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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 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.

Translated from the Turkish by Erda M Göknar

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375706851
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/27/2002
Series: Vintage International Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 142,848
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.86(d)

About the Author

Orhan Pamuk is the author of seven novels and the recipient of major Turkish and international literary awards. He is one of Europe's most prominent novelists, and his work has been translated into twenty-six languages. He lives in Istanbul.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

I Am a Corpse

I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well. Although I drew my last breath long ago and my heart has stopped beating, no one, apart from that vile murderer, knows what's happened to me. As for that wretch, he felt for my pulse and listened for my breath to be sure I was dead, then kicked me in the midriff, carried me to the edge of the well, raised me up and dropped me below. As I fell, my head, which he had smashed with a stone, broke apart; my face, my forehead and cheeks, were crushed; my bones shattered, and my mouth filled with blood.

For nearly four days I have been missing: My wife and children must be searching for me; my daughter, spent from crying, must be staring fretfully at the courtyard gate. Yes, I know they're all at the window, hoping for my return.

But, are they truly waiting? I can't even be sure of that. Maybe they've gotten used to my absence-how dismal! For here, on the other side, one gets the feeling that one's former life persists. Before my birth there was infinite time, and after my death, inexhaustible time. I never thought of it before: I'd been living luminously between two eternities of darkness.

I was happy; I realize now that I'd been happy. I made the best illuminations in Our Sultan's workshop; no one could rival my mastery. Through the work I did privately, I earned nine hundred silver coins a month, which, naturally, only makes all this even harder to bear.

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. In my youth, I would decorate a plate, or the back of a mirror, or a chest, or at times, the ceiling of a mansion or of a Bosphorus manor, or even, a wooden spoon. In later years, however, I applied myself only to manuscript pages because Our Sultan paid well for them. I can't say it seems insignificant now. You know the value of money even when you're dead.

After hearing the miracle of my voice, you might think, "Who cares what you earned when you were alive? Tell us what you can see. Is there life after death? Where's your soul? What about Heaven and Hell? What is death like? Are you in pain?" You're right, people are extremely curious about the Afterlife. Maybe you've heard the story of the man who was so driven by this curiosity that he roamed among soldiers in battlefields. He sought a man who had died and returned to life amid the wounded struggling for their lives in pools of blood, a soldier who could tell him about the secrets of the Otherworld. But one of Tamerlane's warriors, taking the seeker for one of the enemy, cleared him in half with a smooth stroke of his scimitar, causing him to conclude that in the Hereafter man is split in two.

Nonsense! Quite the opposite, I'd even allege that souls divided in life merge in the Hereafter. Contrary to the claims of sinful infidels who have fallen under the sway of the Devil, there is indeed another world, thank God, and the proof is that I am speaking to you from here. I've died, but as you can plainly tell, I haven't ceased to be. Granted, I must confess, I haven't encountered the rivers flowing beside the silver and gold kiosks of Heaven, the broad-leaved trees bearing plump fruit and the beautiful virgins mentioned in the Glorious Koran-though I do very well recall how often and enthusiastically I made pictures of those wide-eyed houris described in the chapter "That Which Is Coming." Nor is there a trace of those rivers of milk, wine, fresh water and honey described with such flourish, not in the Koran, but by visionary dreamers like Ibn Arabi. But I have no intention of tempting the faith of those who live rightly through their hopes and visions of the Otherworld, so let me declare that all I've seen relates specifically to my own very personal circumstances. Any believer with even a little knowledge of life after death would know that a malcontent in my state would be hard-pressed to see the rivers of Heaven.

In short, I, who am known as Master Elegant Effendi, am dead, but have not been interred, therefore my soul has not completely left my body. This extraordinary situation, although naturally my case is not the first, has inflicted a horrible suffering upon the immortal part of me. Though I cannot feel my crushed skull or my decomposing body covered in wounds, full of broken bones and partially submerged in ice-cold water, I do feel the deep torment of my soul struggling desperately to escape its mortal coil. It's as if the whole world, along with my body, were contracting into a bolus of anguish.

