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At once a fiendishly devious mystery, a beguiling love story, and a brilliant symposium on the power of art, My Name Is Red is a transporting tale set amid the splendor and religious intrigue of sixteenth-century Istanbul, from one of the most prominent contemporary Turkish writers. The Sultan has commissioned a cadre of the most acclaimed artists in the land to create a gr At once a fiendishly devious mystery, a beguiling love story, and a brilliant symposium on the power of art, My Name Is Red is a transporting tale set amid the splendor and religious intrigue of sixteenth-century Istanbul, from one of the most prominent contemporary Turkish writers. The Sultan has commissioned a cadre of the most acclaimed artists in the land to create a great book celebrating the glories of his realm. Their task: to illuminate the work in the European style. But because figurative art can be deemed an affront to Islam, this commission is a dangerous proposition indeed. The ruling elite therefore mustn’t know the full scope or nature of the project, and panic erupts when one of the chosen miniaturists disappears. The only clue to the mystery–or crime? –lies in the half-finished illuminations themselves. Part fantasy and part philosophical puzzle, My Name is Red is a kaleidoscopic journey to the intersection of art, religion, love, sex and power.


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At once a fiendishly devious mystery, a beguiling love story, and a brilliant symposium on the power of art, My Name Is Red is a transporting tale set amid the splendor and religious intrigue of sixteenth-century Istanbul, from one of the most prominent contemporary Turkish writers. The Sultan has commissioned a cadre of the most acclaimed artists in the land to create a gr At once a fiendishly devious mystery, a beguiling love story, and a brilliant symposium on the power of art, My Name Is Red is a transporting tale set amid the splendor and religious intrigue of sixteenth-century Istanbul, from one of the most prominent contemporary Turkish writers. The Sultan has commissioned a cadre of the most acclaimed artists in the land to create a great book celebrating the glories of his realm. Their task: to illuminate the work in the European style. But because figurative art can be deemed an affront to Islam, this commission is a dangerous proposition indeed. The ruling elite therefore mustn’t know the full scope or nature of the project, and panic erupts when one of the chosen miniaturists disappears. The only clue to the mystery–or crime? –lies in the half-finished illuminations themselves. Part fantasy and part philosophical puzzle, My Name is Red is a kaleidoscopic journey to the intersection of art, religion, love, sex and power.

30 review for My Name Is Red

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    This book is as much about art as it is a historical novel. First the novel. A tale of miniaturist painters in Istanbul during the late 1500’s. The deceased master’s daughter is in a religious and political limbo: her soldier husband has been missing for four years, but with no body and no witnesses to his death, she can’t get a divorce and move on with her life. She wants to find a new husband and a father for her two young boys and get away from the amorous intentions of her husband’s brother. This book is as much about art as it is a historical novel. First the novel. A tale of miniaturist painters in Istanbul during the late 1500’s. The deceased master’s daughter is in a religious and political limbo: her soldier husband has been missing for four years, but with no body and no witnesses to his death, she can’t get a divorce and move on with her life. She wants to find a new husband and a father for her two young boys and get away from the amorous intentions of her husband’s brother. And there's a murder mystery. Enter a man called Black, an administrator of sorts who has returned to town after twelve years in distant lands. He still carries a torch for the beautiful widow from his days as a youth. Can he find her father’s killer, keep the brother-in-law at bay, help her get a legal divorce, and win her hand in marriage? Along the way we have blended into the text what are really mini-essays about horses; dogs in the Koran: what it’s like to be a murderer; Satan; the path of a counterfeit coin, etc. At least half of this lengthy work is about art. (I say lengthy because the 500-page paperback I read was tiny type, so this is a 700- or 800- page book in normal font.) Miniaturist painting was imported into the Ottoman Empire from Persia. Most of the painting was done as pictures in books and to illustrate the borders of pages of books, accompanied by elaborate calligraphy. (Think of the Irish monks’ manuscripts such as the Book of Kells.) Ottoman miniaturist painting was highly stylized. Pictures were drawn from the viewpoint of Allah, from the top of a minaret, and did not use what the West thinks of as true perspective. Armies lined up symmetrically in battle scenes; horses always had the same foreleg raised; a finger placed in a mouth always represented surprise. In accordance with religious concerns about idolatry, faces were generic, not individualized. Who would dare place an identifiable individual at the center of a painting? Man can copy; only Allah can create. The painter tried to portray the ideal horse or chair as Allah created it (think Plato’s “ideal chair”), not the individual variant before them. Is individuality expressed by a traditional miniaturist painter “style” or a “flaw?” Does it offend God? Compare all this to the European masters at the time such as da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael (the Turks called them “the Venetians”). So a lot of the book is about East meets West in the art world. All in all, an excellent book from the Nobel Prize-winning Pamuk. The story kept my interest and I enjoyed learning about Ottoman art, even when the sections where the miniaturists talked about the philosophy behind painting got repetitive at times.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Benim Adım Kırmızı = My Name is Red, Orhan Pamuk My Name Is Red is a 1998 Turkish novel by writer Orhan Pamuk translated into English by Erdağ Göknar in 2001. Pamuk would later receive the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature. The novel, concerning miniaturists in the Ottoman Empire of 1591, established Pamuk's international reputation and contributed to his Nobel Prize. The influences of Joyce, Kafka, Mann, Nabokov and Proust and above all Eco can be seen in Pamuk's work. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز هشتم Benim Adım Kırmızı = My Name is Red, Orhan Pamuk My Name Is Red is a 1998 Turkish novel by writer Orhan Pamuk translated into English by Erdağ Göknar in 2001. Pamuk would later receive the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature. The novel, concerning miniaturists in the Ottoman Empire of 1591, established Pamuk's international reputation and contributed to his Nobel Prize. The influences of Joyce, Kafka, Mann, Nabokov and Proust and above all Eco can be seen in Pamuk's work. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز هشتم ماه آگوست سال 2010میلادی عنوان: نام من سرخ؛ نویسنده اورهان پاموک؛ مترجم: عین الله غریب؛ تهران، چشمه، 1389؛ در 692ص؛ چاپ چهارم 1393؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ترکیه - سده 20م عنوان: نام من سرخ؛ نویسنده: اورهان پاموک؛ مترجم تهمینه زاردشت؛ تهران، مروارید، 1391؛ در 594ص؛ چاپ دوم 1392؛ عنوان رمان «نام من سرخ» است، برگردان فارسی از «بنیم آدیم قیرمیزی»، شاید با عنوان دیگر هم چاپ شده باشد، نمیدانم.؛ متن و روش روایت، به قدری زیباست، که اگر بخواهم تکه ای را برگزینم، تا برای دل شما اینجا بکارم، تا سبز شود، باید همه ی کتاب را از ابتدا تا انتها بنویسم، «اورهان» در سال 2006میلادی، برنده ی جایزه نوبل ادبیات شده اند، شاید برای همین کتاب بوده، هوش از سرم پرید، دوباره، آغاز به خوانشش کرده ام.؛ «اورهان» جایی در همین کتاب مینویسند «تصویر و متن، رنگ و کلمه، با هم برادرند» «اورهان پاموک» مینویسند بعضیها میگویند «نام من سرخ»، یک رمان ایرانی ست، و من همیشه این را یک افتخار بزرگ، و تحسین میدانم.؛ هوش و ذکاوت نویسنده کم نظیر است.؛ تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 21/05/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  3. 4 out of 5

    Darcy

    Generally, when a book starts out with a chapter entitled "I Am A Corpse," you know it's going to be pretty good. The novel is set up so that each chapter introduces a different narrator, including (but not limited to), Black, Black's uncle, Shekure, a dog, a horse, the murderer and various artists in the workshop. This type of structure for a mystery novel isn't new--Wilkie Collins, for example, employed it several times, most notably in The Moonstone--and it is an effective way to structure a Generally, when a book starts out with a chapter entitled "I Am A Corpse," you know it's going to be pretty good. The novel is set up so that each chapter introduces a different narrator, including (but not limited to), Black, Black's uncle, Shekure, a dog, a horse, the murderer and various artists in the workshop. This type of structure for a mystery novel isn't new--Wilkie Collins, for example, employed it several times, most notably in The Moonstone--and it is an effective way to structure a story so as to hide the whodunit. Each character only tells as much as he, she or it knows and in Pamuk's novel even the murderer hides his or her identity. The structure in "My Name Is Red," though is less designed to sustain suspense and more to allow room for the various philosophical discussions concerning the purpose of art and, perhaps more importantly, the distinctions between Islamic states and Western Europe. The Frankish mode of painting, particularly of portraiture--to glorify the subject, to paint him or her in terms of his/her earthly wealth and power, to distribute such an image openly as a show of control, to demonstrate the creative abilities of the artist--is at the center of these debates and discussions. Black's uncle finds such images alluring and fascinating while others see them as abhorent. Master Osman, for example, sees himself as being forced to choose between the centuries old Islamic traditions he venerates and the more modern and distinctly foreign style he despises. Such a choice is not made easily, as the artists themselves discover. The Frankish method celebrates the individuation of the artist--it prizes the signature of the artist as much as the commissioner of the image. This reverence for the artist, as much as for the piece of art, proves to be a great temptation to the men involved and leads directly to the murder. The structure, however, also allows for a second discussion, not about art but about writing on art. As much as this is a novel concerning visual images, it is also a novel about ekphrasis--the verbal description of art. Ekphrasis has the effect of slowing down a narrative, of interrupting it. Thus, in Homer's Illiad, the great battle scene is suddenly punctured by a lengthy description of Achilles' shield. Pamuk plays with this model repeatedly. When the image of the horse, described several times in the novel, is given a voice of its own the narrative is not interrupted, but rather the description of the image becomes the narrative. And, moreover, as the image speaks it refutes the fundamental principles underlying Master Osman's devotion to Islamic traditions of art. Pamuk can hardly resist the joke--this is a novel about art in which not a single image appears, except the map at the beginning and the ones we create in our minds as we imagine the images described. But, are we creating an image of the ideal horse, the horse of God, or one we can actually touch, taste, and smell?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    My Name is Red is as gorgeous as these illuminations. The narrative flows with the weight of such a lush artistic style. It is a dazzling brilliance that creates a languid beauty... ...that bogs the story down so much I couldn't tell you what the fuck happened. My Name is Red is as gorgeous as these illuminations. The narrative flows with the weight of such a lush artistic style. It is a dazzling brilliance that creates a languid beauty... ...that bogs the story down so much I couldn't tell you what the fuck happened.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    This is a fantastic book by Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk which explores the relationship between art and religion ad between imagery and idolatry. Set in the 16th century, we are transported into an Istanbul of the Ottoman empire with a murder mystery told in the voices of the characters (and sometimes these are drawings in the books or just concepts) that inhabit the story. Its primary characters feel very real and the buildup to the big reveal at the end makes the book a real page turner. I This is a fantastic book by Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk which explores the relationship between art and religion ad between imagery and idolatry. Set in the 16th century, we are transported into an Istanbul of the Ottoman empire with a murder mystery told in the voices of the characters (and sometimes these are drawings in the books or just concepts) that inhabit the story. Its primary characters feel very real and the buildup to the big reveal at the end makes the book a real page turner. I think that the story told here is still more than relevant to our world of today given the problems stemming from reading religious texts word for word and building violent systems of repression or terror based on individual interpretations of those readings. Unfortunately, some things have not evolved enough in the last 400 years...A must read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    miaaa

