My Name Is Red

by Orhan Pamuk

Paperback, 2002

Status

Available

Publication

Vintage (2002), Edition: Reprint, 432 pages

Description

A furor erupts in sixteenth-century Istanbul when the Sultan commissions the European-style illumination of a great book, and the situation worsens when one of the miniaturists vanishes mysteriously.

Media reviews

The new one, ''My Name Is Red,'' is by far the grandest and most astonishing contest in Pamuk's internal East-West war. Translated with fluid grace by Erdag M. Goknor, the novel is set in the late 16th century, during the reign of Sultan Murat III, a patron of the miniaturists whose art had come over from Persia in the course of the previous hundred years. It was a time when the Ottomans' confidence in unstoppable empire had begun to be shaken by the power of the West -- their defeat at Lepanto had taken place only a few years earlier -- as well as by its cultural vitality and seductiveness.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Carmenere
"I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well." In the very first line of My Name is Red Pamuk relates the death and troubled soul of one of the Sultan's most skilled miniaturists, Elegant Effendi And so, begins the reader's journey into the secretive and often abusive world of miniaturist artists working in Istanbul in the 16th century. It is at a time in history when the long sought after city is at a crossroads. Geographically as well as artistically, Turkey is on the edge of Asia and Europe. A country trying to hold on to its Mongol influenced artistry while the introduction of Frank and Venetian styles are beginning to influence some of the artists. Master miniaturist, Osman relates the difference, "Meaning precedes form in the world of art. As we begin to paint in imitation of the Frankish and Venetian masters...the domain of meaning ends and the domain of form begins." Oh, for the introduction of perspective, shadows and the horizon line! Until this time figures were drawn with no relation to space, nor time. How this will change art that has always been depicted as seen through the eyes of Allah, from above, and not from a human's street level perspective, to do so is considered blasphemy. Yet, how enticing to see portraiture where none had existed before. Influences so difficult for some to resist and one is trying to halt. The world of Elegant's fellow miniaturists is especially at risk and from this select lot one of them will kill to retain the past.
Just as if the reader were Istanbul, Pamuk keeps the reader on the edge till the very end and takes him through the city's dark and deserted streets to places one may not have known existed. It is a journey of murder, incredible artistry, mystery and love. Each chapter is written as if spoken directly to the reader. You are a part of the scene, you are an observer who knows what is in the hearts of each character. A touch of magical realism comes forth as artists renderings talk to you and relate their story. My Name is Red is truly an incredible piece of historical fiction that proved to be informative as well as entertaining. It's pages contained everything I look for in a great novel.
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LibraryThing member janeajones
This is the first novel by Pamuk that I have read, and I shall certainly continue to his explore his works. My Name Is Red is set in the 16th -century Ottoman Empire amidst the politics and connivings of the Emperor's foremost miniature illustrators. The plot is a murder mystery -- at the beginning of the book, one of the miniaturists is murdered by another -- we know who is murdered, but obviously, not who murdered him. The motivations for the murder are wrapped up in the practices and beliefs about illustration in the Muslim world. I found the discussions about Islamic art fascinating and enlightening. Pamuk also explores both the influence of European Renaissance theories of perspective and artistic individuality and the changes brought about by the Mongol conquest and subsequent Chinese influence on traditional Islamic art. As the consequences of inter-cultural contacts is one of my semi-obsessive interests, Pamuk's novel was highly satisfying.… (more)
LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
Reviewing this sprawling, intricate and ingenious book could get one falling down rabbit holes, and I'm too savvy for that. I will say that the first two-thirds, allowing a learning period where you figure out how to read the thing properly, are pretty much perfect, and that it's hard to imagine another book where the cover-blurb comparisons are this stratospheric and also apt. Pamuk IS as much a craftsman as Mann (wouldn't know about Proust - that, finally, comes later in my European vacation), as ingenious a miniaturist (ha!) as Calvino and Borges, and guilt IS as redolent in these pages as in "The Tell-Tale Heart." Don't know if I'd call him Shakespearean, though. More of an anti-Shakespeare really, in ways. You'll see.