I can only compare this contraction to the surprising sense of release I felt during the unequaled moment of my death. Yes, I instantly understood that that wretch wanted to kill me when he unexpectedly struck me with a stone and cracked my skull, but I didn't believe he'd be able to follow through. I suddenly realized I was a hopeful man, something I hadn't been aware of while living my life in the shadows between workshop and household. I clung passionately to life with my nails, my fingers and my teeth, which I sank into his skin. I won't bore you with the painful details of the subsequent blows I received.

When in the course of this agony I knew I would die, an incredible feeling of relief filled me. I felt this relief during the moment of departure; my arrival to this side was soothing, like the dream of seeing oneself asleep. The snow- and mud-covered shoes of my murderer were the last things I noticed. I closed my eyes as if I were going to sleep, and I gently passed over.

My present complaint isn't that my teeth have fallen like nuts into my bloody mouth, or even that my face has been maimed beyond recognition, or that I've been abandoned in the depths of a well-it's that everyone assumes I'm still alive. My troubled soul is anguished that my family and intimates, who, yes, think of me often, imagine me engaged in some trivial business somewhere in Istanbul, or even chasing after another woman. Enough! Find my body without delay, pray for me and have me buried. Above all, find my murderer! For even if you bury me in the most magnificent of tombs, so long as that wretch remains free, I'll writhe restlessly in my grave, waiting, infecting you all with faithlessness. Find that son-of-a-whore murderer and I'll tell you in detail just what I see in the Afterlife-but know this, when he's caught, he must be tortured by slowly splintering eight or ten of his bones, preferably his ribs with a vise, before piercing his scalp with those skewers made especially for the task by torturers, and plucking out his disgusting, oily hair, strand by strand, so he shrieks each time.

Who is this murderer who vexes me so? Why has he killed me in this surprising way? Be curious and mindful of such matters. You say the world is full of base and worthless criminals? Perhaps this one did it, perhaps that one? In that case let me caution you: My death conceals an appalling conspiracy against our religion, our traditions and the way we see the world. Open your eyes, discover why the enemies of the life in which you believe, of the life you're living, and of Islam, have destroyed me. Learn why one day they might do the same to you. One by one, everything predicted by the great preacher Nusret Hoja of Erzurum, to whom I've tearfully listened, is coming to pass. Let me say also that if the situation into which we've fallen were described in a book, even the most expert of miniaturists could never hope to illustrate it. As with the Koran-God forbid I'm misunderstood-the staggering power of such a book arises from the impossibility of its being depicted. I doubt you've comprehended this fact.

Listen to me. When I was an apprentice, I too feared and thus ignored the underlying truths and the voices from beyond. I'd joke about such matters. But I've ended up in the depths of this deplorable well! It could happen to you, be wary. Now, I've nothing left to do but hope for thorough decay, so they can find me by tracing my stench. I've nothing to do but hope-and imagine the torture that some benevolent man will inflict upon that wretched murderer once he's been caught.

Reading Group Guide

1. Have Pamuk’s books changed your perceptions of Turkey? What insights do they offer into the country’s history and place in the world?

2. Have his books given you a deeper understanding of the Muslim world? Have they altered your opinion about the current situation in the Middle East and other parts of the world where Islam is the dominant religion? Have you become more or less sympathetic?

3. Pamuk’s novels range over a wide span of time, from the sixteenth century (My Name Is Red) to the present day (Snow). Compare your reactions to the historical novels and the contemporary works. Which do you prefer and why?

4. In these books what impact do the tensions between Eastern and Western beliefs and customs have on individual lives, on the relations between classes and ethnic groups, or on political debates? What competing ideologies (or ways of thinking) affect the characters’ behavior and emotional responses? Consider the ethical, religious, and social dilemmas individuals face and how they resolve them.

5. Snow is prefaced by epigraphs from Robert Browning, Stendahl, Dostoevsky, and Joseph Conrad. How does each of them apply not only to Snow, but also to the other Pamuk books you have read? Citing specific passages, how would you characterize the author’s feelings about Western attitudes toward the Muslim world?