    On-a-high version: I am called Black, I longed for my dearest Shekure for twelve years; I, Shekure, not quite sure what was I doing in this story; I am called Butterfly, I was the one who drew the Death and Mia thought I was the murderer; I am called Stork, I was the one who drew the Tree and Butterfly always envy me as I was more talented without the help from our master; I am called Olive, I was the one who rendered the Satan and drew the exquisite horse; I am your beloved uncle, I was preparing a On-a-high version: I am called Black, I longed for my dearest Shekure for twelve years; I, Shekure, not quite sure what was I doing in this story; I am called Butterfly, I was the one who drew the Death and Mia thought I was the murderer; I am called Stork, I was the one who drew the Tree and Butterfly always envy me as I was more talented without the help from our master; I am called Olive, I was the one who rendered the Satan and drew the exquisite horse; I am your beloved uncle, I was preparing a book for our Refuge of the World, Our Glorious Sultan before being murdered by one of my apprentice; It is I, Master Osman, I wished to follow the path of Master Bihzad who blinded himself with a needle; I am Esther, my eyes were eternally at the windows and my ears were eternally to the ground; I am a corpse, I was Elegant Effendi before being murdered by a fellow painter; I am Mia, I read this book from page 1 to 508 whilst crawling and bleeding to death. So please would someone explain wth is this book about? Jackie Chan: Who am I? Sober version: Interesting story regarding Istanbul in the 16th century. One day I'll visit the amazing Blue Mosque that a good friend of mine, Eddie, always talk about. But seriously, though this book is amazing I can't get into it. Totally not my rocknrolla thing. *** one of the bule put this book on my desk, got no idea which one though they pointed their fingers to each other lol

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    I am in two minds about this book. Obviously, it is an important work. It showcases the miniaturist tradition of the Islamic world, and uses the cloistered world of miniaturists to explore the difference in philosophies between the East and the West. It was all the more interesting to me because I have been fascinated by this difference ever since I began viewing paintings with serious interest. In the East, "perspective" does not exist: the painting flows seamlessy over space and time whereas in I am in two minds about this book. Obviously, it is an important work. It showcases the miniaturist tradition of the Islamic world, and uses the cloistered world of miniaturists to explore the difference in philosophies between the East and the West. It was all the more interesting to me because I have been fascinated by this difference ever since I began viewing paintings with serious interest. In the East, "perspective" does not exist: the painting flows seamlessy over space and time whereas in the West (especially since the Renaissance) the painting is the reproduction of a particular moment in time (we are not talking of abstractions here). The miniaturist paints the world as God sees it: he does not sign the painting, nor does he have an individual style, because he is unimportant. He continues painting (in fact, he paints better!) after he inevitably goes blind. The Frankish painters, in contrast, paint the world as we see it, which is blasphemy according to some of the miniaturists. I was captivated by the sweep of the book as well as the way it was presented: short chapters, each from the viewpoint of a different character, as though we were looking at a book of miniatures which tells a different story on each page. Moreover, it is a murder mystery in which the victims as well as the murderer directly speak to the reader! It bears a certain resemblance to "The Name of the Rose" in this regard, although Eco's book is much more powerful according to me. Coming to the minuses: the writing is cumbersome and a task to wade through. I do not know if this is a problem with Pamuk's writing or the translation. The characters are flat: the protagonist (Black) is too weak and cowardly: the heroine (if we can call her that!) too self-centred and manipulative. Maybe the author intended them to be like that, but it does lose reader interest. I was also rather put off by the amount of lust bubbling on each page. Apart from normal sex (including homosexuality), there is incest, paedophilia, bestiality, fetishism... simmering just beneath the surface. Young boys are regularly presented as objects of lust. Men kiss each other passionately, even when one is about to kill the other! I have heard that Turkey was the centre of "deviant" sexual practices during Ottoman times, so maybe it is a true picture, but it did not vibe with me. (Edit to add: a person has commented that this paragraph is likely to give the impression that I am attacking LGBTQ people, and on reading it again, I find that there is some substance to the accusation. So I have edited it suitably. The whole idea of putting "deviant" in quotes was to highlight the dubiousness of the label. However, it was the lust that disturbed me and not the sexual preference. Maybe it is my personal problem, that is why I have noted it down subjectively.) So...adding the negatives and positives, I will go for three stars.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    During nine snowy, cold, winter days in the fabulous city of Istanbul the capital of the Ottoman Empire, at its height in the reign of Sultan Murat 111 there occurred a brutal murder, (not the last one ) the year 1591. At the bottom of an abandoned well the mangled body of Elegant Effendi nicknamed Red, a miniaturist who had worked for the Sultan is found but not before the corpse tells his sad story. How the victim was lured by a person which was thought a close friend, with promises of riches During nine snowy, cold, winter days in the fabulous city of Istanbul the capital of the Ottoman Empire, at its height in the reign of Sultan Murat 111 there occurred a brutal murder, (not the last one ) the year 1591. At the bottom of an abandoned well the mangled body of Elegant Effendi nicknamed Red, a miniaturist who had worked for the Sultan is found but not before the corpse tells his sad story. How the victim was lured by a person which was thought a close friend, with promises of riches and savagely attacked. Strangely the spirit is contented and feels no anger now. Just looking forward to the new world paradise, in heaven. He was a talented painter along with Stork, Olive, and Butterfly under old Master Osman who gave them all their aliases, taught the boys everything they know including beatings, when mistakes were made ( all surprisingly love their master, of 25 years) in a workshop funded by the revered sovereign. Colorful paintings of bright glorious colors of horses , trees, clouds, important people slaughter on many battlefields, fables, enchanting gardens under the exotic illuminating moon with lovers looking tenderly at each other . Red was uneasy about a secret project he worked on because of the foreign, Venetian styled illustrations forbidden by Islam many believe, later when completed these small paintings will be put in a book, to be viewed only by the ruler and a few trusted associates ... Black (Kara) a clerk, secretary, and occasional warrior hired by pashas fighting endless wars against the Persians, returns to his hometown of Istanbul after twelve long years. A failed romance cause him much suffering, the reason for his volunteered exile. The beauty Shekure his uncle's Enishte daughter, was constantly on his mind the lonely days spent thinking about his cousin wanderings through the vast hot deserts and freezing temperatures in the dizzy , elevations of towering mountains sleeping in pungent tents in isolated locations. The rejection of a marriage proposal by his own uncle for his love, and her wedding to another a famous soldier he can never forget. But her husband has been missing for four years, she with two small children living at her father's house and the army has come back. A second chance for happiness if only Black can win her affections... Still he has very strong competition, from fierce Hasan younger brother of Shekure's fearless husband. Esther a shrewd Jewish peddler, matchmaker , and messenger for clandestine sweethearts she knows everything about everyone, having walked over all the city's streets begins bringing letters to Shekure and Black and Hasan too. Rumors that the killer is a miniaturist sweeps the city. Black had been one in his youth, with the three remaining master painters before quitting. And the angry Sultan wants the murderer caught in three days, or torture will commence on the suspects every miniaturist ...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    My fickle heart longs for the West when I'm in the East and for the East when I'm in the West. My other parts insist I be a woman when I'm a man and a man when I'm a woman. How difficult it is being human, even worse is living a human's life. I only want to amuse myself frontside and backside, to be Eastern and Western both. This is Pamuk's enduring, never ending obsession. He's written fiction and non-fiction, journal articles and newspaper bites, and given endless interviews on this theme. He's ev My fickle heart longs for the West when I'm in the East and for the East when I'm in the West. My other parts insist I be a woman when I'm a man and a man when I'm a woman. How difficult it is being human, even worse is living a human's life. I only want to amuse myself frontside and backside, to be Eastern and Western both. This is Pamuk's enduring, never ending obsession. He's written fiction and non-fiction, journal articles and newspaper bites, and given endless interviews on this theme. He's even been thrown in jail and put on trial for the identity he has chosen. He's won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his commitment to expressing his deeply divided mind and spirit, and that (at least he and many others believe) of his country- Turkey. (I apologize in advance if this ends up being something of a ramble through the literary bramble, but I can only say that that would mirror the experience of reading this book.) My Name is Red will tell you that it is a murder mystery, set in 16th century Istanbul, under the rule of the Sultan. But it will also tell you that it is about many other things, each of which changes, ephermerally, by the moment. The atmosphere of the story digs a little bit into Garcia-Marquez's garden, but storytelling would never be mistaken for his. Each chapter is told by a different voice- some of which are plausible members of a storytelling round, and some of which would really only belong in that category if you were on acid, but they all seem about equally credible, due to the fact that nobody is really credible, so one might as well be fiction or myth as fact. (For instance, we hear from the voices of the drawing of a horse, the fake voice of a woman who is actually a man, a gold piece and the color red.) It is ethereal, elusive, and there isn't one incarnation of the mind that can be trusted here. Don't fall into the trap of assuming that what you read has anything to do with anything other than the particular pyschology of the moment- Pamuk is a master of depicting the every day track of a mind, and how unreliable each feeling of a moment is- how everything important is changed by the fact that one just happens to feel hungry at a particular moment, or desperately horny at another. It is an absolute masterwork of insight on the psychology of a particular people at a particular time, and all the various reasons why they are that way, and yet he is able to make them as relatable as possible through it all. What struck me the most throughout the entire book was how terrified, it seemed, that Pamuk was of missing something. While other authors might be striving to become masters of literature, masters of form, I think Pamuk wished that he could be nothing so much as a master of tapestry-making. I think he would die happy if he could have given this book to the theoretical Weaver in the sky and gotten it back as a divine scrap of worked fabric. There are lists upon lists upon lists of endless things that go on for pages, only to stop and start up once again. As a part of his contradictory feelings towards the West, in a culture whose stories and traditions often originated in the East... although he longs for the West, he's terrified, just as his characters are, that everything they know from the East will disappear. It seems like he can't stop himself- there's some sort of driving fear if he doesn't list everything about history and culture and myth, and repeat all the stories again and again to make sure we remember what they are, it will be gone forever. His expression of ambivalence towards Western culture perfectly expresses the mindset of illuminators in 16th century Istanbul terrified that their entire lives are about to become irrelevant. The other absorbing, fascinating, and horrifying thing was how well Pamuk illustrates the idea that absolutely nobody speaks with their own voice, both through his painters, constrained by centuries of adherance to a perfect style that some random master brought out of Baghdad that depicts the "perspective of Allah." It is considered heresy and a fault to have a "style", and "signatures" are furitively hidden away as much as possible- the idea that blindness is the ideal to be obtained for these artists is just heartbreaking- at least to someone coming at it from a Western perspective, where seeing painters deliberately rob themselves of their sight, their most precious commodity, over and over again, in the course of obtaining a meaningless idea of perfection that is not their own. The murderer throughout this book strives endlessly to hide himself by speaking in a voice that does not at all resemble how we see him in other places. The majority of people who are speaking a themselves tell stories in order to express their feelings- in fact at the beginning all the suspected illuminators speak almost entirely in story form in order to answer any important question on any philosophical, religious, or even personal topic. Expressing one's feelings just isn't done. One doesn't go up to the pretty boy one would like to fuck and tell him so, one tells him a parable about a gorgeous boy in order to show your admiration for him. Much as the pictures are seen as the "perspective of Allah," it seems that there is only one way to speak, too, in the "words of Allah," or those stories which are sanctioned by the authorities as legitimate- the authority of Allah on earth. It was the ultimate tragedy of the book from the Western perspective, and the ultimate triumph of the book from the accepted ides of the time, all of these de-individualized people (as much as can be done or denied or pushed from sight) striving towards the goal of seeing as Allah does, ever in the correct way. But everyone recognizes the end of the "Eastern" way of life coming from the West, in the guise of the "Venetian" ways that everyone will want to slavishly follow in the future, ways which reactionary preachers and religious people are protesting against before they've even made serious headway, trying to keep their way of life "pure." But the rest of the book poitns out again and again that there is no way that the culture of the Ottoman Empire was pure in any way- no constantly conquering culture with a large army and a long reach could ever be. No autocratic society that entailed artisans, craftsman and soldiers to pick up and serve someone else once their lord was defeated (if they weren't killed out right) could develop in isolation without any influence from the outside. He shows globalization already happening, back in the 16th century, and how deep the effects penetrate then and now. I loved his Istanbul for his brilliant evocation of identity, living with a burdensome past and an uncertain future, for its poetry and its memory. My Name is Red accomplishes much the same thing, with more magic- but just enough dirt to bring it right straight home where it belongs in 2009.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jibran

