the old days in 'sad postcard memories'- empty squares, decrepit Russian 
and Armenian buildings; it seems like 'the end of the world'. He stays at 
the Snow Palace Hotel where Ipek lives with her father and sister, and 
manages to weave his way into their lives with its compulsive TV-viewing, 
religious disagreements and political entanglements. As he investigates 
the suicides of the 'headscarf girls ' he has fascinating encounters with 
the women's families, the editor of the newspaper, the police and various 
politicos. The people are divided by loyalties to the Turkish state and 
the rising Islamist parties, by religion and atheism. Ka, like Pamuk 
himself, is from a middle-class family in Istanbul; and as an educated, 
westernised Turk, everyone considers him a non-believer; yet he sees God 
in both the snow and his own poems, which come to him on a cloud of divine 

     During a performance in the National Theatre, when Ka recites his 
first new poem in years, there is a military coup in which many pupils 
from the Islamic religious high school are killed. Some believe it is a 
stand against Kurdish nationalism and an attempt to keep the 'religious 
fanatics' from winning the elections. But two actors have a hand in the 
coup, and what begins as a staged event kicks off a terrible chain of 
events: the arrest and persecution of religious leaders and Islamist 
candidates, the murder of Kurds, the torture and intimidation of 
schoolboys. The citizens watch the action on their television screens, 
while Ka looks for happiness with Ipek, though it is always just beyond 

     Pamuk's protagonist is a man of melancholy and secrets in a sea of 
other characters who are tossed about by uncertainties. An Islamist 
student warns Ka: 'I'd like you to tell your readers not to believe 
anything you say about me, anything you say about any of us. No one could 
understand us from so far away.' So the players in the story, including 
Ka, are cast in a shadow of indeterminacy - which makes the novel even 
more compelling. Still, Pamuk manages to give voice to everyone involved: 
reactionaries, terrorists, liberals, fundamentalists.

     A militant Islamist tells Ka that their people have been entranced by 
the West because 'we've forgotten our own stories'. Pamuk suggests that 
his country can only rediscover itself through storytelling. So he makes 
the call even as he answers it, with a political allegory that provides an 
historical vision of his society. The account takes the form of a 
meticulously constructed snowflake in which nothing is out of place, and 
where revelation and concealment occur in impeccable order.

     To order Snow for £14.99, plus p&p, call the Observer Books Service on 
0870 836 0885

    LOAD-DATE: May 31, 2004
Kirkus Reviews

June 1, 2004


    Internationally acclaimed Turkish writer Pamuk (My Name is Red, 2001, 
etc) vividly embodies and painstakingly explores the collision of Western 
values with Islamic fundamentalism.

    An omniscient narrator, identified only on the penultimate page, tells 
the story of Kerim Alakusoglu, a 40-ish poet known as Ka who returns to 
Turkey from political exile in Germany. Ka travels to the remote 
provincial town of Kars in "the poorest, most overlooked corner of Turkey" 
near the Armenian border, where a seemingly endless snowfall persists, a 
rash of recent suicides by young women stirs political and ethnic 
debate--and Kee is reunited with his beautiful former schoolmate Ipek, now 
estranged from her husband. Pamuk distributes conflicting commitments to 
Muslim traditions and secular, Westernized concepts in such compellingly 
realized characters as Ipek's "radical" sister and sometime actress 
Kadife, her "terrorist" lover Blue, Ipek's unctuous husband Mukhtar (a 
mayoral candidate in Kars's upcoming municipal elections), brutal military 
police official Z. Demirkol, and National Theatre luminary Sunay Zaim, who 
appears to be staging his own martyrdom in an adaptation of Thomas Kyd's 
The Spanish Tragedy that will feature Kadife's onstage protest against 
Islam's suppression of women's rights. This richly detailed tale is in 
effect a dialectic made flesh by a thrilling plot ingeniously shaped to 
climax with the aforementioned theatrical production and to coincide with 
the narrator's revelations of Ka's last hours in Kars, which ironically 
consummate the flurry of poetic creativity released in him by his 
experiences there. The novel's meanings inhere memorably in the 
controlling title metaphor, which signifies cleansing, silence, sleep, 
obliteration, "the beauty and mystery of creation," and the organizing 
principles for Ka's late poems, the last of which he entitles "The Place 
Where the World Ends."

    An astonishingly complex, disturbing view of a world we owe it to 
ourselves to better understand.

Publication Date: 08/22/2004
Publisher: Knopf
Stage: Adult
ISBN: 0-375-40697-2
Price: $26.00
Author: Pamuk, Orhan

LOAD-DATE: May 28, 2004
The Guardian (London) - Final Edition

June 1, 2004

G2 at Hay: The A4 challenge: The task was simple: come on to the G2 bus 
and fill a sheet of A4 paper. But how would the stars of Hay fare when 
confronted with a blank page? Here we publish the results : Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk

     From Istanbul

     From a very young age, I knew I was not alone: somewhere in the 
streets of Istanbul, in a house resembling ours, there lived another Orhan 
so much like me that he could pass for my twin, even my double. I cannot 
remember where I got this idea or how it came to me. It must have risen 
out of a web of rumours, misunderstandings, games and fears. But in one of 
my earliest memories, it is already clear how I've come to feel about my 
ghostly other.

     When I was five, I was sent for a short time to live in another house. 
At the end of one of their many stormy separations, my parents arranged to 
meet in Paris and it was decided that my older brother and I should stay 
behind in Istanbul, in separate houses. My brother remained in the heart 
of the family with our grandmother in the Pamuk Apartments, in Ni-anta. 
But they sent me to stay with my aunt in Cihangir. Hanging on the wall in 
this house, where I was treated with great kindness, there was a picture 
of a small child. Every once in a while, my aunt or uncle would point at 
the child inside the small white frame and smile, saying, "Look! That's 

     The sweet, doe-eyed child in the picture did look a bit like me, it's 
true. He was even wearing the cap I wore sometimes when I went outside. 
But I still knew I was not the boy in the picture. (In fact, it was a 
kitsch reproduction of a "cute child" that someone had brought back from 
Europe.) Still, I could not help wondering - was this the Orhan who lived 
in that other house?

     Except that now I, too, was living in another house. It was almost as 
if I'd had to move here before I could meet my twin, but I was not at all 
happy to make his acquaintance. I wanted to go back to my real home in the 
Pamuk Apartments. Whenever they told me that I was the boy in the picture 
on the wall, I'd feel my mind unravelling; my ideas about myself, my 
picture, the picture that looked like me, the boy who looked like me, and 
the other house would get all mixed up and all I wanted was to be at home 
again, surrounded by my family. My wish came true and soon I returned to 
the Pamuk Apartments. But the ghost of that other Orhan in that other 
house somewhere in Istanbul never left me.

     Orhan Pamuk is the author of Snow and My Name is Red.

    LOAD-DATE: June 1, 2004
Courier Mail (Queensland, Australia)

June 26, 2004 Saturday

Rejoice in a read for all seasons

Yaron Lifschitz

     ART, that most fragile of human endeavours, is under threat. Besieged 
by the asinine puerilities of reality television, undermined by the inane 
generalisations of politicians and prostituted in pursuit of celebrity, 
decent art is having a hard time.

     But every time I doubt the power of human expression to meaningfully 
grapple with just how complicated it is to be alive today; along comes a 
work of such truth and beauty that after encountering it, I sit stunned 
and thankful.

    Orhan Pamuk's novel, Snow, is one of these works. It isn't perfect and 
it isn 't especially easy. But it is magnificent.

    It is an old-style novel with more than a glance to Turgenev, 
Dostoevsky and Conrad. Its themes are impossibly large -- the dance of 
faith and doubt, the power of the human heart, the complex relationships 
between individual lives and history.

    The novel's central character, Ka, is a poet who returns from exile to 
an isolated border town in 1992. The town has suffered a spate of young 
women committing suicide and also is the home of an astonishingly 
beautiful former classmate of Ka's.

    It's snowing and soon the entire town is sealed off from the outside 
world. At a performance in the theatre, the stage is overtaken by 
revolutionaries who fire into the audience. This heralds the start of a 
short-lived coup.

    Over the next three days Ka will fall hopelessly in love, play intimate 
roles in people's lives and deaths and write poems which after many fallow 
years suddenly come to him.

    He will also talk. He will listen to all sides of politics and 
religion. He will hear opinions. He will watch as a meeting of 
counter-revolutionary leaders he has assembled degenerates into a farce of 
informers, conversation and opinions.

    He will hear a precis of an Islamic science-fiction novel and be 
touched by the confessions of a young student.

    The plot of Snow is, like many old-world novels, basically simple. But 
the issues, the reflections, the contradictions and insights extend far 
beyond the story of a poet in a snowbound and slightly crazy town.

    The story is set in Turkey. Many of the debates are about the rise of 
"political Islam" and its conflicts with Western "atheism" -- debates that 
are now of utmost importance.

    Apparently the novel inflamed both religious and non-religious Turks on 
its publication, and it is easy to see why. There is a merciless honesty 
in the way Pamuk portrays his characters. They are all highly articulate, 
they all get their say.

    Somehow the characters are simultaneously stereotypes (the inflamed 
student sublimating sexual passion into religious heat) and real people.

    Ka, listening to an argument, is silenced "because he agreed with 
everything both men said".

    There are no simple solutions. Is it poverty, ignorance, history or God 
that inspires belief? Is it pride or fear or depression that causes the 

    In the swirl of talk, patterns emerge and refract. Every political 
question has a correlative of the heart and every emotional state is 
mirrored in the weather, the course of events and back in the talk.

    Characters become possessed by the souls of those they have lost 
(including the narrator), situations become metaphors for themselves and 
even the narrator injects himself into the story as a character.

     Somehow a small border town and a simple love story become totemic for 
the current political situation in Iraq and beyond, for the power of art, 
for the hope of, or in, humanity.

    Pamuk infuses his story with a startling literary playfulness. Ka finds 
himself in a town called Kars. Kar is a Turkish word for "snow". The 
narrator is Pamuk, an old friend of Ka's, who almost gets dragged into 
doubling Ka's life.

    There are at least two of everything and difference and sameness are 
locked into the dance of what Benjamin calls the primal erotic 
relationship between distance and closeness.

    Friends, brothers, rivals, ideological opponents and lovers are as 
individually intricate as snowflakes and as impossibly dense as a 
blizzard. This is Pamuk's brilliance -- his ability to break the novel as 
the child of 19th-century colonisers and remake it into an absolutely 
articulate medium for these troubled times.

    There are weaknesses. Ka is perhaps too passive, the character of Ipek 
(Ka's love interest) could be better drawn and the absence of the poems 
that Ka writes during the book leave the story a little unfinished.

    It is also a longish book. But there is a marvellous touch throughout. 
Humour and tragedy go hand in hand. The museum commemorating the Armenian 
genocide in Kars, for instance, confuses tourists because it commemorates 
the Turkish victims and the Armenian perpetrators.

     On the border of civilisations, snowed in, the grotesque and the 
ironic become, like everything else, hopelessly entangled.

    Snow is nothing short of a necessary novel for our times -- scary, 
prescient, and full of humanity.

     Snow, by Orhan Pamuk (Faber, $29.95)

     Yaron Lifschitz is artistic director of Circa
The New Leader

July 1, 2004

The poet and the terrorists; Snow; Book Review

Lorentzen, Christian

     Snow By Orhan Pamuk Translated by Maureen Freely Knopf. 448 pp. $

     THE CITY OF KARS rests on a mile-high plateau at the edge of Turkey's 
mountainous northeastern frontier. A regional capital, it was a crucial 
stop on the silk road for much o fits tumultuous history. During a series 
of wars between the Ottoman and Russian empires in the late 19th century 
it changed hands, and after World War I it became part of a short-lived 
independent Armenian republic overtaken by the Bolsheviks. The arrival of 
Kemal Ataturk's Army then resulted in the bloody expulsion of most of its 
population, prompting the Bolsheviks to return it to Turkey as a goodwill 
gesture. For a time the number of the city's residents had dwindled to 
less than 10,000.

     Today's poor, provincial Kars, rich in architecture left by the 
various imperial powers, is the wintry setting of Orhan Pamuk's deftly 
layered new novel. Written between 1999 and the end of 2001, it tells the 
story of a showdown between Islamist and secular extremists vying for the 
city's soul.

     Kars is seen through the eyes of an outsider, Kerim Alakusoglu, known 
as Ka, a 37-year-old poet and former radical Leftist born in Istanbul who 
recently returned from more than a decade in Germany. His encounter with 
the city exposes his own crisis of isolation, artistic inactivity and 
spiritual lethargy. An Istanbul newspaper has sent him to investigate a 
string of suicides by young women that has coincided with the banning of 
headscarves at the local Institute of Education, but it is the presence of 
Ipek Yildiz, an unrequited love from his student days, that has really 
drawn him here. Snow is part political thriller, part love story, and its 
twin plots converge with an intricate, tragic symmetry.

     Pamuk, the author of six previous novels (four of them translated into 
English), graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, lives in Istanbul and 
is by far Turkey's most renowned novelist. He has even attracted the 
notice of President George W. Bush, a statesman little known for his 
literary insights. Speaking before a NATO gathering in Istanbul this June, 
Bush hailed Pamuk for building a "bridge between cultures" and went on to 
quote the author: "What is important is not a clash of parties, 
civilizations, cultures, East and West ... [but to realize] that other 
peoples in other continents and civilizations [are] just like you."

     Although culture clash may not be "what is important," Pamuk's work is 
in fact pervaded by a doomed sense that it may be inevitable--a symptom of 
the human condition that makes each side "just like" the other. He has 
repeatedly explored the implications of Turkey's position at the East-West 
nexus, often setting his works in the Ottoman past, as in The White Castle 
(1990) and My Name is Red (2001). In the process, he has gained a 
reputation as a practitioner of magic realism. The only magic at play in 
his new and thoroughly contemporary book is Ka's poetry, recharged by his 
reunion with Ipek and a blizzard that has sealed Kars off from the rest of 
the country. The falling snow is a symbol whose value is in flux 
throughout the novel. At first it grants a sense of silence and purity, 
nudging the atheist toward an unfamiliar faith in God; later it comes to 
seem "tiring, irritating, terrorizing."

     The book's structure is a protracted reworking of Shakespearean drama, 
along precisely plotted slopes of civic upheaval, romance, betrayal, and 
revenge. The narrator, a friend of Ka's whose name happens to be the same 
as the author's, has painstakingly recreated a handful of days down to 
each conversation. Two theatrical performances that erupt in violence 
punctuate Ka's visit, and threaten to exacerbate the suffering in Kars.

     TELLING the story at a remove of four years, in the wake of his hero's 
assassination in Germany, Pamuk explains that he has reconstructed the 
events around the drafting of Ka's last, lost collection. The poems, in 
the manner of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Kubla Khan," are visions that 
seem to descend on Ka from an external source and must be transcribed 
immediately or lost.

     Tension mounts as Ka walks about Kars, interviewing people about the 
suicides, wooing Ipek, and stealing away into teahouses to jot down verses 
in his green notebook. The secularists he meets blame the burgeoning 
fundamentalist Prosperity Party--favored in the upcoming municipal 
elections--for turning innocent teenagers, including the suicide girls, 
against the policies of the state and their moderate parents. "This is the 
work" a journalist tells Ka, "of the international Islamist movement that 
wants to turn Turkey into another Iran. " On the other side, he meets a 
series of embittered, desperate men and a legion of hopeful, idealistic 
youth in their thrall. These Islamists have put up posters that read, 
of them are not above murder.

