Sarah's Reviews > My Name is Red

My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
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May 25, 2007

really liked it
Read in November, 2006

Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for literature this year. Described as “part murder mystery, part love story,” I found this to be an absorbing novel, but what most interested me, and the reason that I recommend this book to you, were the passages which attempt to describe the late sixteenth-century Istanbul miniaturists’ attitudes towards art. My Name is Red, though it seems to be only loosely based upon historical fact, deals with the repercussions of the meeting of two visual worlds: Venetian portraiture and Islamic illustration.

Also, Pamuk writes some of the most fascinating lists I’ve read. I must admit that when I encounter lists in novels I usually skim them, but I found Pamuk’s lists engrossing throughout. I have typed out a few passages that I found especially significant, but they work better in context, of course.

Describing a painting of a horse.
“It is a handsome horse: a horse of the Ottoman line. It is a symbol that would demonstrate to the Venetian Doge Our Sultan’s wealth and the regions under his control. But on the other hand, as with everything the Venetian masters depict, this horse was also to be more lifelike than a horse born of God’s vision, more like a horse that lived in a particular stable with a particular groom in Istanbul so that the Venetian Doge might say to himself, ‘Just as the Ottoman miniaturists have come to see the world like us, so have the Ottomans themselves come to resemble us,’ in turn, accepting Our Sultan’s power and friendship. For if you draw a horse differently, you begin to see the world differently [emphasis added]. Despite its peculiarities, this horse was rendered in the manner of the old masters” (266).

Note the clever implications regarding Pamuk’s own novel.
Did a painting become legendary for what it was or for what was said about it? (266).

The musings of one of the Istanbul miniaturists.
My paintings reveal what the mind, not the eye, sees. But painting, as you know quite well, is a feast for the eyes. If you combine these two thoughts, my world will emerge. That is:
ALIF: Painting brings to life what the mind sees, as a feast for the eyes.
LAM: What the eye sees in the world enters the painting to the degree that it serves the mind.
MIM: Consequently, beauty is the eye discovering in our world what the mind already knows (281).
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03/09/2016 marked as: read

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message 1: by Ms.pegasus (new)

Ms.pegasus Absolutely right. I thought that was the whole point of the novel -- the wrenching changes that a shift in world view caused both in personal relationships and in an entire culture and its relationship to history. This was one of the most difficult novels I have ever read, but it made me think more deeply about the middle east, and I even added a few books on middle eastern history to my every growing list of things to read. A pleasure to read your thoughts.


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