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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Closet Orientalist and Palace Mysteries
Pamuk has created an elaborate masterpiece. The book is a murder mystery on the surface. Like some of his books though it has many layers interwoven expertly. The setting, old Istanbul and Topkapi Palace grounds, among court artisans, allow him to dissect seemingly one of his favorite topics, philosophy and essence of East. What makes East, Orient? He constantly...
Published on June 6 2004 by Alaturka

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Finally finished...
It took me over a year to read this book! I started it last spring and finally finished it the other day. When I first started it, I loved it - the idea behind it, the style, the structure and shifts in narrative perspective were all fascinating and wonderful. As the book went on, however, it started to drag, which caused me to set it aside for weeks or months at a time...
Published on June 4 2004


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Closet Orientalist and Palace Mysteries, June 6 2004
By 
Alaturka (Northport, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: My Name Is Red (Paperback)
Pamuk has created an elaborate masterpiece. The book is a murder mystery on the surface. Like some of his books though it has many layers interwoven expertly. The setting, old Istanbul and Topkapi Palace grounds, among court artisans, allow him to dissect seemingly one of his favorite topics, philosophy and essence of East. What makes East, Orient? He constantly falls back to the rich history of Ottomans to explore and contrast East vs. West. What separates the two cultures way beyond religion? Art, especially visual art, maybe the best and most direct expression of a world view and indicator of where people place themselves with respect to God and all other creations and the story revolves around this theme.
There are no introductions, no prologues, epilogues, first page takes you right in, and you are being murdered. His use of first person narrative is very effective and very unnerving. This book took Pamuk many years to finish apparently, three of which was spent on translation alone, and it shows. The effort he has put in making his work available to World readers has been well worth it, something that other contemporary Turkish writers should emulate I believe. Though some have complained about the flat prose, this cannot be all attributed to the translation. He uses a non-elaborate style to simulate realism, which I believe, works well. Some of the scenes are quite violent and sexual references are sometimes shockingly raw, but this is 16th century and anyone who has read Rumi should not be too surprised. He paints very rich scenes, and as in a Vermeer painting, one is inevitably looking for that hidden clue, a faint reflection on the mirror for the identity of the villain in the story.
Some years ago I had a chance to see the very manuscripts that inspired the artisans in this book and occupy such a prominent place, on display in NY Metropolitan Museum. Given the time period, these were very bold and very impressive expressions pointing to an era in Islamic culture when the dark curtain of conservatism had not yet descended. If Sunni Arabs represent the warriors of Islam, surely Shiite Persians represent the artists. Their wonderful paintings, poetry and miniatures have dominated the Islamic art and literature scene and have set the standard for much more to come.
Pamuk has done extensive research and period accuracy is impressive. Though the writing is smooth and not convoluted, still it is not an easy read, but given the topic, which is a lot more than just a murder mystery, it is a small price to pay for a great book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Finally finished..., June 4 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: My Name Is Red (Paperback)
It took me over a year to read this book! I started it last spring and finally finished it the other day. When I first started it, I loved it - the idea behind it, the style, the structure and shifts in narrative perspective were all fascinating and wonderful. As the book went on, however, it started to drag, which caused me to set it aside for weeks or months at a time. Then I would slog through a portion, set it aside again, and continue the cycle.
There are moments and aspects of incredible beauty in this book. The meditations on art and its function in society take on added dimension if you also think of them as meditations on the role of literature and the artist. I didn't even mind that the characters were flat - they were supposed to be, I think, much in the way that Islamic illustrating is described in the book. What I didn't like, however, is that the book starts to get repetitive. It goes off on side tangents, which are interesting at first, but start to wear on the reader after awhile. In one section of the book, one fable is related after another - after another, after another, after another... Pamuk could have easily cut at least 50 pages from this book, without affecting its integrity at all.
Overall, I'm glad I read it - but I don't know that I would do it again. You only have so much time in this life!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Structure, ideas fascinating; characters and language flat, May 29 2004
By 
This review is from: My Name Is Red (Paperback)
This is a tough review to write. There's much to like about this book. There's much to dislike. Comparisons to Eco's "The Name of the Rose" are accurate; both books are period mysteries, both books explore the ideas of the time, both books aspire to larger stature than their genre. Neither book does, really. Literary fiction is all about character. Ultimately "My Name is Red" gives us intriguing and intricate philosophy and fascinating structure. But its characters are flat and its language tedious.
First, a quick note about the language. Does the translation stink? Or did Pamuk write convoluted, lifeless prose in the original? My guess the former. There are too many awkward sentences. The language is dull. I get the feeling the language is intended to represent a formal, fable-telling style. (More on this later.) But. It's too affected.
What really shines about "My Name is Red" is its fascinating story-within-a-story structure. The whole book is told as if by a coffee-house storyteller. Not only does the book unfold from multiple characters' points-of-view, but objects get voices, too - including a coin, Satan, and the color red.
Also the structure parallels the art form of book illustration that is at the heart of the novel. It's highly formal - all the narrators in the book speak with the same affected voice. It's traditional, in the spirit of "Arabian Nights," which uses parables and stories-within-stories. It owes much of its spirit to Islam, yet flirts with blasphemous rejection of religion. It's bending towards Western influences - in the case of the book, mystery novels. And so does illustration in the novel.
Yet for all the fascinating philosophical digressions and observations on Islam and art, what drives the modern novel is character. And it's there that "My Name is Red" is weakest. Perhaps because the language remains too formal throughout, we never get a chance to get intimate with the book's populace - their thoughts, the pattern of their speaking voices, the psychological impressions so vital to the 20th-century novel are missing here. There's also a weird obsession with sex running through the book - not in an interesting way, like in "Ulysses" - but in a middle-school, bodice-ripping way.