     Early on, Ka and Ipek witness the shooting of the director of the 
Institute of Education. Pamuk provides a transcript of the victim's 
conversation with his killer, one of several powerful, lengthy dialogues 
that lend the novel its philosophical heft. The validity of the assassin's 
outrage is clear. Yet just as subtly and deliberately rendered is the 
psychosis, born of poverty and nourished by religious fanaticism, that has 
driven him so far over the edge--or left him so vulnerable to 
manipulation--that he could take a stranger's life.

     The police set out to find the killer, hauling in Ka and another of 
his old friends, Muhtar, the Prosperity Party's candidate for mayor, who 
also happens to be Ipek's ex-husband. Ka and Muhtar had been romantic and 
literary rivals at the university in Istanbul, as well as cohorts in 
Leftist activism. Ka gained fame as a sort of Turkish T.S. Eliot, Muhtar 
got the girl. Muhtar seems a defeated man, divorced and unpublished (his 
pious poems, in "pure Turkish," are to Ka's ears laughably flat; one 
senses here that Pamuk may be satirizing some of his own rivals). Muhtar 
explains that his conversion was an escape from drunken despair. Watching 
the police torture him, Ka senses that his old nemesis is too ineffectual 
and insufficiently cruel to have orchestrated the crime.

     The real mastermind might be Sheikh Efendi, who holds court among the 
city's unemployed men and its youths, or Blue, a terrorist hiding in Kars 
who has taken as his mistress Ipek's sister, Kadife. A boy from the 
religious high school, Necip, is infatuated with her as well and enlists 
Ka to deliver a batch of love letters to her. Unlike many of the devout, 
who view Ka as an "oatmeal-hearted pseudo-European liberal," Necip 
approaches Ka with respect and curiosity. He asks Ka about atheism and 
writing, and confesses an aspiration to move to Istanbul and become the 
world's first Islamist science fiction writer. The innocence and naivete 
of the teenager lead Ka to confide to him that "The snow reminds me of 

     The passage Ka reads from a draft of Necip's novel recycles the trope 
of the double prominent in many of Pamuk's works. It seems in part a 
self-parody. The boy is eager to embrace a Western phenomenon--science 
fiction--but determined to do so on his own terms. A critique frequently 
leveled at magic realists, especially those from outside the West, holds 
that they have appropriated the form of the novel without appreciation for 
its roots in the realism of Flaubert and James. They have instead produced 
epics based on native folklore or pop culture. Necip's ambitions point in 
that direction; Pamuk has reached further, by painting his characters 
lavishly and plucking from Shakespeare and the English poets, instead of 
relying on fantastic devices.

     Like magic realism and science fiction, in Pamuk's scheme Islamism is 
a form of escapism from the frustrations of economic hardship and 
isolation, but a destructive one. Blue, the most charismatic and sinister 
Islamist, hints that his anti-Western views stem from a few alienating 
years spent as an immigrant worker in Germany. He toys with that grand 
escapist idea, martyrdom.

     A few men in Kars would like nothing better than to serve Blue his 
martyrdom. Their unlikely leader is the vaudevillian Sunay Zaim, a rabid 
nationalist in league with renegade secret service agents. He is bent on 
stamping out political Islam in Kars, even if only for a few days. His 
acting career in ruins, Sunay is terminally iii and has a death wish of 
his own. During a staging of a little known 1930s Kemalist farce, My 
Fatherland or My Head Scarf, Sunay's henchmen turn their guns on the 
crowd. They co-opt the police, cancel the elections, and impose martial 
law. This coup, capped by another play-within-the-novel, Thomas Kyd's The 
Spanish Tragedy, an ur-Hamlet of sorts, is to be his swan song. And to 
secure his place in history, he intends to bring a few notorious Islamists 
down with him.

     THE POLITICAL maelstrom gives Ka the chance to play the level-headed 
hero in a town full of hotheads. But it is also a distraction from his 
burgeoning love affair with Ipek. Like her younger sister, Ipek possesses 
an arresting beauty that makes Ka sound as much the schoolboy as his new 
friend Necip. A marriage proposal springs from his mouth early in the 
novel, and she greets it, and his declarations of love, with skepticism. 
Ka's pursuit of her is a shedding of the ascetic cocoon of his Frankfurt 
exile. She embodies an idea of Turkey for him--Westernized yet retaining a 
provincial grace--and a last chance to seize happiness in life. She is 
more complex than she looks, however. Beneath her physical radiance lurk 
emotional scars and potent secrets. Their inevitable revelation propels 
the courtship down a calamitous course.

     Ka's notebooks reveal that after the journey to Kars he began the 
study of snow, "and one of his discoveries was this: Once a six-pronged 
snowflake crystallizes, it takes between eight and 10 minutes for it to 
fall through the sky, lose its original shape, and vanish; when with 
further inquiry, he discovered that the form of each snowflake is 
determined also by the temperature, the direction and strength of the 
wind, the altitude of the cloud, and any number of mysterious forces, Ka 
decided that snowflakes have much in common with people... Individual 
existences might look identical from afar, but to understand one's own 
eternally mysterious uniqueness one had only to plot the mysteries of his 
or her own snowflake"

     Ka's conclusions are born of poetic meditation on human problems. For 
all the talk of God and politics in this novel, its real concerns are the 
choices and chances that accumulate in an individual life. Pamuk has 
matured beyond the obsessive doubling of his earlier work; the poet Ka and 
the terrorist Blue stand at two extremes of a spectrum of sensitivity. The 
rest grope for meaning and act out their notions in moments of compassion 
and outbursts of cruelty.

     Pamuk has mined classical tragedy and the modern thriller to construct 
a somewhat outlandish plot, but these time-honed contrivances never crowd 
out his characters. Every voice is sounded out, each story told with 
candor, style and sympathy. Few novels these days are at once so spacious, 
contemplative and laden with intrigue. Pamuk's is a rare and powerful 

IAC-CREATE-DATE: September 13, 2004

LOAD-DATE: September 14, 2004
Library Journal Reviews

July 15, 2004 Thursday


Marc Kloszewski
Pamuk, Orhan . Knopf. Aug. 2004. c.448p. ISBN 0-375-40697-2. $26. F

    Upon returning to his home in secular Turkey, a poet named Ka discovers 
two things that will change his life: Ipek, the girl he loved as a child, 
still lives in the city of Kars, and the community has been stunned by a 
rash of suicides of zealously religious girls who refused to remove their 
head scarves while in public. With an investigator's eye, Ka seeks out 
information about the tragedies from all sources, eventually leading to 
the man at the eye of the storm - "Blue," a charismatic Islamite who will 
not let the message that these girls carried be silenced. While in Kars, 
the normally reticent Ka dares to approach "happiness"; where once he 
suffered terrible writer's block, his poems now flow effortlessly, and his 
new-found love appears to love him back, but the figure of Blue and the 
deep waters in which Ka has immersed himself threaten his promising 
future. Like Pamuk's previous My Name Is Red, this story is thick with 
detail concerning the country's background; it does take some time to 
introduce all the characters. Once everyone is in place, however, the 
novel picks up and ultimately is a worthwhile read for those interested in 
a closer look at the hot topics of religion, its devout followers, and 
what arises from such passions. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/04.] - Marc 
Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA

LOAD-DATE: July 9, 2004
Publishers Weekly Reviews

July 19, 2004 Monday

Orhan Pamuk, trans. from the Turkish by Maureen Freely. Knopf, $26
(448p) ISBN

    A Turkish poet who spent 12 years as a political exile in Germany 
witnesses firsthand the clash between radical Islam and Western ideals in 
this enigmatically beautiful novel. Ka's reasons for visiting the small 
Turkish town of Kars are twofold: curiosity about the rash of suicides by 
young girls in the town and a hope to reconnect with "the beautiful Ipek," 
whom he knew as a youth. But Kars is a tangle of poverty-stricken 
families, Kurdish separatists, political Islamists (including Ipek's 
spirited sister Kadife) and Ka finds himself making compromises with all 
in a desperate play for his own happiness. Ka encounters government 
officials, idealistic students, leftist theater groups and the charismatic 
and perhaps terroristic Blue while trying to convince Ipek to return to 
Germany with him; each conversation pits warring ideologies against each 
other and against Ka's own weary melancholy. Pamuk himself becomes an 
important character, as he describes his attempts to piece together "what 
really happened" in the few days his friend Ka spent in Kars, during which 
snow cuts off the town from the rest of the world and a bloody coup from 
an unexpected source hurtles toward a startling climax. Pamuk's sometimes 
exhaustive conversations and descriptions create a stark picture of a 
too-little-known part of the world, where politics, religion and even 
happiness can seem alternately all-consuming and irrelevant. A detached 
tone and some dogmatic abstractions make for tough reading, but Ka's 
rediscovery of God and poetry in a desolate place makes the novel's 
sadness profound and moving. Agent, Andrew Wylie. (Aug.)

    Forecast: Pamuk's reputation - bigger outside the U.S. than in - 
enjoyed a boost with 2001's My Name Is Red. This timely, thoughtful and 
demanding book may see it grow further.

LOAD-DATE: July 22, 2004
The Guardian (London) - Final Edition

July 24, 2004

Saturday Review: Fiction: Into the darkness: The Impac winner, a grim tale 
of torture and deprivation is still a joy to read. By Maureen Freely: This 
Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun, translated by Linda 
Coverdale 195pp, New Press, £14.99

Maureen Freely

     On July 10 1971, 1,000 Moroccan soldiers were herded into trucks and 
taken to the palace of Skhirat, where King Hassan II was celebrating his 
42nd birthday. Upon arrival, their commanding officers instructed them to 
find and kill him. Almost 100 guests lost their lives in the ensuing 
bloodbath, but the king survived. Those deemed responsible were dispatched 
to Kenitra, a prison known for its harsh conditions. However, most of 
those imprisoned were unwitting and unwilling participants in the coup and 
many had not fired a shot.

     On a sultry August night two years later, 58 of them were again herded 
into trucks and taken to the remote desert hellhole of Tazmamart; here 
they were thrown into underground cells 10ft long and 5ft wide, with 
ceilings so low they were unable to stand, and with just enough food and 
water to keep them lingering on the edge of death for years. Each tomb had 
an air vent and a tiny hole in the floor that served as the lavatory. They 
were crawling with cockroaches and scorpions the men could hear but not 
see. There was no medical attention, no exercise, and no light. The only 
time they were allowed out was to bury one of their friends.

     Thirteen years would pass before the outside world found out that 
Tazmamart existed. It would take another five years of international 
campaigning to shut it down. There were only 28 survivors. By 1991, most 
had lost up to a foot in height. Survivors were warned not to talk to the 
western press, but in Tahar Ben Jelloun the authorities have an enemy more 
formidable than 1,000 foreign journalists. Novelist, essayist, critic and 
poet, winner of the 1987 Prix Goncourt and the 1994 Prix Maghreb, Jelloun 
was born in Fez in 1944 and emigrated to France in 1961. This Blinding 
Absence of Light , for which he and his excellent translator have won this 
year's Impac prize, is based on the testimony of a former inmate of 
Tazmamart, and it defies any expectations you might have built up from the 
story above. It refuses the well-meaning but tired and ultimately 
dehumanising conventions of human rights horror journalism; it is not a 
political tract.

     Although it unmasks the liars, killers and torturers responsible for 
Tazmamart, it refuses to dwell on them. Although it is told in the first 
person, it is not an autobiography. Although it is technically a novel, it 
is a novel stripped, like its subject, of all life's comforts.

     What we're left with is Salim's voice, a voice all the more 
magnificent for being draped in darkness. Some have found echoes of 
Beckett in the lucid, pared-down prose, and certainly there is something 
Beckettian about his limited environment and studied hopelessness. But 
that he has renounced hope for a higher purpose is clear from the opening 
lines: "For a long time I searched for the black stone that cleanses the 
soul of death. When I say a long time, I think of a bottomless pit, a 
tunnel dug with my fingers, my teeth, in the stubborn hope of glimpsing, 
if only for a minute, one infinitely lingering minute, a ray of light, a 
spark that would imprint itself deep within my eye, that would stay 
protected in my entrails like a secret."

     This is the language of Islamic mysticism. Salim is not religious when 
he arrives in Tazmamart, but his situation is the real version of the 
spiritual hell that Islamic mystics describe in metaphor. He escapes from 
his torments by following in their footsteps, imagining his way as far 
into his mind as his slowly decaying body will allow. He knows his reverie 
is over when he can smell the stench.

     The narrative follows a winding and treacherous path: inspired 
solitary departures end in unspeakable degradation. Horrible deaths 
alternate with inspired collective efforts to stay alive. Karim becomes 
the talking clock to give a shape to their endless night. Ustad sings them 
verses from the Qur'an. One man recounts the plots of every film he's ever 
seen, another invents games to play with imaginary cards. But do not 
approach this book if you want your heart to be warmed. The most 
disturbing scene comes when Salim is released to an airy room with a 
comfortable bed. This is not a tribute to the human spirit, but one man's 
attempt to illuminate another man's truth.

     For there are two intelligences at play here - Salim's and the 
author's. The voice of Tazmamart is never imprisoned by its jail. It is 
free to travel anywhere, and it travels light. It makes revelations of 
grave importance, but never gravely. It is, despite its dark materials, a 
joy to read.

     Maureen Freely is the translator of Orhan Pamuk's Snow (Faber). To 
order This Blinding Absence of Light for £12.99 plus p&p call Guardian 
book service on 0870 836 0875.

    LOAD-DATE: July 28, 2004
Vanity Fair

August 2004

under cover;
A powerful novel delves deep into the head-scarf furor.

megan o'grady

    The debate over Muslim women's right to wear head scarves has lately 
been making headlines in Europe, but it has raged for decades in Turkey, 
where scarves are banned from schools-despite the fact that the majority 
of women opt to wear them. Now the subject of a novel by Istanbul-based 
author Orhan Pamuk -whose 2002 thriller, My Name Is Red, won him an 
enthusiastic American audience-it's a hot wire to divisions within Turkish 
society. Snow (Knopf) is set in Turkey's wintry hinterland, in the 
aftermath of tragedy: a wave of suicides among teenage girls banished from 
the classroom for refusing to bare their heads. The deaths shatter the 
town's uneasy equilibrium: The education director is gunned down in a 
cafe; a military crackdown on Islamists ensues, and a journalist who 
witnessed the murder finds himself embroiled in the investigation. 
Astonishingly timely as the book is, it was a real-life suicide epidemic 
in southern Turkey in the early nineties that likely inspired Pamuk. A 
deft melding of political intrigue and philosophy, romance and noir, his 
tortuously plotted novel is forever confounding our expectations. Snow has 
angered religious and secular alike in Pamuk's own country, and will no 
doubt prove provocative this side of the Bosporus as well.

