My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

As I regarded the work, I slowly sensed that the underlying tale was the picture itself. The painting wasn't the extension of a story at all, it was something in its own right. -- Orhan Pamuk

Before the art of illumination there was blackness and afterward there will be blackness. -- Orhan Pamuk

Alla created this earthly realm so that, above all, it might be seen. Afterward, He provided us with words so we might share and discuss with one another what we've seen. We mistakenly assumed these stories arose out of words and that illustrations were painted in service of these stories. Quite to the contrary, painting is the art of seeking out Allah's memories and seeing the world as He sees the world. -- Orhan Pamuk

In all of Venice, rich and influential men wanted their portraits painted as a symbol, a momenta of their lives and a sign of their riches, power and influence - so they might always be there, standing before us, announcing their existence, nay, their individuality and distinction. -- Orhan Pamuk

A great painter does not content himself by affecting us with his masterpieces; ultimately, he succeeds in changing the landscape of our minds. Once a miniaturist's artistry enters our souls this way, it becomes the criterion for the beauty of our world. -- Orhan Pamuk

Tell me then, does love make one a fool or do only fools fall in love? -- Orhan Pamuk

What is art, great art?

Great artists would illustrate the word of God, but their names were never known. The illustrator was merely an instrument to bring forth the work of God. To stamp ones own identity was to usurp God, to be identified with the work was seen as vanity, if not blasphemy.

The illustration was to put into images the words. Later this was also used to illustrate epic works.

If a painting was seen on its own, what works was it used to illustrate, what words were to be drawn from the painting?

It was only much later, that art was seen for its own sake, that artists put a name to their work.

This is the dilemma that Orhan Pamuk portrays in My Name is Red.

Three parables told by 'Butterfly', 'Stork' and 'Olive' expand a treatise on the philosophy of art.

To be completed by 1591, Ottoman Sultan Murat III commissioned a great work that was to depict his life's work.

In Europe, noblemen and others of self-importance had paintings done of themselves for posterity. Within their painting would be articles representing their life, so anyone viewing the portrait would not only be able to recognise the person but also their place and importance in society.

Ottoman Sultan Murat III took this one stage further, commissioned in secret a great book that would illustrate his life.

Each chapter in My Name is Red (Benim Adim Kirmizi) gives voice to a different character. It starts with the murdered master Elegant Effendi speaking to us from the afterlife.

It is not though only the dead who speak, a dog, a tree, a horse, even a gold coin, have a tale to tell. Even Satan tells his tale of his fall from grace and his status as a fallen angel.

Underlying the clash of different interpretations of art is a clash of Western and Eastern Civilisations. My Name is Red is more than a treatise on the philosophy of art, it is a love story, a murder mystery, a criticism of religious fundamentalism, but above all, a beautifully written novel.

Comparisons have inevitably been made with The Name of the Rose, the debut novel of Umberto Eco. Comparisons could also be drawn with The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse.

My Name is Red was awarded the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2003, as well as the French Prix du meilleur livre étranger and Italian Premio Grinzane Cavour awards in 2002.

A very powerful novel.

Copies of My Name is Red have been registered as BookCrossing books.

BookCrossing books are released into the wild and their progress checked on the Internet via a unique BookCrossing ID (BCID).

For my lovely friends Alissa, Dasha and Iva who understand and appreciate good literature and art, and for my lovely friend in the library to who I gave a copy of My Name is Red as a present. And a special thanks to Alissa who recommended that I read My Name is Red.
Books Worth Reading ~ Orhan Pamuk
(c) Keith Parkins 2008 -- January 2008 rev 0