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My Name is Red


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My Name is Red - Orhan Pamuk - 2001


The main characters in the novel are miniaturists in the Ottoman Empire, and the events revolve around the murder of one of the painters, as related in the first chapter. From then on Pamuk -- in a postmodern style reminiscent of Borges -- plays with and teases the reader and literature in general.
The novel's narrator changes in every chapter, and in addition to character-narrators, the reader will find unexpected voices such as the corpse of the murdered, a coin, several painting motifs, and the color red. The novel blends mystery, romance, and philosophical puzzles, opening a window on the reign of Ottoman Sultan Murat III during nine snowy winter days in the Istanbul of 1591.
Enishte Effendi, the maternal uncle of Black, is reading the Book of the Soul by Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya, a famous Sunni commentator on the Qur'an and continuous references are made to it throughout the book. The novel opens with master Elegant Effendi having been murdered but his soul lingering in the after-life and Elegant Effendi reflecting on the after-life. Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya’s Book of the Soul (Kitab al-Ruh) ranks among the best books on the subject of the Islamic understanding of life after death according to the Qur’an, the Sunna, and the doctrine of the Salaf and the Four Imams, establishing without doubt that the dead hear the living and know of them.
Pamuk compares illustrations with the afterlife in the sense that people aspire to achieve a sense of eternity through both. Thus Shekure imagines to speak to us readers like the women on illustrations look at her. ... just like those beautiful women with one eye on the life within the book and one eye on the life outside, I, too, long to speak with you who are observing me from who knows which distant time and place. The murdered Elegant Effendi accused his murderer of sacriligious illustrations offending Allah or God. Is true art an expression of the individual artist or is true art a close to perfect representation of the divine in which the individual artist has succeeded to overcome his personal vanity? This question becomes a question of existential meaning in Pamuk's tale. And lie the truth and the answer to this question in reality or in our imagination?

Every year, when the new nobel prize winners are announced, I wait eagerly for the one for literature. Seldom have I been disappointed with their books. This year is no exception.


Orhan Pamuk is one of those rare authors who seems to have reinvented the art of writing. His style is quite unique. Even though he settles his story in the 13th century, it applies actual problems and facts in a way nobody else seems to be able to do. I can't wait to read more of his books, he is absolutely fabulous.


I started this thread in January but it was lost in the crash.

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Finally, the remainder of this thread turned up:



28th January 2007, 07:48 PM


Orhan Pamuk - My Name is Red - 2001


The nobel prize winner in literature for 2006 wrote this amazing book. The author managed to write a book that is quite interesting and teaches you a lot. About history, religion, the middle east, painting, culture. The synopsis doesn't promise that much:

In Istanbul, in the late 1590s, the Sultan secretly commissions a great book: a celebration of his life and his empire, to be illuminated by the best artists of the day - in the European manner. But when one of the miniaturists goes missing and is feared murdered, their master seeks outside help.[/Quote]But, there is something in it for everyone. And if even a non-crime story reader like me enjoys this thriller and can't wait to find out who the killer is ... that's just great.


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Currently reading: Ensemble c’est tout (Hunting and Gathering), Anna Gavalda




29th January 2007, 08:30 AM



Do you feel that this book has taught you about Istanbul specifically? It's a city that I'd love to visit and I'd like to get more of a feel for its complex history and culture. I know the book is set a good while back, but still...!




29th January 2007, 01:39 PM



Good question, Mungus. As you rightly surmise, though, a book set 400 years in the past doesn't give you a great deal of insight into Istanbul. Although I haven't read it, I suspect Pamuk's non-fiction book "Istanbul" will probably give you more of an insight.


What I really got out of "My Name is Red" is actually an insight into the mindset of the Muslim world at the time. There are several points in the book where the contrast between the Islamic approach to art and illustration is contrasted with what is going on in western Europe, as the Renaissance is in full swing at the time the book is set. Where the artist is encouraged in the west to be creative and expressive, this is seen in "My Name is Red" as anathema - an artist's job is to create exact reproductions, and it is this that provides some of the crucial clues in the "whodunnit" side of the book.


