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My Name Is Red Paperback – August 27, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Acclaimed Turkish novelist Pamuk offers this fascinating murder mystery set against the backdrop of 16th-century Istanbul. The story surrounds a sultan who commissions a book to celebrate his life and times, as well as a set of talented artists hired to recreate the work in the European style. But when one of the artists disappears, the answer to his whereabouts seems to lie in the images themselves. British narrator John Lee reads with a classical tone, drawing on his theatrical experience to create a rousing, epic, but personal reading sure to appeal to a wide range of listeners. Lee reads with such inherent skill that his words seem to be coming straight from memory, recreating Pamuk's ancient world in colorful clarity. A Knopf hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 6).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
In 16th-century Istanbul, master miniaturist and illuminator of books Enishte Effendi is commissioned to illustrate a book celebrating the sultan. Soon he lies dead at the bottom of a well, and how he got there is the crux of this novel. A number of narrators give testimony to what they know about the circumstances surrounding the murder. The stories accumulate and become more detailed as the novel progresses, giving the reader not only a nontraditional murder mystery but insight into the mores and customs of the time. In addition, this is both an examination of the way figurative art is viewed within Islam and a love story that demonstrates the tricky mechanics of marriage laws. Award-winning Turkish author Pamuk (The White Castle) creatively casts the novel with colorful characters (including such entities as a tree and a gold coin) and provides a palpable sense of atmosphere of the Ottoman Empire that history and literary fans will appreciate. Recommended. Marc Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
In long talks with his maternal uncle Enishte Effenti, Black learns that there is a significant underground movement among artists who think the time of the miniaturists has run its course. Some of them are secretly exploring the methods of the Franks and Venetians who are using individual style, in direct conflict with Muslim tradition which only allowed the copying of Chinese and Persian models.
Enishte Effenti is despised by Master Osman because Effenti is paying miniaturists (secretly financed by Sultan Murat) to prepare an illustrated manuscript allowing the artists to paint objects "of their own imagining". These divisions of purpose concerning style infect Osman's atelier with murderous results. The murder weapon is a three-hundred-year-old huge, bronze pot "for red". The victim says of his murderer, "his face and his entire body had become bright red from the ink splattering out of the ink pot, and I suppose, from the blood splattering out of me . . . Saddened that the last thing I'd ever see in this world was this man who would be my enemy."
A parallel plot involves Black's endeavors to win the love of his cousin, Enishte Effenti's daughter, who is indecisive and whose evasive words complicate his fate.
At times the style is overly verbose and gets lost in ornamentation, but I guess that is a stylistic way to mirror the subject matter.
First, be warned, this is not a quick read by any means. There is no omniscient narrative voice to smooth the path for the reader. Instead, the reader is presented with multiple voices and perspectives-- some from the characters themselves, some from the illustrations in the books, one memorable passage is even told from the point of view of ink itself.
And while there is a story and the story is important (the commissioning of the religiously dubious book by the Sultan, the subsequent murderer of Elegant Effendi, Black's efforts to find the killer, save the book and win the hand of his cousin Shekure), it is not as though the story were the book and it only orders the flow of the multiple perspectives rather than really making the reading of the book easier.
Pamuk has been much cited in the press lately, not only for his views as a novelist, but also for his views on what he calls the "absurd" conflict between east and west. Through using the medium of the narrow world of the miniaturists in the 16th century, Pamuk gently addresses the issue of heresy and pollution by stressing the continual influence of other cultures on the classical miniature form and by making clear through debates on individuality, blindness, and style where many of the differences between east and west are located. And also, of course, the similarities are revealed in the same manner.
I found _My Name Is Red_ to be by turns funny, thought-provoking and moving. I was never bored even though it took me perhaps three times as long to read as another book of similar length.
Some tips to the reader: read and even re-read the chronology at the back. Also, the publisher's web site for the book has some images of the paintings referred to by the characters. I found it useful to refer to them after I had finished the novel.