So why only 4.5? Simplest of reasons: this book needed a good edit. The end meanders pointlessly and loses some of it's potential to amaze. But it's still worthy.
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LibraryThing member eas311
I love this book so much. so so so so so much. I have given it as a gift at least 5 times. People tell me they like it too. (Are they just being nice?) It is a murder mystery where you are hearing from the murderer without knowing who he or she is. And there is so much going on. And it is poetic, and takes place in a time and place about which I know nothing. And... apparently this book makes me lose the inability to speak coherently.… (more)
LibraryThing member josquin
"I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well." The first line is classic, and an excellent opening. The way the book is constructed is also fascinating. It's a murder mystery of sorts, but far removed from Dorothy Sayers, this book is a puzzle of philosophical, ideological, historical, and religious elements, mixed with romance. The book is told entirely in the first person, but as you traverse from one chapter to the next, the perspective changes from one character to another. The first chapter, for example, is told by a dead man; several chapters are told by the murderer; and other mysterious narrators include a gold coin, a picture of a tree, the color red, and death.

The story revolves around a group of miniaturists living in Istanbul in 1591. The Sultan has commissioned a special book in his honor, and four of these great painters are working on this book. One of them, under the workshop name Elegant, has been murdered and tossed into a well. The circumstances surrounding this murder, the book, and the relationships between the characters are the substance of this book.

It is easy to get lost in Pamuk's vast swaths of text as he describes in detail the intricacies of a painting, the innermost thoughts of a murderer, the history of illuminations, or a miniaturist's painstaking explanation of his philosophy of painting using a set of lengthy parables. Yet, I found that I became glued to the book, always wondering what would happen to the characters. Pamuk does an excellent job of piecing together this story as told by the different individuals, and is mostly successful in altering his style accordingly. The pace of the story varies wildly from one chapter to the next, as though we are witnessing a game of chess; several chapters will go by without any major incident, but they are always followed by a chapter or two that will make your heart pound with anticipation.
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LibraryThing member AuntieClio
This is a whodunit of the first order. It's also complex with 12 different first-person narrators, each adding their voice to the story unfolding before us. There are many themes to be explored, other than the murder of two miniaturists working on a secret book for the Sultan.

My Name is Red begins with a chapter titled, "I am a Corpse," in which the first murder victim relates how he came to arrive at this story state of affairs.

Eventually, we meet Black, nephew to the miniaturist who is organizing this secret book, and who is also in love with the miniaturist's daughter, who has two children by a husband who went off to war in the Ottoman Empire four years previously. See? Complicated.

My Name is Red is set in Istanbul during the turmoil of the late 16th century in the Ottoman Empire, when Sultans and shiekhs and imams battled each other, and the infidels of Western Europe, for control of the Empire and the Muslim soul.

Caught in this turmoil is the idea of art in the Islamic world, where everything is drawn without perspective, because only Allah sees from above and sees how things truly are. For an artist to do otherwise is to invite idolatry and worship of figures into his world, which is against the Koran. But creeping slowly into the art world is the Venetian way, in which paintings have perspective and represent the world in a more realistic way. East vs. West embodies the conflict which leads to murder and cries of heresy.

Black must sort his way through all of this, knowing but not quite understanding that everyone, including his soon-to-be wife, has their own agenda and will obfuscate the truth for their own expediency.

My Name is Red is a book which demands time, and multiple readings.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
I really enjoy reading prize-winning authors. I have a long-term goal to read all Booker, Pulitzer, Orange and Nobel winners. But with my latest read I learned that just because an author won a prize, and just because umpteen people have raved about said author, doesn’t mean I will enjoy their work.

