Snow is set in the small Turkish town of Kars, isolated from the rest of the world for three days by a snowstorm. The plot of the novel is as intricate and symmetrical as the pattern of a snowflake. At the beginning, the center of this rigid form is occupied by the poet Ka, short for Kerim Alakuþoðlu, who arrives in Kars seeking Ýpek, a woman on whom he had a crush many years before. Unfortunately, he finds himself not only cut off from the outside world by the snowstorm but also by a military coup (and increasingly by his own self-destructiveness). In the isolated town, much as with a snowflake, the structure is rigid, with every person and group balanced and even paralyzed by their opposites. At the center of all this stand Ka and later “Orhan,” the narrator, who plays an increasingly larger role, eventually taking the place of the murdered Ka so far as to fall in love with Ýpek.
At the start of the novel, Ka, who had returned to Turkey to attend his mother's funeral, travels to the remote town of Kars. Though seeking to court Ýpek, a love from his youth, he claims to be investigating a series of suicides among girls who refused the secular government's order to remove their religious head scarves in school.
No two characters agree about the motivation of the girls or even the truth of the reports. Some see faith as the motive, others the oppressed condition of women. Still others believe that the stories of these suicides are lies circulated by enemies of Islam. One girl still wearing a head scarf in protest says, “[A] suicide wish is a wish for innocence,” even though suicide goes against the teachings of the Qurān. In this, as in so much else in the novel, people believe what they need to believe, while not affording the same liberty to others. Similarly, the citizens of the town have developed such a mistrust of government pronouncements that they do not even believe weather reports. In so rigid a society, those who seek the freedom to act as they wish, to wear the head scarf or not, for instance, allow no one else free choices.
At first, Ka feels taken back to his own childhood and its purity, but this innocence is as quickly muddied as fresh snow. Though claiming to having discovered faith, Ka enters a life of duplicity to win Ýpek's love and convince her to leave with him. Moreover, he is unable to prevent the betrayal that will cost him his own happiness and, after his return to Europe, his life. Willing to say anything to get what he wants, Ka is a pathetic hero, becoming more infantile over the course of the novel. Ever more dependent on Ýpek, he demands her total love the way a child would from his mother. Refused, he falls apart, as a child would, becoming rageful and finally murderous.
Most of the novel's characters find themselves in similar predicaments. Wanting something certain and pure, they have already been disappointed and are far from innocent themselves. Social pressures exacerbate the situation, undermining not just individual freedoms but also the ties binding couples together. The bonds at the heart of lasting relationships lie not between husbands and wives but among family members. Ka wants a dead mother's love, while Ýpek cares most for her father. Likewise, what attracts her to Blue, as the reader later learns, is not just Blue himself but a rivalry with her sister Kadife.
Ka attempts to circumvent all this through writing. Tormented by his unfulfilled passion and pressured by the events unfolding around him, Ka writes twenty poems that delineate the structure of a snowflake at the same time that the structure inspires the poems (and the novel). However, only nineteen poems are actually written down, and these are later stolen by Ka's assassin in Germany. The twentieth poem Ka extemporizes onstage during the town's first televised variety show just before it erupts into violence connected to a military coup. He needs this last poem to feel whole, but he can never return to Kars because of his guilt.
One true innocent, however, is Necip, struggling with the doubt that possesses him whenever he tries to articulate his faith or form bonds of love and friendship. “If you can’t put your trust in people,...
(The entire section is 1713 words.)