Benjamin Chandler's Reviews > My Name is Red

My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
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's review
Jun 25, 2008

really liked it
Read in June, 2008

This book impressed me with its story, its prose, its essays, and its format. Essentially a combination of a murder mystery and ruminations on the nature of art (with a little bit of romance), My Name Is Red has each chapter narrated by different characters in the book. (I confess that my favorites were the chapters narrated by "the Storyteller" who would give little tales about coins, dogs, trees, dervishes, and death.)

So, for those interested, the story is that in the late 1500s, the Ottoman Sultan commissions an illuminated book that uses some elements of the European style of painting (e.g., perspective, shading, verisimilitude, indvidual style). According to the religious and social traditions of Istanbul at the time, this was coming close to blasphemy. One of the artists involved with the book's production is murdered, his body tossed into a well. (The first chapter, "I Am A Corpse", is told from his perspective.)

Some may find the prose too wordy. Pamuk uses lists constantly and has characters retell legends to explain how they feel. I liked it, but could understand why others might not. (It reminded me a little bit of Umberto Eco's style of writing, so if you don't like him, you might not like this book.) Also, as it was translated from Turkish, the style seemed weird at first, but I soon got used to it. Pamuk plays with concepts of visual and personal perspective, and aesthetic debates. He's not afraid to get raunchy and loves a double entendre.

Great book. Highly recommended.

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