Author: Orhan Pamuk
The publisher's description:
'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. And when one of the the chosen miniaturists disappears, the only clue to the mystery lies in the half-finished illuminations themselves. Part fantasy and part philosophical puzzle, My Name is Red is a kaleidoscopic journey into the intersection of art, religion, love, sex and power.'
Let me begin by saying this book is very well written. I really appreciate Pamuk's writing style and unique manner of organizing the narrative. The title of each chapter will introduce the reader to the speaker, who will subsequently narrate the story from their point of view. The narrative isn't solely provided by just one or two main characters, it's told by a ranging cast of other persons, animals and even inanimate objects. Pamuk smoothly integrates the folkloric and religious elements of Turkish culture and storytelling into the novel, and the reader will find that within the main narrative are short sequences of myths. Another thing I like is that Pamuk invites the reader to participate; in the sense that the reader knows things some characters do not. In many instances, the characters are aware of the reader's presence and they acknowledge that the reader is forming their own judgment about what transpires in the story.
The reader will accompany one protagonist, Black, as he unravels the mystery of the disappeared miniaturist. Black's primary motivation to complete this task is to win over his uncle, a prominent figure in the art community, so he can rekindle his love for his cousin, Shekure. For me, Black's character is very one dimensional. Also, a significant portion of the book revolves around the relationship between Black and Shekure, and I found both characters to be rather annoying, especially Shekure. I'd like to I think that Pamuk included her illogical actions and irrational modes of thinking to make a point about the role of women in Turkish society, but that may be a stretch...I really didn't like her. On the other hand, I did like Esther and Master Osman. They seemed the most real and added depth to the cast of characters. From the dialogue, the reader will encounter many philosophical discussions about style, semi-sarcastic, xenophobic attitudes and criticisms of western culture, and generally indifferent attitudes to what many consider to be perverted or grotesque.
I thought I would never put down a book, which opens with a chapter titled I am a corpse, but I put My Name is Red down quite a few times. I standby the fact that it is superbly written, but after the first chapter, it slowed down significantly and my interest didn't return until about chapter 12...maybe I was just too eager to solve the mystery because the tempo picks up eventually, but then it slows down again until right before the very end. It's not a terrible read, but it didn't meet expectations.
My Name is Red
3 out of 5 stars