Snow Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Ferit Orhan Pamuk

Alternate Title: Kar

First published: 2002 (English translation, 2004)

Genre: Novel

Locale: Kars, Turkey

Plot: Political commentary

Time: Mid-1990s

Kerim “Ka” Alakusoglu, a forty-two-year-old poet who returns to Turkey after twelve years' political exile in Germany for his leftist views. A native of Istanbul, Turkey, Ka is a reflective man who comes to the city of Kars, which he visited twenty years ago, as a journalist to look into a wave of young women committing suicide. While there, he seeks out his former university classmate, Ipek, whom he wishes to marry. He becomes inspired while in Kars and writes poetry for the first time in four years. After becoming involved in many plots and dialogues covering matters such as religion, happiness, and the Europeanization of Turkey, Ka becomes conflicted over religion and politics. While he desires a life of happiness with Ipek, his experiences in Kars make him doubt whether happiness is achievable. Ejected from the city by the coup leaders, he spends the last four years of his life writing unsent letters to Ipek before being assassinated by Islamic militants in Frankfurt, Germany.

Ipek Hanim, a beautiful young woman and Ka's former university classmate who runs the Snow Palace Hotel that her father owns. She has pale skin and is so beautiful that her presence makes Ka nervous. When Ka reconnects with her, she s divorced from her husband, Muhtar, and emotionally distraught. On their first date, Ipek and Ka witness the assassination of the local minister of education. Eventually, Ipek and Ka have sex in the hotel that she runs, but later she admi s to having an affair with a terrorist named Blue while she was married to Muhtar. She loved them both, and despite this, Ipek and Ka are determined to leave Kars and live out their lives in Frankfurt.

Sunay Zaim, a Turkish Republican and the head of an avant-garde acting group who puts on the propagandist play My Fatherland or My Head Scarf, which is meant to display the superiority of modernizers over Islam. His troupe, the Sunay Zaim Theatrical Company, is known for their theatrical homages to the Turkish Republic and the Enlightenment. During a performance of My Fatherland or My Head Scarf, nationalists shoot into the audience and perform a coup. Due to a snowstorm, outside forces are unable to intervene in the upheaval. Afterward, Sunay helps coordinate the hunt for suspicious persons and becomes one of the revolution's leaders. He means for this upheaval to eliminate the Islamist threat so he can become a secularist leader.

Kadife, Ipek's sister, a tenacious actress who becomes leader of the head-scarf girls, a group of Muslim women who wear head scarves as a means of empowerment and defiance against the nationalists. The epidemic of suicides is connected to the head-scarf girls. They have been killing themselves rather than obey laws that they remove any public symbols of their religion. Kadife is sympathetic toward the suicides. In exchange for Blue's freedom, she agrees to remove her headscarf during a televised production produced by Sunay Zaim. Ka does not believe she understands the political consequences of doing this.

Muhtar Bey, Ipek's former husband and Ka's onetime friend who is running for mayor of Kars under the Party of God affiliation, a moderate Islamist political party. He is a Kurd who became interested in the political aspects of Islam after talking with religious teacher Saadettin Efendi. Muhtar is picked up by the police as a murder suspect and beaten. Later, he withdraws from the mayoral race.

Blue, a handsome Islamic extremist and Kadife's lover. He may be responsible for the assassination Ka and Ipek witnessed on their first date. Blue comes to Kars out of sympathy for the head-scarf girls. He firmly believes in protecting cultural traditions. Ka tells Blue that a German newspaper is willing to denounce Sunay's coup if Blue can muster the support of non-Islamists. He is arrested by nationalists after Ka tips them off on his whereabouts.

Sheikh Saadettin Efendi, a charismatic Sufi religious teacher with many followers in the civil service and among the wealthy. Ka meets with Saadettin and explains to him his concerns with religion. He consoles Ka and helps him think more deeply about God. Before their meeting, Saadettin has a dream that included Ka and snow.

Z Demirkol, a Turkish nationalist and head of the intelligence service who has Ka abducted and beaten by the secret police in hopes of finding Blue. Z Demirkol reveals to Ka that Ipek had an affair with Blue. His surveillance techniques are so effective many of the residents of Kars are afraid to speak anywhere in the city.

Serdar Bey, the publisher of the Border City Gazette newspaper in Kars. He often publishes news stories that have not happened because he believes this makes them happen in the future. After Serdar published a story about Ka's performance of his poem “Snow,” Ka writes a poem with that title.

The narrator of the story, who ventures to Kars after Ka's death to investigate the poet's days there. He retraces Ka's steps in hopes of locating his poetry notebook. He meets Ipek and falls in love with her much as Ka did.

Categories: Characters