It is neither passion nor homicide that makes Pamuk's latest, My Name Is Red, the rich and essential book that it is. While Pamuk's descriptions of the ravishing and ravenous Shekure quicken the heart, and his circuitous clues to the identity of the murderer quicken the mind, Pamuk is neither Jacqueline Susann nor Umberto Eco. It is Pamuk's rendering of the intense life of artists negotiating the devilishly sharp edge of Islam 1,000 years after its birth that elevates My Name Is Red to the rank of modern classic … Pamuk's Istanbul is a city trembling over a fault line of ideas. To read Pamuk is to be steeped in a paradox that precedes our modern-day feuds between secularism and fundamentalism … My Name Is Red, like the best historical novels, is a super-parable, a novel of our time.
This curious, sumptuous, protracted thriller consists of fifty-nine chapters told from a total of twelve viewpoints, including that of the murderer … Pamuk's consciousness of Turkey's fate of imitation and inauthenticity expresses itself in his characters' frequent feelings of detachment from their real selves … The novel bears traces of an interrupted composition, wherein the author had to get a fresh grip upon the many glittering threads of theory and incident. Orhan Pamuk's labor, in this otherworld of miniatures, was long, and the reader's labor at times feels long, between spells of being entranced and educated … Erdag Göknar deserves praise for the cool, smooth English in which he has rendered Pamuk's finespun sentences, passionate art appreciations, slyly pedantic debates, eerie urban scenes (it keeps snowing, which one doesn't think of as Istanbul weather), and exhaustive inventories.
My Name Is Red is not just a novel of ideas. Eastern or Western, good or bad, ideas precipitate once they sink to human level, unleashing passions and violence. Red is chockful of sublimity and sin. The story is told by each of a dozen characters, and now and then by a dog, a tree, a gold coin, several querulous corpses and the color crimson ('My Name Is Red'). It concerns investigation of the murders, the tales of the three master miniaturists who survive Elegant — one of them the killer — and Master Osman's long (considerably too long) perusal of the classic Persian miniatures in the sultan's library. Also myriad other incidents, scenes and characters gyrating wildly in an era of seismic shift … Readers will have spells of feeling lost and miserable in a deliberate unreliability that so mirrors its subject: a world governed by fog.