Acclaimed Turkish writer Pamuk (The New Life, 1997, etc.) investigates two brutal murders-and offers a whimsical but provocative exploration of the nature of art in an Islamic society. "My Name is Red" speaks in many voices, some more predominant than others. A dog, a tree, and a horse as well as Death, Satan, and a corpse all make eloquent contributions to the narrative, but center stage are Black the clerk, the Murderer, Esther the Jewish matchmaker, and Shekure, recently married to Black. The setting is Istanbul in the late 1500s-a period of time that saw the Ottoman Empire at its height but increasingly challenged by the innovative West. Prohibited by the Koran to paint realistic likenesses, the Islamic miniaturists of Istanbul have for centuries done stylized pictures of people, plants, and horses. Their informing belief has been that art should reflect what Allah sees from above, but when a new Sultan commissions a book from noted artist Enishte Effendi that will include a portrait of the Sultan in the Western style, reactionary artists and mullahs become alarmed. After a noted engraver and Enishte are found murdered, the Sultan demands the killer be found or all the miniaturists will be put to death. Black, Enishte's nephew, becomes involved in the investigation. He consults with the famous miniaturist Master Osman, who senses that an era is ending and blinds himself, as well as with the artists working on the book with his late uncle Enishte. With nicknames like Butterfly, Stork, and Olive, these artists reminisce and discuss the difference between Western and Islamic art while proclaiming their innocence. Threatened with torture by the Sultan, Black finally gets his man-not tomention the respect of his new bride. A rich feast of ideas, images, and lore.
"It is neither passion nor homicide that makes Pamuk's latest, My Name is Red, the rich and essential book that it is. . . . It is Pamuk's rendering of the intense life of artists negotiating the devilishly sharp edge of Islam 1,000 years after its brith that elevates My Name is Red to the rank of modern classic. . . . To read Pamuk is to be steeped in a paradox that precedes our modern-day feuds beteween secularism and fundamentalism."
Jonathan Levi, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Straddling the Dardanelles sits the city of Istanbul . . . and in that city sits Orhan Pamuk, chronicler of its consciousness . . . His novel's subject is the difference in perceptions between East and West . . . [and] a mysterious killer... driven by mad theology. . .Pamuk is getting at a subject that has compelled modern thinkers from Heidegger to Derrida . . . My Name is Red is a meditation on authenticity and originality . . . An ambitious work on so many levels at once."
Melvin Jules Bukiet, Chicago Tribune
"Most enchanting . . . Playful, intellectually challenging, with an engaging love story and a full canvas of memorable characters, My Name is Red is a novel many, many people will enjoy."
David Walton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Intensely exhilarating . . . Arresting and provocative . . . To say that Orhan Pamuk's new novel, My Name is Red, is a murder mystery is like saying that Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov is a murder mystery: it is true, but the work so richly transcends the conventional limitations of genre as to make the definition seem almost irrelevant. . . . The techniques of classical Islamic literature are used to anchor the book within a tradition of local narrative, but they can also be used with a wonderfully witty and distancing lightness of touch . . . All the exuberance and richly descriptive detail of a nineteenth-century European novel . . . The technique of Pamuk's novel proclaims that he himself is a magnificently accomplished hybrid artist, able to take from Eastern and Western traditions with equal ease and flair . . . Formally brilliant, witty, and about serious matters . . . It conveys in a wholly convincing manner the emotional, cerebral, and physical texture of daily life, and it does so with great compassion, generosity, and humanity . . . An extraordinary achievement."
Dick Davis, Times Literary Supplement, UK
"My Name is Red is a fabulously rich novel, highly compelling . . . This pivotal book, which absorbed Pamuk through the 1990s, could conclusively establish him as one of the world's finest living writers."
Guy Mannes-Abbott, The Independent, UK
"A murder mystery set in sixteenth-century Istanbul [that] uses the art of miniature illumination, much as Mann's 'Doctor Faustus' did music, to explore a nation's soul. . . . Erdag Goknar deserves praise for the cool, smooth English in which he has rendered Pamuk's finespun sentences, passionate art appreciations, sly pedantic debates, [and] eerie urban scenes."
John Updike, The New Yorker
"Pamuk is a novelist and a great one...My Name is Red is by far the grandest and most astonishing contest in his internal East-West war...It is chock-full of sublimity and sin...The story is told by each of a dozen characters, and now and then by a dog, a tree, a gold coin, several querulous corpses and the color crimson ('My Name is Red')...[Readers will] be lofted by the paradoxical lightness and gaiety of the writing, by the wonderfully winding talk perpetually about to turn a corner, and by the stubborn humanity in the characters' maneuvers to survive. It is a humanity whose lies and silences emerge as endearing and oddly bracing individual truths."
Richard Eder, New York Times Book Review
"The interweaving of human and philosophical intrigue is very much as I remember it in The Name of the Rose, as is the slow, dense beginning and the relentless gathering of pace . . . But, in my view, his book is by far the better of the two. I would go so far as to say that Pamuk achieves the very thing his book implies is impossible . . . More than any other book I can think of, it captures not just Istanbul's past and present contradictions, but also its terrible, timeless beauty. It's almost perfect, in other words. All it needs is the Nobel Prize."
Maureen Freely, New Statesman, UK
"A perfect example of Pamuk's method as a novelist, which is to combine literary trickery with page-turning readability . . . As a meditation on art, in particular, My Name is Red is exquisitely subtle, demanding and repaying the closest attention . . We in the West can only feel grateful that such a novelist as Pamuk exists, to act as a bridge between our culture and that of a heritage quite as rich as our own."
Tom Holland, Daily Telegraph, UK
"Readers . . . will find themselves lured into a richly described and remarkable world . . . Reading the novel is like being in a magically exotic dream . . .Splendidly enjoyable and rewarding . . . A book in which you can thoroughly immerse yourself."
Allan Massie, The Scotsman, UK
"A wonderful novel, dreamy, passionate and august, exotic in the most original and exciting way. Orhan Pamuk is indisputably a major novelist."
Philip Hensher, The Spectator, UK
"[In this] magnificent new novel... Pamuk takes the reader into the strange and beautiful world of Islamic art,in which Western notions no longer make sense .... In this world of forgeries, where some might be in danger of losing their faith in literature, Pamuk is the real thing, and this book might well be one of the few recent works of fiction that will be remembered at the end of this century."
Avkar Altinel, The Observer, UK