GRAPHIC: pop politics From George W. Bush's folksy musings on the war 
against terror to the surging popularity of American Idol, no pop-culture 
stone is left unturned in Sore Winners (Doubleday), John Powers's bitingly 
sharp analysis of the characters that define politics in post-9/11 
America. Powers infuses his examination of everything from the religious 
zeal of John Ashcroft to Martha Stewart's fall from grace with a clever, 
unabashedly liberal voice. He assuredly navigates the reader through both 
the major (Saddam's capture) and minor (Joe Millionaire) events that 
shaped our media-soaked culture over recent years, a time in which, Powers 
charges, Bush cast aside Clinton-era optimism and "offered a stark vision 
of life that possesses enormous visceral power."-sarah haight ; HEAD START 
A pro-Islamist protest in Istanbul, May 2003. ; Reuters. Still life: JEFF 

LOAD-DATE: November 16, 2004
Harper's Magazine

August 1, 2004

New books; Book Review

Leonard, John

     On the next to last page of Orhan Pamuk's SNOW (Knopf, $ 26)--as if 
Nabokov and Rushdie had taken their circus act on the road, of Carlos 
Fuentes were Anatolian instead of Aztec, or Milan Kundera remembered how 
to laugh--a young student at a Turkish religious high school admonishes a 
novelist named "Orhan Pamuk": "If you write a book set in Kars and put me 
in it, I'd like to tell your readers not to believe anything you say about 
me, anything you say about any of us. No one could understand us from so 
far away."

     And yet, of course, it is this solemn boy, whose name is Fazil, and 
his best friend, Necip, who is shot to death before he can publish his 
science fictions, and the girls they love, who are suspended from school 
for refusing to remove their head scarves--it is these passionate, 
talkative, and pious young people, as pure of heart as they are 
self-righteous, who monopolize our attention. In the northern city of 
Kars, near the border with Armenia, God is real to them even if He is not 
to the secular intellectual and blocked poet Ka--the old friend Pamuk is 
supposed to be writing this book about--who has come by bus from Istanbul, 
in a blizzard, to investigate an epidemic of suicides.

     Yes, a poet named Ka in a city named Kars. And kar means "snow" in 
Turkish. But having just returned for his mother's funeral after twelve 
years of exile in Germany following the 1980 military coup, Ka is really 
looking for love, roots, meaning, and his muse. Snow is not only a silence 
inside, reminding him of God; it also makes him feel at home in the world. 
So what if these true-believing students accuse him of atheism? So what if 
the newspaper reports his behavior a day in advance, and a night at the 
theater turns into Marat/Sade, and the gorgeous Ipek won't go to Frankfurt 
with him? Suddenly, he is writing poems again. Indeed, poems seem to seize 
or occlude him, like embolisms or a fit. He must retire immediately to a 
teahouse. Meanwhile, prisoners are tortured in red and yellow rooms. A 
minister of education is assassinated by a fundamentalist nut. A terrorist 
fresh from Bosnia coaches disaffected students. The Party of God may win 
the municipal elections. And so when the snow cuts Kars off from the rest 
of the country, the army, the police, and a very Brechtian repertory 
theater troupe stage a coup, a parody of 1980, that gives a whole new 
meaning to politics as performance.

     When they aren't watching television, everyone in Snow is telling 
everyone else a story, as in The Arabian Nights or in "the way it seemed 
the heroes told their stories to the authors of the European novels." This 
is playful, postmodern Pamuk, the author of The White Castle and My Name 
Is Red, who nods in passing at Oedipus, Robespierre, Stendhal, Mallarme, 
Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Conrad. But in its sendup of romantic poetry, 
political theater, and the anthropological relationship between 
Marxism-Leninism and anti-Western nationalism, Snow is also written by the 
man who got into trouble for supporting the rights of Kurds and opposing 
Iran's fatwa on Rushdie. And now this third Pamuk, more serious about 
faith than about poetry, makes fun of intellectuals like himself even as 
he acknowledges the bull's-eye on his back. From the Golden Horn, with a 
wicked grin, the political novel makes a triumphant return.

     Such novels are what Maureen Howard has been writing all along--about 
love and work, class and violence, literature and womanhood; the lacework 
bog of Irish America, the Potemkin bohemias of delirious New York, the 
family secrets of sex and money, the botched experiments of marriage and 
children, art and history as magnetic compass points, writing and teaching 
as a calisthenics of moral intelligence. THE SILVER SCREEN (Viking, $ 
24.95) is the third in her projected quartet of fictions on a calendar 
grid. After the winter of discontent and expiation in A Lover's Almanac 
(1998), and the complicated Easter bunnies of redemption and renewal in 
Big As Life (2001), now this long hot summer in Hollywood, New England, 
and El Salvador. If you're still wondering who Artie's real father was, 
The Silver Screen will tell you. But you need never even have heard of 
Artie to enjoy this interrogation of the way we tell ourselves stories, 
mythologizing our ordinary laves, on big screens (Singin' in the Rain) and 
small ones (television documentaries), in books by Dante, Donne, and 
Chekhov, in photographs by Georgia O'Keeffe and Walker Evans, in testimony 
to federal agents and congressional committees, in Ovid and Goldilocks, in 
Augustine and Freud. And when we aren't making stories and excuses, we're 
making clocks and guns.

     Isabel Mahler quits her career in silent movies to return to Rhode 
Island to marry insurance salesman Tim Murphy and to mother Joe, their 
son, who becomes a Jesuit priest; Rita, their daughter, who becomes a 
physical therapist; and Gemma, the girl next door, who goes into the 
redwoods with Ansel Adams and comes out with a Barcelona retrospective of 
her photographs. "Bel" was Tinker Bell to these children, taking them on 
excursions to such "magic arcades and pavilions" as Mark Twain's house in 
Hartford and the Melville Museum in New Bedford. So when the music of the 
spheres turns out to be a Sousa march, do they blame her for having been 
too thrilling--Joe, because of his loss of faith after the murder of 
Archbishop Romero; Rita, because of the lovelessness that led her into the 
Witness Protection Program; Gemma, because of her feelings of fraudulence 
and her ridiculous kimono? "How were we caught? What, what is it has 
happened? What is it that has been happening that we are living the way we 
are? The children are no longer the way it seemed they might be."

     Some catechism. Throughout this brilliant novel, there is quite a lot 
of the Mexican Day of the Dead, of paper skeletons and sugared skulls. 
Gemma apostrophizes Bel's ghost: "I dad not want you to be over, like 
silent movies or the Keith Circuit, Like beauty, like instruction, like 
belief." But history, that myth-muncher, kills us all. The best we can 
hope for, after the strut and fret, may be this comfort: "We do not play 
to an empty house."

     Every one of Ward Just's fourteen novels has been political. But 
they've also been historical and anthropological, as we follow men, money, 
and power from Chicago east, like Theodore Dreiser. And romantic and 
mournful and abashed, as if Scott Fitzgerald went out on the town while 
has Dorian Gray rotted in an attic. And as quiet as they are disquieting, 
like the bullet-riddled skull in the study of the Freudian psychiatrist in 
AN UNFINISHED SEA SON (Houghton Mifflin, $ 24). If Just in has fiction 
often telescopes time--decades suggested in sinister ellipses, gnomic 
haikus, mordant witticisms--here he confines himself mostly to a single 
season. In the summer of 1954, nineteen-year-old Wilson Ravan loses two 
fathers, finds a vocation, falls in Love, and is almost fired from has job 
at a Chicago tabloid newspaper ("a carnival of love nests, revenge 
killings, slumlords, machine graft, and Communists deep in the apparatus 
of state and national government") because he arrives at work still 
wearing dancing shoes from a North Shore debutante ball the night before.

     I don't want to tell you who dies, or why, except that, as in Orhan 
Pamuk and Maureen Howard, history is the real killer. Wilson hasn't 
entered the University of Chicago yet, but he is as much a victim of the 
Bataan Death March, the Taft-Hartley Act, the House Committee on 
Un-American Activities, and the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons as 
any of the adults, I'd rather point to the frozen pond where has 
businessman-father pretends to play ice hockey on winter afternoons, as if 
he were back at college at Dartmouth; the herd of deer, moving at night 
across the golf course fairway; the jazzmen in the smoky Chicago dives 
winking at the white boys; the tabloid reporters poised at their 
typewriters, as if the machine "were a small animal or the skin of a woman 
... birds building nests one twig at a time"; Aurora, the girl whose voice 
has the timbre of an oboe; and surprisingly affecting cameo appearances by 
Adlai Stevenson and Marlon Brando.

     Somehow, more like Camus than Fitzgerald, these characters rise from 
depths to surface--from a hand of pinochle to the baby-blue helmets of the 
United Nations, from a brick through a window to Van Gogh's ear, from John 
O'Hara to Othello--with the defining gestures of shadow puppets, a kind of 
frozen Winter Palace theater from which we are lucky to escape alive. What 
is once again remarkable about this writer are the graceful figure-eights 
he skates around has bone-deep knowledge of the worst about us, our 
Calibans and Brothers Grimm.

IAC-CREATE-DATE: August 16, 2004

LOAD-DATE: August 17, 2004
The New York Times

August 10, 2004 Tuesday
Late Edition - Final

A Blizzard of Contradictions in Modern Turkey


By Orhan Pamuk
Translated by Maureen Freely. 426 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $26.

     In his last novel, ''My Name is Red,'' the great and almost 
irresistibly beguiling Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk devised a breathtaking 
image for the schism in his country's soul between Westernization and the 
traditional values of Islam.

     Set in the 16th century, ''Red'' presents the schism as the incursion 
of Renaissance painting -- representational, three-dimensional and with an 
individualist vision -- into the sultan's court. There the flat, stylized 
and impersonal grace of the traditional miniaturists is upheld as a matter 
of religion; and Western perspective is abhorred, since, for instance, it 
could make a nearby dog bigger than a far-off mosque.

     The implications go way beyond art. In Mr. Pamuk's pyrotechnics of 
mystery, murders, eroticism and glittering colors, art is war and civil 
war among humanity's embattled religious and historical values.

     ''Snow,'' translated from Turkish by Maureen Freely, deals with the 
same schism but its setting is political. It is a novel of lesser scope 
than its grand and magical predecessor and more narrowly focused, although 
it is enriched by the author's same mesmerizing mixes: cruelty and farce, 
poetry and violence, and a voice whose timbres range from a storyteller's 
playfulness to the dark torment of an explorer, lost. All this finds 
voices through characters whose tactile immediacy fades imperceptibly into 
a fog of ambiguousness and contradiction.

     Often we don't know where we are, only to realize that this is exactly 
where we are: in Mr. Pamuk's vision of a Turkey unable to know itself. The 
fight has gone on too long and run too deep: a schism not of two distinct 
sides but of two sides existing within a single consciousness, one that is 
both the nation's and the author's. Educated abroad, trained in Western 
literature and culture, he is caught in the entwined roots of tradition 
and modernity, each choking the other.

     Culturally and politically Mr. Pamuk is a Westerner, but he is 
shattered to see his beliefs embodied in the methods used by the heirs of 
Kemal Ataturk who, grown dictatorial and often corrupt, have tried to 
force their secular code upon a vast Islam-bred rural and urban underclass 
(no turbans, fezzes or head scarves). In an epigraph he quotes 
Dostoyevsky's sardonic rendering of Russia's own modernizers: ''Well, 
then, eliminate the people, curtail them, force them to be silent. Because 
the European enlightenment is more important than people.''

     Ka, the protagonist of ''Snow,'' could not bear the consequences if 
the popular will turned out to be fundamentalist. He is not so much the 
author's alter ego as his emissary to the wilder, zanier shores of a 
dilemma that by now is more than his own and Turkey's. It shows itself 
these days in a number of countries, including the one where the United 
States has engaged itself so chaotically. Trying to democratize, that is, 
yet most likely unwilling to accept the likely failure that would follow 
an unlikely success.

     A blocked poet and onetime radical, Ka returns from Germany after 12 
years' exile to get back in touch with his country. A newspaper assignment 
takes him to a town near the Georgian border to investigate a rumor, 
mostly exaggerated, about a wave of schoolgirls who killed themselves when 
ordered to remove their head scarves.

     In his picaresque wanderings through the streets, symbolically blurred 
and isolated under a weeklong blizzard, he goes from one encounter to the 
next. Some are sinister, some alluring, some surreal. A dog, a 
charcoal-colored match for the German overcoat Ka proudly wears, persists 
in following him around as if to mock his Westernizing vanity. Each 
meeting is a dissonance, a clue to a puzzle he can't make out.

     He finds a vicious paramilitary killer who claims to be upholding Ka's 
own civilized values against the prospect of a Turkish Iran. There is an 
old Communist who tolerates a daughter's head scarf as a rebellion against 
the establishment, and a newspaper editor who publishes as past events 
those that are still to take place. And -- partly a magical-realist touch 
and partly an acid satire on the press -- publication seems to make them 
take place.

     Ka is moved to anguish by Necip, a young fundamentalist of surpassing 
sweetness who is afraid he will lose his faith (though he's killed before 
he can). He is chilled and infuriated by Blue, a lethal yet childlike 
underground activist.

     Most extravagantly, and it is the novel's garish, extended climax, he 
becomes involved with Sunay, a theater impresario and former leftist who 
now seems to work on behalf of the military ultras pledged to the secular 
Ataturk tradition. Sunay organizes a crude anti-Islamic vaudeville that 
incites a near-riot. This provides the excuse for the local army garrison 
to mount a minicoup and arrest, torture or kill Islamists and Kurds. 
Controlling it all, the impresario glories in having achieved a supreme 
work of art, one whose dramatic culmination will be his own death onstage.

     Art, its vanities and its detachment from consequences, is one of the 
author 's targets. But what marks Mr. Pamuk and his targets is that he 
stands alongside them to receive his own lethal arrows. And he does it 
with odd gaiety and compassion.

     Ka wanders through the town's murderous chaos receiving tidy 
inspiration and producing 19 poems of exactly 36 lines each. He is a fool 
of time, but his creator is tender and funny with his fools. Ka is doomed 
finally to betray, and so is the marvelous woman he has a besotted and 
arousingly depicted affair with; each in a different way is an innocent.

     Even the symbols get affectionate treatment. Cutting off the town, the 
blizzard may stand for the isolation from any universal truth or value; 
one that history seemingly requires by history while it conducts its 
contorted affairs. The snow, though, is of surpassing beauty and 
hauntingly rendered. For Mr. Pamuk beauty does not redeem the tragic 
horrors begotten by human passions and obstinate memory. Neither do the 
horrors diminish it.

LOAD-DATE: August 10, 2004
The Economist

August 14, 2004
U.S. Edition

Problems of identity;
Turkish fiction

    New novels from two leading Turkish writers

    ORHAN PAMUK is the leading contemporary interpreter of Turkish society 
to the western world: his novels, now invariably translated into English, 
explore the dilemmas and divisions of a land that is both east and west, 
Islamist and secular, rich and poor, ancient and modern, and much more 
besides. Some of his earlier explorations of Turkish identity have been 
hard going, not eased by their translators. But his latest novel, "Kar" or 
"Snow", the first to be translated by Maureen Freely, an American raised 
in Istanbul, is one of his most accessible.

