The Reading Passport

Noughties buzz words included globalisation and communication. In your Reading Passport Journey this week we will look at a novel by a Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk.

Snow by Orhan Pamuk 2002

Snow is a clever thriller that explores the dangerous relationship between Western secularism and Islamic fervor, and has clear resonance today. A Kafkaesque character known as Ka is stranded by snow in a north-eastern Turkish town called Kars. Ka is a poet and political exile who plays the part of an intrepid reporter investigating the suicides of a number of young women (one of which is stopped from wearing her Muslim headscarf at university). During his investigation, Ka finds himself caught up in a political coup organised by a revolutionary actor opposed to the Islamists and supported by the dreaded “Special Operations” force, MIT. He falls in love, witnesses an assassination, meets disaffected youth and writes poems in an attempt to arbitrate between the revolutionary forces and the Islamists. His end is terrible, but he is one of literature’s most moving heroes.

The novel is full of thrilling descriptions of murder, interrogations and sudden disappearances. But, the novel is more than just a thriller, examining the volatile arguments across a range of contentious issues from police surveillance, to what it is to be a Turk or European, to love, suicide and God. The novel’s relaxed realism and intelligent provoking demonstrates how novelists can expose important truths.

If you enjoy “Snow”, you might also like Orhan Pamuk’s “White Castle”, a novel about a young Italian scholar who is captured by the Ottomans and becomes the servant of a man eager to absorb the knowledge of the West.