My Name is Red

My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk.  Originally published in Turkish in 1998, My Name is Red is a fascinating novel about art, illustration, Ottoman history, and love with a mystery as well.  In 16th century Istanbul, Sultan Murat III, a fervent admirer of miniatures and books, bypasses his official illuminating workshop and commissions a volume to be created in the new European style.  The concept that this new realistic style could be an improvement over the current model offends many at both the artistic and religious levels.  When one of the illustrators is murdered before the new book can be completed, suspicions fall on his fellow artists, all of whom are also seeking to position themselves as candidates for the soon-to-be-vacant position of Head Illuminator.  The project coordinator asks his nephew, Black, to investigate.  Black journeys into the workshops and coffeehouses of the city and eventually into the Royal Treasury in search of clues, but is distracted by his passion for his uncle’s daughter.    

Each chapter is uniquely narrated in first-person perspective by one of the many principal characters, all of whom are fully aware of the reader.  We hear from our hero, the woman he lusts after, the dead corpse, the suspects, and the murderer.  Even the illustrations are allowed to tell their stories.  This mystery was recommended by Australian Danny Yee and I agree that it is relatively slow-moving at times, but the story is captivating, especially for those whose are interested in art or history.

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