...an engrossing feat of tale-spinning … Although it's set in the 1990's and was begun before Sept. 11, Snow is eerily prescient, both in its analyses of fundamentalist attitudes and in the nature of the repression and rage and conspiracies and violence it depicts … In Snow, translated by Maureen Freely, the line between playful farce and gruesome tragedy is very fine … The twists of fate, the plots that double back on themselves, the trickiness, the mysteries that recede as they're approached, the bleak cities, the night prowling, the sense of identity loss, the protagonist in exile — these are vintage Pamuk, but they're also part of the modern literary landscape.
It is a novel of lesser scope than its grand and magical predecessor and more narrowly focused, although it is enriched by the author's same mesmerizing mixes: cruelty and farce, poetry and violence, and a voice whose timbres range from a storyteller's playfulness to the dark torment of an explorer, lost. All this finds voices through characters whose tactile immediacy fades imperceptibly into a fog of ambiguousness and contradiction … In his picaresque wanderings through the streets, symbolically blurred and isolated under a weeklong blizzard, [Ka] goes from one encounter to the next. Some are sinister, some alluring, some surreal … For Mr. Pamuk beauty does not redeem the tragic horrors begotten by human passions and obstinate memory. Neither do the horrors diminish it.
For all the density of its real-world detail Snow is really a book about a quest, and a miracle that grows out of it. Ka’s quest is not inspired by politics, and the mystery it engenders belongs to an entirely different category altogether … Where Pamuk really excels in this novel is in the deftness with which he allows these forces to tug at one another. Like Dostoevsky, the literary forebear whose spirit haunts this book most palpably, Pamuk appears to value politics, among other things, as a great opportunity to let his characters rant in all sorts of productive ways … As we find ourselves retracing Ka’s steps, in more or less reverse order, we realize that we are in a palindrome, a crystalline mirroring. The symmetry may be only half-hidden, but it is all the more singular for that. We may not know what axis of the snowflake we now find ourselves on.