Nandakishore Varma's Reviews > My Name is Red

My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
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Aug 11, 12

bookshelves: literature
Read from October 20 to November 15, 2011

I am in two minds about this book.

Obviously, it is an important work. It showcases the miniaturist tradition of the Islamic world, and uses the cloistered world of miniaturists to explore the difference in philosophies between the East and the West. It was all the more interesting to me because I have been fascinated by this difference ever since I began viewing paintings with serious interest. In the East, "perspective" does not exist: the painting flows seamlessy over space and time whereas in the West (especially since the Renaissance) the painting is the reproduction of a particular moment in time (we are not talking of abstractions here). The miniaturist paints the world as God sees it: he does not sign the painting, nor does he have an individual style, because he is unimportant. He continues painting (in fact, he paints better!) after he inevitably goes blind. The Frankish painters, in contrast, paint the world as we see it, which is blasphemy according to some of the miniaturists.

I was captivated by the sweep of the book as well as the way it was presented: short chapters, each from the viewpoint of a different character, as though we were looking at a book of miniatures which tells a different story on each page. Moreover, it is a murder mystery in which the victims as well as the murderer directly speak to the reader! It bears a certain resemblance to "The Name of the Rose" in this regard, although Eco's book is much more powerful according to me.

Coming to the minuses: the writing is cumbersome and a task to wade through. I do not know if this is a problem with Pamuk's writing or the translation. The characters are flat: the protagonist (Black) is too weak and cowardly: the heroine (if we can call her that!) too self-centred and manipulative. Maybe the author intended them to be like that, but it does lose reader interest.

I was also rather put off by the amount of lust bubbling on each page. Homosexuality, incest, paedophilia, bestiality, fetishism... everything is there, simmering just beneath the surface. Young boys are regularly presented as objects of lust. Men kiss each other passionately, even when one is about to kill the other! I have heard that Turkey was the centre of "deviant" sexual practices during Ottoman times, so maybe it is a true picture, but it did not vibe with me.

So...adding the negatives and positives, I will go for three stars.
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Reading Progress

10/20/2011 page 10
2.0%
10/24/2011 page 84
17.0% "I left this book halfway through when I tried it a couple of years back. But now when I come back to it after visiting Istanbul and reading up on the Ottomans, the book is starting to be more accessible. There is a resemblance to Umberto Eco's "Name of the Rose" - not an easy read but engrossing."
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Nandakishore Varma Thanks for the like, Priyanka.


Mike Great review.

Obviously, I did not have a problem with the strengths and weakness of the characters (I gave it 5 stars), but I respect your opinion. I found them to be utterly "human" where this book could have tolerated characters that were more heroic, or "larger-than-life".

I really liked your summary of the positives:

I was captivated by the sweep of the book as well as the way it was presented: short chapters, each from the viewpoint of a different character, as though we were looking at a book of miniatures which tells a different story on each page.

I, too, found the structure of the book to be a major strength - I was far less artful when describing it.

I think that the lust drove the story in a way that it could not have been done, otherwise. As you say, it is one of the two unifying elements throughout the book (the murder being the other one).

For sure "The Name of The Rose" has similarity, but I think these are two equally good, but very differently original books. I would happily re-read either any day.


message 3: by Shovelmonkey1 (new)

Shovelmonkey1 Try his novella The White castle. It's more palatable! His autobiography Istanbul is also fantastic.


Mike I've read "The White Castle", also.

It's a really good book (I gave it a "4") and agree it is an easier read, but not as impressive as "My Name Is Red", I thought.


message 5: by Karen (new) - added it

Karen What a great thread! This book has been on my bedside table since last summer, trying to get my attention. After reading this discussion, I am intrigued enough to dive in. Thanks!


Nandakishore Varma Sorry, All. I seemed to have missed this discussion. Thanks for the likes!

Mike and Caroline, I will try The White Castle, but not just now. My TBR pile is touching the roof! ;)


message 7: by Meenakshi (new)

Meenakshi Very nice review.


Nandakishore Varma Meenakshi wrote: "Very nice review."

Thank you.


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