Orhan Pamuk won the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature. My Name is Red is set in the late 16th century during the Ottoman Empire. The central figures are artists, miniaturist painters working for Sultan Murat III, who had several books produced during his reign, all including the work of prominent Ottoman miniaturists. The book is a mystery, beginning with the murder of a miniaturist. The story is told from numerous points of view. All of this initially intrigued me, but I didn’t make it past page 85. The intricacies of miniaturist painting, the parables and cultural references, the unbearably slow development of the mystery … I found myself getting lost, re-reading, and repeatedly falling asleep in my chair. What have I missed? Was I crazy to throw My Name is Red at the wall?… (more)
LibraryThing member Enamoredsoul
It is seldom that one picks up a book that bypasses any and all genres, and comes alive in your hands and speaks to you. Such is the kind of book Orhan Pamuk has written. Part love story, part murder plot, part commentary on all things spiritual - it is a beautifully written book with a great many multi-faceted characters.

Pamuk uses various different characters to narrate his book - some of the chapters even narrated by unusual characters such as the murdered corpse of Elegant Effendi, "Ink", a "Coin", Satan, two dervishes and the color "Red". It is especially the voices of these characters that become emblazoned upon your soul.

The plot lies in the murder of Elegant Effendi, the reason for which is stated to be his working on an illustrated book commissioned by the Sultan. 'Black', who is in love with late Elegant's daughter Shekure, is striving hard to uncover the murderer and win widowed Shekure's hand in marriage. Also, we hear from his fellow artists/miniaturists "Butterfly", "Stork" and "Olive", with their views on the West influencing Eastern arts. Thus, Orhan Pamuk is able to masterfully entwine a mystery, a romance, and allegory to the clash of Eastern and Western culture all in one wonderful book.

In his book, Pamuk writes "An artist should never succumb to hubris of any kind, he should simply paint the way he sees fit rather than troubling over East or West." - and that is precisely how Pamuk offers his progressive perspective, richly Eastern in nature, but pleasantly influenced by Western ideologies as well. He creates an amalgamation of both cultures, in which the values of each one are preserved and respected, and does it quite successfully. Olive, one of the miniaturists, offers his perspective on art as, "Through our colors, paints, art and love, we remember that Allah had commanded us to "See"!" - and that is what Orhan Pamuk so craftily presents in this book, a chance for the reader to see beyond cultures and races, similarities and differences and be completely enchanted by the mystical, lyrical and awe-inspiring realm that "My Name is Red" is, as a novel.
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LibraryThing member isabelx
“Now then, draw Death for me,” the old man said.
“I cannot draw a picture of Death without ever, not once in my entire life, having seen a picture of Death,” said the miraculously sure-handed miniaturist, who would shortly, in fact, end up doing the drawing.
“You do not always need to have seen an illustration of something in order to depict that thing,” objected the refined and enthusiastic old man.
“Yes, perhaps not,” said the master illustrator. “Yet, if the picture is to be perfect, the way the masters of old would’ve made it, it ought to be drawn at least a thousand times before I attempt it. No matter how masterful a miniaturist might be, when he paints an object for the first time, he’ll render it as an apprentice would, and I could never do that. I cannot put my mastery aside while illustrating Death; this would be equivalent to dying myself.”
“Such a death might put you in touch with the subject matter,” quipped the old man.
“It’s not experience of subject matter that makes us masters, it’s never having experienced it that makes us masters.”
“Such mastery ought to be acquainted with Death then.”


A tale of art, religion and murder, set in later 16th century Istanbul, which has been hanging about unread on my shelf for several years. For some reason I though it would be heavy going, and I only read it this month because I am trying to work my way through the books that I have owned for longest, but it turned out to be an intricate and beautifully written mystery story.