6. What role do perceptions—or misperceptions—about Islamic law and religious customs play in the assumptions Westerners make about Muslims? Are there current controversies in the United States or Europe that support your view?

7. Do Pamuk’s depictions of the relationships between men and women conform to your impressions of romance, marriage, and family life in a Muslim society? How are women presented in the historical novels? In what ways do the women in the novels set in the present (or in the recent past) embody both traditional female roles and the new opportunities they have to express their opinions and act on their beliefs?

8. Istanbul opens with an essay about Pamuk’s feelings as a child that “somewhere in the streets of Istanbul . . . there lived another Orhan so much like me that he could pass for my own twin, even my double” (page 3). Many reviewers, including John Updike, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, and Charles McGrath, have written about what McGrath calls “an enduring Pamuk preoccupation: the idea of doubleness or split identity” (New York Times, October 13, 2006). Can you find examples of doubleness in the books you have read, and if so, what do these add to the story? What insights do they reveal about Pamuk’s own sense of identity?

9. What techniques does Pamuk use to bring his characters, real and fictional, to life? How do his descriptions of settings, manners, and other everyday details enhance the portraits he creates? What use does he make of humor, exaggeration, and other stylistic flourishes in his depictions of particular situations, conversations, musings, and arguments?

10. Pamuk employs many of the literary devices associated with postmodern and experimental fiction. (McGrath, for example, notes his use of “narratives within narratives, texts that come alive, labyrinths of signs and symbols . . .”). In what ways do his books echo Italo Calvino’s allegorical fantasies? What do they share with the writings of Jorge Luis Borges and other magical realists? What aspects of his literary style can be traced to earlier masters of innovative fiction like Kafka and Nabokov?

11. In an essay on the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa in Other Colors, Pamuk writes, “It is clear . . . that there is a sort of narrative novel that is particular to the countries of the Third World. Its originality has less to do with the writer’s location than with the fact that he knows he is writing far from the world’s literary centers and he feels this distance inside himself” (page 168). Discuss how this manifests itself in Pamuk’s own works, as well as the works of Vargas Llosa and other authors writing from the Third World. Are there creative advantages to living and writing “far from the world’s literary centers”?

12. Pamuk writes in Istanbul of authors who left their homelands—Conrad, Nabokov, Naipaul: “Their imaginations were fed by exile, a nourishment drawn not through roots, but through rootlessness” (page 6). If you have read the works of these writers, or other authors in exile, do you agree that their books reflect—in style or in content—the effects of living in a new, foreign culture? To what extent is Pamuk’s writing rooted in the storytelling traditions of Eastern cultures? In what ways does it show the influence of his early exposure to Western literature, his participation in international literary circles, and his longtime association with American academia?

13. Despite the many differences between the societies Pamuk describes and our own, why do his characters and their behavior resonant with contemporary English-speaking readers? Are there aspects of Turkish mores that make it difficult to sympathize or engage with the characters in the novels? Do these factors also influence your reactions to his autobiographical pieces, literary criticism, and cultural observations in both Other Colors and Istanbul?

14. How does Pamuk’s personal history, as well as the plots of some novels, mirror the complicated history of Turkey? Consider such topics as: the decline and dissolution of the once powerful Ottoman Empire; the sweeping changes initiated by Atatürk in the 1920s; the conflicting desires to preserve Turkey’s distinctive heritage and to become more active in the global community; and the rise of fundamentalist Islam throughout Middle East today.

15. In discussing the importance of novels, Pamuk says, “Modern societies, tribes, and nations do their deepest thinking about themselves by reading novels; through reading novels, they are able to argue about who they are” (Other Colors, page 233). Do you agree? What can novels provide that nonfiction books and other media do not?

