Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Name is Red

by Orhan Pamuk

Nobel Prize winning author, Orhan Pamuk's, My Name is Red is an unconventional murder mystery / love story set in 16th century Istanbul. The sultan has commissioned a group of miniaturists or illuminators to secretly illuminate a special commemorative manuscript, but when one of the illuminators is found dead, the other illuminators begin to worry.

I loved many things about this book. I knew very little about 16th century Istanbul or Islamic illuminated manuscripts so it was very educational and interesting for me. I loved that there were multiple narrators, including a dog, a coin, a corpse, the color red. Istanbul, its court and its inhabitants really came alive.

What I loved the most was the illuminated manuscripts themselves. Random House's web site has several fascinating images, such as this:

I knew that Islam has certain reservations/prohibitions about representational figures, but this book really elaborated on the many Islamic views and the tension with the "European style". This was especially interesting as many points of view were presented and the many differing opinions and practices, even in the 16th century, really made the issue interesting.

I must say however, despite the fact that I learned a lot from this book and liked many things about it, over all I didn't really enjoy the experience of read it. It was very dense, not particularly lengthy or difficult, but it was an effort to get through it. I am glad I read it but I am not in a hurry to pick up another one of Orhan Pamuk's books.

1 comment:

Bellezza said...

Pamuk can be that way: a bit wordy to muddle through. I loved his work Snow and loved most of The Museum of Innocence. I own this novel you'e reviewed, and I haven't read it yet. But, I'm very intrigued with the idea of manuscripts and ancient Istanbul.