    Arguably the best novel of Orhan Pamuk. Set in Istanbul during the height of Ottoman power, this novel is a tribute to the art of painting as well as a fascinating murder mystery which will keep you hooked till the end. The unusual narrative is felt with full force right from the start - as you read the first chapter, starting with the voice of a corpse at the bottom of the well wondering who was the wretched man that killed him. Then ensues a beautiful exploration of the 16th century Istanbul's Arguably the best novel of Orhan Pamuk. Set in Istanbul during the height of Ottoman power, this novel is a tribute to the art of painting as well as a fascinating murder mystery which will keep you hooked till the end. The unusual narrative is felt with full force right from the start - as you read the first chapter, starting with the voice of a corpse at the bottom of the well wondering who was the wretched man that killed him. Then ensues a beautiful exploration of the 16th century Istanbul's art scene, its many rivalries, and in between breaths a heartfelt love story that keeps the main protagonist on his heels, as he finds his way through the internecine politics at home and at court. This story is a fascinating example of the possibilities of modern global novel. Must read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Fabian

    I could not help but think of the film "Daisies" (“Sedmikrasky,” dir. Vera Chytilova), that shameless classic of the Czech New Wave while reading Ohran Pamuk’s My Name is Red. That brilliant & psychedelic film of the 60’s portrays two incessant, silly girls who seem to want to emphasize their existence by playing pranks on other people and being undeniably obnoxious. They are terrified at the idea of being forgotten—of not existing. Similarly, in Pamuk’s epic novel of conspiring miniaturists, of I could not help but think of the film "Daisies" (“Sedmikrasky,” dir. Vera Chytilova), that shameless classic of the Czech New Wave while reading Ohran Pamuk’s My Name is Red. That brilliant & psychedelic film of the 60’s portrays two incessant, silly girls who seem to want to emphasize their existence by playing pranks on other people and being undeniably obnoxious. They are terrified at the idea of being forgotten—of not existing. Similarly, in Pamuk’s epic novel of conspiring miniaturists, of love and death, the reader is confronted with the theme of existence. There is an unknown presence which strives to be part of the reader’s consciousness—which, like the two unremitting, adolescent & undeniably-alive individuals of the film, tries its hardest to appear, to become known & acknowledged. My Name is Red has a radical structure. As I read more and more books, it becomes increasingly clear that some writers take an enormous amount of effort in establishing a frame, a “cabinet of curiosities” (in the same tradition as MVL’s “Chinese boxes” and “communicating vessels) in which to properly display their creations. For example, A. S. Byatt, in her Booker-prize winning novel "Possession," a novel that is more poetry book than a novel, creates several frames in which to place all the poetry which two poets keep exchanging as tokens of their love. Byatt obviously wants to make her poetry accessible, and gives it further clout by giving each poet his or her unique voice—by fully creating two different minds. Pamuk also uses the novel to display his craft, establishing a museum in which to showcase his “paintings”: his cabinet of curiosities includes, not poems, but individual vignettes, brush-stroke tableaus which represent but one facet of a full universe. The conglomeration of these makes up the bulk—gives the reader the voice, the theme & style—of the novel. “If I could only,” the nameless murderer tells Enishte Effendi, “see the last picture in its entirety” (158). Both the character’s expectations and the reader’s match—their journey is, therefore, genuinely entwined. The reader wants to know what all these different vignettes will culminate in. The wants of a fictional character and those of an actual live reader are the one and the same—this is the main catalyst which moves the narrative to its awesome conclusion. The reader is prepared to sift through the surplus of stories, images, and motifs to get to the bottom of this radical love story/murder mystery. Enishte Effendi admits: “They say we’ve committed an unforgivable sin by daring to draw, from the perspective of a mangy street dog, a horsefly and a mosque as if they were the same size” (158). Virginia Woolf’s literary sense of character democracy, of consciousness-equality, is pretty much Pamuk’s own. By depicting various POVs, by making them authentic and articulate, Pamuk seems to rationalize like many of the great writers that every tiny aspect of the plot is essential—only with all of these different takes on the same thing (the murder of Elegant and the love story of Black and Shekure) can the reader get a faithful interpretation of such enormous complexity and chaos. There is a consciousness which ties the characters together, and it is perhaps the force of life itself. The crazy girls perturb the status quo when they admit that they want to live (live!) in Daisies. The different entities (whether they be annoying Shekure or the talking picture of a dog, or literally, the color red) all possess life and they indulge the reader in their personal and unique elucidations on life in 16th-century Istanbul. The added element, that is, all the writer’s own beliefs in art (writing is aptly compared to painting) are present in Red, and the work transcends not only the rules of storytelling by having such incredibly different characters in it with such unique voices, but also because it dabbles with the postmodern idea of reading about art within a work of art. All that being said, there is a grave problem with the pacing of the book--it took me forever to complete this (and lets face it, Gone With the Wind this is not). Also, there is a ceaseless amount of repetition of events, a constant reassurance that seems extraneous-- a recompilation of different occurrences voiced by the different (though extremely intriguing) characters. The themes, rich in the context of the production of art, are very appropriate and very revolutionary. This is a postmodern work which of course still lingers on the romantic, and then plays around some with the detective novel genre.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This is a perfect novel, I realised, quite a few years after I finished it. It has art and crime and passion and plot and characters and style and all that jazz. And it appeals to grumpy people past prime as well as passionate adolescents discovering the universe of literature for the first time. When a student of mine, aged 15, stormed into the library and declared this was the best book ever, I felt strangely sad I hadn't thought more about it since I read and loved it some years ago. When the This is a perfect novel, I realised, quite a few years after I finished it. It has art and crime and passion and plot and characters and style and all that jazz. And it appeals to grumpy people past prime as well as passionate adolescents discovering the universe of literature for the first time. When a student of mine, aged 15, stormed into the library and declared this was the best book ever, I felt strangely sad I hadn't thought more about it since I read and loved it some years ago. When the same student grabbed the next Orhan Pamuk novel she could find on the shelf, an innocent brick of a museum novel, I even felt jealous, as I hadn't read that one yet and I bizarrely envied her the first touch of a Pamuk novel - while at the same time being incredibly grateful he writes and reaches the next generation. A rare gift. I remember developing a passion for miniature painting while reading My Name Is Red, and it has stayed with me since, even through the times when I barely remembered the book itself. My next Pamuk is in the pipeline while my student is working her way through a museum of innocence, growing with each novel...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lissa

