My Name is Red Paperback – 19 Jun 2002
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Orhan Pamuk is one of Turkey's premier novelists and My Name Is Red, when published in the original Turkish in 1998, became the fastest-selling book in Turkish history. It is high time then that a translation to English was made, and this publication will be widely welcomed by Pamuk's growing legion of English-speaking admirers.
In the late 16th century, during the final years of the reign of Ottoman Sultan Murat III, a great work is commissioned, a book celebrating the Sultan's life. The work is conducted in secret, to the ignorance of the artists involved, for fear of a violent religious reaction to the European style of the illuminations in the book. An artist goes, missing, feared dead, and Black, a painter who has been in a self-enforced exile because of spurned love, returns to help his former Master investigate the disappearance.
Pamuk's prose is as exquisite and rich as the elucidations it describes. This is a dense, atmospherically fevered book, which demands a high level of patience and attention from the reader, perhaps mirroring the patience of the miniaturists. Written in the first person, with multiple narratives, this is a book full of unreliable witnesses, and as the various stories of the narrators unfold, the truth of the disappearance slowly emerges. The sense of place and time are carefully constructed and diligently maintained throughout the novel, which, like Umberto Eco's The Name Of The Rose, far exceeds the genre of literary historical crime to become a hypnotic meditation on religion, love, time, patience and artistic devotion. --Iain Robinson
'Magnificent... 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.' --Observer
'We in the West can only feel gratitude 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.' --Daily Telegraph
'More than any other book I can think of, it captures not just its 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
Top customer reviews
Unlike a couple of other reviewers, I enjoyed the different 'voices' used to drive the story along. The mystery and the love story served well to keep me reading to the end and the ending was very satisfying.
As a woman, It led me to reflect that it is only very recently that women have lost their second class status in the West. In the Islamic world at different times and places - like 16th century Istanbul - the societal structures seem to have forced both men and women to behave rather strangely, to modern Western eyes.
A range of narratives in the first person (these include figures depicted by miniaturists in a cafe which tell their own stories, eg "I am a dog" and figures now dead, "I am a corpse") comprise the novel. This involves both events (it starts with a murder, it contains a love story); and a fair bit of reflection on the nature of figurative art - which certainly has its own interest.
My initial reaction was to become engrossed in the narrative and the atmosphere...then as the book moved into its second half and towards its denoument, I felt I might just have had enough, even too much, of a good thing...perhpas for me the balance tilted too much towards the philosophical and away from the world of events and from the delicate understanding of interpersonal relationships that surrounds the central female character modelled on Orhan Pamuk's mother...
It revolves around the work of Muslim artist, Black, who is trying to work out who murdered one of his colleagues and why. It plunges us as the reader into the history of Muslim art, and the great theological questions of the day. It is an intense narrative full of asides and stories through which the main plot twists and turns.
This can be a richly rewarding book, but if you are looking for an easy read, or one which reveals its secrets after just a little thought, it probably isn't for you.
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