However, before exploring the analogy deeper (what I probably postpone to another post) I will try to tell something about „My name is Red” itself.
The novel takes place in Istambul at the end of XVI century. It introduces its readers into a world of miniaturists and painters devoted to book illustrations. At the outset, this is extremely interesting – as we well know, painting in Islam is quite restricted – even a depiction of any human form is a kind of idolatry and is forbidden. This is why Islamic cultures developed more in directions of calligraphy, illumination of manuscripts, miniature painting, painting on ceramics and extremely flowery rugs and carpets creation.
The novel’s intriguing plot throws us into the world of late Ottoman empire, under the rule of Sultan Murat III, who purportedly, ordered an extended and rich set of illustrations, apparently borrowing from Venitian style of painting, to the book (Thousands Years of Hagira) which was to be offered to some European envoys as an expression of Ottoman or, more precisely — his own, pride. However, amid strong opposition from fundamentalists of the era, he did that in secrecy and commissioned the task to a specific workshop of talented miniaturists and illuminators. Partially because of another wave of pride and competition among them, partially because of the restrained love affairs and desires of the young people, and most importantly because of the influence of fundamentalists – the mysterious murders start to shadow the peaceful work of the illuminators. And this face of the book — the numerous plots, almost criminal-like tension and great dramatizing is extremely well designed and rendered in words. Let me however not reveal anything from these plots because I do not want to spoil the readers’ future impressions. Anyway, let me only say shortly that the mystery about the identity of the main murderer is not revealed almost to the end of the novel. Yet when the conundrum is finally solved, it is of a very specific climate of surprise. Contrary to our today’s literary experiences it is almost non-surprising, we could probably conclude the truth well in the mid of reading – yet – just because of the fantastic way Pamuk intertwines the plot – it becomes a true crescendo of the book.
There is also a beautiful love story. The love from the first sight, yet almost tragic and almost unfulfilled, it finally finds fulfillment in a way perhaps different than its actors expectations, and a bit different to our expectations as readers. And that makes it even more beautiful. As its frequent references to the story of „Hüsrev and Shirin” by Persian poet Nizami …
„Painting is the silence of thought and a music of sight”
„I don't want to be a tree; I want to be its meaning.”
„Books, which we mistake for consolation, only add depth to our sorrow.”
„A letter doesn't communicate by words alone. A letter, just like a book, can be read by smelling it, touching it and fondling it. Thereby, intelligent folk will say, 'Go on then, read what the letter tells you!' whereas the dull-witted will say, 'Go on then, read what he's written!”
„What was venerated as style was nothing more than an imperfection or flaw that revealed the guilty hand.”
„Where there is a true art and genuine virtuosity the artist can paint an incomparable masterpiece without leaving even a trace of his identity.”
„My Name is Red” is a monumental book, the book that will stay with you long after you flopped the last page of it, or, as was in my case, when you switched your AudioBook off for a long time after it…
Finished in Woodbridge, UK.