Review by Booklist Review
Sharply departing from the accessibility of his last novel, the intellectual mystery My Name Is Red 0 (2001), acclaimed Turkish author Pamuk delivers a nearly impenetrable political novel. After eight years spent living in exile in Frankfurt, Germany, the poet Ka returns to the isolated town of Kars during a historic blizzard. Cut off from the outside world, the town's ingrown tensions are thrown into sharp relief as Ka investigates the epidemic of suicides occurring among devoutly religious schoolgirls who prefer to take their own lives rather than remove their head scarves. The chaos of a military coup and Ka's sudden, obsessive love for an old, very beautiful friend contribute to the poet's sudden burst of creativity after a years-long bout of writer's block. Pamuk mixes elements of the fable, a heavy dose of metaphysics, and great swathes of artificial, stilted dialogue as he slowly, ever so slowly, parses the differences between the secular and the faithful. Strictly for determined readers with a passion for international literature and a familiarity with Islam. --Joanne Wilkinson Copyright 2004 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
A Turkish poet who spent 12 years as a political exile in Germany witnesses firsthand the clash between radical Islam and Western ideals in this enigmatically beautiful novel. Ka's reasons for visiting the small Turkish town of Kars are twofold: curiosity about the rash of suicides by young girls in the town and a hope to reconnect with "the beautiful Ipek," whom he knew as a youth. But Kars is a tangle of poverty-stricken families, Kurdish separatists, political Islamists (including Ipek's spirited sister Kadife) and Ka finds himself making compromises with all in a desperate play for his own happiness. Ka encounters government officials, idealistic students, leftist theater groups and the charismatic and perhaps terroristic Blue while trying to convince Ipek to return to Germany with him; each conversation pits warring ideologies against each other and against Ka's own weary melancholy. Pamuk himself becomes an important character, as he describes his attempts to piece together "what really happened" in the few days his friend Ka spent in Kars, during which snow cuts off the town from the rest of the world and a bloody coup from an unexpected source hurtles toward a startling climax. Pamuk's sometimes exhaustive conversations and descriptions create a stark picture of a too-little-known part of the world, where politics, religion and even happiness can seem alternately all-consuming and irrelevant. A detached tone and some dogmatic abstractions make for tough reading, but Ka's rediscovery of God and poetry in a desolate place makes the novel's sadness profound and moving. Agent, Andrew Wylie. (Aug.) Forecast: Pamuk's reputation-bigger outside the U.S. than in-enjoyed a boost with 2001's My Name Is Red. This timely, thoughtful and demanding book may see it grow further. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Upon returning to his home in secular Turkey, a poet named Ka discovers two things that will change his life: Ipek, the girl he loved as a child, still lives in the city of Kars, and the community has been stunned by a rash of suicides of zealously religious girls who refused to remove their head scarves while in public. With an investigator's eye, Ka seeks out information about the tragedies from all sources, eventually leading to the man at the eye of the storm-"Blue," a charismatic Islamite who will not let the message that these girls carried be silenced. While in Kars, the normally reticent Ka dares to approach "happiness"; where once he suffered terrible writer's block, his poems now flow effortlessly, and his new-found love appears to love him back, but the figure of Blue and the deep waters in which Ka has immersed himself threaten his promising future. Like Pamuk's previous My Name Is Red, this story is thick with detail concerning the country's background; it does take some time to introduce all the characters. Once everyone is in place, however, the novel picks up and ultimately is a worthwhile read for those interested in a closer look at the hot topics of religion, its devout followers, and what arises from such passions. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/04.]-Marc Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Internationally acclaimed Turkish writer Pamuk (My Name is Red, 2001, etc) vividly embodies and painstakingly explores the collision of Western values with Islamic fundamentalism. An omniscient narrator, identified only on the penultimate page, tells the story of Kerim Alakusoglu, a 40-ish poet known as Ka who returns to Turkey from political exile in Germany. Ka travels to the remote provincial town of Kars in "the poorest, most overlooked corner of Turkey" near the Armenian border, where a seemingly endless snowfall persists, a rash of recent suicides by young women stirs political and ethnic debate--and Kee is reunited with his beautiful former schoolmate Ipek, now estranged from her husband. Pamuk distributes conflicting commitments to Muslim traditions and secular, Westernized concepts in such compellingly realized characters as Ipek's "radical" sister and sometime actress Kadife, her "terrorist" lover Blue, Ipek's unctuous husband Mukhtar (a mayoral candidate in Kars's upcoming municipal elections), brutal military police official Z. Demirkol, and National Theatre luminary Sunay Zaim, who appears to be staging his own martyrdom in an adaptation of Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy that will feature Kadife's onstage protest against Islam's suppression of women's rights. This richly detailed tale is in effect a dialectic made flesh by a thrilling plot ingeniously shaped to climax with the aforementioned theatrical production and to coincide with the narrator's revelations of Ka's last hours in Kars, which ironically consummate the flurry of poetic creativity released in him by his experiences there. The novel's meanings inhere memorably in the controlling title metaphor, which signifies cleansing, silence, sleep, obliteration, "the beauty and mystery of creation," and the organizing principles for Ka's late poems, the last of which he entitles "The Place Where the World Ends." An astonishingly complex, disturbing view of a world we owe it to ourselves to better understand. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.