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Title: My Name is Red

Author: Orhan Pamuk

Date published: 1998 (2001 in English)

Number of pages: 413

My rating: 8/10 (a vibrant, amusing yet serious novel)

My Name is Red, a novel by the Nobel prize-winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, takes place in the sixteenth century in Istanbul, Turkey. It’s a novel about how art is acknowledged by a religious viewpoint.

The story begins when the miniaturist (painter) Elegant Effendi is murdered and dumped in a well after challenging one of his co-workers about the book The Sultan has assigned upon them which shows his glory. The work is to be rendered in the European style, which can be dangerous because that type of art is considered blasphemous.

Each chapter is narrated by different characters with different perspectives, including themes such as the color Red, a coin, or figures in a painting.

Black is assigned to investigate the murder. The suspected miniaturists are Stork, Butterfly and Olive.

There is also a love story shrouded in the murder puzzle. Black is eager to reveal the murderer in order to prove to his uncle Enishte Effendi that he is worthy of his Effendi’s daughter, Shekure. Although he had loved her a long time ago, she has been married to an unloving fighter whom she considers (without documented evidence) dead in the war; she is raising two young sons alone.

One of the memorable and witty characters is Esther, the inquisitive Jewish clothier who sends and receives letters between the lovers. Although she is trusted for her illiteracy, she always asks her confidant to read her the letters and is therefore informed on the latest news.

What makes this novel very tricky and devious is that the man responsible for the murder of Elegant Effendi narrates – in separate chapters – 2 sides of his identity: as a murderer and as Stork, Butterfly or Olive; however he is cautious not to reveal his identity to the reader.

In the story, there are vivid recollections of the exquisite tales of the Ottomans, including the story of Husrev and Shirin. There are rich depictions of famous paintings even though you don’t actually see them.

Also in the book, Pamuk includes the many conflicts surrounding art in My Name is Red. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006.

Buy at amazon

Orhan Pamuk’s website

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