    Set in the 1990s in the bleak north-eastern city of Kars, the novel is 
an account of the tensions between Turkey's urban secularist elite and 
their long-derided (and vastly underestimated) Islamic-minded opponents. 
It is also a tragic love story, a thriller and, more broadly, a dark 
journey into familiar Pamuk territory: faith, identity, betrayal and 

    The hero is a washed-out poet, Kerim Alakusoglu, who insists on calling 
himself Ka. After years as a political refugee in Frankfurt, he returns to 
Istanbul for his mother's funeral. Egged on by a university friend at the 
doggedly pro-secular Cumhuriyet ("Republic") newspaper he travels to Kars 
to write about the municipal elections there (which are sure to be won by 
an Islamist candidate).

    The plot unfolds over three days during which Kars is cut off from the 
rest of the world by an unremitting snowstorm (the book might have been 
titled "Ka in Kar in Kars"). In that time, there is a mini coup in which 
hundreds of Islamists and Kurds are rounded up, brutally tortured and 
killed. Ka sets out to investigate a rash of suicides by female students 
barred from attending local schools because they refuse to remove their 
headscarves-an inflammatory symbol, insist the secularists, of Islamic 

    But is it? One of the achievements of "Snow" is to look beyond the 
tired arguments about why so many Turkish women cover their heads. In the 
case of Kadife, a central character, it is to gain the affection of a 
charismatic Islamist militant leader, not out of religious conviction.

    Readers looking for a less intense taste of Turkey can turn to "The 
Saint of Incipient Insanities", the first novel written in English by Elif 
Shafak, an established writer with award-winning Turkish novels under her 
belt, who has been attacked for reviving Ottoman words, for her 
fascination with religion, and now for "betraying" her motherland by 
writing in English. Ms Shafak has woven a tragi-comic tapestry of quirky 
and lovable 20-somethings struggling to find themselves in America.

    Omer, an agnostic Turk; Abed, a pious Muslim Moroccan; and Piyu, a 
guilt-wracked Catholic Spaniard, are housemates studying for various 
degrees at a Boston university. Omer falls in love with Zarpandit, an 
American with an inexplicable urge to kill herself. Through their 
conversations over dinner and their encounters in their one hard-pressed 
bathroom, the characters challenge each other's views on religion, 
politics, nationality and gender. Zarpandit, the American, feels the most 
alienated of all.

    Mr Pamuk was educated in English at an elite Istanbul private school; 
Ms Shafak was born in France and raised in Spain. Their books are as much 
a voyage of discovery for themselves as they are insiders' insights of 
Turkey. Both seek to shatter stereotypes. Unlike Mr Pamuk, though, Ms 
Shafak does it with ironic humour and warmth. In one of the funniest 
scenes in her latest book, Abed's newly arrived (and devoutly Muslim) 
mother offers "round platters of sugar skulls" and "trays of werewolf 
claws" to inebriated guests at a Halloween party. Ms Shafak is well set to 
challenge Mr Pamuk as Turkey's foremost contemporary novelist.

LOAD-DATE: August 13, 2004
The New York Times

August 15, 2004 Sunday

Orhan Pamuk: 'I Was Not A Political Person'

By Alexander Star.

    Alexander Star is the senior editor of The New York Times Magazine.

     ALEXANDER STAR: In your novel, Turkey is a somewhat surreal country, 
where secular nationalists and theocrats compete to impose what seem to be 
equally dubious ideas of how to force people to be free. Is this the 
Turkey you know?

     ORHAN PAMUK: Well, that gap between my character's consciousness and 
the country's poetic reality is perhaps the essential tension of my novel. 
I wanted to go and explore both worlds and write about them as they are -- 
the Westernized intellectual's worldview coming to terms with the poorest, 
most forgotten and perhaps most ignored part of the country. The most 
angry part, too.

      STAR: A key concern in ''Snow'' is the desire of many Muslim women to 
wear headscarves to school -- an issue that raises delicate questions 
about where you draw the line between, say, the tolerance of religion and 
the imposition of religion. The current Turkish government has, 
controversially, attempted to assist the graduates of religious schools. 
Do you feel that is a legitimate cause for them?

     PAMUK: Look, I'm a writer. I try to focus on these issues not from the 
point of view of a statesman but from the point of view of a person who 
tries to understand the pain and suffering of others. I don't think there 
is any set formula to solve these problems. Anyone who believes there is a 
simple solution to these problems is a fool -- and probably will soon end 
up being part of the problem. I think literature can approach these 
problems because you can go into more shady areas, areas where no one is 
right and no one has the right to say what is right. That's what makes 
writing novels interesting. It's what makes writing a political novel 
today interesting.

     STAR: And yet your novel expresses a lot of anxiety over whether it's 
possible to fully understand the misery and humiliation of people living 
in unfamiliar circumstances.

     PAMUK: Spiritually and morally, I am close to my central character. As 
he goes to the poorest sections of Turkish society, he falls into the 
traps of representation -- talking in the name of the others, for the most 
poor. He realizes these issues are problematic. In fact, they may 
sometimes end up being immoral: the problem of representing the poor, the 
unrepresented, even in literature, is morally dubious. So in this 
political novel, my little contribution -- if there is any, I have to be 
modest -- is to turn it around a bit and make the problem of 
representation a part of the fiction too.

     STAR: How did you come to write a political novel?

     PAMUK: I was not a political person when I began writing 20 years ago. 
The previous generation of Turkish authors were too political, morally too 
much involved. They were essentially writing what Nabokov would call 
social commentary. I used to believe, and still believe, that that kind of 
politics only damages your art. Twenty years ago, 25 years ago, I had a 
radical belief only in what Henry James would call the grand art of the 
novel. But later, as I began to get known both inside and outside of 
Turkey, people began to ask political questions and demand political 
commentaries. Which I did because I sincerely felt that the Turkish state 
was damaging democracy, human rights and the country. So I did things 
outside of my books.

     STAR: Such as?

     PAMUK: Write petitions, attend political meetings, but essentially 
make commentaries outside of my books. This made me a bit notorious, and I 
began to get involved in a sort of political war against the Turkish state 
and the establishment, which 10 years ago was more partial to 
nationalists. Anyway, I said to myself, Why don't I once write a political 
novel and get all of this off my chest?

     STAR: Did you have trouble publishing ''Snow'' in Turkey? How was it 
received by Islamists and others?

     PAMUK: Before the publication of the book I told my friends and my 
publisher that I was finishing an outspoken political novel. Shall we show 
this to lawyers? And they said, No, no, no, now that Turkey is hoping to 
get in touch with Europe and now that you're nationally -- internationally 
-- ''famous,'' you don't need to do that. O.K. And after some time I gave 
my publishers the book. Here is the book, I said. And a week later they 
called me and said they'd read the book, loved the book, but they wanted 
my permission to show it to a lawyer. They were worried that the public 
prosecutor might open a case, or confiscate the book before its 
publication. The first printing was 100,000 copies. They were essentially 
worried about the economic side of the thing. For example, they hid the 
book in a corner, so if it were confiscated, they could keep some copies 
for themselves. But none of these pessimistic things happened. In fact, 
the country seriously discussed the book. Half of the political Islamists 
and people who backed the army attacked me. On the other hand, I survived. 
Nothing happened to me. And in fact it worked the way I hoped it would. 
Some of those radical Islamists criticized the book with very simplistic 
ideas, such as ''You're trying to describe Islamists but you have to know 
that an Islamist would never have sex with a woman without getting 
married.'' On the other hand, more liberal Islamists were pleased that at 
least the harassment they had been exposed to by the Turkish Army is 

     STAR: When George Bush was in Istanbul recently for the NATO summit, 
he referred to you as a ''great writer'' who has helped bridge the divide 
between East and West. Citing your own statements about how people around 
the world are very much alike, he defended American efforts to help people 
in the Middle East enjoy their ''birthright of freedom.'' Did you think he 
understood what you meant?

     PAMUK: I think George Bush put a lot of distance between East and West 
with this war. He made the whole Islamic community unnecessarily angry 
with the United States, and in fact with the West. This will pave the way 
to lots of horrors and inflict cruel and unnecessary pain to lots of 
people. It will raise the tension between East and West. These are things 
I never hoped would happen. In my books I always looked for a sort of 
harmony between the so-called East and West. In short, what I wrote in my 
books for years was misquoted, and used as a sort of apology for what had 
been done. And what had been done was a cruel thing.

     STAR: Is the novel as a form something you think is alive and well in 
the Middle East or the non-Western world more broadly? Or do you feel 
you're doing something rather unusual?

     PAMUK: No, the art of the novel is well. It's surviving. It has lots 
of elasticity. I'm sure it will continue to live in the West, in the 
United States and Europe. But it will have a very strange and new future 
in countries like China and India, where now there is an unprecedented 
rise of the middle classes. Legitimizing the power of these new middle 
classes creates problems of identity both in China and in India. This 
involves their nationalism when they are faced with the distinct identity 
of Europe and the West, and their Occidentalism when they are faced with 
the resistance of their poor people. I think the new modern novel that 
will come from the East, from that part of the world, will again raise 
these tensions of East-West modernity and the slippery nature of these 
rising middle classes in China and India. And also in Turkey, of course.

     STAR: In ''Snow,'' the radical Islamist Blue remarks at one point that 
the best thing America's given the world is Red Marlboros. Would you agree 
with that?

     PAMUK: I used to smoke them a lot when I was young. We distribute our 
personal pleasures in our characters. That's one of the joys of writing 

LOAD-DATE: August 15, 2004
The New York Times

August 15, 2004 Sunday

Headscarves To Die For

By Margaret Atwood.

    Margaret Atwood's most recent book is ''Oryx and Crake,'' a novel.

By Orhan Pamuk.
Translated by Maureen Freely.
426 pp. Alfred A.
Knopf. $26.

      This seventh novel from the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk is not only an 
engrossing feat of tale-spinning, but essential reading for our times.

     In Turkey, Pamuk is the equivalent of rock star, guru, diagnostic 
specialist and political pundit: the Turkish public reads his novels as if 
taking its own pulse. He is also highly esteemed in Europe: his sixth 
novel, the lush and intriguing ''My Name Is Red,'' carried off the 2003 
Impac Dublin Literary Award, adding to his long list of prizes.

      He deserves to be better known in North America, and no doubt he will 
be, as his fictions turn on the conflict between the forces of 
''Westernization'' and those of the Islamists. Although it's set in the 
1990's and was begun before Sept. 11, ''Snow'' is eerily prescient, both 
in its analyses of fundamentalist attitudes and in the nature of the 
repression and rage and conspiracies and violence it depicts.

     Like Pamuk's other novels, ''Snow'' is an in-depth tour of the 
divided, hopeful, desolate, mystifying Turkish soul. It's the story of Ka, 
a gloomy but appealing poet who hasn't written anything in years. But Ka 
is not his own narrator: by the time of the telling he has been 
assassinated, and his tale is pieced together by an ''old friend'' of his 
who just happens to be named Orhan.

     As the novel opens, Ka has been in political exile in Frankfurt, but 
has returned to Istanbul after 12 years for his mother's funeral. He's 
making his way to Kars, an impoverished city in Anatolia, just as a severe 
snowstorm begins. (Kar is ''snow'' in Turkish, so we have already been 
given an envelope inside an envelope inside an envelope.) Ka claims to be 
a journalist interested in the recent murder of the city's mayor and the 
suicides of a number of young girls forced by their schools to remove 
their headscarves, but this is only one of his motives. He also wants to 
see Ipek, a beautiful woman he'd known as a student. Divorced from a 
onetime friend of Ka's turned Islamist politician, she lives in the shabby 
Snow Palace Hotel, where Ka is staying.

     Cut off from escape by the snow, Ka wanders through a decaying city 
haunted by its glorious former selves: there are architectural remnants of 
the once vast Ottoman Empire; the grand Armenian church stands empty, 
testifying to the massacre of its worshipers; there are ghosts of Russian 
rulers and their lavish celebrations, and pictures of Ataturk, founder of 
the Turkish Republic and instigator of a ruthless ''modernization'' 
campaign, which included -- not incidentally -- a ban on headscarves.

     Ka's pose as a journalist allows Pamuk to put on display a wide 
variety of opinions. Those not living in the shrunken remains of former 
empires may find it hard to imagine the mix of resentful entitlement (We 
ought to be powerful!), shame (What did we do wrong?), blame (Whose fault 
is it?) and anxiety about identity (Who are we really?) that takes up a 
great deal of headroom in such places, and thus in ''Snow.''

     Ka tries to find out more about the dead girls but encounters 
resistance: he 's from a bourgeois background in cosmopolitan Istanbul, 
he's been in exile in the West, he has a snazzy overcoat. Believers accuse 
him of atheism; the secular government doesn't want him writing about the 
suicides -- a blot on its reputation -- so he's dogged by police spies; 
common people are suspicious of him. He's present in a pastry shop when a 
tiny fundamentalist gunman murders the director of the institute that has 
expelled the headscarf girls. He gets mixed up with his beloved's former 
husband, the two of them are arrested and he witnesses the brutality of 
the secularist regime. He manages to duck his shadowers long enough to 
meet with an Islamist extremist in hiding, the persuasive Blue, said to be 
behind the director's murder. And so he goes, floundering from encounter 
to encounter.

     In ''Snow,'' translated by Maureen Freely, the line between playful 
farce and gruesome tragedy is very fine. For instance, the town's 
newspaper publisher, Serdar Bey, prints an article describing Ka's public 
performance of his poem '' Snow.'' When Ka protests that he hasn't written 
a poem called ''Snow'' and is not going to perform it in the theater, 
Serdar Bey replies: ''Don't be so sure. There are those who despise us for 
writing the news before it happens. . . . Quite a few things do happen 
only because we've written them up first. This is what modern journalism 
is all about.'' And sure enough, inspired by the love affair he begins 
with Ipek and happier than he's been in years, Ka begins to write poems, 
the first of them being ''Snow.'' Before you know it, there he is in the 
theater, but the evening also includes a ridiculous performance of an 
Ataturk-era play called ''My Fatherland or My Head Scarf.'' As the 
religious school teenagers jeer, the secularists decide to enforce their 
rule by firing rifles into the audience.

     The twists of fate, the plots that double back on themselves, the 
trickiness, the mysteries that recede as they're approached, the bleak 
cities, the night prowling, the sense of identity loss, the protagonist in 
exile -- these are vintage Pamuk, but they're also part of the modern 
literary landscape. A case could be made for a genre called the Male 
Labyrinth Novel, which would trace its ancestry through De Quincey and 
Dostoyevsky and Conrad, and would include Kafka, Borges, Garcia Marquez, 
DeLillo and Auster, with the Hammett-and-Chandler noir thriller thrown in 
for good measure. It's mostly men who write such novels and feature as 
their rootless heroes, and there's probably a simple reason for this: send 
a woman out alone on a rambling nocturnal quest and she's likely to end up 
a lot deader a lot sooner than a man would.

     Women -- except as idealized objects of desire -- have not been of 
notably central importance in Pamuk's previous novels, but ''Snow'' is a 
departure. There are two strong female characters, the emotionally 
battered Ipek and her sister, the stubborn actress Kadife. In addition, 
there's a chorus: the headscarf girls. Those scrapping for power on both 
sides use these dead girls as symbols, having put unbearable pressure on 
them while they were alive. Ka, however, sees them as suffering human 
beings. ''It wasn't the elements of poverty or helplessness that Ka found 
so shocking. Neither was it the constant beatings to which these girls 
were subjected, or the insensitivity of fathers who wouldn't even let them 
go outside, or the constant surveillance of jealous husbands. The thing 
that shocked and frightened Ka was the way these girls had killed 
themselves: abruptly, without ritual or warning, in the midst of their 
everyday routines.''