(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit

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My Name Is Red 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 73 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am an avid reader of Orhan Pamuk, however I must say that this one is his masterpiece. My name is Red is taking us to historical labyrinths of Istanbul. His trademark 'detailed description of the characters and events' is at its best. What I like most is Pamuk usually tells his stories from different points of view. This books looks like a murder-suspense book at the first place, however page by page you start to see Islam and its philosopy from the eyes of 16th century miniaturists. What I learnt from his interviews is Pamuk could not finish writing this book for a long time and he always prefers handwriting (just like his friend, great Paul Auster). You can see his precise technique and talented storytelling page by page. Pamuk has obviously done a great research about the 16th century Istanbul and the result is awesome. I may critize the translation a little bit but I appreciate that to translate a book by O.Pamuk must be tough! My name is red is 'a must' Because of this book Pamuk got the 2003 IMPAC award. You will see his talent starting from the first chapter. Amazing, sad, humorous, brilliant. Well, do yourself a favor and purchase this one and then spare the time to read it carefully.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had just finished studying Islamic art extensively in one of my art history classes (I am an art history major) when I began reading this book. This was a great read, but I feel it would be difficult to understand for those not interested in art and religion, and particularly for those who have little background in Islamic art. If you are, however, what a great book! The detail with which the author describes the process of illuminating manuscripts and the passion the miniaturists possess for doing so is incredible and moving. The plot is intriguing and just when you think you know what's going to happen, something surprises you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wanted to read over and over.Sometimes makes you smile,sometimes makes you feel sad.Incredible !! Orhan Pamuk is really talented author.I'm looking forward his next book.
technodiabla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a masterpiece, and Pamuk's best. It's a 16th century murder mystery set in Istanbul. But there are several layers of other stories too: the influences of West on East, relationship of religion to art, and the effect of art on psychology and culture. To top it off, the story is told by a series of first person narrators, including inanimate objects. This first person perspective is a major source of contention in the book so the structure adds a lot. The first person narrations of death are very good as well. There were a few tedious bits-- overly long descriptions of artwork (pages) and such. For a reader not familiar with art history or not interested in art, there would be more tedium. Otherwise this would be one of my few 5 star novels. I'm giving it 4.75.
isabelx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿Now then, draw Death for me,¿ the old man said.¿I cannot draw a picture of Death without ever, not once in my entire life, having seen a picture of Death,¿ said the miraculously sure-handed miniaturist, who would shortly, in fact, end up doing the drawing.¿You do not always need to have seen an illustration of something in order to depict that thing,¿ objected the refined and enthusiastic old man.¿Yes, perhaps not,¿ said the master illustrator. ¿Yet, if the picture is to be perfect, the way the masters of old would¿ve made it, it ought to be drawn at least a thousand times before I attempt it. No matter how masterful a miniaturist might be, when he paints an object for the first time, he¿ll render it as an apprentice would, and I could never do that. I cannot put my mastery aside while illustrating Death; this would be equivalent to dying myself.¿¿Such a death might put you in touch with the subject matter,¿ quipped the old man.¿It¿s not experience of subject matter that makes us masters, it¿s never having experienced it that makes us masters.¿¿Such mastery ought to be acquainted with Death then.¿A tale of art, religion and murder, set in later 16th century Istanbul, which has been hanging about unread on my shelf for several years. For some reason I though it would be heavy going, and I only read it this month because I am trying to work my way through the books that I have owned for longest, but it turned out to be an intricate and beautifully written mystery story.One of the master miniaturists working on a secret project for the Sultan, goes missing and is later found dead. The story of the murder investigation is told from multiple points of view, including some of the drawings made by the miniaturist and his colleagues, but the chapter headings make it clear who is talking so it never becomes confusing. The murderer is one of the narrators, pretending to be innocent of the crime and trying to throw suspicion onto his colleague, but he also narrates chapters as 'the murderer' and in these chapters he explains events and tries to justify his crime, and tries not to leave any clues to his identity.