    I tried very hard to really like this book. But, I suppose it's impossible to succeed in everything. My Name Is Red is both historical fiction and a murder mystery. It takes place in 1591 (according to the timeline at the end of the book). The over-arching motion of the plot centers around the death of a master miniturist in the Sultan's court. The death is revealed in the first chapter, though the reasons surrounding the his death are much slower in being revealed. What is known, almost at the o I tried very hard to really like this book. But, I suppose it's impossible to succeed in everything. My Name Is Red is both historical fiction and a murder mystery. It takes place in 1591 (according to the timeline at the end of the book). The over-arching motion of the plot centers around the death of a master miniturist in the Sultan's court. The death is revealed in the first chapter, though the reasons surrounding the his death are much slower in being revealed. What is known, almost at the outset, is that his death is related to a book that the Sultan has commission that is to be illustrated in the European style, with respect to perspective and a view of the world as an actual person sees it (as opposed to how Allah would see it). Enishte Effendi, the person in charge of the manuscript, calls his childhood apprentice Black Effendi back from Persia to Istanbul to help investigate the murder and help him finish the Sultan's book. Within this overarching plot is the plight of Enishte's daughter Shekure, whose husband went to war four years prior and never came back. Black has been pining away for her during his twelve year absence from Istanbul, though he is not the only man who is interested in becoming her new husband. Amongst the plot and subplot, there are multiple discussions of style and individualism and what it means to be a father/father-figure, among other topics. The story is told in a sort of Faulkner-esque fashion, with each chapter being told in the perspective of different characters in the story. These characters are sometimes alive, and sometimes dead (as in the first chapter entitled "I am a corpse"). Also, sometimes the chapters are told in the sort-of perspective of the drawing from Enishte's book - I say sort of, because they're really told from the perspective of a coffee house storyteller who is pretending to be what is depicted in Enishte's book. Are you confused yet? The was my first issue with this book: at the beginning, it's very confusing. Not knowing a lot about the Muslim faith, it took many chapters before I figured out what exactly was wrong with the way Enishte wanted to illustrate his manuscript. My second problem with this book was all of the exposition. There is too much time spent on the exposition on topics like love and style that are obliquely connected with the plot. Certainly these expositions add greater depth to the different characters, but after a while it started to get a little tedious. Thirdly, Pamuk does not inhabit his different narrators in the way that David Mitchell (Ghostwritten, Cloud Atlas) manages to. As a result, the book feels a little bit flat. Fourthly, the subplot with Shekure adds very little to the book. I found her to be an incredibly unappealing character, and I found myself wishing that the murderer would murder her next. All of that being said, the book does have a certain flair to the writing. Some of the exposition is really thought-provoking. I also thought that the stories told from the perspective of drawings and corpses and even colors were interesting additions to the plot. In sum, I'm not sorry I read it, but I was expecting more out of it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Samra Yusuf

    I believe in the fact that there is nothing as fact, everything the eye beholds is the individual reality of the beholder, what the eye sees and mind translates it as sight is a phenomenon of individual perception, and this is where the artist discerns himself from a mere beholder, he is, simultaneously a beholder and a creator, or we may say the re-creator, his strokes alive the scenery, his colors spark the stars, his art immortals the mortality of life, and his hands vouchsafe timelessness to I believe in the fact that there is nothing as fact, everything the eye beholds is the individual reality of the beholder, what the eye sees and mind translates it as sight is a phenomenon of individual perception, and this is where the artist discerns himself from a mere beholder, he is, simultaneously a beholder and a creator, or we may say the re-creator, his strokes alive the scenery, his colors spark the stars, his art immortals the mortality of life, and his hands vouchsafe timelessness to the time bound. And such an artist, is a blatant sinner in the eyes of Islam, as Allah is the sole creator, and to create is his attribute only, and to impersonate this attribute an act of sacrilege! And Orhan took 700 plus pages to indispensably say this. Its sixteenth century Istanbul, pinnacle of ottoman rule, a book of illustrations is in the making, the contents of the book are being kept secret until it completes, as the Sultan demands. One of the four makers of book is found murdered at the pit of well with cause of murder and murderer unknown, following another murder of the in charge of the whole work Enishte Effendi by the hands of same murderer in same manner, and a good 500 pages wrap the further happenings. The novel’s busting with plots within plots, history, mystery, art, education, philosophy, love, lost, you just name it, and all it lacks is grip on reader and the inspiration to move on, or in the very least drag on, I believe Orhan is not the sole creator of this concoction of a thing novel, translator has done the job on equal ground, but translation alone doesn’t grind the gears, it’s the whirlwind of infinity narrative voices you find yourself blown up with, or we might correctly say swipe away with, characters are as flat as a scale, and never did I read anything this lackluster on the subject of art I am inclined to believe all Pamuk aimed through this, was the encomium to the lost art of Islamic illumination, if it could only had not been with this dry voice..huh!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Praveen

    Even if you are away from your lover if a lover’s face survives emblazoned on your heart, the world is still your home. An Impetuous response In October 2019 ----------------------------- If your name is red, my name is blue. You can glide from my hand like sand; I will stick on your soul like glue. This book is dispersed with such a sumptuous redness that after reading it my entire self was tinged with azure… Not with red but with azure… because the color changes color when it evaporates from the Even if you are away from your lover if a lover’s face survives emblazoned on your heart, the world is still your home. An Impetuous response In October 2019 ----------------------------- If your name is red, my name is blue. You can glide from my hand like sand; I will stick on your soul like glue. This book is dispersed with such a sumptuous redness that after reading it my entire self was tinged with azure… Not with red but with azure… because the color changes color when it evaporates from the pages of a marvelous book and transpires into the imaginary eyes of a curious reader. I am beholden. I have turned resplendent, but not like you… O Redness! I admit that the shine is the virtue of the Sun and one name of the Sun is also red. But on the backdrop on which this redness sparkles, that since time immemorial is only blue! A rapport was straightway established between your redness and my blueness. It was all at once since the very beginning when that corpse said I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well. Though I drew my last breath long ago and my heart has stopped beating, no one apart from that vile murderer knows what has happened to me. The Validity of that initial upshot is intact in April 2021 ------------------------------------------- I jotted down these two short paragraphs immediately after I finished this novel in the month of October in 2019. This book was sitting bolt upright on the shelf for more than six years. It’s today only when I am getting time to write this review, I am recalling all my personal association with this book. A memory --------- I had bought this book years ago at Mumbai airport. I was sitting with my colleague (My senior obvious at my work) with whom I was traveling for the first time. We never had any personal interaction. He was busy messaging someone on his high-end smartphone and I did not want to bring out my phone. So my eyes were attentively examining the disorderly commotion of fellow travelers. While waiting in the waiting lounge for quite some time in absolute quietude I turned to the other man I broke the ice, “Excuse me! I will buy something.” My senior at once replied pointing in a certain direction with his right thumb to me, “The bookstall is there!” I looked into his eyes in surprise, grinned like a Cheshire cat, and moved on. I was thinking to myself how this man knows that I want to buy a book and not a burger. We never discussed books. We were first time together. When I reached to the book parlor, my eyes fell on this title and this title seemed to me so quirky (How can someone’s name be red?) and when I read those lines stated by the corpse on the first page highlighted above, I bought it in a flash. I had not heard much of Orhan Pamuk then. This was probably the second book of my life which I immediately bought knowing nothing about the book and the author just by getting seduced by the title in a book outlet. The first such book was The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I am beaming to declare that in both cases my all of a sudden infatuation with the title of a book ended up in rip-roaring reading experiences. However, every time I think about this book this question keeps popping up in my head, “How did he know that I want to buy a book and not a burger?” The book ------- Set in the Istanbul of the sixteenth century, this is a story of one ‘Black’ who after an absence of 12 years entered Istanbul, like a somnambulist, at the age of 36. He, 12 years ago had fallen helplessly in love with his young cousin. Many of his friends and relatives have died during this 12 years exile. Twelve years ago when he had declared his love for the Shekure, his declaration of love was considered an act of insolence by his uncle. He was exiled. He comes back and found that his love, with her two children, is living alone. Her husband, a soldier, has no clue of his whereabouts. And the brother of her husband, Hasan, has an evil eye on her. While in the background, the Sultan commissions a great book secretly to celebrate his life and his empire, the work goes to the best miniaturists of the age. Meanwhile, one among them is murdered. As a consequence, in the foreground, it progresses as a story of a murderer, who feels and proclaims to the reader that he would not have believed he could take anyone’s life even if he had been told so a moment before he murdered that fool Elegant, who he feels was like a brother to him. He sometimes feels as if he has not committed any crime at all. He freely walks in the city of Istanbul, from one street to another looking at the faces of people. As I stare at people’s faces, I realize that many of them believe they are innocent because they haven’t yet had the opportunity to snuff out a life. It’s hard to believe that most men are more moral or better than me simply on account of some minor twist of fate. In essence, this book is a historical murder mystery. But there are so many themes and sub-contexts present. If you have encountered the term ‘postmodernism’ diving out from an edified tongue of a sagacious literary guy and you get confused what is this. Read this book, it is postmodernist in its approach, if I am not mistaken. Its meta-fictional traits are amazing and worthy of coming back to again and again. This is a love story. This is exotic and dreamy. This is philosophical. This is very reflective and ruminative in nature. This is suspenseful. I had to read it with bated breath. This is about art and artists. I saw the knack and prowess of the miniaturists. This is about religion too. Those ruminating parts in between are balanced on religion. It plays wonderfully on human emotions. That jealousy, that rivalry that romance, you will see. You will also find real historical references and popular folklores and fables in the narration. Personally, the most compelling things in this book for me were two. The first one is the author’s take on art and artists in the plot. Miniaturists and calligraphers were frustrated by the wars and presence of Ottoman soldiers but hadn't yet left for Kazvin or another Persian City from Istanbul and it was these Masters complaining of poverty and neglect, it was commissioned to inscribe illustrate and bind the pages of the manuscripts. While depicting their learning of art and getting mastery and describing the prowess of these artists, the author has sprinkled pearls of wisdom through his philosophical rumination at many places. I liked the conversations between masters and disciples and their thoughtful talks inside their artistic hovels. I am delighted now to see that Black has acquired another essential virtue. To avoid disappointment in art, one must not treat it as a career. Despite whatever great artistic sense and talent a man might possess, he ought to seek money and power elsewhere to avoid forsaking his art when he fails to receive proper compensation for his gifts and efforts. One student asked a question. My great master, my dear sir! what separates the genuine miniaturist from the ordinary? Master responds that there are three traits -Will he have his individual style? -How will he feel when his work and pictures will be used in other’s books? -Third virtue is blindness! Second is the narration style of the novel with its suspense. Every major character of the novel narrates his or her story. The ultimate aim is to find the murderer. This murderer comes out in between and talks to the reader about how he did it and why he did it. But the reader is not able to guess who this bloody murderer is! In my opinion, this book is a must-read for every book lover. This is a scintillating blending of romance, suspense, history, art, and philosophy in a passionate and spirituous language of prose.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Whitaker

