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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 an alternate Paperback 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 an alternate Paperback edition.
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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.
"My Name Is Red," is a novel that thoroughly deserves every award it has garnered, but still remains accessible to the reader that is looking for excellent, beautiful literature that remains fun to read as well. Pamuk's writing has been gorgeously translated to English by Goknar, and while the original Turkish must be even more seamless to read, the translation still transports the reader to the Istanbul of Pamuk's imagination.
Told from many alternating points of view, the style never falters or feels cheapened in Pamuk's hands; instead, the perspectives offer the reader a very contextualize view of this era. The unfolding stories of love and murder play out effortlessly; the reader will not know until the end who the murderer was, but will keep guessing and hoping for a resolution. The love between two of the protagonists is an ever-evolving emotion and story that engrosses the reader just as much as the mystery of the story. Even the passages dealing with the minutiae of art and painting don't drag. Instead, the reader feels as much joy and awe as the characters.
I don't know how he did it, but "My Name Is Red" is a story that is crafted in such a way that it does deserve every enthusiastic review and every congratulatory award. It is the type of story a writer can only hope that he can craft and every reader prays to lay hands on.