As a novel, its tough going, more so than the superficially similar "The Name of the Rose", but a read worth perservering with.


Current reading:

The Dark Tower (Dark Tower volume 7) - Stephen King

Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram - Iain Banks (audiobook)



29th January 2007, 11:27 PM


Originally Posted by Mungus

Do you feel that this book has taught you about Istanbul specifically?[/Quote]

Not necessarily about the Istanbul of today as such but where it comes from. I have been to Istanbul (I have a friend there who used to be in my school) and I really, really liked it. But there must be a difference for any city anywhere in the world if almost 800 years have past.

However, as Grammath mentions, it teaches you a lot about the way people were thinking at the time, the way religion influenced (and influences) large parts of the culture and living.

Istanbul is on my TBR pile and if I ever get around to reading it ... I will tell you all about it.

In any case, if you are interested in going to Istanbul, I can only recommend it. There are so many aspects to the city between East and West, it's hard to find something like it.


My book list

My favourite authors

Currently reading: Ensemble c’est tout (Hunting and Gathering), Anna Gavalda

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I just finished this and thought it was good--certainly better than Snow which I found rather dreary. It does, however, share a similar dull romance sub-plot and stereotypical characters, not to mention the anti-Islam/anti-tradition tone.


Comparisons to The Name of the Rose are inevitable. Although the last half of Eco's novel was very intriguing, Pamuk manages to sustain the intrigue all of the way through, making it the more satisfying mystery of the two. Pamuk is also more subtle than Eco regarding his discussions and has better characterization and language, although the latter may be a translation thing. Eco comes off as too academic, whereas Pamuk is more the novelist. (It should be noted that I don't view either of these novels as having stellar characterization or subtlety.)


One of the interesting things about Pamuk's Snow and My Name is Red is the structure. I think it is probably his greatest gift. Unfortunately, it's such a small component of any novel. In this novel, Pamuk gives us first-person narratives from all of the main characters, even a couple of souls of murdered corpses. While it makes for an interesting premise, it does fail a bit in reality, especially when those two aforementioned souls, who are fully aware that they are narrating to a reader, don't reveal the identity of their murderer.


My Name is Red is also a good introduction to Turkey of the late 16th century, as well as Turkish art. While Pamuk is critical of the tradition and refusal to adopt other styles within Turkish art, it is apparent that he has a deep appreciation for it.


It's not a fast-paced, intriguing whodunit, but it does manage to keep the reader hooked. I'm starting to see how Pamuk is a bit predictable with his politics, but it's bearable. I do recommend it to others.

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29th July 2011, 11:46 AM

I just finished this and really enjoyed it, I actually think I enjoyed the style and some of his descriptive prose to the plotline. The chapters by objects such as the coin and tree, by Satan and Death and the colour red were my favourites and created some lovely visual images.

I have read snow and enjoyed it, but prefered this one, with its vivid colours and the varied characters. I look forward to reading more of his work.



29th July 2011, 03:24 PM

This is the only Pamuk book that I have enjoyed (I only read one other--name slips me now--and I liked it okay, but it was too much of a slog). One of the delights of the book was that just when I read it, one of the art museums, either here or in Ft. Worth, began a big show on just this issue in the art of Turkey. It was rather amazing how much overlap there was, especially since the book wasn't mentioned at all. I got several people to read the book and go to the show (my husband, my mother, etc.) and they all loved it.



2nd August 2011, 10:39 AM

I enjoyed The Museum of Innocence so much that I'll have to catch up with My Name is Red,. Yes, Pamuk is slow-going but fascinating - obsessive in a way with his analysis of detail and above all its effect on the mind of the narrator. Those who love Proust will like Pamuk. However, I appreciate that many will find him heavy-going and even a bit of a bore.



14th August 2011, 11:42 AM

I recently read "Istanbul - Memories of a City". Since I've been to Istanbul, I really loved this book, although I'm pretty sure I would have liked it if I hadn't been there.

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