peajayar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favourite novels. The detail about how the miniaturist painters etc worked in the Sultan's court is fascinating, as is the impact of new ideas coming in from Europe. In particular, the idea that images of people could be portraits, not idealised renderings, and the problems this caused for traditionalists. There is so much to savour in this book. I have read it twice, and will no doubt read it again.
rainpebble on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At about 100-150 pages in I was ready to put this one down but I am so thankful that I did not.The book is written in many short chapters; all in the first person by one of the characters and there are quite a few characters. It took me a while to figure out what the book was actually about and it turns out to be an Ottoman era whodunit. The characters are all clearly drawn out and Orhan Pamuk gives the reader time to get to know them, but do we "really" know them? He lays out what drives them, but do we "really" know them? We know them well enough to understand why they do what they do and why they react the way they do, but do we really "know" them? The story is set in Istanbul and is about the world of the master miniaturists & calligraphers who work on books for the Sultan, who then locks them away from the world in a treasury. It is about jealousy, greed, religion, love and murder. "My Name is Red" took me a few days to read and I did read some other works before I picked it up again. Things made a lot more sense at that point. I guess I just needed a cooling off period.I highly recommend "My Name is Red" but for some of you.......give yourself time to "get into it". I needed to. Enjoy.(I think I need to re-read "The Name of the Rose")
eas311 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love this book so much. so so so so so much. I have given it as a gift at least 5 times. People tell me they like it too. (Are they just being nice?) It is a murder mystery where you are hearing from the murderer without knowing who he or she is. And there is so much going on. And it is poetic, and takes place in a time and place about which I know nothing. And... apparently this book makes me lose the inability to speak coherently.
Rich_Reader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I heard Orhan Pamuk speak at Stanford University. He mentioned his fascination with colors, having decided to be a painter before he turned to writing. His interest in the novel is that you can create a world where the action takes place, basically, in your head, rather than on a movie screen, say. So the novel allows a writer to create anything, and the reader to picture the action reflective of the reader's own experience. In this sense the novel is a simple but powerful means of creating a world, and thus conveying ideas that might otherwise be hard to express. The basic idea of this novel is, Is there really a difference in the way East and West perceives colors, and painting, and the details of illustration? Spun around this premise are the details and colors and painted tapestry of a murder in Istanbul. In thinking about "who done it" we are led to think about the nature of painting and the motivations and personalities of the painters.The book is not written for the mass market. That is part of the appeal, at least to me, but unfontunately, it means that most people will not be inclined to finish it. One could wish it were 50 pages shorter, but once you understand a little about Mr. Pamuk and his themes, you will want to read it all the way through, and pick up some of his other novels as well.I think we need especially to acknowledge the translator of this book. Mr. Pamuk speaks English, but not very fluently. The book was written in Turkish and translated by the very gifted Dr. Erdag Goknar of Duke University. Dr. Goknar was born in the USA, but he has an outstanding knowledge of Turkish and Turkish literature, and is a good friend of Mr. Pamuk. His translation reads like an original work.
THE_ROCK on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As with all Orhan Pamuk books get ready to have to read very carefully and intently, this books paints such a clear picture of Istambul, the artists and the theory of Islamic artists in general. It becomes repetitive at times which is a little annoying but then the Author writes a line which is so comprehensive but holds so much weight that all you can do is hold your breath and let it sink in.
egarabis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was completely enthralled by this book from the beginning.I did not know very much about Turkish culture and history (besides having a Turkish professor in graduate school). I loved the way the author wrote the book; each chapter is from the perspective of a different character. The book is a mystery but also a commentary on life in the interpretation of beauty. I loved it from start to finish and highly recommend it!
Xinder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I read last year. Completely engaging and interesting.
mejix on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
