Thursday, December 10, 2009
My Name is Red is written in many voices and from many perspectives. The short chapters are narrated by more than a dozen different characters.The first voice is that of a dead person, the just-murdered Elegant Effendi.
The setting is the late 16th century, in Istanbul. Elegant Effendi -- and his murderer -- are artists: miniaturists and illustrators. Other central characters include Enishte Effendi, a master artist, his nephew, called Black (also a painter), and his daughter Shekure. Twelve years earlier Black had fallen in love with Shekure, but Enishte did not agree on the marriage; Black left Istanbul and only now has returned. Shekure married three years after he left, and now has two sons, Orhan and Shevket but her husband disappeared years ago and is presumed dead. Now her husband's brother, Hasan, is pressuring her to marry him (as Black also renews his suit).The go-between in all the communication between the trio is a lady called Esther.
The premise is that there is a group of people who are working on a secretly commissioned work by the great ruler which is influenced by the European paintings.It is also a very confidential and secret project.While there is another group which feels that it is an attack on the philosophy long followed by the miniaturists and illustrators.So the miniaturist Elegant is killed by one of his colleagues who has started feeling that the series of paintings ( that they are working on ) commissioned goes against their lord and basic tenets of Islam.
My Name is Red is very much a book about art and reality, about what the purpose of art is -- and about its dangers. There is a good deal of discussion about painting and art, and about what makes real art . The book offers some splendid detail here, from what the miniaturists do to avoid going blind (face away from the sun when it rises, among other things) to the idea that only in blindness does pure art exist. The novel is the contest between the old and new, and tradition and change.
His narration is very descriptive almost gives you a feeling of being there and watching the events unfold.
My Name is Red is an enjoyable and often fascinating read...but very slow.Very different style of writing that I have never read before.Sensitive,beautiful,descriptive and informative.