     Their suicides are like the other brutal events in the novel: sudden 
eruptions of violence thrown up by relentless underlying forces.

     The attitudes of men toward women drive the plot in ''Snow,'' but even 
more important are the attitudes of men toward one another. Ka is always 
worrying about whether other men respect or despise him, and that respect 
hinges not on material wealth but on what he is thought to believe. Since 
he himself isn't sure, he vacillates from one side to another. Shall he 
stick with the Western enlightenment? But he was miserable in Germany. 
Shall he return to the Muslim fold? But despite his drunken hand-kissing 
of a local religious leader, he can't fit in.

     If Ka were to run true to the form of Pamuk's previous novels, he 
might take refuge in stories. Stories, Pamuk has hinted, create the world 
we perceive: instead of ''I think, therefore I am,'' a Pamuk character 
might say, ''I am because I narrate.'' It's the Scheherazade position, in 
spades. But poor murdered Ka is no novelist: it's up to ''Orhan'' to act 
as his Horatio.

     ''Snow'' is the latest entry in Pamuk's longtime project: narrating 
his country into being. It's also the closest to realism. Kars is finely 
drawn, in all its touching squalor, but its inhabitants resist ''Orhan's'' 
novelizing of them. One of them asks him to tell the reader not to believe 
anything he says about them, because ''no one could understand us from so 
far away.'' This is a challenge to Pamuk and his considerable art, but it 
is also a challenge to us.

LOAD-DATE: August 15, 2004
The Miami Herald

August 15, 2004 Sunday F1LA EDITION



    Orhan Pamuk. Knopf. 448 pages. $26.


    In a world ever more riven between East and West, Turkey -- located 
geographically and politically between the Middle East and Europe -- has 
emerged as a prominent player on the world scene. With its secular 
democratic government presiding over an Islamic majority, the country 
serves as a touchstone by which the world measures the pulse of these 
competing movements. All of which makes the ambitious political novel by 
Turkey's most prominent novelist a satisfying contribution to our 
otherwise low-cal summer literary menu.

    In the broadest sense, Snowrepresents a frontal assault on Stendhal's 
famous denunciation of political novels -- ''Politics in a literary work 
are a pistol-shot in the middle of a concert'' -- which serves as one of 
the book's epigrams. Orhan Pamuk succeeds admirably in engaging with 
political ideas and currents while simultaneously attending to the generic 
demands of the novel. The story revolves around Ka, an impassive Turkish 
poet living in exile in Frankfurt who returns home for his mother's 
funeral and confronts his home nation's percolating crises and his own 
personal demons.

    Pamuk constructs a somewhat clunky but effective plot apparatus. Ka, 
intrigued by a rash of suicides among Islamic girls forbidden to wear 
their head-scarves to school, accepts a journalistic assignment to the 
remote outpost of Kars to report on the phenomenon. He also hopes to woo 
Ipek, a woman of intoxicating beauty he remembers from his university 
days, who now lives in Kars in the Snow Palace Hotel.

    Kars clings to a tenuous existence by virtue of its processed cheese, 
but was once a prosperous mountain city along the trade route between the 
Russian and Ottoman empires. Pamuk evokes in lush detail the defunct 
Baltic buildings that remain -- the Armenian churches, Seljuk castles, and 
abandoned mansions -- while also describing the decidedly less opulent 
teahouses, dairy shops and shanties. Each building has its own story of 
the various empires and ideologies that have wrested over Turkey's soul, 
and rarely does a building along Ka's way escape the deft attention of our 
narrator (the identity of whom is one of the novel's minor mysteries).

    Almost immediately upon Ka's arrival, events conspire to transform him 
into an active participant in a pitched battle over the city. First, the 
director of the Institute for Education, the man responsible for barring 
head-covered girls from the classrooms, is assassinated by an Islamic 
extremist. Then, aided by a snowstorm that effectively isolates the city, 
a militaristic wing of the government stages a bloody coup to tamp down 
the surging popularity of the Islamic movement.

    Both sides seek out the enigmatic Ka for their own tactical purposes, 
which brings our hero in contact with an assortment of colorful 
characters. The handsome but crippled Blue, a radical political Islamist 
of mythic stature, is among the most memorable. A composite of any number 
of modern fundamentalist leaders, given his curiously familiar admixture 
of charisma, sexual charm and outward gentleness, he inveighs upon Ka not 
to write about the ''suicide girls,' ' for fear of the erroneous 
impression of Islam it would give the world. ''Girls who commit suicide 
are not even Muslims!'' he bewails.

    Ka's ambivalent allegiances and emotional vulnerability in the wake of 
his mother's death make him the perfect vehicle through which Pamuk can 
explore the competing lure of religious fundamentalism, secular 
nationalism and cosmopolitan intellectualism. And Pamuk trenchantly evokes 
the moral ambiguity of the timely scenario he constructs -- the head-scarf 
controversy currently rages in France -- rather than seeking to advance 
any illusory moral platitude. Various sides have their say in often 
disconcertingly convincing terms. The coup leader, Sunay, makes a credible 
case for secular militarism when he accosts Ka for the intellectual 
hypocrisies that allow violent fundamentalists like Blue to thrive. ''No 
one who's even slightly westernized can breathe free in this country 
unless they have a secular army protecting them,'' he argues, ''and no one 
needs this protection more than intellectuals who think they're better 
than everyone else and look down on other people. If it weren't for the 
army, the fanatics would be turning their rusty knives on the lot of 

    Yet, Ka (and Pamuk) recognize that the leveling force of western 
secularism can be every bit as oppressive as fundamentalist Islam. Hande, 
a minor character, speaks convincingly against the head-scarf edict: 
''Sometimes I can conjure up a girl walking into school with her hair 
flying all around her . . . I can even imagine the smell of the hallway 
and the clamminess of the air. Then I look through the pane of glass that 
separates the classroom from the hallway and I see that the girl is not me 
but someone else, and I start to cry. . . . What scares me is the thought 
of never being able to return to the person I am now, and even forgetting 
who that person is.''

    Sunay's identity as a stage actor turned military coup leader and the 
role that theater plays as the coup reaches its final bloody crescendo is 
the only aspect of the plot that strains credulity. However, the 
convergence of Sunay's theatrical and political ambitions advances one of 
the primary themes of the novel, which is Ka's effort to carve out a 
contemporary existence defined by authentic emotive and intellectual 
responses in a world rife with poseurs across the political and artistic 
spectrum. Ka had planned to embrace an apolitical life as an exiled poet. 
Yet such an existence proves sterile. He writes his best poetry while up 
to his neck in politics, while in the thrall of the lovely Ipek. The 
social realm, dangerous and duplicitous as it may be, Pamuk seems to 
suggest, cannot be excised from the realm of high art. One might as well 
try to remove politics from the novel.

    Andrew Furman is chair of the Department of English at Florida Atlantic 

LOAD-DATE: August 15, 2004
Publishers Weekly

August 23, 2004

Outspoken Turk

by Wendy Smith

    At an early age, I decided that I would not write anything political," 
says Orhan Pamuk. This is a surprising comment, coming from an author well 
known in his native Turkey for his forthright condemnation of the death 
sentence issued against Salman Rushdie in 1989 and of the Turkish 
government's brutal repression of Kurdish separatists during the 1990s. 
It's especially surprising since his latest novel, Snow (Fiction 
Forecasts, July 19), published by Knopf this month, grapples with the 
politically charged subject of Islamic fundamentalism, telling the story 
of a poet visiting a remote town on Turkey's eastern border where there 
has been a rash of suicides among female students forbidden to wear head 
scarves in school.

    But it's also true that Pamuk is better known to readers of fiction for 
a series of novels that, while they often explore the tension between 
traditional Islamic values and the Westernizing policies of the modern 
Turkish state, are just as notable for their complex, modernist narrative 
structures and their concern with such existential matters as the nature 
of consciousness.
>From The
White Castle in 1990 through The Black Book and The New Life to My Name Is 
Red in 2001 (two earlier novels remain untranslated), English-speaking 
critics have noted the social and political backdrop of Pamuk's work, but 
have been more struck by its brilliant imagery and literary erudition.

    "Snow is my first deliberately political novel," the writer 
acknowledges by telephone from his home in Istanbul. "When I started 
writing fiction some 30 years ago, I had seen that the best authors of 
previous generations had destroyed their talent to serve a country, to get 
politically involved, or to make a moral command. But 20 years later, 
after I had established myself as an author both inside and outside 
Turkey, I was critical not only of the war the Turkish state waged against 
the Kurdish guerrillas, but also of its position on human rights and 
freedom of expression. I published some articles, most of them outside 
Turkey because I couldn't publish them at home then, and I began to get a 
bit notorious for making political comments outside my books. I said to 
myself, 'Why don't I once write a political novel and get it out of my 
system?' "

    Snow, however, is no didactic polemic. Pamuk allows the young women who 
choose to wear head scarves, and the fundamentalist men who incite them, 
to speak powerfully for themselves; they may not convince Ka, the poet, 
but he is moved by them. "One of the pleasures of writing this novel," 
Pamuk comments, "was to say to my Turkish readers and to my international 
audience, openly and a bit provocatively, but honestly, that what they 
call a terrorist is first of all a human being. Our secularists, who are 
always relying on the army and who are destroying Turkey's democracy, 
hated this book because here you have a deliberate attempt by a person who 
was never religious in his life to understand why someone ends up being 
what we or the Western world calls an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist. It 
is a challenge and a duty of literature to understand the passions of 
anyone, to try to enter the spirits of people, which various taboos forbid 
us to understand."

    It's clear from the writer's fervent tone that this last sentence forms 
a crucial portion of his artistic credo, but--characteristically--he does 
not leave it unchallenged in Snow. "How much can we ever know about the 
love and pain in another's heart?" asks a character called Orhan Pamuk 
(one of the novel 's many sly, postmodern touches), and his real-life 
namesake does not have a definitive answer. "In the 1950s and '60s, people 
hoped that they would understand everything by writing a political novel," 
he goes on. "Here I am saying, 'Well, I bowed my head in an attempt to 
understand the underdog, but there are limits. Beware the claims to 
understand all: it's a political mistake. ' I have joked in Turkey, and 
let me continue my joking here, that this is my first and last political 
novel; it should only be done once in life!"

    Pamuk's last book, a memoir of his youth entitled Istanbul, was 
published last year in Turkey. The writer is currently going over the 
English version with Maureen Freely (who also translated Snow); Knopf 
expects to release it in spring 2005. Pamuk is ruefully aware that 
"something is always lost in translation; it breaks one's heart so much. 
And most of the time it's not the translator's fault, it's the language's 
fault. I feel sometimes that I am trapped in Turkish, which is hard to 
translate." At least in English, which he speaks fluently, he can make 
adjustments with Freely: "When something is untranslatable, when we 
understand that this pure beauty, this little flower, will not pass and 
will be damaged in translation, we sometimes try to invent new things as a 
sort of consolation: not the original flower, but a new flower."

    PW wonders if the writer who has so frequently depicted conflict 
between Islam and the West in his fiction sees any hope for the resolution 
of this conflict in the real world, where it has assumed crisis 
proportions. "Not when the likes of Bush or the arrogant Turkish ruling 
elite try to solve the tensions between conservative Islam and modernity 
with bombs," he replies. "That is a dead end. But I am an optimistic 
person. I think that these guys who try to modernize or Europeanize or 
westernize the rest of the world by force, they will disappear. 
Globalization will continue, I see that as a positive thing, but 
peacefully, with mutual understanding among tribes and peoples and 

LOAD-DATE: August 26, 2004
The New York Sun

August 25, 2004 Wednesday



    "Snow" (Alfred A. Knopf, 426 pages, $26) opens like a political novel, 
but its characters's disagreements eventually spin out a world of their 
own, fairly far away from CNN. The hardships of change, in and out of 
faith, are omnipresent. A blizzard blocks all the roads out of the Turkish 
border town of Kars, creating a perfect storm for Orhan Pamuk's themes. 
Like dancers in the round, the citizens of Kars debate every angle of 
social and religious controversy.

    Mr. Pamuk is regularly compared to Calvino or Borges; he has written 
several books about mysterious texts. But here his muster of characters - 
there is the paterfamilias ex-communist, the irresistible terrorist, the 
feminine dictator - and their sometimes spellbinding speeches remind me 
more of something like "Hard Times." And this novel of fatalism in 
politics is actually more about the difficulty in communicating meaning 
across borders than the difficulty in finding meaning.

    "Snow" is written in a casually reflexive prose of pillowy 
explanations. Ka, a poet exiled in Frankfurt, finds himself in Kars. He's 
officially writing an article about a suicide trend among girls who insist 
on wearing headscarves to school, but he readily admits that he's really 
there to find a Turkish wife: specifically, Ipek, a beauty from Ka's 
radical school days who is now separated from Muhtar, a former leftist 
rebel and poet who has turned to political Islam.

    Ka becomes lost in the new categories of secularism vs. Islam. He tries 
not to pick sides, and when pressed he insists that he only wants 
happiness, a new thing for him. But his happiness depends not only on 
Ipek, but on the feeling that he has found God - "the desolation and 
remoteness of the place hit him with such force that he felt God inside 
him." And this same inspiration gives Ka poems for the first time in four 

    Ka's poems, which he pauses to write at regular intervals, seem for a 
while to be the guarantor of Mr. Pamuk's novel. As local turmoil distracts 
him from taking any definitive moral action, we learn from the narrator 
that Ka is stopping at regular intervals to write poems. These poems 
promise to make everything that happens in Kars, which is like a snake 
eating its own tail, matter. But that is not quite the case. "It isn't 
enough to be a poet," muses Ka, "that's why politics still casts such a 
shadow over our lives."

    As the narrator gradually reveals, the poems are lost, and the novel we 
are reading is a careful reconstruction of events based on Ka's diaries. 
We are left only with the title of the volume, "Snow," and the knowledge 
that staring off into the snow was Ka's great blank escape from whatever 
was happening around him.

LOAD-DATE: September 2, 2004
National Post (f/k/a The Financial Post) (Canada)

August 28, 2004 Saturday

A bluffer's guide: Too busy to read the hot books? Here's a cheat sheet to 
help you talk about them like you have.

Dan Rowe, National Post


    by Orhan Pamuk

    - - -

    It's not surprising that Margaret Atwood began her New York Times 
review of Snow with this line: "This seventh novel from the Turkish writer 
Orhan Pamuk is not only an engrossing feat of tale-spinning, but essential 
reading for our times."

    Snow is, after all, a novel set in 1990s Turkey about, in a very basic 
way, the Islamic fundamentalist reaction to the policies of a secularist 
regime. Pamuk spins this tale through Ka, an exiled poet who returns to 
his snow-ridden, isolated Turkish home town of Kars, in part to report on 
the growing numbers of teenage girls who are committing suicide because 
they don't want to adhere to the state's ban on headscarves in school -- 
an essential subject matter if ever there was one.

    And topicality aside, Snow is just a fine piece of fiction. The winner 
of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2003 for My Name is Red, Pamuk 
handles this story deftly in two respects. His writing and plotting are 
tremendous. And his handling of the political issue of fundamentalism is 
better still. Despite her overwrought construction, Laurel Maury gets it 
right in her San Francisco Chronicle review: "Snow will make you feel the 
arguments surrounding fundamentalism as a situation of murky grays, where 
the only thing black is the night, and the only thing white is the snow."

