Saturday, June 24, 2006

'My Name is Red' by Orhan Pamuk

A book that starts with the statement 'I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well' promises to be a thrilling murder mystery right from the onset, but what makes the book even more exciting, is the exotic setting of this turkish novel. Set in Istanbul during the sixteenth century, the book looks into the politics, philosophy, artistry and lives of miniaturists. The best of the miniaturists there, under a master painter are set upon the task of creating a book of paintings, by the Ottoman emperor. As the work is proceeding, one of the miniaturists gets murdered and a pall of suspicion mires the religious leaders, fellow painters and others, even as the reason or motive behind the murder remains shrouded in the numerous alternatives.

The dichotomy between the newer western style and the eastern form prevalent from the time of the great masters creates a complex political scene, that is handled in such an elegant manner by the author that it never gets jarring or overtly political. Literature at its height, the book seems to follow a unique style of switching to each chapter with a first person narrative by a different person. Most characters in the story get to present their perspective/their side of the tale; including inanimate objects like the paintings, corpses, the mysterious murderer. The pacing with the twists and turns, enlightening insights into the colouring, guilding, sketching and painting techniques; the turmoil in the personal lives of the miniaturists their emotions and longings, suspicions and schemes, doubts and ideas; is just right for a book that runs for more than 500 pages. The message comes through that each painter should have a style of his own and should neither stick only to the old or ape the newer western techniques. The ending is like a dream and also brings in the author Orhan as a part of the story.
A must read for lovers of literature, this superlative work of the art of fiction.

Watched the movie 'Crash' - a very good and complex movie which tries to dispell the concept of racial stereotypes in America, by portraying the characters from different races and immigrants in an interconnected set of incidents. Worth watching, as each actor gives excellent, emotive performances. Had got the DVD from a colleague (Nitin).



  1. I agree Pamuk is one of the best writers and this is his best work but The New Life is a much more intense book.

  2. Thanks for the pointer, would like to read that one too ...
    'Snow' is also supposed to be good.