My Name Is Red
For whatever reason (stupitidy, boredom, repition, whatever), forget everything you’ve heard about the Middle East for the past decade. The best discussion of Islam and the (so-called) West remains My Name Is Red: a murder mystery/love story about a group of 16th century Turkish miniaturist painters who have been asked to construct an illustrated book in Venetian single-point perspective instead of traditional Islamic style. Weaving through the homicide narrative is a dense and lyrical description of Islamic aesthetics, which in turn becomes a brilliant inquiry into the core of Islamic traditionalism as it contacts the innovative West.
The heart of the book is the conflicts embedded in both tradition and innovation—the way stability veers to self righteous violence in Islam and the movement of freedom to superficial and narcicistic faddishness in the West. Sound familiar? Not quite, and that’s the point. Pamuk’s skill as a novelist and stylist overrides any easy-listening philosophical dumb-speak. IN more ways than one, My Name is Red reads like a parable of Pamuk’s own postmodern self, caught between the wish for cultural and personal resolution while enthralled with the idea of a permanent aesthetic revolution. Full of both yearning and rejection, this is a book for artists, for people who think and care about the things they make, and for anyone who believes that cultures encounter each other one person at a time.