“My Name is Red” is a historical novel written by Turkish author Orhan Pamuk. The book, originally published in 1998, is set in 16th-century Istanbul during the Ottoman Empire and revolves around the world of miniature painters.
The story begins with the murder of Elegant Effendi, one of the Sultan’s miniaturists, who was working on a secret book. The mystery of his death serves as the central plot, and the narrative is told from multiple perspectives, including the murdered man’s, the murderer’s, and those of various other characters.
The novel explores the tension between traditional Islamic art and the influences of the Western Renaissance, as the Sultan commissions a book blending Ottoman and Venetian styles. The miniaturists struggle with their loyalty to classical Islamic art and the desire to experiment with new forms. The tension is exemplified through the character of Black, a talented painter who has been away from Istanbul and is influenced by European artistic styles. His return creates conflict within the community of miniaturists.
The story is interwoven with elements of love, betrayal, and philosophical musings. The characters grapple with questions of identity, artistic integrity, and the clash between tradition and innovation. The novel also delves into the complexities of perception and representation, using the murder mystery as a metaphor for the search for truth and meaning in art.
Throughout the narrative, Pamuk employs a rich and elaborate prose style, incorporating elements of Turkish culture, folklore, and history. The book also features illustrations reminiscent of the miniatures it describes, adding a visual dimension to the storytelling.
“My Name is Red” is celebrated for its intricate narrative structure, its exploration of the clash between East and West, and its philosophical reflections on art and identity. It won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2003 and brought Orhan Pamuk international acclaim for his literary prowess and his ability to weave a complex and engaging tale within the historical and cultural context of Ottoman Turkey.