I first started reading My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk in 2004 while on vacation en solitario in Fuerteventura. My friend, Waya, recommended it to me and said that it was an amazing story that I would love. After reading and re-reading the first thirty pages, I gave up. I just couldn’t follow the story, and it made me feel like a countrified ass cornfed half wit. Then I started to notice that a lot of other people had the same experience with Pamuk’s novels, so I felt a little better about myself and began to quietly boycott his works.
Last week I was browsing my bookshelf with William (ironically Waya’s bro), and we came across My Name is Red. When I mentioned that I couldn’t get into it, he was completely relieved. His girlfriend made fun of him because he couldn’t get through it either. Did that mean that she was also laughing indirectly at me, calling me a chickenhead? So I decided to give it another go.
The problem with the novel is that each chapter alternates between some ten different narrators, some of which are not human beings (a dog, a tree, a gold coin), so it is easy to get confused. What I did was to carefully read the table of contents that shows the name of each chapter — each chapter is named after its narrator. This gave me an idea of the flow and pattern that the novel would take.
And voilà, it wasn’t so difficul after all. As a matter of fact, it is an incredibly rich and intricate novel. And wow, this guy sure can write. On one level, it is a murder suspense novel. On another level, it is philosophical: covering the meaning and purpose of art and the role of the artist. And finally, it is also a social, political, and religious commentary: Turkey on the border between the Christian and Muslim world as the two artistic traditions confront each other.