Ka, a journalist and poet, becomes mixed up with a terrorist group and a political coup after arriving in the Turkish city of Kars to write a story about a spate of suicide among young Muslim girls. He has been in Germany for 12 years, and upon his return to Turkey, falls in love with a woman named Ipek, whose father owns the hotel that Ka is staying in.
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He investigates the suicides, and finds the girls are building a political movement against the Turkish government, which has outlawed the wearing of head scarves. One of the girls is Kadife, the younger sister of Ipek. She leads Ka to Blue, a wanted terrorist.
Ka is inspired by the discussion of religion and begins writing poems again, after several years of writer's block. He attends a performance of a play intended to denounce the wearing of head scarves, but during the performance soldiers appear on stage and begin firing into the audience. Sunay Zaim, an actor at the theatre, is leading the coup and declares himself the revolutionary dictator, both from the stage and in real life as well.
Because heavy snow has cut the town off from the rest of Turkey, no government forces arrive to suppress the violence. Kadife takes Ka to meet Blue again, and Ka convinces the terrorist to make a statement against the coup. Later that night, Ka and Ipek make love.
Ka tries to work with both sides of the conflict to end the violence, but he is increasingly tormented by the police, who believe he is connected with the Muslim terrorists. At this point, the narrative is taken over by "Orhan," a friend of Ka's. He is still the story in flashback four years later, after Ka has been killed in Germany.
Ka had fled Turkey shortly after the staged coup. The police killed Blue, and Ipek and Kadife believe Ka told the police where to find him. A group of Blue's followers had reformed in Germany, and it is implied that one of them assassinated Ka.
Orhan came back to Kars to piece together the last few days of Ka's time there, and to look for the poems he wrote while he was there. He finds that Ipek has never married, and still blames Ka for Blue's death. He also finds that one of Blue's followers took Ka's notebook, meaning the poems he wrote will never be found.
Best part of story, including ending:
This novel is a complex web of discussion about religion, politics, and love. Mostly it is a discussion, as it features a lot of characters who talk about all of these things, which sounds slightly boring but is actually entrancing.
Best scene in story:
When Ka first meets Blue, the terrorist is the opposite of how most terrorists are described. He is thoughtful and sensitive, and is not violent in this scene at all. It forces the reader to contend with Blue's ideas.
Opinion about the main character:
Ka is somewhat naive about how regular people interact. It may be that as a poet, he is so caught up in the life of the mind that he doesn't function well when he's down here with the rest of us.