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"Snow" by Orhan Pamuk - my Book Review

Updated on May 30, 2015
Gloriousconfusion profile image

I've always been a keen reader and have so many books that I couldn't hope to read them all in my lifetime. I love being surrounded by them

Snow by Orhan Pamuk

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"Snow" by Orhan Pamuk, Nobel Prizewinner

This book is about a poet, Ka, who is also an investigative journalist. He is stranded in a snowbound small town for an eventful few days to learn about the mysterious suicides of young women who have been obliged under the laws of Secular Turkey to remove their veils. The book is poetic, dreamy, atmospheric, exciting, political, and very informative about the ideological cross-currents in modern Turkey.

I was captivated right from the start by the sheer poetry and competence of the writing, which shone through the brilliant translation by Maureen Feely. I thought Snow was actually quite a difficult book, but Maureen Freeley's translation was so sensitive and seamless that it was sometimes hard to remember that it wasn't originally written in English. The words never jarred, and the poetic descriptions were all there

There is a love story interwoven with a tale of political unrest, and an exploration of the contrasting attitudes of secular society in Turkey and Muslim fundamentalists, culminating in violent action.

The viewpoints of the characters are revealed sympathetically and non-judgmentally, giving an insight into the problems of the warring factions in modern Turkey, which, under the auspices of Ataturk, became a secular state in the 1920s.

Synopsis of "Snow"

This book has become a 21st Century Classic:

It is 1992. Ka, a poet and political exile, returns to Turkey as a journalist, assigned to write an investigative piece about troubling events in the small and mysterious city of Kars near the Armenian border, where he becomes stranded for a few days due to a heavy fall of snow ("kah" in Turkish). Note the symbolic Turkish wordplay on the name - Ka - the man, Kars - the place, and kah - the snow-.

Through Ka, we consider the position of modern Turkey, a strongly secular state set up by Ataturk in the 1920s, and the opposing views of Muslim traditionalists and young Muslim fundamentalist Turks. Some of the women take up the veil for the first time, and there is a series of mysterious suicides by young women prohibited by the secular laws of Turkey from wearing the veil in public. We learn the views of Blue, a fundamentalist freedom fighter or terrorist, depending on your point of view. Pamuk writes with non-judgmental compassion for all the characters, which enables the reader to have some understanding of the complex issues and ideals which trouble Turkey in its seemingly impossible struggle to reconcile the different factions.

The thread of a developing love story runs through the revolutionary events taking place, and for Westerners it gives great insight into what it is like to live in modern Turkey and their difficult relationship with the Kurds.

Istanbul - Mosque of Ortaka by Suat Eman
Istanbul - Mosque of Ortaka by Suat Eman

'Snow' angered Islamists and westernised Turks alike when it came out in Turkey in early 2002 - but, as ever, this fanned the flames of curiosity, improving sales which quickly rose to more than 100,000 copies. It evokes the spiritual fragility of the non-western world, its ambivalence about the godless West, and its fury.

Orhan Pamuk's work has been translated into more than fifty languages. He is the recipient of numerous national and international literary awards and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature on October 12, 2006

"How much can we ever know about the love and pain in another 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?"

- Orhan Pamuk

Snow by Orhan Pamuk - Buy it on Amazon - If you want to see what all the fuss is about, just read it - you'll be blown away!

I cannot recommend this world-acclaimed book highly enough - I thoroughly enjoyed it, revelling in the rich prose and quality writing. It is already a modern European classic.

I was not surprised to find a few less positive reviews, as the book 'Snow' would not appeal to everyone; but if you are interested in serious political and philosphical or religious issues, you'll love it.

Snow
Snow

This is an unusual book about a subject which is much-debated throughout the world - how far should the state go to separate religion from government and public life. It is debated through a fictional character, caught up in a love affair and violent insurgency

 

It will give you a deeper understanding of the dangerous political undertows in Turkey

COLLECTORS' ITEMS: Rare 1st Edition of Snow, Signed by Orhan Pamuk

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Snow by Turkish Writer and Nobel Prize Winner Orhan Pamuk

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I am selling: A Signed 1st Edition of Snow - First Edition, First Printing - Published 2004 by Faber

Condition: Fine; With Dustjacket. Signed

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I am also selling an Unsigned 1st Edition of Snow

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"My Name is Red" by Orhan Pamuk - Orhan Pamuk's Previous Book - you can get your copy here:

My Name Is Red
My Name Is Red

Translated by Erdag Goknar, this is another book by world renowned author Orhan Pamuk, whose books have been translated into 54 different languages

 

More About the publication of Snow by Orhan Pamuk

This is Orhan Pamuk's fifth book, and won him the Nobel Prize for Literature. It is destined to become a 21st Century classic and has been published world-wide in many different languages.

The first English edition (translated by Maureen Freely) was published by Faber & Faber in 2004 to enormous critical and popular acclaim as a paperback original.

A scarce hardcover edition was subsequently issued and there is also an American Edition.

Pamuk's books are censored and often banned in his native Turkey, a culture which has to strike a delicate balance between radical Islam and Western secularism.

Orhan Pamuk
Orhan Pamuk | Source

More about Orhan Pamuk

Born in Istanbul in 1952, he became one of Turkey's most prominent novellists and was made a cause celebre in 2005 when he was prosecuted for claiming publicly that the mass killings of Armenians from 1915 were a result of genocide. In 2006 Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature and he is one of the greatest living writers.