Still, the book is worth a read. It attempts to bring Middle East form and influence into a Western novel. The complexity of Pamuk's structure is awe-inspiring, certainly fascinating. Again, like "The Name of the Rose," it instructs as much as it entertains, even if it falls short of its artistic aspirations.
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5.0 out of 5 stars MASTERPIECE, May 8 2004
By 
Amore Roberto "Amore Roberto" (Pinerolo -Turin- ITALY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: My Name Is Red (Paperback)
Winter 1590: in Istanbul a violent murder has been perpetrated. It is the same victim, a miniaturist, who tells the story of his death, describing as well his deep sorrow for the loss of the pleasures of life and his puzzlement for his curious new state of unrest.
But this is not a police story.
In the following chapters a gold coin, a dog, two dervishes, a tree will tell new stories... new murders will happen ... until the violent end of the killer that "restore" the equilibrium.
If not a police story, what kind of novel is this?
Well, it has been likened to Eco's "Name of The Rose" and the writer has been likened to Borges for his visionary and metaphysical imagination, but I believe there's much more: a kind of melancholy for the passing of time and its irreparable loss, the fascination for books and painting, the clashing of two different worlds (not only the East and the west, but also inside the Islamic faith), and far above, below and inside, the sense of life, flowing of life, of passion, love and delicate all-pervasive compassion and humanity, painted with such a craftsmanship to leave you open-mouthed.
So, if I must liken this book to something, it his the famous painting "The Tempest" of Giorgione who first come to mind. Not the description in itself his important here, but the whole portrait, the "sense of life" that delicately comes out from the many layers of painting.
On a purely literary level, I was amazed at the ability of the writer in mastering story and style: there are parts in which the expert reader can identify a portrait in the style of Dostoevskij... but loo... only for few pages ... only a hint of colour, because the writer is now changing again and using irony, and he seems to softly challenge you.
This is one of those rare books (rare indeed) in which you deeply regret, the more you proceed in reading, that inevitably the novel will reach an end.
I'm a passionate reader. If you have suggestion for further readings, you don't agree with what I write, or just want to say hallo... feel free to write.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Red As Sin, May 3 2004
By 
Edmon Begoli (Knoxville, TN United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: My Name Is Red (Paperback)
If for nothing else, this book deserves my highest rating
just for the wonderful and tormenting description
of death, spoken from the first perspective by one
of the victims.
Now back to the book.
Another great book by Orhan Pamuk!
If you have read all of his books so far,
you will find this book somehow different in style.
The most noticably, as previously mentioned, is the
angle of narration.
The story is told by all participants that have to do
something with the story - be they humans, animals, objects
like coins or materials like paint.
At first, it is hard to grasp the angles, and to catch up
with the development of the story.
Characters in this book are larger then life in their envy,
passion, talent, greed, and other natural gifts.
Yes, there is a murder mistery, but I am not really sure that it is the point in any way, except to amplify redness of the passions involved. Murder here comes more as a driver that keeps all the characters tunneled.
I almost feel like Pamuk threw the murder in the story to get more interests from the "historical mistery" audience.
Let me be honest with you - this is not
a "Da Vinci Code". This is a difficult, complex
master piece of the modern European and Turkish literature
that does not compromise with too many "historical"
elements. History here is invested rather then
described.
The book is actually a page turner, but with delayed ignition.
This is now it worked for me:
It took me several weeks to go through the first half of the book,
and then it took me 2 days to finish the second half of the book.
For the ones familiar with Orhan Pamuk's works - you will not
be disappointed. At first, it feels a bit different then his previous novels,
but soon you get his common themes intervoven (such as Turkey between East and West)
in the story.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Artistic concoction of ideas, musings, and pieces of minds, April 18 2004
By 
Matthew M. Yau "Voracious reader" (San Francisco, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: My Name Is Red (Paperback)
My Name is Red is both a historical and literary fiction. Set in 16th century Turkey, the tale takes place in the Ottoman Empire and encompasses the mysterious murder of a miniaturist named Elegant Effendi though it is not a murder mystery. 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. The miniaturist has been working on the illumination of this book in an European style. The figurative art of the illumination clashes with the inveterate religious belief in Turkey for art could be an affront to the Islam.
Attempting such a dangerous task, the ruling elites ascertain the complete confidentiality of the project. Panic erupts throughtout the Ottoman Empire as Elegant Effendi disappears. He is murdered and thrown down the well. It is an extremely dense and arduous reading experience as author Orhan Pamuk deftly uses eccentric and non-living narrators, namely a corpse, a tree, a dog and other animals to unveil the truth of the murder, who indeed involves a clandestine manuscript which Effendi worked on.
The book affords a cast of numerous characters and all of whom are etched and carefully portrayed. What makes the book not a mystery is the fact that murderer of the miniaturist narrates part of the story. Purged by his own conscience he fears of being caught. At the intersection of narratives from different characters and non-living objects one finds a very convoluted plot of the truth. Maybe such is the beauty of a tale of which the author does not spell out the answer to all of the questions in mind but leave the truth of my imagination.
My Name is Red is an artistic concoction of ideas, pieces of mind, apercu, and emotion. While the cast of characters and narrators unveil their perspectives of the murder, woven throughout the novel are relevant subplots that hint at and distantly contribute to the resolving of the murder. Dialogues, monologues and musings on the philosophy of God, death, purge, love, and punishment fill the prose that is comparable to Kant and Joyce. My Name is Red is an obscure reading experience, filled with more philosophical meditation than the actual events and happenings that precede the murder. It is meant to be savored and its pages not meant to be turned quickly.
2000 (20) © MY
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite and Totally Original, Jan. 28 2004
This review is from: My Name Is Red (Paperback)
Do you think there's nothing new under the literary sun? Maybe not, but MY NAME IS RED is nothing like any book I've ever read before. It's dense, it's literary, it's stunningly gorgeous. Needless to say, I absolutely loved it.