los personajes no son particularmente agradables. tiene algunos temas y recursos parecidos a 'snow'. los fundamentalistas, el personaje que regresa buscando un amor de infancia, etc. etc. no soy muy bueno para los libros de crimenes. escuche el final dos veces y todavia no entiendo bien las motivaciones del asesino. averiguar quien fue el asesino no me parece lo central es solo un recurso narrativo. el final es bueno. por alguna razon tengo una racha de libros que pierden el aliento al final. lo que me fascino fueron las discusiones sobre arte de oriente y arte de occidente. las discusiones sobre lo que significa tener estilo. lo visible y lo invisible como material para el arte. me fascina tambien la perspectiva de los artistas orientales reaccionando a un nuevo lenguaje pictorico. tiene resonancia en terminos de paises tercermundistas. nunca podras tener estilo propio por que solo vas a estar imitando. la ultima seccion pone toda la trama en un contexto de una vida vivida y luego de la historia. eso siempre me impresiona. se me ocurre que la experiencia de un imperio perdido no es muy diferente a la de los mejicanos.
MeditationesMartini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reviewing this sprawling, intricate and ingenious book could get one falling down rabbit holes, and I'm too savvy for that. I will say that the first two-thirds, allowing a learning period where you figure out how to read the thing properly, are pretty much perfect, and that it's hard to imagine another book where the cover-blurb comparisons are this stratospheric and also apt. Pamuk IS as much a craftsman as Mann (wouldn't know about Proust - that, finally, comes later in my European vacation), as ingenious a miniaturist (ha!) as Calvino and Borges, and guilt IS as redolent in these pages as in "The Tell-Tale Heart." Don't know if I'd call him Shakespearean, though. More of an anti-Shakespeare really, in ways. You'll see.So why only 4.5? Simplest of reasons: this book needed a good edit. The end meanders pointlessly and loses some of it's potential to amaze. But it's still worthy.
lola_leviathan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The early parts dragged a lot, but the last few chapters were killer. In every sense of the word. I'll have more to say on this book once I've digested it a little more. Something I love about Pamuk, or at least both this book and Snow, is that he is really trying to write Novels of Ideas that are also Good Stories with Real Characters, which is an incredibly difficult task, but I think he pulls it off (which is why he has a Nobel Prize, obvi). As I say, I was dubious about this for the first half of My Name Is Red, but once the clock was ticking for Black and Osman to solve the murder, things really picked up, especially when all three major miniaturists were finally in one room.
Smiler69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book delivered more than I expected. There was intrigue and murder and art and a story very well told with multiple narratives. Not an easy read, but well worth it.
lmichet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am unsure how to react to this book.I was under the impression that it would be a clever sort of historical-mystery-literature deal. In a way, it was, but about halfway through it transformed into a sort of essay on east-west cultural interaction-- which wouldn't have been so bad in a story with fewer subplots. The characters are frequently pretty fantastic-- the child psychology here is great, as is Master Osman's descent into madness, and Butterfly's manic terror, but I frequently had the feeling that there was simply too much going on. Black's and Shekure's trials bogged down the whole center part of the book. The constant switching of voices made many parts of the story move rather slowly. Add onto this a passel of multi-page monologues on the dangers globalism poses to Islamic cultural trends and you've got a book which, though INTERESTING, is not going to make me want to read it again.I do appreciate that he strung the mystery out for as long as he did, but I feel as though the characters of the three suspect miniaturists were so incompletely sketched that I could not have solved it myself if I had tried. We hear their voices so infrequently, and so much of the story is taken up by things unrelated to them, that I could not get a clear fix on WHO exactly they were each supposed to be until the last seventy pages or so-- definitely a flaw. I feel like Pamuk tried to do far too much with this story.It's a good book, but it's not spectacular. I'm not certain why it won the Nobel.
janeajones on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first novel by Pamuk that I have read, and I shall certainly continue to his explore his works. My Name Is Red is set in the 16th -century Ottoman Empire amidst the politics and connivings of the Emperor's foremost miniature illustrators. The plot is a murder mystery -- at the beginning of the book, one of the miniaturists is murdered by another -- we know who is murdered, but obviously, not who murdered him. The motivations for the murder are wrapped up in the practices and beliefs about illustration in the Muslim world. I found the discussions about Islamic art fascinating and enlightening. Pamuk also explores both the influence of European Renaissance theories of perspective and artistic individuality and the changes brought about by the Mongol conquest and subsequent Chinese influence on traditional Islamic art. As the consequences of inter-cultural contacts is one of my semi-obsessive interests, Pamuk's novel was highly satisfying.
