It took me more than a month and a half to experience this Orhan Pamuk classic. This book is nowhere close to an easy read of the refreshing breed. Neither is it easy to assign a particular theme to the subject of this book. Enriched with the voice of the most renowned contemporary Turkish author, “My Name is Red” is set amid the splendor and the religious ideologies of the 16th century Ottoman empire.
What is this book about? Not easy to answer. This book can qualify itself as a murder mystery evolving out of the heresy, blasphemy, self-doubt and religious turmoil in which the Turkish art found itself deeply soaked in. But it is not about the murder per se. It can also be a book about an engaging and apprehensive love story. But it is not about love per se. The book is also about the perceivable religious tensions between the east and the west. But the tension is just a canvas which Pamuk has used for his creation.
In the context of the above themes, this is a book on art and painting as depicted through the lives and thoughts of miniaturists. Intensely researched, this book very intricately presents the then prevalent Islamic art form in medieval Turkey and the influence of Persian and Chinese art on it. As the novel unfolds, the impact of the European art forms on the Ottoman sultan and the Turkish miniaturists helps define and build the concept of the novel where one intricate concept after foreplays with each other before the inevitable happens. What starts as a murder mystery ends with redefinition of Turkish art, illumination and ideologies. This is where religion, art, suspense, mystery and ideologies converge at the climax.
The most striking aspect of this book is its ability to weave multiple perspectives. Every chapter is in a form of an intense monologue depicting individual perspectives. Even nonliving entities like a coin and paintings present their perspectives. Dead corpses share their perspectives too.
It’s a typical Orhan Pamuk classic. It has everything which Orhan Pamuk loves to picture through his books. It took five years for Pamuk to create this creation and he has ensured that the readers of this book too give considerable time in understanding what the book is all about.