One of the master miniaturists working on a secret project for the Sultan, goes missing and is later found dead. The story of the murder investigation is told from multiple points of view, including some of the drawings made by the miniaturist and his colleagues, but the chapter headings make it clear who is talking so it never becomes confusing. The murderer is one of the narrators, pretending to be innocent of the crime and trying to throw suspicion onto his colleague, but he also narrates chapters as 'the murderer' and in these chapters he explains events and tries to justify his crime, and tries not to leave any clues to his identity.… (more)
LibraryThing member Niecierpek
The intrigue for this story is set in Ottoman Istanbul in the world of text illumination, miniature painting and its painters. It’s a compelling murder mystery, love story and a treatise on art and religion that craftily weaves fact with fiction. Every chapter is like a little short story told in a different voice by a different narrator, and the voices are really varied and coloured with their own humour and wit. Even a colour is given a voice (hence My Name is Red) alongside a number of beings: a horse, death, a dead body, and lots of others besides regular male and female characters. The language is beautiful, and the whole philosophical aspect of art as a reflection of perfection or imperfection, individualism and style, immortalization, religion and God is elegantly and thoughtfully delivered.… (more)
LibraryThing member ebethe
Gosh, I wanted to like this novel. I wanted to be able to tell people about it, about the rich history of Turkey and about the excellent story-telling ability of the author. I didn't absorb much--as in remember it the next day or week or month or year--but that may be because I just didn't care for how the author writes. It isn't that he the ideas are difficult or that the conclusions are unrealistic, I just couldn't keep the story together. Shame on me.… (more)
LibraryThing member egarabis
I was completely enthralled by this book from the beginning.
I did not know very much about Turkish culture and history (besides having a Turkish professor in graduate school). I loved the way the author wrote the book; each chapter is from the perspective of a different character. The book is a mystery but also a commentary on life in the interpretation of beauty. I loved it from start to finish and highly recommend it!… (more)
LibraryThing member lmichet
I am unsure how to react to this book.

I was under the impression that it would be a clever sort of historical-mystery-literature deal. In a way, it was, but about halfway through it transformed into a sort of essay on east-west cultural interaction-- which wouldn't have been so bad in a story with fewer subplots. The characters are frequently pretty fantastic-- the child psychology here is great, as is Master Osman's descent into madness, and Butterfly's manic terror, but I frequently had the feeling that there was simply too much going on. Black's and Shekure's trials bogged down the whole center part of the book. The constant switching of voices made many parts of the story move rather slowly. Add onto this a passel of multi-page monologues on the dangers globalism poses to Islamic cultural trends and you've got a book which, though INTERESTING, is not going to make me want to read it again.

I do appreciate that he strung the mystery out for as long as he did, but I feel as though the characters of the three suspect miniaturists were so incompletely sketched that I could not have solved it myself if I had tried. We hear their voices so infrequently, and so much of the story is taken up by things unrelated to them, that I could not get a clear fix on WHO exactly they were each supposed to be until the last seventy pages or so-- definitely a flaw. I feel like Pamuk tried to do far too much with this story.
It's a good book, but it's not spectacular. I'm not certain why it won the Nobel.
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LibraryThing member lady_mary_wroth
An interesting historical novel about miniature painters in Istanbul in the sixteenth century. Pamuk's style is interesting and adroit, and the way he tells the story from myriad perspectives makes this work not only enjoyable and historically valuable but also creatively praiseworthy.
LibraryThing member kerns222
Some books change the way you think about the world. This one changed the way I thought about art--close enough.
LibraryThing member JMC400m
This book is an elaborate murder mystery centering around a group of miniaturists working at the end of the 16th century in the Ottoman Empire. Pamuk explores the personalities of the characters in the book as well as the sensibilities of the time through this art form which later lost its popularity.

Each chapter is narrated by a different character, some that are left unknown to the reader. The narration is playful and even a bit "naughty" at times, and there was one point where descriptions seemed to be drawn out. The method of shifting back and forth between the story tellers kept me entertained and I enjoyed the interplay of perspectives.

The book is never gory or violent, but often dark and mysterious, and some of the incidents made me squeamish (readers will know which ones I am talking about!) despite their subtlety. I was particularly interested in the book's setting and the relationship between, the Turks, Persians and the Venetians in both an artistic and historical sense. Also, Pamuk's work weaves a number of interesting themes - religion, art, personal relationships, love and human nature which makes it a complex and interesting tale.

