Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A-Z Wednesday: My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

Author: Orhan Pamuk
ISBN: 0375706852
Publisher: Vintage International/2001
Pages: 413

This novel has many layers to it. A murder mystery, a love story and also speaks out about Islamic society. One can feel the tensions throughout for the rise and fall of various empires which is told by the way of miniature art. At some point in the book, we do not care who the murder is but get involved in the treachery of politics, the love affair and want to know more about the Islamic society. Being an Indian, and knowing a bit about Islam did help me.

There is clash between cultures. Between spirituality and materialism. Between getting fame at whatever cost and bowing to art. Between God's will and man's doing. How does one define sin? Can one justify it? Does it merge somewhere? Is there really a fine line? These are few of the questions one asks while reading. A few get answered, a few don't. That does not take away anything from the book. We can see the eternal conflict between the old and new, and tradition and change i.e., that of East and West. Then there are those artists who only depend on copying, others who want to take in the western influence to show other perceptions.

This book has been narrated in many voices, mostly human. However, a few include a horse, a dog, a tree and a coin. Also we see voice of death. One tends to get different perception in this way of speaking. The novel begins with the voice of a dead person, the recently killed Elegant Effendi. His murderer is a recurring character, telling his story both anonymously and also as a character not identified by the others as being the killer, until the end.

The setting of the book is the late 16th century, in Istanbul. Elegant Effendi and his murderer are both artists: miniaturists and illustrators. Other important characters are Enishte Effendi, a master artist, his nephew, called Black, who too is a miniaturist, and his daughter Shekure. Black had fallen in love with Shekure, but it was not possible for them to marry. Black left Istanbul and returned after twelve years. Meanwhile, Shekure got married three years after he left, and has two sons. However her husband disappeared years ago and is presumed to be dead. Now her husband's brother Hasan, wants to marry her as does Black.

Pamuk's descriptions and evocations are like the miniatures he describes. Very detailed, very pictursque and paying attention to finer nuances which can be used to for different effects, at different times. It is a fascinating read, although it is very slow in the beginning.

CymLowell

13 comments:

lilly said...

I've always wanted to read some of Pamuk's books and now I know with which one to start.

Michelle said...

Don't know if I would like this book.
Thanks for sharing.

My `M` is up

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

This one sounds very unusual...

Mine is here:

http://laurel-rain-outonalimb.blogspot.com/2010/05/z-wednesday.html

Zia said...

Sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing it.

Nise' said...

Sounds very unique.

Vicki said...

Another very unusual book from you. I love seeing what you are going to post next!

Thanks for playing!

fredamans said...

I would love this book, I just feel it.

http://fredasvoice.blogspot.com/2010/05/to-z-starts-with-m.html

Beth said...

Sounds interesting. Thanks for visiting.

Hannah Stoneham said...

I love this book - I think that it is really thoughtful and masterly and you have bought out what it is about so so well - a pleasure to read your review. I haven't read his latest novel yet but it is well and truly on my ist. Lovely post thank you indeed for sharing

Hannah

harvee said...

I llike Pamuk's excellent writing. And a murder mystery to add to is is irresistable. Very nice review.

Steph said...

I'd never heard of this book, but after reading your review I would like to read it. It sounds fascinating on so many levels.

J.T. Oldfield said...

I've been meaning to read Pamuk for soooo long! This one or Snow will probably be the first I choose when I get to it.

J.T. Oldfield said...

I've been meaning to read Pamuk for soooo long! This one or Snow will probably be the first I choose when I get to it.