    All Pamuk does is show both the Islamists and the secularists in his 
novel as having pangs of doubt. In the end, they are faithful to their 
cause, but not quite with the fervour and totality that many journalists 
and commentators would have us believe. This, then, is yet another example 
of where fiction is infinitely more truthful than the bromides and 
broadsides which make up the news and op-ed pages.

    Most of all, it is reassuring that Pamuk has taken up these serious, 
modern issues in Snow. Far too often, novelists in these parts -- 
musicians, actors, and other artists are guilty, too --seem to shy away 
from engaging in current events in such a straightforward and artful way. 
And when they do tackle big topics, it tends to be gimmicky.

    For the more daring writers like Pamuk, there is even more compelling 
territory to cover. "A more serious challenge to novelists in Turkey, Iran 
and the Arab world," writes James Buchan in The Guardian, "is that the 
events of September 11, the Moscow theatre attack and Abu Ghraib are both 
more romantic and more desperate than even Dostoevsky could have dreamed 
up and written down."

LOAD-DATE: August 28, 2004
The Gazette (Montreal)

August 28, 2004 Saturday

Pamuk describes modern Turkey, with all its tensions

ERIC ORMSBY, Freelance

    SNOW By Orhan Pamuk

    Translated by Maureen Freely

    Knopf, 428 pages, $38

    The Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk has what Wallace Stevens called "a 
mind of winter." His new novel brims with memorable characters but the 
principal personage of the book is the snow.

    Snow seals off the bleak city of Kars, in southeastern Turkey, where 
the action takes place; the snow is beautiful, for it hides both the 
depressing ugliness of a forsaken city and its convoluted past. But it 
also confers a kind of deathbed isolation on the city and its inhabitants; 
it may be a sign from God, as one of the characters exclaims, but it is a 
chill and estranging sign.

    As in Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, the snow allows Pamuk to cast 
events and characters into high relief. In so doing, Pamuk creates a 
swarming microcosm of contemporary Turkey, from old-guard Kemalists 
fiercely upholding secularism to teenage girls tormented over whether to 
don the hijab, to fiery yet furtive radical Islamists plotting a takeover 
and a return to the glory days of the Caliphate.

    Kerim Alakusoglu, who prefers to be called "Ka" for short, is a 
disaffected poet newly returned from self-imposed exile in Germany; on the 
pretext of investigating a rash of suicides by young girls, ostensibly 
over the wearing of the hijab, he travels on behalf of a staunchly 
secularist newspaper to Kars to interview the grieving families and 
unravel the mystery. In fact, he is hoping to kindle a romance with the 
beautiful and coquettish Ipek, an old flame who has recently divorced.

    Once in Kars, Ka finds himself stranded by the blizzard and embarks on 
a series of encounters through which Pamuk seeks to portray virtually 
every face of present-day Turkey: corrupt and shifty bureaucrats, 
militarists, teachers and actors, feminists veiled and unveiled, poets, 
firebrands, zealots and time-servers, slog or slip through the icy 
alleyways of the snowbound city of Kars.

    Pamuk is superb at evoking this miserable place, which at varying 
periods has been under the heel of the Ottomans, the Russians, the 
Armenians and even the British: "... the old decrepit Russian buildings 
with stovepipes sticking out of every window, the thousand-year-old 
Armenian church towering over the wood depots and the electric generators, 
the pack of dogs barking at every passerby from a 500-year-old stone 
bridge as snow fell into the half-frozen black waters of the river below."

    His portrayal of Ka, by contrast, is strangely shifting. The poet is at 
one moment a thoroughly worldly figure, conniving to get the evasive Ipek 
into his bed, and at another he is kissing the hands of the local saint 
and fawning on his favours. He is consistent only in his self-absorption, 
finding inspiration for his poems in the unlikeliest circumstances, during 
a police interrogation or a massacre at a crowded theatre. Given the 
narcissism of most poets, he becomes most believable only at such erratic 
moments. Part of the vagueness of this portrayal is due, I suspect, to 
Pamuk's desire to echo Kafka's novel The Castle. In that masterpiece, the 
snow is all-pervasive, too, and the protagonist is identified only as K. 
(pronounced "ka" in German). Like K., Ka finds himself increasingly 
entangled in inexplicable snafus amid inhospitable surroundings. There is 
something a bit schematic about all this, and it extends even to the 
choice of Kars as a location: the Turkish word for "snow" is kar. Only 
Pamuk's skill at realistic description and his sense of place keep the 
novel from collapsing under its own heaped-up drifts of symbolism.

    With its vowel harmony and intricate system of word-building, Turkish 
is the most musical of languages and the translator has succeeded 
admirably in suggesting its cadences to an English reader; the translation 
reads beautifully.

    Pamuk is a wonderful writer but, in my opinion, his new novel doesn't 
succeed entirely as fiction. Too many odd characters tend to pop up like 
unexpected rabbits out of a conjuror's hat, and too often, the characters 
appear to be mere mouthpieces for divergent views. As a glimpse of 
present-day Turkey, however, with all its terrific inner tensions and 
smothering conflicts, vividly encapsulated as though in a snowy Petri 
dish, Pamuk's novel will come as a startling revelation to many Western 

    Eric Ormsby is a Montreal poet and director of the Institute of
Studies at McGill University.

LOAD-DATE: August 28, 2004
The Washington Post

August 29, 2004 Sunday
Final Edition

Winter's Tale

Reviewed by Ruth Franklin

    SNOW *

    By Orhan Pamuk. Translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely

    Knopf. 426 pp. $26

      "Politics in a literary work are a pistol-shot in the middle of a 
concert, a crude affair though one impossible to ignore," Stendhal wrote. 
This line serves as one of the epigraphs to Snow, Orhan Pamuk's 
mysterious, moving and -- yes -- political new novel, which includes a 
scene where guns are shot into a theater audience. Firearms 
notwithstanding, there is nothing crude about Pamuk's subtle work. The 
author of seven previous novels, he has taken as his great subject the 
tensions between West and East, religious and secular, in his native 
Turkey. His most recent novel, My Name Is Red, was an ingenious, tightly 
crafted tale of murder among miniaturists -- artists who illuminate 
manuscripts -- in 16th-century Istanbul, for which he at last garnered 
much-deserved recognition in the United States.

     Snow, which takes place in the present day, may be Pamuk's most 
topical novel yet. Ka, a poet from Istanbul, has returned to his native 
country for a visit after 12 years in exile in Germany. When Snow begins, 
he is on a bus en route to Kars, a mountain city in the "poorest, most 
overlooked corner of Turkey," at the former border of the Ottoman and 
Russian empires. An old friend at an Istanbul newspaper has asked him to 
report on the impending municipal elections as well as an epidemic of 
suicide among teenage girls, the latest of whom is one of the "head-scarf 
girls," a group of young women who have been barred from the secular 
university for covering their hair. In hope of reuniting with Ipek, a 
beautiful former classmate who now lives in Kars, Ka agrees.

     Kars is a tightly wound knot of tension between secular and religious 
forces, and Ka's investigations lead him into encounters with all the 
major players, including the charismatic Blue, an "infamous Islamist 
terrorist" who is in hiding after issuing a death threat against a 
talk-show host who insulted the Prophet Muhammad; Necip, a pious student 
who hopes to become the world's first Islamist science-fiction writer; and 
Ipek's sister, Kadife, the leader of the head-scarf girls. These forces 
come to a head on Ka's first evening in Kars, when an acting troupe stages 
a classic play called "My Fatherland or My Head Scarf." At the play's 
climax, the heroine rips off her scarf and burns it, and the religious 
youths in attendance begin to riot. Soldiers storm the stage, opening fire 
and killing a number of the audience members.

     This is the briefest possible introduction to Snow's elaborate plot, 
which works its way by twists and turns through numerous digressions, 
dialogues and genres. Pamuk's work is reminiscent of the great 
storytelling classics -- The Thousand and One Nights, Boccaccio's 
Decameron or Jan Potocki's Manuscript Found in Saragossa, with their bawdy 
comedy, intricate design and mystical overtones. At times Ka plays the 
traditional role of the trickster: In one brilliant sequence, he 
negotiates a statement of unity between the city's Islamist, Kurdish and 
socialist leaders for the sole purpose of luring Ipek's father out of the 
hotel where they live, so that he can make love to her. Elsewhere he is 
compared to a dervish: During his few days in Kars, he regains his 
inspiration for the first time in four years, and poems come to him as if 
dictated by a higher power.

     The poems that Ka writes in Kars turn out to be governed by a "deep 
and mysterious underlying structure" similar to that of a snowflake, and 
the same is true of the novel itself. The deeper you read, the more the 
symmetries multiply. Nearly every character has a double, down to the 
narrator himself, who is eventually revealed to be a novelist friend of 
Ka's named Orhan, telling Ka's story after his death based on information 
gleaned from his notebooks. All these mirror images add up to create a 
dizzying effect, which is deepened by the snow that begins to fall on the 
first page of the novel and does not let up until nearly the end. 
Practically a character in its own right, it blankets the mean streets of 
Kars, shutting Ka and Ipek together in their hotel, casting its strange 
light in unexpected places and closing the roads to all traffic in or out, 
so that the city becomes a strange hothouse of nervous activity and 
revolutionary unrest.

     This disorientation is surely Pamuk's intention. But even after the 
novel has come to its wrenching conclusion, the atmospheric haze is 
difficult to dispel. Snow has none of the tautness of My Name Is Red; its 
action moves thickly, at times impenetrably. Clarity is not enhanced by a 
tone that at times jerks wildly from knowing sophistication to faux 
naiveté. This is a shock after the elegant control of My Name Is Red, and 
the non-Turkish-reading reviewer is inclined to blame the translator, who 
is new to Pamuk's work. Nevertheless, 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 is assitant literary editor of the New Republic.

LOAD-DATE: August 29, 2004
The Baltimore Sun

August 29, 2004 Sunday FINAL Edition

A disorienting account of the Turkish dilemma;

Alane Salierno Mason

SOURCE: Special to the Sun

    Snow, by Orhan Pamuk, Alfred A. Knopf, 432 pages, $26.

    Snow is not the first thing that comes to mind when most Westerners 
think of Turkey. Americans are most likely to have encountered only the 
country's Mediterranean coast, bikini-clad and by boat. So it is 
disorienting from the first to enter a novel set in a provincial eastern 
Turkish city in a heavy snowstorm -- only the first of the disorientations 
a reader should experience in Snow by Orhan Pamuk, hailed by one critic as 
"the sort of author for whom the Nobel Prize was invented."

    At the time of the publication of his first novels to be translated 
into English, Pamuk was described as "Turkey's foremost novelist." The 
author note in Snow describes him as "one of Europe's most prominent 
novelists." Herein lies the central dilemma of modern Turkey and of Snow, 
a highly literary fable of the struggle of an essentially European 
intellectual and social elite to understand, control or make peace with 
those elements of the country that are bitterly anti-European. Ka is a 
poet who has been living in exile in Germany for some 20 years. When he 
returns, the radicals are no longer socialists but Islamists, and he 
wavers between sympathy for their religious devotion -- as he begins 
himself to feel stirrings of belief in God -- and fear of their hostility 
to him and everything he represents as a secular, Westernized 

    The beautiful leading women in Snow are symbolic of the soul of a 
nation: Ipek, bareheaded, independent, generally modern in her attitudes, 
separated from an Islamist politician; and Kadife, the leader of a group 
of girls barred from school for wearing headscarves as a symbol of 
religious devotion -- or political protest, or personal independence. One 
of these "headscarf girls" has committed suicide, part of a wave of female 
suicides; and as with all symbols, the meaning of this most intensely 
individual and anti-social of all acts is up for grabs, and vulnerable to 
political manipulation.

    Snow reminds Ka of God and the book's narrator of the divine uniqueness 
of every individual. Yet as several characters point out, "individuality" 
is also a kind of idol used by the West to denigrate more communally 
minded philosophies. Snow -- by closing off all roads to the outside world 
-- provides cover for a military coup that turns from ludicrous theater to 
real violence aimed at preventing an Islamist democratic victory in the 
local elections. (The elite's sense of guilt that their freedoms are 
propped up by unsavory means is a strong theme here.) Snow also represents 
the timeless accumulation of historical events that has turned a vibrant, 
diverse city into a depressed backwater where everyone's goal is to be 
like everyone else.

    A single snowflake also provides the structure for the book of poems Ka 
writes in the course of the novel, and which then goes missing, making 
this a book about a missing book -- one of several postmodern sleights of 
hand that some readers will adore and others find irritating. The 
terrorist named Blue who is a media creation; the empty chamber of a gun 
that is actually full; politics as theater / theater as politics; pairings 
in which people are obsessed with other, more vibrant people, their 
"originals"; an unreliable narrator trying to piece a story together from 
other texts; the poems that don't exist and the Islamist sci-fi novel that 
is plotted but not written -- these elements make Snow a kind of 
brainteaser about authenticity and the nature of reality.

    The romance at the center of the book is not especially convincing as 
love story, yet it is potent as allegory when Ka discovers, to his 
heartbreak, that both sisters -- not only Kadife, whom he respects, but 
Ipek, whom he adores -- are secret lovers of Blue. If you're reading 
Pamuk's work as European literature, Snow is probably not the first of his 
books to read, but as a kind of postmodern journalism of modern Turkey -- 
a pained report from the psychological border between East and West -- it 
is highly worthwhile.

    Alane Salierno Mason is a senior editor at W.W. Norton & Co. and 
founding editor of www.wordswithout borders.org, an online magazine 
devoted to international literature.

LOAD-DATE: August 31, 2004
The New Yorker

August 30, 2004

A modernist novel of contemporary Turkey.


    Orhan Pamuk's new novel, "Snow" (translated from the Turkish by Maureen 
Freely; Knopf; $26), abounds with modernist tracer genes. Like Proust's 
"Remembrance of Things Past," it bares its inner gears of reconstituted 
memory and ends by promising its own composition. Its hero, a poet, goes 
by the name of Ka, a hard-to-miss allusion to Kafka's K., the hero of "The 
Castle." Its setting, the forlorn provincial city of Kars-though kar means 
"snow," Kars is an actual place, in Turkey's northeastern corner, near 
Armenia; it was destroyed by Tamerlane in 1386 and occupied by Russia off 
and on in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries-suggests, in four 
hectic days during which the city is snowbound, the mountainous, 
debate-prone microcosm of Thomas Mann's sanatorium in "The Magic 
Mountain," with a lethal whiff of Dostoyevsky's unnamed "our town" in "The 
Possessed." The airy spirit of postmodernism also haunts the shadows and 
spiral staircases of Pamuk's intricate narrative. Like Italo Calvino, 
Pamuk has a passion for pattern-making; he maps Kars as obsessively as 
Joyce did Dublin and marshals the nineteen poems that Ka writes there into 
the form of a diagrammatic snowflake. Not that "Snow" doesn't flow, with 
suspense at every dimpled vortex. Like Raymond Queneau, Pamuk is gifted 
with a light, absurdist touch, spinning out farcical plot developments to 
the point of implying that any plot, in this indifferent and chaotic 
universe, is farcical. He is attracted to the unreal reality, the false 
truth, of theatrical performance, and "Snow," in its political aspect, 
pivots on two nights of performance at the Kars National Theatre, in which 
illusion and reality are confoundingly entwined.