My Name is Red is considered a classic in Turkey and is said to have aided in Pamuk get the Nobel Prize for Literature.
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LibraryThing member scofer
The setting is 16th century Istanbul and a miniaturist is murdered. The story is told from the perspectives of the other miniaturists (and suspects) and clues are dropped along the way. The premise sounded like a really good one, but (for me, anyway), the book dragged on and I lost interest in the story and its characters. A let down particularly as I enjoyed Snow by Pamuk. I wanted to enjoy it, but sadly did not.… (more)
LibraryThing member THE_ROCK
As with all Orhan Pamuk books get ready to have to read very carefully and intently, this books paints such a clear picture of Istambul, the artists and the theory of Islamic artists in general.

It becomes repetitive at times which is a little annoying but then the Author writes a line which is so comprehensive but holds so much weight that all you can do is hold your breath and let it sink in.… (more)
LibraryThing member Rich_Reader
I heard Orhan Pamuk speak at Stanford University. He mentioned his fascination with colors, having decided to be a painter before he turned to writing. His interest in the novel is that you can create a world where the action takes place, basically, in your head, rather than on a movie screen, say. So the novel allows a writer to create anything, and the reader to picture the action reflective of the reader's own experience. In this sense the novel is a simple but powerful means of creating a world, and thus conveying ideas that might otherwise be hard to express. The basic idea of this novel is, Is there really a difference in the way East and West perceives colors, and painting, and the details of illustration? Spun around this premise are the details and colors and painted tapestry of a murder in Istanbul. In thinking about "who done it" we are led to think about the nature of painting and the motivations and personalities of the painters.

The book is not written for the mass market. That is part of the appeal, at least to me, but unfontunately, it means that most people will not be inclined to finish it. One could wish it were 50 pages shorter, but once you understand a little about Mr. Pamuk and his themes, you will want to read it all the way through, and pick up some of his other novels as well.

I think we need especially to acknowledge the translator of this book. Mr. Pamuk speaks English, but not very fluently. The book was written in Turkish and translated by the very gifted Dr. Erdag Goknar of Duke University. Dr. Goknar was born in the USA, but he has an outstanding knowledge of Turkish and Turkish literature, and is a good friend of Mr. Pamuk. His translation reads like an original work.
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LibraryThing member ternary
Sights set too high, I suppose. I'd been told "Much better than Snow. You'll love it." and it's true; shifting (eccentric!) perspectives and lush miniaturist detail kept things moving along at a pleasant clip. The book didn't begin to feel like a slog until the halfway point, when the misery of the latter part of the novel became inevitable, and the lengthy History of Miniaturism interludes grew ever larger, ever more tedious.
Maybe if I too had the tenacity to paint individual tree leaves on a grain of rice I would feel more tolerant of the lists. More accepting of didactic tone. More circuitous. More willing to let myself grow blind with the effort.
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LibraryThing member firebird013
Clever who-dunnit through the eyes of various participants - including the murderer (but we don't know their name!) Interesting exploration of the way the sacred arts of the East met the secular artistic tradition of the West. The denouement is guaranteed to make your toes curl.
LibraryThing member arthos
A murder mystery in late-medieval Istanbul. It provides a rich picture of the life and attitudes of miniaturists of the time. It is well-crafted, but it did not much speak to me, beyond the historical interest. The English translation is unfortunately poorly edited, full of rather jarring contractions like "could've" and uneven in tone.… (more)
LibraryThing member Xinder
One of the best books I read last year. Completely engaging and interesting.
LibraryThing member bluesviola
I found this book to be too much into deception and lies to be worth my time. It wasn't like reading a good murder mystery, more like reading an autobiography of an ENRON executive.
Didn't bother to finish it.
LibraryThing member zacchia
Difficult at the beginning to enter into the story. Every chapter of the book is written from the prospective of a different person. The book tells the story of a group of miniaturists working on a secret book for the Sultan. The main topic is the the different view about drawings, paintings, and art in general between muslims and europeans.
It is interesting also the love story between the characters, and the relationships between the maestro and his disceples.
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Language

Original language

English
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