The novel takes place in the 16th century, in the Ottoman Empire and centers around the murder of a miniaturist named Elegant Effendi. Little by little, as we hear from such strange narrators as a corpse, a tree, a butterfly, a dog, a horse, etc., we learn that Elegant was no doubt murdered because of a secret manuscript, one on which his fellow miniaturists are still working.

MY NAME IS RED is definitely not a murder mystery, however. In fact, it's not a mystery of any kind. It's more an elaborate tapestry of ideas than a mystery (although we do find out the name of Effendi's killer), though it avoids polemic of any kind, in every area on which it touches.

The characters that populate MY NAME IS RED are wholly believable and totally engrossing. There is Esther, a Jewish fabric seller and matchmaker who loves gossip and makes it her business to carry notes from any one of her clients to any of the other. Of course, she reads the notes and even discusses their content with their recipients. There are the three miniaturists who were working with Elegant, each of whom is suspected of being his killer. There is Master Ossman, the master miniaturist who's trained the others and who cares deeply for all of them...but not quite as deeply as he cares for art. There is Shekure, a beautiful woman who's love story with a character named Black forms a significant and engaging subplot to the solving of the murder. Woven throughout the book is the voice of the murderer, himself, a man who is tortured by what he's done and the knowledge that sooner or later, he is going to be found out. Unlike most authors, Pamuk is quite adept at managing a large cast of characters and I know I never felt disoriented or confused. I simply felt engaged, in the fullest sense of the word.