    The comedy of public events, where protest and proclamation rapidly age 
into melodramatic cliche, overlays certain tragic realities of 
contemporary Turkey: the poverty of opportunity that leads unemployed men 
to sit endlessly in teahouses watching television; the tension between the 
secularism established by Kemal Ataturk in the nineteen-twenties and the 
recent rise of political Islam; the burning issue of women's head scarves; 
the cultural divide between a Westernized elite and the theistic masses. 
In its geography, Turkey straddles Europe and Asia; its history includes a 
triumphant imperial episode under the Ottoman sultans and, after long 
decline, a secular, modernizing revolution under Ataturk. Tradition there 
wears not only the fez and the turban but the uniform of the 
Islam-resistant Army.

    Ka, a forty-two-year-old, unmarried Istanbul native who for twelve 
years has lived as a political exile in Germany, comes to Kars, which he 
briefly visited twenty years ago, in order to investigate and report on, 
for a friend's newspaper, a local epidemic of suicide among young women, 
and to look up a university classmate, the beautiful Ipek, who, he has 
learned, is separated from her husband, Muhtar. Muhtar, another old 
acquaintance, is running for mayor; this election is one of the threads 
that are all but buried in the subsequent days beneath a veritable 
blizzard of further complications and characters. The Anatolian venue, its 
deteriorating architecture poetically redolent of former Armenian and 
Russian inhabitants, is populated by Turks whose names have, to an 
American reader, a fairy-tale strangeness: Ipek, Kadife, Zahide, Sunay 
Zaim, Funda Eser, Guner Bener, Hakan Ozge, Mesut, Fazil, Necip, Teslime, 
Abdurraham Oz, Osman Nuri Colak, Tarkut Olcun, and (Ka's full name, which 
he suppresses) Kerim Alakusoglu.

    In his temporary role of journalist, Ka is given access to a succession 
of local viewpoints, ranging from that of the deputy governor (who tells 
him, "If unhappiness were a genuine reason for suicide, half the women in 
Turkey would be killing themselves") and the benign religious teacher 
Sheikh Saadettin Efendi to that of the outlaw terrorist Blue and Ipek's 
sister, the scarf-wearing Kadife, who in the end proposes that women 
commit suicide to show their pride: "The moment of suicide is the time 
when they understand best how lonely it is to be a woman, and what being a 
woman really means." Early in Ka's visit, Ipek tersely sums up the 
situation for him: "The men give themselves to religion, and the women 
kill themselves." When he asks why, she responds with "a look that told 
him he would get nowhere by pressing her for quick answers." But the 
question, in the course of more than four hundred pages, pales beside more 
vividly animated issues: Ka's revived ability to write poems; his tortuous 
campaign to persuade Ipek to marry him and join him in the marginal 
existence of an exiled Turkish poet in Frankfurt; his debates with several 
young students (Necip, Fazil) at the Kars religious high school over 
whether or not he and other Europeanized Turks are inevitably atheists; 
and, in the most farcical-tragical twist of plot, a violent Kemalist 
(pro-secular, anti-political-Islamist) coup in the snowbound municipality, 
engineered from the stage by the veteran itinerant actor Sunay Zaim.

    Ka, who on his first day in Kars witnesses the assassination of an 
education official who had forbidden head scarves, becomes increasingly 
involved in many-sided intrigues and shuttles back and forth like the hero 
of a thriller; but he is not believable as such, possessing, as he does, a 
preoccupying ear for the poems being dictated to him by a higher power and 
a constant concern with his own uncertainties. Does he believe in God or 
not? Is happiness worth having? He decides, after an ecstatic interlude 
with Ipek, that "the greatest happiness in life was to embrace a 
beautiful, intelligent girl and sit in a corner writing poetry." But even 
this unexceptional conclusion melts away under his doubts: he foresees 
that in Frankfurt a "crushing, soul-destroying pain would eat away at 
their happiness." And the handsome Blue, whose main terrorist activity 
seems to be seducing women, assures him, "People who seek only happiness 
never find it."

    Dithering, reflective Ka, the embodiment of Turkish ambivalence, is, we 
learn, a Gemini. He acquires a neartwin (this author has a weakness for 
near-twins, for men who interpenetrate each other, like the 
seventeenth-century Italian slave and his Muslim master in "The White 
Castle," or like Necip and Fazil in this novel) when "Orhan the novelist" 
takes on an increasingly voluble first-person voice and presence. Orhan, 
it turns out, has travelled to Kars to investigate the adventures of his 
friend Ka four years after they occurred. The narrative's subtext emerges 
as a sophisticated and esteemed writer's aporia-his bafflement-in the face 
of his nation's backwardness, superstition, and misery. What do Ka's inner 
states-the bliss of intermittent inspiration, the romantic dreams of 
erotic conquest, his intense nostalgia for a sheltered childhood, his 
flitting sense that Islam is correct and God does exist-have to do with 
the world's economic and political facts? His is the social class that 
left Islam to the servants and welcomed military coups, with their cozy 
curfews and radio-broadcast martial music. When Ka's friend and rival 
Muhtar is beaten by the police, "Ka imagined that Muhtar had found 
redemption in this beating; it might have released him from the guilt and 
spiritual agony he felt at the misery and stupidity of his country." The 
only lines that are quoted from Ka's nineteen suddenly inspired poems run:

    Even if your mother came down from heaven to take you into her arms, 
Even if your wicked father let her go without a beating for just one 
night, You'd still be penniless, your shit would still freeze, your soul 
would still wither, there is no hope! If you're unlucky enough to live in 
Kars, you might as well flush yourself down the toilet.

    The unlucky, however, protest: during a political meeting that 
pathetically, comically, endearingly struggles to frame a statement for 
the Frankfurter Rundschau, a passionate young Kurd cries, "We're not 
stupid, we're just poor!" He goes on, "When a Westerner meets someone from 
a poor country, he feels deep contempt. He assumes that the poor man's 
head must be full of all the nonsense that plunged his country into 
poverty and despair." The author himself, arriving at what he terms 
"perhaps . . . the heart of our story," asks:

    How much can we hope to understand those who have suffered deeper 
anguish, greater deprivation, and more crushing disappointments than we 
ourselves have known? Even if the world's rich and powerful were to put 
themselves in the shoes of the rest, how much would they really understand 
the wretched millions suffering around them? So it is when Orhan the 
novelist peers into the dark corners of his poet friend's difficult and 
painful life: How much can he really see?

    Thus the aesthetic and private passions so crucial to Ka double back, 
in a way, upon politics. Empathy knits a society together as well as 
enables works of imagination. But do the rich and powerful, having once 
imagined their way into the shoes of the less fortunate, change course and 
renounce all they have, as both Buddha and Jesus advised? And would it do 
enough good if they did? Is not conflict, between classes and nations 
both, often between groups that understand each other all too well? They 
compete for the same prize, the same land, the same control of resources. 
Pamuk's conscience-ridden and carefully wrought novel, tonic in its scope, 
candor, and humor, does not incite us, even in our imaginations, to 
overthrow existing conditions in Turkey. When the Kars coup occurs, the 
enthusiasm among unemployed youths leads to the dry authorial comment 
"They seemed to think that last night's events marked the beginning of a 
new age, in which immorality and unemployment would no longer be 
tolerated; it was as if they thought the army had stepped in expressly to 
find them jobs." Such realistic fatalism, and the poet's duty "to hear the 
hidden music that is the source of all art" and to believe that "life had 
a secret geometry," drains "Snow" 's ideological contests of blood. We 
could care less, but not much less. Ka has a drifting, ghostly presence 
that becomes exasperatingly mired in the role of negotiator, schemer, man 
of action; it wasn't clear, at least to this reader, what his decisive 
action, for which he suffers in the end, was. Nor is his love for Ipek, 
beautiful and wise as she is conjured to be, very involving. The lovers' 
exchanges have an enigmatic bleakness, traceable perhaps to Hemingway:

    "I learned everything they taught us about Islam, but then I forgot it. 
Now it's as if everything I know about Islam is from The Message-you know, 
that film starring Anthony Quinn." Ka smiled. "It was showing not long ago 
on the Turkish channel in Germany-but, for some strange reason, in German. 
You're here this evening, aren't you?" "Yes." "Because I want to read you 
my poem again," said Ka, as he put his notebook into his pocket. "Do you 
think it's beautiful?" "Yes, really, it's beautiful." "What's beautiful 
about it?" "I don't know, it's just beautiful," said Ipek. She opened the 
door to leave. Ka threw his arms around her and kissed her on the mouth.

    Maybe-though Maureen Freely's translation is fluent and lucid 
throughout-it reads better in Turkish. If at times "Snow" seems attenuated 
and opaque, we should not forget that in Turkey, insofar as it partakes of 
the Islamic world's present murderous war of censorious fanaticism versus 
free speech and truth-seeking, to write with honest complexity about such 
matters as head scarves and religious belief takes courage. Pamuk, 
relatively young as he is, at the age of fifty-two, qualifies as that 
country's most likely candidate for the Nobel Prize, and the 
near-assassination of Islam's last winner must cross his mind. To produce 
a major work so frankly troubled and provocatively bemused and, against 
the grain of the author's usual antiquarian bent, entirely contemporary in 
its setting and subjects, took the courage that art sometimes visits upon 
even its most detached practitioners.

LOAD-DATE: August 30, 2004
Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

September 5, 2004 Sunday

Across the divide;
Religious debates bog down this promising European-style novel that
Turkish history

By Kevin Rabalais, Contributing writer


    By Orhan Pamuk

    Translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely

    Alfred A. Knopf, $26

    Every once in a while, a foreign writer appears -- seemingly from out 
of nowhere -- and catches the attention of the English-reading world. We 
often assume that this sudden arrival indicates a new voice in world 
literature, namely that the writer is young. Because of this, we find it 
difficult to imagine that he had been working for years in his own 

    There was that "arrival" of Vladimir Nabokov, who after the 1955 
publication of "Lolita" suddenly became an international sensation, though 
he had been writing for more than three decades, mostly in his native 
Russian before turning to English to show us native speakers the true 
meaning of language skills. More recently, before he died of a heart 
attack while driving, critics forecast German writer W.G. Sebald as a 
future Nobel Prize winner. At the time, only two of his books had appeared 
in English translation.

    Orhan Pamuk, whose novel "My Name is Red" received the 2003 IMPAC 
Dublin Literary Award, is such a writer -- a critic's darling, if you 
will. Since the 1991 English translation of "The White Castle," Pamuk has 
been compared to everyone from Marcel Proust and Thomas Mann to Jorge Luis 
Borges. His novels are steeped in a highly European literary tradition and 
also flooded with Ottoman history and Islam, a unique combination.

    Pamuk's most recent novel, "Snow," a political and religious thriller 
set in his native Turkey, begins after Ka, a poet of some international 
renown, attends his mother's funeral in Istanbul. Though not involved in 
politics, Ka has spent the past 12 years in exile in Germany, where he 
fled after being tried for a political article he did not write. At least 
this is what the narrator, a childhood friend of Ka's who reconstructs the 
poet's story from various sources, tells us in the beginning.

    After the funeral, Ka travels by bus to Kars, a once-important city 
where he spent much of his childhood. "Being on the borders of two empires 
now defunct, the Ottoman and the Russian, the mountain city also benefited 
from the protection of the standing armies each power had in turn placed 
in Kars for that purpose." Much of Pamuk's work, and "Snow" in particular, 
resides in this type of in-betweenness, both cultural and religious.

    In Kars, Ka plans to use his press pass to cover the municipal 
elections and also write about "the head-scarf girls"  -- students who 
began committing suicide after they were barred from the classroom for 
refusing to remove their headscarves. Or, as one character says, girls 
barred "for flaunting this symbol of political Islam." Everything in Kars 
is political, and religion is politics. Those opposed to the banning fear 
that the girls will be turned into slaves of the West, while others claim 
that their removal allows equality and respect.

    The real reason for Ka's visit, however, is to see his former 
classmate, the beautiful Ipek, recently divorced. The two meet in a cafe. 
Over coffee, while reassembling the years they've been apart, they witness 
the attempted assassination of the director of the Institute of Education, 
the man who had initiated the ban.

    Afterwards, when snow forces the local government to close off the city 
from the rest of the world for three days, Ka finds himself descending 
into the terrorist organization responsible for the assassination attempt. 
The group's leader, Blue, believes that Ka is an agent of freedom returned 
from the Godless West to tempt the oppressed. What follows is part 
thriller, part political manifesto in the tradition of Dostoevsky's 
"Demons." Unfortunately, however, the ideas in "Snow"  -- particularly the 
long and numerous religious debates -- often seem to be Pamuk's primary 
concerns. Because of this, the characters frequently disappear behind the 
dialogues, falling short of our expectations for them as individuals in 
command of their actions.

    From the opening passage, a dreamlike tone quietly arises, giving the 
novel a detached voice. This is at times poetic but also logical in a 
narrative told from the point of view of someone who continually reminds 
us how he received his information and that he was not present during Ka's 
visit to Kars. But these detachments continuously call to question the 
authenticity of the narrator's perceptions. Combined with the long 
religious dialogues, this often makes for slippery reading.

    Pamuk, whose works have now been translated into more than 20 
languages, has attained rare status among literary writers. His highly 
praised intellectual novels have become international bestsellers. "Snow" 
will frustrate many simply because of its abundant references to a culture 
we know too little about. But the experience of reading Pamuk, who has 
indeed inherited from all the writers with whom he has been compared, is 
like nothing else in contemporary literature. That alone explains much of 
the fuss.

    . . . . . . .

    Kevin Rabalais is co-editor of "Novel Voices" (Writer's Digest
conversations with award-winning American novelists.

LOAD-DATE: September 5, 2004
The Denver Post

September 5, 2004 Sunday

Clashes in the Middle East culture at issue In "Snow," Islamic beliefs

battle Western influences

John Freeman Special to The Denver Post

    Earlier this summer, the European court of Human Rights upheld the 
Turkish government's decision to ban head scarves in schools. It was a 
victory for the state but unlikely to put an end to controversy. One need 
only pick up Orhan Pamuk's mournful new novel, "Snow," to understand how 
divisive an issue this is in Turkey.

    Set between 1999 and 2001, Pamuk's tale revolves around the suicides of 
three teenage Muslim girls. Islamic clerics blame their deaths on the 
government because it punished the girls for wearing head scarves. 
Secularists argue that the girls were just depressed and did what 
teenagers sometimes do when engulfed by sadness.

    The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the middle, and that's what the 
novel 's hero, a Turkish poet named Ka, looks for when he travels by bus 
to the remote border village of Kars. His trip echoes a journey made in 
1829 by the Russian poet Pushkin, and as it turns out, Ka is an even less 
faithful reporter than his Russian counterpart. He is distracted by an 
unrequited crush he nurses for a woman he barely knows. As a former exile 
born to money in Istanbul, he is also desperately aware of his outsider 
status in this provincial town.