    Some stories sink their teeth into your gut and don't let go. Others offer more cerebral pleasures (works by Borges comes to mind). This is more the second than the first, and I'm okay with that. First and foremost, there are quite a few chapters in this book that read more like a chapter in a book on the history of Islamic illuminations than a chapter in a novel. In this respect, however, Pamuk can legitimately point to past antecedents in this vein: Tolstoy for one in War and Peace, Melville f Some stories sink their teeth into your gut and don't let go. Others offer more cerebral pleasures (works by Borges comes to mind). This is more the second than the first, and I'm okay with that. First and foremost, there are quite a few chapters in this book that read more like a chapter in a book on the history of Islamic illuminations than a chapter in a novel. In this respect, however, Pamuk can legitimately point to past antecedents in this vein: Tolstoy for one in War and Peace, Melville for another in Moby Dick. Me, I liked reading about the art of Islamic miniatures. Secondly, and perhaps most crucially, this is not a novel about a crime set in the workshops of the Ottoman Sultan's miniaturists. Uh huh, I know what the blurb says. It's not. That's just the setting. The real jewel in the crown is the eulogy, the encomium to the lost art of Islamic illumination. And that's what fired me up. That, and the fact that it's not just a novel about this fabulous lost art, it's a novel that seeks to replicate that art in the form of a novel and, by doing so, to bring us closer to understanding the tragedy of its loss. Take a look at that picture above. It's an example of Islamic miniature art. Actually, it's an image of a great love story in Islamic literature. Look at it. And I mean REALLY look at it. See the contours of the man's face, the details of the landscape; notice the flatness and odd perspective of the scene; revel in the colours. This image was produced and reproduced hundreds of thousands of times by different unknown artists in more or less the same way. This image was poured over by aficionados who would know the story by heart, who would even have memorized what the different elements making up the scene should look like. This is not an image that can be taken in with a single cursory glance--"Oh pretty," you say, "Next!" That would be anathema to the ethos of the art. It wasn't even supposed to be a stand-alone image, but a decorative element in a book telling the story of the two lovers. Look at that image. Not the story it tells, but the artistic elements, the ideas about the world embodied in it. That little piece of art is this book, and this book is that little piece of art. And when I finished the book, I mourned the loss of that art. Brilliant!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sidharth Vardhan

    "Books, which we mistake for consolation, only add depth to our sorrow." "For the sake of a delightful and convincing story, there isn't a lie Orhan wouldn't deign to tell." This is a lot like 'The Name of the Rose' a very, very, very well researched historical crime fiction where some people, who aren't exactly detective, are searching for a criminal. There are other similarities too, both books have a very big library the access to which is restricted. Both make commentary on position of wom "Books, which we mistake for consolation, only add depth to our sorrow." "For the sake of a delightful and convincing story, there isn't a lie Orhan wouldn't deign to tell." This is a lot like 'The Name of the Rose' a very, very, very well researched historical crime fiction where some people, who aren't exactly detective, are searching for a criminal. There are other similarities too, both books have a very big library the access to which is restricted. Both make commentary on position of women in society of time and, in both books, people are troubled by control of religious clerks on lives of people. The mystery itself isn't at all interesting, but it is the clash of values forming the background which makes the two books interesting. 'My Name is Red' fairs much better in differences. The love story is more interesting, women character(s) (there was only one in TNOR) get better space and developments, and the art talk is so far more amazing when compared to discussions like what Jesus meant when he did whatever he did in John 11:24. Now painting is forbidden in Quran, because of dislike in Islam for anything even remotely associated with idol worship. Some sections even advocate blurring faces of dolls used as toys for little girls. "after a while, we begin to worship a picture we have hung on a wall, regardless of the original intentions" And thus painters were looked down upon for centuries in Islamic countries. By the time of our story though the things had changed. Painters painted but under several restrictions. Any innovation that hadn't happened decades ago was looked down upon. And making portraits of real people was a sin. Painters and miniaturists were expected to draw from memories rather than by looking at things: "To paint is to remember" And thus none of painted (say) horses was anything like real horses but its very essence, the image that comes on to one's mind when one thinks of a horse. And that is what those artists want, the essence, not the thing itself. “I don't want to be a tree; I want to be its meaning.” This essence is very much like what Plato called 'forms' in his 'Theory of farms'. (view spoiler)[ "Forms are the essences of various objects: they are that without which a thing would not be the kind of thing it is. For example, there are countless tables in the world but the Form of tableness is at the core; it is the essence of all of them. Plato's Socrates held that the world of Forms is transcendent to our own world (the world of substances) and also is the essential basis of reality. Super-ordinate to matter, Forms are the most pure of all things. Furthermore, he believed that true knowledge/intelligence is the ability to grasp the world of Forms with one's mind." -Wikipedia (hide spoiler)] To be honest, these 'forms' are nothing but images mind come to associate with images, our mind seems to be better equipped to store images than mere abstract words IMO. But of course, not all artists agree with tradition: "genuine artists have an instinctive desire to draw what's forbidden" and hence the clash. All those quotes, stories such as ones where artists are putting needles in their eyes to turn blind and parables about art are something I really adore. But for space issues, I would have quoted all of them. "Allah created this worldly realm the way an intelligent seven-year-old boy would want to see it" "while everyone depicted Mejnun in a wretched state in the desert, crazed with love for his Leyla, the great master Bihzad was better able to convey Mejnun's loneliness by portraying him walking among groups of women cooking, attempting to ignite logs by blowing on them or walking between tents." And although you must love reading about art, find the idea of artists going blind for sake of their art romantic to love the book; there is more to the story than merely art talk. There is that whole element of fantasy with creatures like devil, corpse, tree, ghost, dog, red (the color) etc serving as narrators of the story. Then there are some narrators who are people but have red-herring of names - Black, Butterfly, Strock. Olive etc. “Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.” There are also all the characters who have got their names from real life people - there is in book a young boy named Orhan, whose mother is Shekure, related to English 'sugar' refers to Shirin, meaning 'sweet' (and it is a very, very sweet sounding word I think) - the name of Pamuk's mother, and Shevket is Orhan's brother both in book and real life. And, last, Orhan's prose. I must quote my favorite passage (this passage might as well have been in Ovid's Metamorphosis): "It happens all the time to you fortunate literate people: A maiden who can't read begs you to read a love letter she has received. The letter is so surprising, exciting and disturbing that its owner, though embarrassed at your becoming privy to her most intimate affairs, ashamed and distraught, asks you all the same to read it once more. You read it again. In the end, you've read the letter so many times that both of you have memorized it. Before long, she'll take the letter in her hands and ask, "Did he make that statement there?" and "Did he say that here?" As you point to the appropriate places, she'll pore over those passages, still unable to make sense of the words there. As she stares at the curvy letters of the words, sometimes I am so moved I forget that I myself can't read or write and feel the urge to embrace those illiterate maidens whose tears fall to the page." More quotes: "A letter doesn't communicate by words alone. A letter, just like a book, can be read by smelling it, touching it and fondling it. Thereby, intelligent folk will say, "Go on then, read what the letter tells you!" whereas the dull-witted will say, "Go on then, read what is written!" "And if I happen to tell a lie or two from time to time, it's so you don't come to any false conclusions about me." "the Sultan was seized by a kind of panic, suspecting that this volume he was reading recounted not a story or a legend, but what was most unbefitting a book: reality itself. " "imperfection gives rise to what we call style" "After the victorous Fahir Shah captured Selahattin Khan and tortured him to death, his first task in asserting his sovereignty, according to custom, was to visit the library and the harem of the vanquished khan." "no matter how talented a miniaturist might be, it is time that makes a picture perfect." "Every idiot assumes there is a pressing circumstance about his love that necessitates particular haste, and thereby lays bare the intensity of his love, unwittingly putting a weapon into the hands of his beloved. If his lover is smart, she'll postpone the answer. The moral: Haste delays the fruits of love" "It's because I don't understand what my heart is saying that I'm dispirited." "Ibn Arabiâ's notion that love is the ability to make the invisible visible and the desire always to feel the invisible in one's midst" "In reaction to being overly logical we'll feed fantasies for weeks and years on end, and one day we'll see something, a face, an outfit, a happy person, and suddenly realize that our dreams will never come true" “Tell me then, does love make one a fool or do only fools fall in love?” “Painting is the silence of thought and the music of sight.” "beauty is the eye discovering in our world what the mind already knows."