Pamuk does a wonderful job of portraying each character's rich emotional life in this book and he does so without melodrama or hyperbole. I found myself caring about every one of the characters, whether I could identify with him or not. In no way, however, is this book a character study...unless it is a collective one.

Although this book centers on a murder, it is primarily a book of ideas and is very intellectually focused. We learn much about Turkish coffeehouse gossip and about the objections of the miniaturists to the Venetian manner of portrait painting (forbidden to the miniaturists). We learn much about Ottoman politics and everyday life in the Empire.

Like other master storytellers, Pamuk doesn't spell everything out in MY NAME IS RED. He wisely fills this masterpiece with holes and spaces for the reader to fill in. The entire narrative is infused with a nebulous, dreamlike quality that only serves to heighten the beauty and timelessness of the book.

MY NAME IS RED isn't an easy book to read. I wouldn't call it relaxing. The prose is dense and elaborate and there are times when the very convoluted plot can get to be a bit of a challenge, but any effort the reader puts into the book will be returned a hundredfold. Or more.

MY NAME IS RED is absolutely one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. It's not so much emotionally engaging as it is artistic. It is a definite masterpiece of art that is totally unlike anything I have ever read. I would definitely recommend this book to all lovers of Beauty and to those who appreciate highly intelligent, highly literary fiction. Pamuk is truly a genius.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Haunting, Haunted World, Beautifully Rendered, Nov. 11 2003
By 
Paul Frandano (Reston, Va. USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: My Name Is Red (Paperback)
Pamuk's 16th Century Turkey is a magical world shot through with consciousness - all physical objects, natural and artificial, are invested with self-awareness, fully aroused, senses piqued and perceptively observant. Here we have "the mind" - the perfectly knowing, self-conscious thoughts - of coins, dogs, horses, painted dervishes, trees, the color Red, Death (personified and unpersonifed), and of an exuberant cast of unforgettable characters, both living and dead, whose insistent voices effortless cross over from the other side in Pamuk's seemingly borderless world of physical and spiritual Being. (Indeed, My Name Is Red begins, like Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard, the narrator speaking to us from a watery grave.)