    Reading "Snow" can be a disjunctive experience, then, because the 
reader's attention and Ka's attentions are so often at odds with one 
another. While tensions ratchet upward toward a revolution, Ka drifts 
through town in a somnolent haze, dazzled by a heavy snowstorm. As the 
flakes drift down, muffling gunshots across town, cries for help, Ka 
wanders into tea rooms to jot down poems before they dissolve like 
snowflakes on his jacket sleeve. Maintaining distance, obviously, is his 

    As the novel progresses, however, Ka is forced out of the amniotic bath 
of his artistic remove. He witnesses an Islamic hit placed on a government 
minister. Knowing that he must maintain at least the pretense of 
journalism to remain in Kars, Ka interviews the families of the head-scarf 
girls, as they are called, the boys who became infatuated with them and 
the Islamic leaders inflamed by their deaths. With the help of a 
philosophical young boy, Ka visits a dashingly mysterious Islamic 
fundamentalist named Blue. Like many other characters in this book, Blue 
wants an Islamic Turkey, and he's willing to do what it takes to make that 

    Alternating between the snowstorm's hush and philosophical 
conversations that are reminiscent of Dostoyevsky's great novels, "Snow" 
proves a surprisingly gripping read. And a timely one, too, given France's 
ruling on head scarves and events in the Mideast. Pamuk has claimed in 
interviews he is not a political writer, but he will have difficulty 
defending that position with "Snow," which dramatizes many of the issues 
facing the Middle East today including the separation of church and state, 
poverty, the role of the military, women's freedoms, modernization and the 
influence of the West.

    Unfortunately, the book's compelling side drama of a writer struggling 
to remain apolitical is nearly occluded by all these sociological and 
political points of interest. It's a burden Pamuk, who won the IMPAC Prize 
for his novel "My Name is Red" labors under to a certain degree. To 
non-Turks, his books are first and foremost windows into Turkish culture. 
In time, it would be nice to have the pleasure of reading "Snow" not 
simply as the political novel it certainly is, but as a work of art.

    John Freeman is a writer in New York.

    By Orhan Pamuk; translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely

    Knopf, 400 pages, $26

LOAD-DATE: September 7, 2004
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

September 5, 2004 Sunday Home Edition

East, West meld in acid 'Snow'


SOURCE: For the Journal-Constitution


    Snow. By Orhan Pamuk. Translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely. 
Knopf. $26. 448 pages.

    The verdict: Turkish Alice down a rabbit hole.

    Nations, being arbitrary political constructs, have their 
contradictions and paradoxes. But few are more paradoxical than Turkey: 
the westernmost part of Asia, the easternmost part of Europe, where Roman 
emperors built churches that Ottoman emperors turned into mosques, a 
country of Muslims in whose 20th-century revolution women were ordered to 
take off, rather than put on, the veil.

    The work of the distinguished Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, winner of 
several international literary prizes, embodies the rich creative tension 
between the Occidental and the Oriental, the secular and the sacred, cable 
TV and the call of the muezzin. It's as if Franz Kafka, Milan Kundera, 
Naguib Mahfouz and Scheherazade all got together to collaborate.

    Ka is a not-very-productive poet from Istanbul, living in exile in 
Germany. He returns to Turkey for his mother's funeral, then decides to 
travel to the far-off border city of Kars, lately notorious as the place 
where a series of devout girls have committed suicide, supposedly because 
they were forbidden to wear head scarves in school.

    In addition, Kars is the home of Ka's old flame, Ipek. Ka cherishes 
romantic notions that he and Ipek might fall in love and get his creative 
juices flowing again. While he's at it, he figures he'll write something 
for the Istanbul newspapers about the "headscarf girls."

    But Kars, stuck in a corner of Turkey that has been controlled at 
different times by Armenians, Russians and Kurds, isn't merely on the 
border of disputed territories but on the border between past and present, 
the magical and the real.

    Once Ka checks into Kars' Snow Palace Hotel, he walks through the 
looking glass into a topsy-turvy world where strict Islamists watch 
Mexican TV soap operas, young men martyr themselves over a girl's hair and 
the local paper prints the news before it happens.

    Pamuk slyly and expertly plays with stereotypes --- the tortured poet, 
the Muslim militant, the mysterious woman --- in a setting that always 
threatens to topple over into the symbolic. No one is what he or she 
seems, at least during the great snow that keeps falling and cuts the city 
of Kars off from the 21st century itself.

    Pamuk himself is a character in the novel, relating the story of his 
friend Ka the way you would a long, off-the-wall fairy tale, narratively 
doubling back on himself with wry digressions and philosophical 
deconstructions of love, predestination and history.

    "Snow" is witty and, like the fiction of Kundera, Calvino or Borges, 
unapologetically intellectual.

    "Snow" is clever; it's acidly funny, too. Pamuk is an equal opportunity 
satirist, skewering the politics both of the westernized Turks and the 
Islamists. One of Ka's old friends, Ruhi, works "as a test subject in a 
study measuring the effectiveness of an advertising campaign for a new 
type of lamb pastrami pizza marketed to Turkish workers in the lowest 
income bracket." In the New Life Pastry Shop, a fundamentalist lectures 
the head of the Kars Institute of Education on women and the Quran before 
he shoots him:

    "As the American Black Muslim professor Marvin King has already noted, 
if the celebrated film star Elizabeth Taylor had spent the last twenty 
years covered, she would not have had to worry so much about being fat. 
She would not have ended up in a mental hospital. . . . Why are you 
laughing, sir?"

    Ka is on a quest. He wants to win the gorgeous but elusive Ipek, he 
wants to solve the mystery of the "headscarf girls" and penetrate the 
enigma that is Kars itself. Ka is also a Turkish Alice down a rabbit hole, 
where he learns to believe many more than six impossible things before 
breakfast. Such as that the difference between the Islamists and the 
secularists isn't always clear. And that language itself wields not mere 
aesthetic power but can act like a spell or a curse, directing the course 
of events. Kars doesn't simply veer between the magical and the real; it 
is, like Looking Glass Land, a place of inversions.

    The snow that keeps falling is at once natural and supernatural: It 
covers up the tracks of assassins and muffles the sound of gunfire, and it 
turns provincial Kars into an enchanted city where anything is possible. 
The Border City Gazette, the local daily, isn't just a small-town rag; it 
seems to predict, even shape, the news. Serdar, the 
owner-editor-publisher, runs a story that says Ka will give a public 
reading of a new poem, well before Ka even thinks of writing one. Later, 
the paper reports a murder before it happens. Time in Kars is out of 
joint. Or maybe it takes a different, nonlinear shape.

    "Snow" is in some ways more fable than novel. Ka, Ipek, the would-be 
revolutionary Blue are characters reported rather than felt: The reader 
remains at arm's length from all of them. But Pamuk keeps you engaged 
throughout the intricacies of his story. It is, as he points out himself, 
like a snowflake, more beautiful and complex the closer you look.

    Diane Roberts teaches English at the University of Alabama.

LOAD-DATE: September 5, 2004

September 6, 2004 U.S. Edition

An Empire Of Stories

By Malcolm Jones

Turkey's tortured history inspires two fine novels

    Turkey is a novelist's dream, or perhaps a land dreamed by a novelist. 
A border country between Europe and the Middle East, it has for centuries 
been so many things to so many people--Christians, Muslims, Armenians, 
Greeks, Kurds and, of course, Turks--that it has become a place where 
fantasies and realities collide like tectonic plates. Everybody has a 
story, and, as two new novels set in Turkey demonstrate in their radically 
varying tales, every story is startlingly unique.

    In "Birds Without Wings," Louis de Bernieres tackles a piece of Turkish 
history with the same vigor that he used to sketch World War II Greece in 
"Corelli's Mandolin." But this is a darker book, with nothing like its 
predecessor's central love affair to soften its tragedy. Near the novel's 
beginning, de Bernieres introduces Philothei, his fictional village's most 
beautiful woman, about whom one character says she "reminded you of 
death," because to look upon her was to know that "everything decays away 
and is lost." Like Eskibahce, the village she inhabits, Philothei is 
notable for nothing but her beauty; both are doomed. By the end of "Birds 
Without Wings," Eskibahce has been decimated by World War I and its 
aftermath. What had been a patchwork paradise of ethnicities--Greeks, 
Turks and Armenians--is gone, sacrificed for modern Turkey, forged by the 
ruthless, charismatic Kemal Ataturk out of the ashes of the Ottoman 
Empire. The Greeks have been exiled, the Armenians slaughtered. Those who 
remain are too impoverished and war-weary to know what hit them.

    De Bernieres takes his cues from Tolstoy--his characters' stories are 
always played out against the scrim of history. The Turkish novelist Orhan 
Pamuk is more a Kafka man. "Snow" takes place in the 1990s in the 
far-eastern Turkish village of Kars. And while the story, packed with 
nationalists, socialists and militant Islamists, has a superficial 
currency, its reality is dreamlike. Snow falls for most of the novel, 
isolating the town, where a poet, called Ka, has come to investigate a 
series of suicides by teenage Muslim girls who refuse the secular 
government's order to remove their headscarves. Artistically blocked for 
years, Ka, a Westernized sophisticate, suddenly begins to write poetry 
again. He falls in love so deeply that he begins to betray 
everything--even his own scruples--to preserve his happiness. Because he 
believes in nothing beyond his own desire, he is marked for tragedy.

    De Bernieres is so inventive--celebratory but never sentimental--that 
he is the more beguiling of the two novelists. But Pamuk is the more 
profound. At the end of "Snow," a young man says to the narrator, "I'd 
like to tell your readers not to believe anything you say about me, 
anything you say about any of us. No one could understand us from so far 
away." By refusing to condescend to his characters--by just showing them, 
not explaining them--Pamuk endows even the most reprehensible figures with 
dignity. Like de Bernieres, Pamuk never generalizes. In their indelible 
novels, every tragedy wears a different face.

LOAD-DATE: August 31, 2004
Detroit Free Press

September 12, 2004 Sunday 0 EDITION

Novel has action, insight, wit for serious reader

    Review by Charles Matthews

    Haunting and edgy, Orhan Pamuk's "Snow" is a novel by a writer who 
takes the novel seriously, as a vehicle for exploring ideas and examining 
the predicament of the world. It's a book with action and intrigue, witty 
insights and lively characters, but it's also a work with a moral and 
symbolic complexity that makes most contemporary fiction look thin and 

    The protagonist is a poet known as Ka (the initials of his full name, 
which he dislikes), who has returned to Turkey after 12 years of exile in 
Germany. A friend who works for an Istanbul newspaper persuades Ka to 
write a story about the numerous suicides by teenage girls that have taken 
place in the remote city of Kars, in eastern Turkey near the border with 
Armenia. Ka accepts the assignment when he hears that an old girlfriend, 
Ipek, now lives in Kars.

    Ka winds up snowbound in Kars, which is the nexus of all manner of 
ethnic, religious and political tensions. The suicides, for example, seem 
to be provoked by the secular government's attempt to ban head-scarves -- 
Ka is told that the girls, devout Muslims, killed themselves in protest. 
But the Muslims issue their own denunciations of suicide as a sin, adding 
to the enigma that is Kars, which has an other-side-of-the-looking-glass 
quality to it.

    It's a place where the newspaper often goes to press with reports of 
events that haven't happened yet. (Ka reads a poem at a public meeting, 
even though he hadn't planned to and hadn't even written the poem, in part 
because the newspaper has already printed a story about the reading.) It's 
also a place where a theatrical production turns deadly because the rifles 
carried on stage contain live ammunition.

    Ka witnesses an assassination, interviews an Islamist terrorist, 
becomes the object of police suspicion and falls deeply in love with Ipek, 
all of which serves to bring him to life for the first time in many years: 
He begins writing poetry with a new fervor. (Cunningly, Pamuk never lets 
us read any of Ka's poems.)

    Fittingly, Ka's name echoes that of Kars, the city that vivifies him 
but also puts his life in jeopardy. Moreover, the Turkish word for snow is 
"kar" -- the book's original title, and no doubt one of the many nuances 
lost in translation. But the name also suggests Kafka's protagonist known 
as K. -- pronounced "ka" in German. And there is something Kafkaesque 
about Ka's experiences, even before he goes to Kars: Though "he had never 
been very much involved in politics," Ka had fled Turkey after the 
military coup of 1980, to avoid going to jail "for a hastily printed 
political article he had not even written." Politics has a way of 
swallowing up the uncommitted, and isolation turns places like Kars (and 
many others around the globe) into political vortices.

    "Snow" is the seventh book by a writer who evidently believes, like the 
great novelists of the 19th and early 20th centuries, that fiction can 
make a difference -- morally and politically. He even courts comparison to 
such writers, beginning his book with epigraphs from Conrad, Dostoyevsky 
and Stendhal, a daunting company to say the least. But he shares with them 
a vision of human beings shaped by external forces they can't control and 
by interior drives that they choose not to control. This is serious 
fiction for serious readers.

    CHARLES MATTHEWS writes for the San Jose Mercury News.

LOAD-DATE: September 12, 2004
Entertainment Weekly

September 17, 2004


Gilbert Cruz


    Orhan Pamuk Novel (Knopf, $ 26)

    Orhan Pamuk does not hold back. In his seventh novel, the Turkish 
author addresses Love, Religion, Politics, and many other big-letter 
themes as he dissects the ideologies that threaten his native land. Ka, a 
42-year-old poet who has not written in many years, returns to Turkey 
after years of political exile. Ostensibly there for his mother's funeral, 
Ka journeys to the border town of Kars to investigate a rash of suicides 
by Muslim girls banned from school for wearing their head scarves, while 
also planning to convince Ipek, an old crush, to run away with him. A 
proxy for Turkey itself, Ka is torn between Islam and atheism as he 
experiences a streak of poetic inspiration he attributes to God. Crammed 
with empathetic characters fervent in their beliefs, Snow abounds with 
political intrigue while remaining lushly tragic at heart. A-- --Gilbert 


LOAD-DATE: September 10, 2004
The Weekend Australian

September 18, 2004 Saturday All-round Country Edition



     Uneasy marriage of East and West

     TURKEY drew back from the brink of making adultery a crime, fearful it 
would jeopardise its chances of being admitted to the EU, whose members 
will decide that issue on October 6. The complexity of life in modern 
Turkey is the stuff of best-selling Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk's new 
novel, Snow. Christopher Hitchens, in The Atlantic Monthly noted Turkey is 
"physically and historically, the 'bridge' between East and West" and that 
with his previous novel, My Name is Red, Pamuk "himself became a kind of 
register of this position". The new book deals with the trials of Kerim 
Alakusoglu, who returns from Germany to live in Kars, on the 
Turkish-Armenian border, a place shaken by an epidemic of suicides by 
young girls distraught at not being allowed to wear the Muslim veil. 
Poverty is ever-present and other voices include Kurdish separatists, 
political Islamists and secularists. Pamuk said in Ankara's Turkish Daily 
News: "When an author in the West writes about the ordinary elements of 
life -- the pain, the sorrow, the happiness he sees around him, it is 
characterised as a story of humanity. But when an author from a country on 
the periphery does the same thing, he is perceived as having voiced ethnic 

     * Crescent and Star by Stephen Kinzer (Saint Martin's Press, $30). 
Acclaimed journalist's view.

     * The Emergence of Modern Turkey by Bernard Lewis (Oxford Uni Press, 
$65). By a respected academic.

LOAD-DATE: September 17, 2004

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