My Name is Red

Written by Orhan Pamuk trans. Erdağ Göknar
Review by Sarah Nesbeitt

A man called Black, returning to Istanbul to resume work as a miniaturist in his uncle’s studio, soon discovers that all is not well. Another miniaturist has recently been murdered, possibly by a fellow artist who had discovered the true scope of their current project: to illuminate an entire book for the Sultan in the Venetian style. In the 16th century Ottoman Empire, works of art that depict reality are considered heretical. Clues to the murderer’s identity are revealed bit by bit, through revelations and tales alternately spun by characters both living and deceased, as well as by the inanimate subjects of the book’s paintings.

As with miniatures themselves, the charm of this novel resides in its painstaking details and its brilliantly realized, colorful atmosphere. Nothing is ever quite as it seems, however, as seen in the description of a letter written to Black from his beautiful, widowed cousin, Shekure. While its bare words spell rejection, hidden clues reveal its meaning to be otherwise. Although readers who prefer their novels told in a straightforward fashion may find the story drags in places, this novel is a feast for those whose tastes run to the literary. Kudos also to the translator, whose marvelous rendition keeps the tone appropriate throughout.