Raised in a Western-oriented family, he was educated in Istanbul, graduating in journalism in1977. He published his first novel in 1982 and achieved international fame with The White Castle (1985), set in 17th-century Istanbul. He lived in the United States in the late 1980s. His works, often autobiographical and intricately plotted, probe the tensions between East and West. His later novels include My Name Is Red (1998), Snow (2002), and Masumiyet MÃzesi (2008). In 2005 the Turkish government generated international controversy when it put Pamuk on trial for "denigrating Turkishness."


One writer's view of the book Snow

Hate Campaign and Criminal Proceedings

Orhan Pamuk stands up for Freedom of Speech

In an interview with a Swiss publication in February 2005, Orhan Pamuk referred to the mass killings of a million Armenians and thirty thousand Kurds in the Ottoman Empire, adding that almost nobody else dared to speak out. As a result, he was subjected to a hate campaign in Turkey and had to flee the country. Rallies were held to burn his books

In June 2005, Turkey introduced a new Penal Code, under which Article 301 stated that any Turkish citizen who explicitly insults the Republic or Turkish Grand National Assembly shall be liable to imprisonment of between six months to three years. At the instigation of an ultra-nationalist lawyer, Orhan Pamuk was retroactively charged with violating this law four months before its enactment.

He returned to Turkey later in the year to face the criminal charges brought against him.

Talking to BBC News, he said that he wanted to defend freedom of speech, which was Turkey's only hope for coming to terms with its history, and that what happened to the Ottoman Armenians in 1915 was a taboo subject, hidden from the Turkish nation who need to be able to talk about the past. he confirmed his views again at an award ceremony in Germany.

The charges against Pamuk caused an international outcry and Turkey's proposed entry into the European Union was brought into question. The European Parliament announced that it would send a delegation of five MEPs to observe the trial and the view was that the this case would be a "litmus test" of Turkey's commitment to the EU's membership criteria.

On 1 December, Amnesty International released a statement calling for Article 301 to be repealed and for Pamuk and six other people awaiting trial under the act to be freed. PEN American Center also denounced the charges against Pamuk with the words: "PEN finds it extraordinary that a state that has ratified both the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights, both of which see freedom of expression as central, should have a Penal Code that includes a clause that is so clearly contrary to these very same principles."

On 29 December 2005, Turkish state prosecutors dropped the charge that Pamuk had insulted Turkey's armed forces, but the charge of "insulting Turkishness" remained.

On 22 January 2006, in a week when the EU was scheduled to begin a review of the Turkish justice system, the remaining charge was dropped, ostensibly for technical reasons. Some EU representatives expressed disappointment that the justice ministry had rejected the prosecution on a technicality rather than on principle.

Pamuk has subsequently stated in an interview on BBC Hard Talk that his intent was to draw attention to freedom of expression issues rather than to the massacre.

Here's my Guestbook, Where You Can Leave Comments - Have you Read Snow? Has This Web Page Encouraged You to Do So? What are your thoughts and feelings after rea

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    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Diana, I haven't read any of Orhan Pamuk's work before, but your excellent review has made me add him to my must-read authors list. Thank you for this informative introduction to his book, Snow.

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 3 years ago from Liverpool, England

      I read Snow some years ago - I can echo everything you said above - definitely worth reading.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 4 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Very interesting. I have not familiar with this work.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image
      Author

      Diana Grant 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      @superkunam lm: If you want the first edition mentioned on this website, you need to contact me directly, as you haven't allowed people to contact you on your profile page! Just hover over the words GloriousConfusion on top r.h.s. of this page, and it will take you to my Bio where you can send an email, or go to my website gloriousconfusion.com first editions.

    • superkunam lm profile image

      superkunam lm 7 years ago

      Very interesting review..

      hope i can have this book ^_^

    • Niki Goddard profile image

      Niki Goddard 7 years ago

      Oh no, you have put me in a bit of a dilemna. I LOVE to read, but I have just managed to wean myself off books for a little while to concentrate on things in the 'real world', now I want to read this! This is a great lens, very well written and I love the bordering.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image
      Author

      Diana Grant 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      @myraggededge: Thank you so much for Angel Blessings

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image
      Author

      Diana Grant 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks for all your kind comments - now come on boys and girls, you'd better get off your computers and start reading!

    • sheriangell profile image

      sheriangell 7 years ago

      I have not read any of his work, but I bet I do now. Excellent review.

    • Parleo profile image

      Parleo 7 years ago

      Makes me want to read the book, so mission accomplished.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 7 years ago

      This is a fabulous critique of a book and great insight into the author. Blessed and featured on Sprinkled with Stardust

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      myraggededge 7 years ago

      This is an excellent example of what you can do with the Squidlit template. The book sounds excellent and you have done a good job in highlighting it. Angel Blessed :-)

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

      I haven't read the book yet but you certainly made me want to. This is an intelligent, well-researched and heartfelt review. Delighted to leave an ~*~* Angel Blessing *~*~

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      Light-in-me 7 years ago

      Hello, I have not read this yet, but this lens did encourage me to read it. It is crafted very well and is also vey interesting.

      Very nice job,

      Robin