  18. 5 out of 5

    Supratim

    I had heard a lot of praises for My Name is Red by the Turkish author Orhan Pamuk and the book had been on my TBR for a long time before I finally got a chance to read it. The story is set in the end of the sixteenth century in the city of Istanbul, the capital of the mighty Ottoman Empire. The Sultan of Turkey has commissioned a book in secret and one of the miniaturists working on the project is murdered. It won’t be the only murder of course! miniaturist - A painter of miniatures or an illumin I had heard a lot of praises for My Name is Red by the Turkish author Orhan Pamuk and the book had been on my TBR for a long time before I finally got a chance to read it. The story is set in the end of the sixteenth century in the city of Istanbul, the capital of the mighty Ottoman Empire. The Sultan of Turkey has commissioned a book in secret and one of the miniaturists working on the project is murdered. It won’t be the only murder of course! miniaturist - A painter of miniatures or an illuminator of manuscripts The main character of this novel is called Black. He had to drop out of a miniaturist workshop and leave Istanbul because he had the audacity to profess his life for his uncle’s daughter, Shekure. Anyway Black has finally returned and is still in love with Shekure, now a mother of two and whose husband went missing in a war. There are rumours that the miniaturists, working under the supervision of Black’s uncle, had been imitating the styles of the “infidel” Franks in the secret book, and thus committing blasphemy. The book has some elegant writing and the author has done an excellent job of fleshing out the complex characters. The narrative is also full of parables through which the characters would clarify and reinforce their beliefs on art and religious morality. The author has skillfully portrayed the various emotions and feelings of the humans – love, lust, fear, envy, bigotry,greed. While reading this book, I couldn’t help comparing it with The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. By coincidence, I had purchased these two books on the same day. Since I had read book by Eco very recently it was still somewhat fresh in my mind and I could see the similarities and dissimilarities as well. I later saw that many readers have compared the two books Both the books are historical fictions with multiple murders, though based in different countries and cultures. The Name of the Rose is around the Christian beliefs whereas My Name is Red talks about the Islamic view around art. The former had long discussions on religious beliefs in general while the latter dwelled at length on the religious morality and its impact on art particularly illustration and painting. The murders in both the novels revolved around books because some individuals considered the content to be blasphemous. The Name of the Rose was narrated by a single person while there are multiple POVs in My Name is Red, the living or even the dead get to tell their story. The story plotted by Eco mostly revolved around monks but Pamuk’s novel gave a voice to people from different sections of the society. There was a feeling of suffocation in The Name of the Rose (due to the strict atmosphere of an abbey), but in case of My Name is Red, though there was fear, I felt the feeling of suffocation was less intense – probably because it was set in the outside world where people talked about art and love. The book was a novel experience for me for it was my first book about Turkey. I learnt a bit about a new culture – their history, beliefs, mythology and way of life. I enjoyed reading the book, but at times the narrative dragged so much – I was getting bored with the love triangle involving Black, Shekure and Hasan, Shekure’s brother-in-law. The long discussions on the morality and integrity of Ottoman art, though well written, were getting tiresome. If you want a fast paced crisp thriller, then this book is not for you. But, if you don’t mind a historical fiction with lots of pages devoted to art and beliefs, then you can give it a try. I am giving the book a rating of 3.5! I have deducted 0.5 because the narrative dragged so much at times.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    It's a rare pleasure to read a book so richly layered. Contained within what is essentially a murder mystery is the history of Islamic art, miniaturists in particular, and its clash with European (Frankish) art in the late 15th/early 16th centuries, romance, a social history of Istanbul at that time, religious extremism, a seditious storyteller in a coffeehouse, Ottoman history, multiple parables and historic tales bathed in myth. Pamuk tells the story through many different voices, each giving It's a rare pleasure to read a book so richly layered. Contained within what is essentially a murder mystery is the history of Islamic art, miniaturists in particular, and its clash with European (Frankish) art in the late 15th/early 16th centuries, romance, a social history of Istanbul at that time, religious extremism, a seditious storyteller in a coffeehouse, Ottoman history, multiple parables and historic tales bathed in myth. Pamuk tells the story through many different voices, each giving their perspective on events as they unfold and bizarrely including the murdered telling the tales of their own deaths. There was a point, probably 4/5ths of the way through, when the endless intricacies of Islamic representations of horses in particular began to pall (Dear Orhan, we get the message already!) but what I loved was the way in which the author makes us 'see' and think about this art form in its many different settings. He made me think quite deeply about visual artistry which is not something I'm prone to do very often (I'm too lazy). I swithered whether to give this 4.5 or 5 stars. The translation of this edition is clunky. It's written in American English, e.g. the translator uses the word 'ornery' a lot which is meaningless on this side of the pond, and he uses abbreviations that a native speaker wouldn't ordinarily put into print, e.g. I'd've. I can't mark a book down for its translation though, just this edition. Although the descriptions of artworks were at times overly lengthy and the number of parables became a little bit tedious at times, I have to give it 5 stars simply because it is a luscious book overall and one that I have enjoyed losing myself in over the last few days.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    Saying I liked it or didn't like it doesn't really capture the complexity of my experience with this book. Part murder mystery, part love story, and part historical novel about the book-art in the ottoman empire....I thought it was right up my alley. Maybe I expected to have more of an emotional connection but it was all very intellectual and somehow that frustrated me...churned up my stomach which was quite contented on the diet of all-fluff, all-the-time. Reading this was like eating roasted b Saying I liked it or didn't like it doesn't really capture the complexity of my experience with this book. Part murder mystery, part love story, and part historical novel about the book-art in the ottoman empire....I thought it was right up my alley. Maybe I expected to have more of an emotional connection but it was all very intellectual and somehow that frustrated me...churned up my stomach which was quite contented on the diet of all-fluff, all-the-time. Reading this was like eating roasted beets with rosemary---good for me but i prefer something sweeter, and smoother. OK, here's my beef: It often felt like reading a genealogy of islamic stories and historical books which I found tiring; though sitting in the vault of the sultan and perusing these books would be incredible for me, reading about the rich visual imagery was tedious. I constantly felt like there was something I couldn't access because I don't have the specific background knowledge; but I still can't even form the questions I need for deeper connection. I had the impression that the stories recounted over and over would be mundane (in a comforting way), familiar and meaningful for people from that culture they weren't for me. The murder mystery kept me reading because I wanted to find out who did it but resentfully, because i kept losing track of the author's clues while trudging through the endless philosophizing. The conversations about the place of art and artists in relation to their funders, influences, and the contemporary culture; the ways representation can be slippery and dangerous; the questions surrounding seeing, perception, blindness, and divine inspiration vs. a skillful hack job--- all of these are fascinating and relevant to me but such a dry dry dry voice. And the love story was pffff... like looking through a snow globe at some scenery you couldn't touch.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Emily B

    I bought this book because the first line/page sounded original and intriguing. However I soon found this novel tedious and boring. It just wasn't my cup of tea. I bought this book because the first line/page sounded original and intriguing. However I soon found this novel tedious and boring. It just wasn't my cup of tea.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    It's not often you find books that start with the speech of an already dead character. It's actually pretty damn rare to find dead bodies speaking at all, wouldn't you agree? Well, Pamuk apparently didn't get the memo. Because that is exactly how his wonderful work, "My Name is Red", starts. The body of "Elegant" Effendi is rotting in a well, somewhere in Istanbul. During life, he was a miniaturist, an artistry that is usually found in Ottoman books, and his talent was known as one of the best o It's not often you find books that start with the speech of an already dead character. It's actually pretty damn rare to find dead bodies speaking at all, wouldn't you agree? Well, Pamuk apparently didn't get the memo. Because that is exactly how his wonderful work, "My Name is Red", starts. The body of "Elegant" Effendi is rotting in a well, somewhere in Istanbul. During life, he was a miniaturist, an artistry that is usually found in Ottoman books, and his talent was known as one of the best of his days, hence the nick-name "Elegant". His carcass, decaying in its crumpled position on the bottom of that well, tells the reader that he has been murdered, and demands that his killer be found. He dreams of the tortures that the one who ended his life will suffer. A four-days old mort dreams of vengeance... The next thing you notice in the book is that every chapter is constructed around a single, individual character. This means that the reader's perspective resembles that of a God, looking through different sets of eyes at the same image. This over-seeing that you are burdened with in the beginning becomes a kind of judging position, as you, as a passive by-stander, are integrated in the story. You slowly become the one who is looking for the murderer. You have three that might be killer-fabric: Olive, Butterfly and and Stork. At one point, one of them deceives himself through his unique painting style. Also, the human characters are not the only ones who speak through the chapters; Death itself talks about how she roams the streets of Istanbul, a tree drawn by a miniaturist tells the story of his creation, a coin of their time talks about its journey through many pockets etc. Through the "lifeless" characters of this work, you understand not only the art of miniaturists (with the help of the tree drawing), but the whole world itself, the setting in which you are bound to live for as long as you read Pamuk's writing. I think there are three major lines in this book: the quest to find Elegant Effendi's murderer, the love story between Black and Shekure and the creation of a book that Black was commissioned to do. Black is a miniaturist and a binder, who just returned to Istanbul after 12 years as a free worker in different realms of our world. He is, at the moment of the story, 36 years old, but is also presented as a young 24 year old man who fell in love with the then 12-year-old Shekure, daughter of Black's uncle, Enishte Efendi. Even after 12 years spent away, even if her face might have faded from his mind, Black understands that the love of his life is her and that he is capable of doing anything to have Shekure next to him. Nothing is an impediment in his quest: even the fact that she is already married seems to be just a minor problem on their way. He sets out to win her, and is in the process taken under the wing of her father, Enishte Efendi, who tells him that he has to work on an ample book of pictures celebrating the magnificent world that they live in, but in the "Frank" style, which is what they would call European figurative painting. This is where the story of the book intertwines with the story of the two characters' love, because if he wants Shekure, Black must finish the book. Because of the Islam religion, figurative art is considered a blasphemy, as, and I quote: "Islam allows to portray a picture as Allah sees it to be". In the setting of this book, which is Istanbul of 1591, a year before the 1000th anniversary of the Hegire (Mohammed's exile from Mecca to Medina), Ottoman culture seems to have been changed by this individual approach to art. They are not permitted to create things as they see them, but rather as they should ideally and hypotethically be seen by their God, Allah. This European style that Black and others have to work in is a blasphemous act, therefore it was done in the utmost secrecy, always in fear that they should be discovered. It is this particular action that shows how culture can be changed by introducing a new viewpoint in art - this time, in painting. Speaking of painting: this whole book is probably one of the most competent explanations of how art, and especially miniaturist painting here, evolved. It talks about how it is the most important possible work, as it lasts through centuries and shows people what their history looked like. It talks about the miniaturist's blessing and curse, becoming blind towards the end of his life, when he can paint more beautifully than ever, because he sees through the eyes of his mind, of his soul. A detail therefore, becomes the image and the image becomes the detail, as they are so intertwined that you can't separate them. And still, with all the mighty human painters, time is this art's master. A lot of detail work has been put into this book, and the magnitude of the descriptions is rarely to be found in writing, these days. Like Mo Yan, Pamuk deserves his 2006 Nobel Prize; his unique style is a light seam through the cloth of life, culture, humanity, heart, mind and soul of Creation, and he writes beautifully about what he thinks is important. And there are so many moments in this book that are pure joy for the attentive reader! It sometimes touches on how love might be a curse, a rope around the lover's neck, obliging him to thread lightly on silky footsteps around this dangerous animal of a feeling, and it sometimes talks about love as if it is the noblest of the feelings and the only paradise that man can aspire at. "My Name is Red" touches on problems of marriage and sexual frustration and the dehumanization of the sexual act, how it can be just a mindless, void moment, rather than an union between two beings who love each other. It debates religion, spirituality, cultural identity, death, infinity and so many more other themes that most of the writers are not capable of even integrating in their work, let alone attempt to explain them. Another recommendation made by my History teacher, yet another one I thank him for. Cheers!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ayu Palar