delphica on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Historical fiction, murder mystery set in 16th century Istanbul, in the world of court illustrators who are struggling with the influence of Western painting styles into their aesthetic. The chapters are all narrated by different characters (and a few by characters who are illustrations themselves), so part of the challenge is sorting out what is factual and what is more subjective. As always, I was fairly confused about the mystery plot right up until the very end. It's a very dense, contemplative book that ruminates on the relationships between the artists and their work, with Islam, with the politics of the Ottoman empire, and with each other. To complement the theme of illuminated manuscript, the writing itself is very lush and layered.Grade: A-Recommended: I liked this book a LOT, but it's also the kind of book that feels like grad school.
bluesviola on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be too much into deception and lies to be worth my time. It wasn't like reading a good murder mystery, more like reading an autobiography of an ENRON executive.Didn't bother to finish it.
kristenn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I bought this due to rave reviews and I really wanted to like it. I love multiple narrators. And historical settings. And mysteries with a handy educational fine arts angle. But it was just a slog. The art discussions seemed very repetitive. None of the characters were particularly likable or interesting. I couldn't tell whether the female lead's motivations made no sense because she was confused or because I was confused. And the ending was way too out of left field.
kerns222 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Some books change the way you think about the world. This one changed the way I thought about art--close enough.
JMC400m on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is an elaborate murder mystery centering around a group of miniaturists working at the end of the 16th century in the Ottoman Empire. Pamuk explores the personalities of the characters in the book as well as the sensibilities of the time through this art form which later lost its popularity. Each chapter is narrated by a different character, some that are left unknown to the reader. The narration is playful and even a bit "naughty" at times, and there was one point where descriptions seemed to be drawn out. The method of shifting back and forth between the story tellers kept me entertained and I enjoyed the interplay of perspectives. The book is never gory or violent, but often dark and mysterious, and some of the incidents made me squeamish (readers will know which ones I am talking about!) despite their subtlety. I was particularly interested in the book's setting and the relationship between, the Turks, Persians and the Venetians in both an artistic and historical sense. Also, Pamuk's work weaves a number of interesting themes - religion, art, personal relationships, love and human nature which makes it a complex and interesting tale. My Name is Red is considered a classic in Turkey and is said to have aided in Pamuk get the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Enamoredsoul on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is seldom that one picks up a book that bypasses any and all genres, and comes alive in your hands and speaks to you. Such is the kind of book Orhan Pamuk has written. Part love story, part murder plot, part commentary on all things spiritual - it is a beautifully written book with a great many multi-faceted characters.Pamuk uses various different characters to narrate his book - some of the chapters even narrated by unusual characters such as the murdered corpse of Elegant Effendi, "Ink", a "Coin", Satan, two dervishes and the color "Red". It is especially the voices of these characters that become emblazoned upon your soul.The plot lies in the murder of Elegant Effendi, the reason for which is stated to be his working on an illustrated book commissioned by the Sultan. 'Black', who is in love with late Elegant's daughter Shekure, is striving hard to uncover the murderer and win widowed Shekure's hand in marriage. Also, we hear from his fellow artists/miniaturists "Butterfly", "Stork" and "Olive", with their views on the West influencing Eastern arts. Thus, Orhan Pamuk is able to masterfully entwine a mystery, a romance, and allegory to the clash of Eastern and Western culture all in one wonderful book.In his book, Pamuk writes "An artist should never succumb to hubris of any kind, he should simply paint the way he sees fit rather than troubling over East or West." - and that is precisely how Pamuk offers his progressive perspective, richly Eastern in nature, but pleasantly influenced by Western ideologies as well. He creates an amalgamation of both cultures, in which the values of each one are preserved and respected, and does it quite successfully. Olive, one of the miniaturists, offers his perspective on art as, "Through our colors, paints, art and love, we remember that Allah had commanded us to "See"!" - and that is what Orhan Pamuk so craftily presents in this book, a chance for the reader to see beyond cultures and races, similarities and differences and be completely enchanted by the mystical, lyrical and awe-inspiring realm that "My Name is Red" is, as a novel.
bluebai on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I felt like I was in the workshops, looking at the drawings with them. The writing brought the drawings alive. It's an interesting book. It's new. but other than that the storyline is dull and dragged on.