Even though this book is based in the early 1990's, the issues addressed in the novel are very relevant today. Currently, Turkey is struggling economically and politically. The Islamic party grows ever stronger, while the Liberal Party attempts to suppress the Islamic religion and westernize Turkey. "Tension between the secularism" (Updike) and "rise of political Islam"(Updike) show the ever growing instability of the country's government. In his late twenties, Ka left Turkish politics and media, and exiled himself to Germany for twelve years to pursue happiness in poetry, and after many years of seclusion, Ka returns to Turkey to attend his mother’s funeral. After arriving into his hometown, Kars, for an investigation, a snowstorm hits the city and traps Ka. Secretly, Ka is pleased and excited to finally be able to return to his homeland, but small eruptions of fear swallow Ka's mind while he watched the unrelenting snowstorm harass his bus ride. As Ka ponders the snow that is quickly blocking his exit, Ka remembers the excruciatingly ha...
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...iolence and failure as the blizzard produced by illiberality and indecision.
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 conversation in a coffee shop between the director of the education institute and his assassin about the state's banning of head-scarves--that illuminate the confrontation between secular and extremist Islamic worlds better than any work of nonfiction I can think of.
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.
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