    ‘To God belongs the East and the West’ – Al-Qur’an, Al Baqarah ayat 115. I had abandoned My Name is Red for how long I can’t remember. The brilliance of it was untouched, what a shame. But after reading Other Colours (an amazing essay collection also by Orhan Pamuk), I thought I should give Mr. Pamuk another shot, and boy, how much I enjoyed the novel! And I understand why Pamuk deserves the Nobel prize. He’s the kind of writer that can bring out the cultural richness but at the same time using ‘To God belongs the East and the West’ – Al-Qur’an, Al Baqarah ayat 115. I had abandoned My Name is Red for how long I can’t remember. The brilliance of it was untouched, what a shame. But after reading Other Colours (an amazing essay collection also by Orhan Pamuk), I thought I should give Mr. Pamuk another shot, and boy, how much I enjoyed the novel! And I understand why Pamuk deserves the Nobel prize. He’s the kind of writer that can bring out the cultural richness but at the same time using it to promote world peace. My Name is Red is a brightly rich novel. The main plot is a murder mystery of a miniaturist in Turkey, but what makes this novel is different is that Pamuk mixes it with other interesting elements: a passionate love story, devotion to art and the cultural clash between the East and the West. At first, I didn’t think the love story was significant enough, but well, it turns out the love conflict has an important role for the ending. Still not interesting enough for you? Well, let’s see. Inspired by Virginia Woolf, Pamuk loves to make an unusual plotline. The story is delivered through many points of view. Not only the humans, Pamuk also gives voices to unliving things, like a gold coin and a corpse. In fact, it is the corpse that opens the story of the novel. Now you won’t call it ordinary, eh? Pamuk even gives a chance for the murderer to say something. This technique might tire some readers, however it provides the thriller until the end. The thing that kinda bothers me is that the last chapter of Shekure. I personally think the chapter isn’t too strong to close the novel. If I were Pamuk, I would close it by using Master Osman’s point of view. I’d like to know what his reaction is after knowing who the killer is. But all in all, My Name is Red is a splendid work of art. I just hope no one will make a film of it. I truly believe it won’t capture the magnificence of this novel.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ali

    It’s not a historical, though there is sort of history in it (Istanbul, Ottoman Empire, 1591). The mystery death of two master miniaturists doesn’t make it a murder mystery novel either. It’s not a philosophical novel though there are lots of discussions about illusrtation in European style concerning perspective, and traditional Eastern illustrating, which sees the world in the way Allah would see it. What amazed me is, how Pamuk has taken a now forbiden discussion, to 5 centuries back, to stab It’s not a historical, though there is sort of history in it (Istanbul, Ottoman Empire, 1591). The mystery death of two master miniaturists doesn’t make it a murder mystery novel either. It’s not a philosophical novel though there are lots of discussions about illusrtation in European style concerning perspective, and traditional Eastern illustrating, which sees the world in the way Allah would see it. What amazed me is, how Pamuk has taken a now forbiden discussion, to 5 centuries back, to stablish a better situation to discuss about tabus, concerning the distinctions between Islamic states and Western Europe. It's how the so-called Islamic style of illuminating lost it’s values to the so-called Frankish mode of painting, painting the earthly wealth, rather than images of what God creates on earth. In another word, demonstrating the creative abilities of the artist (European style) which Enishte effendi finds fascinating is forbiden in Islam, as if it’s kind of competing with God in creation. That’s why some other master miniaturists kill him to not loose their stabilities and honour as artists. It means that those who are not seeing the realilty of life and human being (idealists) are going to loose their style and power. This describes the restrained violence of the culture clashes which are so relevant to our world at this time through the allegory of artistic expression as European manner of representing the world, and that of the Islamic faith, in the novel! اگرچه وقایع داستان در دوران عثمانی (1591) می گذرد اما نمی شود گفت "تاریخی"ست. جنایی هم نیست اگرچه وقایع حول و حوش دو قتل اتفاق می افتد. و اگرچه بحث، بیشتر در مقایسه ی دو شیوه ی هنری، مینیاتور جهان اسلام و نقاشی ونیزی یا مکتب فرانسوی ست، اما رمان در مورد فلسفه ی هنر هم نیست. یعنی نه آنقدر تاریخ در آن هست و نه فلسفه و نه جنایت. اهمیت اساسی در لایه ی دوم رمان است، همان گونه که در "برف"، رمان دیگر پاموک. دغدغه ی فکری پاموک مساله ی جاری زمان ماست، مقایسه و تقابل جهان اسلام و سنت از یک سو و جهان غرب و مدرنیته در سوی دیگر. مساله ای که ذهن اغلب روشنفکران در جهان اسلام را به خود مشغول داشته. انتخاب دو شکل تصویر سازی در دو جهان، به دلیل فلسفه ای که در پس ساختار مینیاتور (یک بعدی بودن آن و پرهیز از خلق دوباره ی جهان) و هنر نقاشی غربی (دید سه بعدی هنرمند از جهان) وجود دارد، انتخاب بسیار ظریف و استادانه ای ست از سوی پاموک، برای نشان دادن تقابل میان دو گونه تفکر در جهان معاصر، یکی سنتی و اقتدارگرا و دیگری مدرن و دموکرات. یکی در فراموشی انسان در مقابل خدا و دیگری در اهمیت به انسان به عنوان هسته ی اصلی جامعه ی بشری. با انتخاب زمان تاریخی در گذشته، پاموک این فرصت را به خود داده تا در مورد بسیاری از "تابوها"ی امروز در جوامع اسلامی، به راحتی و در کمال آزادی صحبت کند.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    Historical murder mystery and reflection on religion, love and death: Mr. Pamuk is pretty ambitious, telling us the story of a man who returns to Istanbul after twelve years away, and is asked to undertake a very dangerous work, reconnect with a lost love and solve the mystery of a man’s death. But this is not simply a very unusual “whodunit”; it’s a complex portrait of a great city at a moment of intense upheaval at the end of the 16th century. The East and the West were becoming reacquainted w Historical murder mystery and reflection on religion, love and death: Mr. Pamuk is pretty ambitious, telling us the story of a man who returns to Istanbul after twelve years away, and is asked to undertake a very dangerous work, reconnect with a lost love and solve the mystery of a man’s death. But this is not simply a very unusual “whodunit”; it’s a complex portrait of a great city at a moment of intense upheaval at the end of the 16th century. The East and the West were becoming reacquainted with each other culturally and commercially, challenging their mutual worldviews and values. In the Ottoman Empire, representative art was forbidden for religious reasons. The Quran condemned the reproduction of a living being’s image as idol worship, and to glorify the subject of the painting, or the individuality of the artist, was a grievous sin. But since the very nature of an artist is to see the world slightly differently, not all of the painters and miniaturists of Istanbul agreed with the idea of purely abstract representation. Some have traveled to Italy, seen the work of foreign masters and begun to think of their work and their world differently. But some deeply religious people will continue to think of representative art as sacrilege, no matter who commissions the work… “My Name is Red” is built like one of the mosaics described in the story: like vignettes that would be meaningless by themselves, but that make a rich and grand picture once they are assembled. Each chapter is narrated by a different character; some that we encounter over and over again, and others that we only see once. This gives you a kaleidoscopic view of the story and while the execution is not perfect (and I’m not sure how much of that can be chalked up to translation), it is still a damn impressive literary device! And the little meta-wink at the end was a very nice touch! The constantly changing POV can be a bit confusing. Again, maybe the original Turkish text was clearer on that, but in the French translation I read, some characters’ voices are hard to tell apart from each other. So if those characters get to rambling about specific cultural details that are not quite relevant to the plot it can get frustratingly tempting to just skim… This book is really for art and history nerds. If you are not interested in the restrictions imposed by religion on artists to make sure that their work couldn’t be turned into idol worship by the people who would see it, you might find this tedious. If you think philosophical debates about the purpose of art are cool, and you like long conversations about stylistic differences, then you might find this book fascinating. I’ve heard it compared to “The Name of the Rose” in terms of complexity, depth of research and social commentary. I’ve also heard the same warning applied to both books: they are long, intricately detailed and can get very heavy and tedious. I don’t think that such criticism is too far off in the case of “My Name is Red”, but I don’t think that should discourage serious readers from diving in. I rated it 3 and half stars because I won’t be tempted to re-read this one later (I tend to re-read books I have enjoyed reading, and I can’t say I was having fun with this one), but there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s an important book that deserves the effort.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Farhan Khalid

    Corpse My death conceals an appalling conspiracy against our religion, our traditions and the way we see the world Black The earthy smell of mud mingled with memories Tree I don’t want to be a tree, I want to be its meaning Black It is important that a painting, through its beauty, summon us towards life's abundance, towards compassion, towards respect for the colors of the realm which God created, and toward reflection and faith Black Painting is the silence of the thought and the music of sight Stork Corpse My death conceals an appalling conspiracy against our religion, our traditions and the way we see the world Black The earthy smell of mud mingled with memories Tree I don’t want to be a tree, I want to be its meaning Black It is important that a painting, through its beauty, summon us towards life's abundance, towards compassion, towards respect for the colors of the realm which God created, and toward reflection and faith Black Painting is the silence of the thought and the music of sight Stork Painting is the act of seeking out Allah's memories and seeing the world as He sees the world Esther Does love make one a fool or do only fools fall in love? Esther Haste delays the fruits of love Shekure Like those who know how to read a picture, one should know how to read a dream Red Color is the touch of the eye, music of the deaf, a word out of the darkness Red Wherever I'm spread, I see eyes shine, passions increase, eyebrows rise and heartbeats quicken. Behold how wonderful it is to live! Behold how wonderful is to see. Behold — living is seeing. I am everywhere Red Colors are not known but felt Uncle What I called memory contained an entire world — With time spread out infinitely before me in both directions Uncle From now on, nothing was restricted, and I had unlimited time and space in which to experience all eras and all places Uncle What is the meaning of it all, of this world? Mystery, I heard in my thoughts, or perhaps, mercy Enishte Don't paint like yourselves, paint as if you were someone else Master He'd force them to recall nonexistent memories, to conjure and paint a future, which they'd never want to live Black For men like myself, that is, melancholy men for whom love, agony, happiness and misery are just excuses for maintaining eternal loneliness Murderer Painting brings to life what the mind sees, as a feast for the eyes Murderer It was Satan who first said I! It was Satan who adopted a style Satan I believe in myself, and, most of the time, pay no mind to what's been said about me Satan The opposite of what I say is not always true Satan Was it not You who instilled man with pride by making the angels bow before him? Satan Men are worshiping themselves, placing themselves at the center of the world Shekure I sensed how my words were driving into his flesh like nails Black They've emerged from Allah's memory. This is why time has stopped for them within that picture Woman When you are a woman, you don't feel like the devil Woman I wanted to be powerful and to be the object of pity Stork An artist's skill depends on carefully attending to the beauty of present moment Butterfly The illuminator draws not what he sees, but what Allah sees Black He taught me how the hidden fault of style isn't something the artist selects of his own volition, but is determined by the artist's past and his forgotten memories Olive Time doesn’t flow if you don’t dream Murderer I feel like the devil not because I've murdered two men, but because my portrait has been made in this fashion Shekure Love, however, must be understood, not through the logic of a woman, but through its illogic