A nickel's worth of dime-store aesthetics: one function of art is to elicit - through the creation of representations, the arrangement of symbols, and the like - sensations that might otherwise be impossible. I can never experience Ottoman Istanbul in its 16th Century context. I will never see with the eyes of a court miniaturist or illuminator of manuscripts or a courtier or a rag- or liver-seller. But Pamuk convincingly recreates these myriads of worlds in all their strangeness with the imagination and skill of an ethnologist who has lived among these lives for decades. Here is a unique world, and Orhan Pamuk the ideal tour guide.
With immense subtlety, literary nuance, and historical and philosophical erudition, Pamuk has written what, at its most fundamental level, is a literary-scholarly mystery that at times is reminiscent of Eco's The Name of the Rose. Someone is murdering the great miniaturists of the Ottoman court. But why kill an official painter or calligrapher, who works largely from royal commission, and who executes his commissions in a highly formalized manner that idealizes the absence of "style"? The world of Pamuk's late 16th Century Istanbul is one in which the pace of change is accelerating and colliding with entrenched forces of jealously preserved tradition. That world is nearly as exotic to contemporary Turks as it will be to us, and Pamuk (and his translator, Erdag Goknar) has a lot of explaining to do, which he manages by carefully assembling a painterly, almost pointillistic narrative, dab by dab, stroke by stroke, giving gradual shape to the story, displaying exemplary patience and timing, advancing or withholding plot and subplot with consummate skill.
My Name Is Red is also a monumental, and monumentally odd, love story, a tangled tale involving Pamuk's hero, "Black," and Shekure, the impossibly beautiful daughter of the Court's "Head Illuminator," as well as a host of other characters. My Name Is Red is, moreover, a formidable, forbidding book, filled with strange names and places and embedded tales from esoteric lands in faraway times, requiring considerable readerly patience and attention. In return for the effrontery of have made such demands, however, the author (and publisher) is bound by honor to provide rich rewards. Happily, Pamuk closes the deal. The familiar materials of the epic novel - love, hate, friendship, rivalry, loyalty and betrayal, political machinations, the clash of great ideas, the grinding together of tectonic movements of time, in which one side or the other must give way - are spectacularly worked in the dazzling, winding, dreamlike context of the Ottoman court.
For me, one long chapter at the heart of the novel captures perfectly the pervasive sense of the numinous that Orhan Pamuk casts in this beautiful novel. Black and the head illuminator receive extraordinary permission to search for clues within the inner sanctum and holiest of holies, the Royal Treasury. Their guide is an aged dwarf who knows the treasure rooms intimately and can locate any item in the antique clutter of countless conquests, royal gifts, and opulent indulgence. Noting the awe and apprehension on the faces of the two investigators - overwhelmed by the opportunity to caress and examine objects of legendary beauty or notoriety from among the piles of paintings, tapestries, jewels and bejeweled weapons, gold plate, rare oversized books - he asks, "Frightened? . . . Everybody is frightened on their first visit. At night the spirits of these objects whisper to each other."
With its whispering spirits, sentient paintings, quirky lovers, and a lost world fully realized and recovered, My Name Is Red is an absorbing, gorgeous gift of a novel from a master artist.
(And let me conclude by singing a paean in praise of amazon.com. I would never have discovered this book had I not, having read through several non-fiction works on Turkey, gone to the amazon.com web-page of one and seen "Customers who bought titles like this one also bought . . ." My Name is Red. "An intriguing title," I thought. A bookworm seldom needs more. So my most hearty thanks, amazon.com, Jeff Bezos and company, for having made such discoveries possible. Yes, yes, we all see the commercial motive, but - to stretch a point - the European Renaissance came out of commercial motives as well. We're all grownups here.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Meaning Proceeds Form., Nov. 10 2003
By 
dinadan26 "dinadan26" (Burwood, New South Wales Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: My Name Is Red (Paperback)
What a fascinating book. A discertation on the impact of western ideas upon traditional islamic values wrapped up in a murder mystery.
At its simplest "My name is Red" is a murder mystery set in Istanbul at the end of the the sixteenth century. A clerk named "Black" who has recently returned from a exile of over a decade is asked by his old master to investigate the murder of a gilder who was in the masters employ. A murder which may have arisen as a result of the illustrations that were being prepared for the Sultan to present as a gift to the Venetians.
On a deeper philosophical level, "My name is Red" is an investigation of the impact on Islamic throughts and traditions of the Western "Frankish" society, with specific emphasis on the art of the illustrator/minaturist. A style of art in which the standard of perfection has been established, where varying from that style, where the addition of your own touch, your own signature on an image established centuries before by a master is tantamount to heresy.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Faith's Blindness, July 18 2003
By 
John Van Wagner (Upper Montclair, NJ USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: My Name Is Red (Paperback)
There's surely something for everyone in Orhan Pamuk's
dense historical novel. For readers interested in religion, history, art, philosophy, Ottoman culture, politics, romance, sex, and murder, and how all these forces interact to form human experience, this book delivers. Set in Instanbul in the 16th century, a time when the tenets of early Islam were under assault from creeping Western culture, it resonates with all the tension that results when change threatens faith.
At its core, "My Name is Red" is a murder mystery. A gifted miniaturist, in the midst of a working on a book for the sultan glorifying his reign, is murdered and thrown down the well. His only offense is that he's discarded the ancient prohibition against figurative drawing, falling in line with modern European dicates about art and the human form.
From there the book branches out like the tree of life. Often the question of who murdered poor Elegant Effendi is lost in the oceans of debate, philosophy and speculation over God, art, love and honor. Dialoguess and monologues go on for pages and pages of dense, tortured argument. This is not an easy book to take to the beach and expect to be carried along by brisk and engrossing narrative. If your taste ranges more toward Kant, Hegel, St. Thomas Aquinas and Bernard Berenson and less toward Agatha Christie, you'll find this book a delight.
Of course, it's enlivened every hundred pages or so by the romance between Black and Shekure, the tortured cousins who've loved and lusted after each other for a dozen years, always in the shadow of his art and indecision. Their interaction provides just enough sexual tension and even steaminess to counteract the relentless thought discipline of the rest of the book. If you find yourself skipping pages to catch up with Black and Shekure's assignations, you'll miss everything the book strives for. But for most humans the temptation will be strong.
If you open your eyes to the book's points about color, blindness, and the power of sight, you'll glean much from the experience. But don't expect an easy time of it. Sadly, it seems most people can't really see what this noble work wants them to.
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My Name Is Red
My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk (Paperback - Aug. 27 2002)
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