You can always rely on Orhan Pamuk for a culturally comprehensive, history-related read to satisfy your hunger. His sole intent to communicate his perception of his troubled country to readers has been channeled through several interesting works of fiction. And My Name is Red is certainly one of them. First published in 1998, this historical fiction has gained many prestigious prizes and established Pamuk as a literary star. His commitment to be honest in telling stories about the tug of war between Islamic ideology and Western influence to get a grip on the country of Turkey is clearly reflected in this wonderful novel.
Set in the 16th century Turkey, My Name is Red presents its core of message by a story of a murder mystery. In a nutshell, it tells about the effort to imitate Western/European style of painting, in replacement of the illustration style which has been so rooted in the early days of the Ottoman Empire. What’s so unfortunate, this effort demands the sacrifice of a certain person who believes that this Westernization is wrong and damages the teaching of Islam. As the story goes on, the mystery of who has murdered him is about to reveal.
The narrative is very unique, in my opinion, told from different points of views of each character and/or thing. The numerous personalities and thoughts beneath indeed complicate the whole storytelling, yet trigger my honest amazement. Pamuk’s obsession to reveal Turkish history in so much detail has also been executed stunningly. Pamuk is never reluctant even for a second to tell everybody who reads his book about the disease eating his country inside out, namely the dream to become modern by way of following Western ideology and imitating Western culture, with no thought whatsoever for banishing its deep-rooted teaching of Islam. I found this novel successfully appealing, despite its slow run of plot and dragging flow.
Pamuk has succeeded in wrapping up all that ideological conflict occurred endlessly in Turkey in a beautifully blended tale of passionate love, complicated mystery, and humble humanity. It’s strewn with some shockingly vulgar sex scenes here and there, yes, but while I myself disapprove of them, they can be thought to be the necessary steps in building the passionate love interaction depicted in this book. I can only naively think that, having nothing to do with mainstream romance, those sex scenes are what generally needed in this modern-day Western literature. That, if you want to think of Turkish literature as a part of it.
At the end, I would say that My Name is Red is indeed a masterpiece, no doubt about it. I was left unmoved and strongly affected by it through my long-durated reading. It is just well written, captivating, and amazingly-detailed in every aspect, which makes it unrestrictedly comprehensive. I would recommend this beautiful novel to anyone who’s hungry for a great revelation of history and inordinarily written story.