Picks and Pans Review: Snow

updated 09/13/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/13/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

By Orhan Pamuk

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"Because we've fallen under the spell of the West, we've forgotten our own stories," says Blue, an Islamic terrorist, to Ka, the Turkish poet whose story links politics and love in this brilliant novel. Ka "had tired of his country's neverending troubles and come to despise its backwardness, only to find himself gazing back with love." Returning to Turkey for his mother's funeral after years of exile in Germany, he seeks out the beautiful Ipek, a former classmate who now lives in a bleak northern city where pious girls are committing suicide because they're forbidden to wear their head scarves at school.

Suicide in Islam is a greater sin than uncovering one's head, and this is only the first of many layers of irony and absurdity Pamuk illuminates as Ka penetrates the political and spiritual life of Turks turning to Islamic fundamentalism. When a snowstorm descends, every primal fear and longing clashes in what seems to become a citywide psychosis. Pamuk writes with such grace and deep respect for his conflicted characters that this rich novel passes like a dream, encompassing every aspect of love and belief.


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