The Sultan has commissioned a cadre of the most acclaimed artists in the land to create a great book celebrating the glories of his realm. Their task: to illuminate the work in the European style. But because figurative art can be deemed an affront to Islam, this commission is a dangerous proposition indeed. The ruling elite therefore mustn't know the full scope or nature of the project, and panic erupts when one of the chosen miniaturists disappears. The only clue to the mystery - or crime? - lies in the half-finished illuminations themselves. Part fantasy and part philosophical puzzle,
My Name is Red is a kaleidoscopic journey to the intersection of art, religion, love, sex, and power.
Translated from the Turkish by Erdag Goknar.
©2008 Orhan Pamuk; (P)2008 Random House, Inc.
"It is neither passion nor homicide that makes Pamuk's latest, My Name is Red, the rich and essential book that it is. . . . It is Pamuk's rendering of the intense life of artists negotiating the devilishly sharp edge of Islam 1,000 years after its brith that elevates My Name is Red to the rank of modern classic. . . . To read Pamuk is to be steeped in a paradox that precedes our modern-day feuds beteween secularism and fundamentalism." (Jonathan Levi, Los Angeles Times Book Review)
"Straddling the Dardanelles sits the city of Istanbul . . . and in that city sits Orhan Pamuk, chronicler of its consciousness . . . His novel's subject is the difference in perceptions between East and West . . . [and] a mysterious killer... driven by mad theology. . .Pamuk is getting at a subject that has compelled modern thinkers from Heidegger to Derrida . . . My Name is Red is a meditation on authenticity and originality . . . An ambitious work on so many levels at once." (Melvin Jules Bukiet, Chicago Tribune)
"A murder mystery set in sixteenth-century Istanbul [that] uses the art of miniature illumination, much as Mann's Doctor Faustus did music, to explore a nation's soul. . . . Erdag Goknar deserves praise for the cool, smooth English in which he has rendered Pamuk's finespun sentences, passionate art appreciations, sly pedantic debates, [and] eerie urban scenes." (John Updike, The New Yorker)
John Lee is an incredible reader, and a perfect choice for this book. There are around 20 first-person narrators in the book, and Lee performs all their voices superbly, reflecting each one's individuality and unique perspective on the happenings in the novel. These characters (some not even human, like the color red) create a rich tapestry that brings to life this period in Istanbul and the Ottoman Empire, with wit and charm, rather than dry historical narration. This is not a light or easy read, but worth the effort. I found it helpful to borrow the print copy from the library, and occasionally refer to it for the names and spellings of people and places.
I was tempted by this book's description and it did not fail. Along with the murder mistory, it was an adventure in a little known world of art and its contradictions and supports of the prevailing religion as interpreted at the time. It is an interesting exploration of a variety of personalities and motivations. Running through it all is an exceptionally illustrated process of the processes involved in production of art.
If you are homophobic you may want to think twice. While not explicit there is some discussion of sexual ideas that may not be mainstream to many americans.
Lawyer, Vietnam War draftee, Peace Corps Thailand, fan of the Constitution, Science Fiction lover, work in New York City, like bodysurfing
Not an easy story for me to keep up with in the audio book form due to the Turkish names and the detailed description of Turkish and Persian miniatures and miniaturists, It is the story of a murder within the Ottoman community of court sponsored miniaturists but also an examination of the brutality of Ottoman system and the stultifying effects of an ever narrowing Islamic clerical interpretation of what kind of art is permissible. Although I found the book sometimes tedious and sometimes difficult to follow, it has stayed with since I read it. John Lee is an over-the-top narrator with his old fashioned rolling "r's" and English acting style but his seeming command of Turkish words is amazing as well as his abililty to portray different characters.
I'm a forensic psychologist living in Portsmouth NH.
Clearly, Pamuk is a great prose stylist. The book is atmospheric and exotic, and there are parts that were fascinating. But his long metaphysical discussions of the mystical elements of miniaturist painting in 16th century Istanbul are heavy going and take up much of the book. I was reminded of Moby Dick; a great book if you skip over the endless descriptions of whales. On the positive side, the narrator is one of the best I have heard.
Story is pretty fascinating, and gives a good peek at the period -- but there are a lot of very repetitive lines - gets tedious occasionally.
Everything I enjoy: art history, philosophy, great storytelling, and a beautiful voice to deliver it all.
Salman Rushdie's Enchantress of Florence - same combination of art history, philosophy, great storytelling and a beautiful voice to deliver it all!
He turns text into cinema, playing all the roles.
The details about miniature painting are seared into my memory. They have changed me.
My only complaint about the book is that it is a tough act to follow. I crave more and there are no more. I have heard other Orhan Pamuks. This one, however, was a perfect storm and I regretted its end.
My first choice is usually well-written historical fiction with interesting locations and characters.
I loved it and I didn't. Snow by Pamuk is one of my favourite books - poetic, beautifully written, intriguing and historical. However, I read Snow in print and listened to Red on audible. I liked the storyline of Red very much. I found the first person narrative interesting, however, it was easy to lose track of who's voice was being expressed. I thought the narrator had a nice voice, but found very little variance between the characters - e.g. couldn't tell the difference between the voices of Black, the protagonist, from the murderer, and the miniaturists.
I do recommend the book, with the caution that it's not an easy listen if you like to attend to the details of a story. If you like to read print as well, this is probably a book better suited to print.
I really enjoyed this slightly unconventional book. The narration was also excellent. there were 2 things that I didn't like about it. it was a little long and repetitive and it was confusing in parts.
I've both read and listened to this novel and enjoyed both immensely. Having visited Istanbul and toured Ottoman Palaces there (topkapi and Dolmabace) this novel truly allows history to echo through the human condition of the lives of miniaturists of this era.
Pamuk is truly deserving of the Nobel prize for his literature.
In terms of performance, once again for Turkish themed audiobooks, John Lee shines. In terms of Orhan Pamuk's works I've heard so far (this is the third), it is uneven if beguiling.
I liked the wonderful descriptions in Chapters 28 and 58 (these may vary a bit in the format used to access this online or as a download) of manuscript illuminators' tensions and successes. The challenge to create as if one sees the world for one's self as with the Franks, or the way Allah sees the world, as with the school of Herat in Persia, intrigues.
The least interesting was as with Pamuk's other books his tendency to wander off. He gives so much detail and so many subplots that he can lose the reader or listener. Better to let this narration float on, and not to worry about the intricate details of the mystery itself herein.
John Lee masterfully captures the sounds of Turkish in translation. This as it's narrated by a variety of men and women as well as a dog, a horse, Satan, a gold coin, and maybe Death is difficult to follow as a listener. But Lee does his best to remind us of the different voices.
No, as it is far too long. As I said above, it's preferable to take this at small portions. After a while, Pamuk's flow takes you up and the plot does not matter as much as the feel of the book. John Lee is a trustworthy guide as he navigates the ebbs and flurries of the novel.
It does encourage you to reflect on the shifts from traditional to modern art. Pamuk lavishes lots of love on the manuscripts he clearly loves. His enthusiasm is contagious, and erudite.
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