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lorna

    My Name is Red is an historical fiction and mystery/ thriller by Orhan Pamuk set during the Ottoman Empire, namely the Sunni Muslim empire in 1591 Istanbul and led by Sultan Murat III bringing about an enthusiastic revival of intellectual and creative activity, including miniature painting. Murat being an enthusiastic patron of miniature painting, commissioned several books to be painted by the artists that were part of the Ottoman court. In the words of one of the miniaturists: "I was responsibl My Name is Red is an historical fiction and mystery/ thriller by Orhan Pamuk set during the Ottoman Empire, namely the Sunni Muslim empire in 1591 Istanbul and led by Sultan Murat III bringing about an enthusiastic revival of intellectual and creative activity, including miniature painting. Murat being an enthusiastic patron of miniature painting, commissioned several books to be painted by the artists that were part of the Ottoman court. In the words of one of the miniaturists: "I was responsible for painting and embellishing books. I illuminated the edges of pages, coloring their borders with the most lifelike designs of leaves, branches, roses, flowers and birds. I painted scalloped Chinese-style clouds, clusters of overlapping vines and forests of color that hid gazelles, galleys, sultans, trees, palaces, horses, and hunters." The many chapters of the book all have different narrators, the first hooking me immediately as it is in the voice of the murder victim whose smashed body has been thrown into a deep well as he laments that his soul cannot pass over until his body is found. Throughout the book as we hear from different characters with differing points of view or even inanimate objects such as a tree that has been erased from the art project, one's interest is piqued as we are drawn deeper into the mystery of whether or not there is a plot to murder the miniaturists. With snow in Istanbul being a rare happening, the following passage sets the ominous tone: "Snow had already begun to accumulate on the rooftops facing north and on sections of the dome exposed to the northeasterly breeze. An approaching ship, whose sails were being lowered, greeted me with the flutter of canvas. The color of its sails matched the leaden and foggy hue of the surface of the Golden Horn. The cypress and plane trees, the rooftops, the heartache of dusk, the sounds coming from the neighborhood below, the calls of the hawkers and the cries of children crying in the mosque courtyards mingled in my head and announced emphatically that, hereafter, I wouldn't be able to live anywhere but in their city." This is a book that kept my attention throughout, not only with the deepening mystery but with the powerful love story as well as the beauty and power of art whether it be in paintings, books or murals. I found the unfolding story riveting throughout and the writing awesome as the many intricate layers unfolded in this beautiful book. I will conclude with a powerful passage from the chapter by the color red, entitled I AM RED: "I appeared in Ghazni when Book of Kings poet Fidusi completed the final line of a quatrain with the most intricate of rhymes, besting the court poets of Shah Mahmud, who ridiculed him as being nothing but a peasant. I was there on the quiver of Book of Kings hero Rustem when he traveled far and wide in pursuit of his missing steed; I became the blood that spewed forth when he cut the notorious ogre in half with his wondrous sword; and I was in the folds of the quilt upon which he made furious love with the beautiful daughter of the king who'd received him as a guest. Verily and truly, I've been everywhere and am everywhere." "Color is the touch of the eye, music to the deaf, a word out of the darkness. Because I've listened to souls whispering--like the susurrus of the wind--from book to book and object to object for tens of thousands of years, allow me to say that my touch resembles the touch of angels. Part of me, the serious half, calls out to your vision while the mirthful half soars through the air with your glances." "I'm so fortunate to be red! I'm fiery. I'm strong. I know men take notice of me and that I cannot be resisted."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    I loved this book. It's passionate, provocative and intelligent, surprisingly bringing the field of 16th-century miniaturist painting to bear on aesthetic and ethical issues that seem urgent (at least for artists) today. The main concern is with the notion of 'style' in art: is it desirable to have a personal style as an artist or are traces of style simply evidence of faults? In the process of investigating this question we discover the more fundamental question: what constitutes 'style'? Chara I loved this book. It's passionate, provocative and intelligent, surprisingly bringing the field of 16th-century miniaturist painting to bear on aesthetic and ethical issues that seem urgent (at least for artists) today. The main concern is with the notion of 'style' in art: is it desirable to have a personal style as an artist or are traces of style simply evidence of faults? In the process of investigating this question we discover the more fundamental question: what constitutes 'style'? Characters in the novel approach these questions philosophically, but the characters' positioning within a story makes for a much richer account than a philosophical treatise on the subject could give. The characters have their views on style, but at the same time they are actors – fiercely competitive ones – and any account of their actions according to their philosophical beliefs would be mere theorizing. Two murders and one wedding occur alongside such diverse attempts at explanation by the participating characters as to defy rational accounts of motivation. Each chapter shifts the first-person narrative to a different character in the story, some of whom even conceal their own voice while narrating. The opening chapter 'I Am a Corpse' gives just the bold shock needed for a book on the seemingly genteel subject of miniature painting. Hope to read the whole book again, among other reasons in order better to learn the Middle Eastern history contained here from the perspective of Turkey.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Susana

    (review in English below) Este livro é provavelmente uma obra-prima, mas não me cativou. Fiz um esforço para chegar à página 100 - acabei por ficar na 101, por ser o final dum capítulo - mas nem o facto de o tema principal ser a pintura, nem os capítulos curtos, conseguiram manter-me interessada. Aborreci-me a maior parte do tempo, com as vozes demasiado parecidas dos vários narradores, com os contos e as suas "morais", com tudo, enfim, e acho que assim não vale a pena. Vou ler qualquer coisa diver (review in English below) Este livro é provavelmente uma obra-prima, mas não me cativou. Fiz um esforço para chegar à página 100 - acabei por ficar na 101, por ser o final dum capítulo - mas nem o facto de o tema principal ser a pintura, nem os capítulos curtos, conseguiram manter-me interessada. Aborreci-me a maior parte do tempo, com as vozes demasiado parecidas dos vários narradores, com os contos e as suas "morais", com tudo, enfim, e acho que assim não vale a pena. Vou ler qualquer coisa divertida para desanuviar! This book is probably a masterpiece, but didn't captivate me. I struggled to get to page 100 - I stopped at 101 because it was the end of a chapter - but neither the fact that the main subject is painting, nor the short chapters, managed to keep my interest. I was bored most of the time, by the overly alike voices of the different narrators, by the several tales and its morality, by everything, really, and I don't think it's worth it. Now I'll go read something funny to unwind!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Caterina

    A rich layer cake of a novel. Given the complexity and intensity of ideas explored, I found myself wishing that Pamuk had taken a more Proustian, plotless deep-dive rather than trying to force it to be a murder mystery. The explorations of art and ideas fascinated me, and I cared about the complex main characters Shekure and Black and the rocky path of their love relationship. But the middle of the book dragged. Over-writing was a factor, but the biggest drag was the distracting ruse of having t A rich layer cake of a novel. Given the complexity and intensity of ideas explored, I found myself wishing that Pamuk had taken a more Proustian, plotless deep-dive rather than trying to force it to be a murder mystery. The explorations of art and ideas fascinated me, and I cared about the complex main characters Shekure and Black and the rocky path of their love relationship. But the middle of the book dragged. Over-writing was a factor, but the biggest drag was the distracting ruse of having to solve a mystery. I just did not care at all who the murderer was! We never really got to know or care about any of the three suspects, they just seemed like a framework to explore art and ideas: the religious, sexual, and power dynamics from which great art sprung. My fickle heart longs for the West when I'm in the East and for the East when I'm in the West. My other parts insist I be a woman when I'm a man and a man when I'm a woman. How difficult it is being human, even worse is living a human's life. I only want to amuse myself frontside and backside, to be Eastern and Western both. -- from the narrative of a cross-dressing storyteller who performs in the café, an artistic, political and social center for men that is endangered by religious repression Pamuk seemed especially interested in, and good at, exploring mixed feelings, ambivalence, multivalence, indecision between multiple viewpoints -- one of my favorite literary topics. The ideals versus perceived realities of love and marriage. The paradoxical effects of religious repression, competition with the West, and contradictory ideas about representation in art. The apprentice system that fostered both great art and rampant sexual abuse of boys by their teachers, the conflicted memories of those artists. One flaw: the discussions of Venetian versus Ottoman art seemed to be predicated on inaccurate ideas about Western art history. Maybe Pamuk meant to represent only the way the Venetian tradition was viewed by the Ottoman artists of the time? But it seemed to be a misrepresentation. First of all, the flow of influence between East and West was mutual, it wasn’t a one-way path from West to East. But more importantly, Venetian art — even the rediscovery (from ancient Roman and Greek art) of portraiture and female nudes — was replete with religious, mythological, literary and cultural iconography in the Western and Christian traditions, it was never just an attempt to paint exactly what the artist saw, as this novel represents. However, the points Pamuk made about realistic individual portraiture, a "new" and controversial thing -- were nevertheless fascinating and seemed valid — even the conflict that existed (in the Christian West as well) about whether this was or was not something God would smile upon. Regarding the characters, I found the most interesting and complex to be the women: Shekure the beautiful, intelligent, somewhat spoiled and indecisive rich girl who had to find a path to her own power in a world where she is at the legal mercy of men; and Esther, the Jewish trader and message carrier who had a measure of freedom and autonomy but a difficult social position. And I wondered why Hayriye, the servant and concubine, was the only significant character who was never given her own time or her own voice. This was my first Pamuk novel and I don’t know whether I’m interested in trying another. I might want to try his memoir of Istanbul.

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