The question of terrorism will remain relentlessly having a foothold in the mind of anyone concerned about international relations and politics. Be it a separatist, socialist, or fundamentalist group, terrorists are thought of as the most dangerous evils ever threatening the world. Terrorism had long gone by the names of many things, but mostly, in the recent years, it has emerged under the name of Islam. The root of the so-called terrorism is never specifically known, but in the novel Snow, one of the most phenomenal works by Orhan Pamuk, terrorism in some ways presents itself as none-too-secret action of people who are desperately oppressed for their belief and religious practices. Set in a small, poor, isolated town of Kars, located far away in Anatolia, Snow presents the very issue mostly talked about of the early 2000s in a love story taken place in the throes of war between Islam and secularism.
Written distinctly from Ka’s viewpoint, the story begins with his return to his motherland after years of political exile in Germany. Previously thinking to attend his mother’s funeral, Ka then decides to veer to Kars at the last second, a small town where he can find the actual reason of his coming back to Turkey, İpek. In his search of İpek, and later, in the middle of his courting her, he realizes that he is stuck in a place where both sides of its people make it a battlefield: for and against the secularism of the new republic. In disguise of a journalist reporting head-scarf suicides, Ka discovers that Kars is half-full of people still strictly holding and practicing the teaching of Islam who have to struggle for what they hold against the apparatuses of national secularism. He doesn’t want to get involved in it, for he doesn’t care. His sole intention remains the same, to be happy, and the key is being with İpek. However, in pursuit of his happiness, he has to deal with all this thing first, only to get İpek refusing his love and unwilling to go to Germany with him at the end.
Snow, in common with other Orhan Pamuk’s works, describes in words how his country is an endless battlefield of Islam and Western secularism. Pamuk gamely talks of the secular people’s refusal of Islam for they think the religion is the cause for the fall of their old empire and the ground for its backwardness. Being religious then leads to being stereotyped as backward, and only secular people imitating Western way of life can claim to be modern. The secular people think that westernization is the only way out of poverty and ignorance, hence the effort to banish the teaching of Islam and its every struggle to stay alive. They insistently believe that people fighting in the name of Islam are terrorists, planning and carrying out terrorism in Kars.
The way I see it, the battle being fought which is told in this book is more of a political movement than a religious one. The practice of wearing headscarves is even deemed to be merely politics in an attempt to get control of the country and bring it back to the way of Islam. The girls committing suicide want nothing more than protecting their pride when they do their action. So, instead of being fundamental, the so-called terrorism is nothing if not political.
Writing a love story set in the middle of a war, whatever war it may be, is never an easy task. I wouldn’t say that Snow has an exceptional nor fascinating way of telling it, but Pamuk is clearly determined to make it sentimental. It was dramatically challenging to finish this book for the plot is too unrealistically dragging and even quite boring at some point, and the complicated love conflict and emotions interlaced it got me exhausted. Nevertheless, Snow is consistently well written and could still have me staying attentively on my seat and reading it to the last page, what with its interesting theme and intriguing characters and great narrative. It is so typical of Orhan Pamuk to write about prominent issues interlaced with love and drama in a splendidly strong narrative.
All in all, I can say that Snow is a great novel, deep and lucid, despite the dragging plot. Orhan Pamuk can always captivate his reader and engage me with issues near to my heart. Thus, I would like to recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the issue of terrorism as much as I am.