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‘Snow’ by Orhan Pamuk

This is a fascinating read, giving insight on a small Turkish town, where political factions compete for dominance in troubled times. The protagonist is an indifferent poet, who sits on the political fence to practice his art. He had rejected his socialist idealism when he left town twenty years earlier, to settle in Germany, in semi-reluctant self-imposed exile. He returns for a few days and encounters old friends and acquaintances, who see him as a spokesman for ‘The West’, a turncoat despised by the locals, who is immune to the grim realities of an impoverished, divided and anxious provincial population. During his sojourn, with a snowstorm as backdrop, he witnesses unexpected events as a military coup controls the streets. Islamic Fundamentalism, art, politics, religion, love, and the battle of the sexes are played out against questions of democracy and freedom of expression.

I have not read much about Turkey apart from ‘Fez’ describing the foundation of modern Turkey, and ‘Birds Without Wings’ by Louis de Bernieres, so this sheds a new light in a world I know little about. There is a lot of repetition and contradiction, which I presume results from translating it into English.

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