book excerptise:   a book unexamined is wasting trees

My Name Is Red

Orhan Pamuk and Edrag Goknar(tr:.)

Pamuk, Orhan; Edrag Goknar(tr:.);

My Name Is Red (Turkish: Benim Adim Kirmizi)

Alfred A. Knopf 2001 / Vintage Intl 2002 (Paperback, 432 pages $14.95)

ISBN 0375706852

topics: |  fiction | turkey | nobel-2006

Book review


An epic tale of murder and a long-sought love, with a number of asides that mix in philosophy (islamic theories of art) with history. Set in the dying years of the Ottoman empire (rule of Sultan Murat III, 1574-95), the alternating first-person narrative revolves around an imperial guild of book illustrators with different artists subscribing to different styles and philosophies of art. In the Islamic world outside however, there is a lot of unease with illustration, since this is forbidden in Islam, and preachers like Nusret Hoja of Erzurum are whipping up the masses against these artistic enterprise itself.

Meanwhile one of the fraternity of artists has been murdered, most likely by a fellow artist. The motivation for the murder may have to do with a special illustration commissioned by the Sultan which would follow the techniques of the infidels [artists from renaissance venice] to use perspective and other modern techniques create images of high verisimilitude. It is being executed by Master Enishte who is the uncle of the protagonist Black. The word "enishte" means uncle (mother's brother, mAmA).

The story opens with the murdered man telling his own story, a section called "I am a corpse" (every section is titled "I am a ..."). Then we are shown how Black has just returned from travels to distant lands, and he seeks to impress Enishte's beautiful daughter Shekure, to whom he had once proposed through a painting, and whose husband has been missing for several years and may have been killed in battle. They exchange letters surreptitiously but while Shekure likes him more than any other suitor, she is not sure how strong her feelings are.

This love story unfolds against the background of the murder suspects being sought by the imperial police. The three suspects Olive, Stork, and Butterfly are leading artists in the guild. To understand their mind, we have to consider the various debates in Islamic art history (whether an artist needs to sign a work or not, can a painting exist without an accompanying story? how a personal style emerges, etc.), and we learn the story of legendary artists like Bihzad, and how they could sense the world even as they went blind. We get drawn into the story to try to see who the murderer might be - some episodes are from the murderer's perspective even. In the meanwhile, it turns out that Enishte himself may be in danger ...

The narrative takes frequent detours, which are essays that hold one's
interest - this is what gives it an epic feel, rather like the Mahabharata
descending from one story into another and then into another.  Some of these
pieces investigate the trajectory of a piece of money, a gold coin, sometimes
a persian fable, or else the inner thoughts of a dog in a painting.

  
miniature paintings. Left: from from the Sehinsahname (1581), executed by
Nakkas Osman (shows a honorary robe-wearing ceremony for a vizier).
		Right: "Husrev beholding shirin bathing", mughal style painting,
		Hyderabad, c. 1725
[Library of Topkapi Palace museum  /  Davids Smaling collection ]

Historical aspects : Ottoman miniature painting


The story closely follows some aspects of the nakkashane or artists
atelier, created during the reign of Murat III.  Historical aspects in the
story include the character of Nakkas Osman] (fl. 1595), who headed the
royal atelier and was responsible for works such as the SehinsahnAme (see
http://www.sant.ox.ac.uk/ext/melcomintl/melcom/MI08/papersox08/Rukanci&Karakas.pdf
One of the artists was the historical Velijan (Olive in the story).

The painters Butterfly and Stork are given the names Hasan
Chelebi (of the gunpowder district) and Mustafa Chelebi, but I am not sure
if these names were adopted or not.  There were painters known as Ali Chelebi
in Murat III's times, and the famous Abdulcelil Chelebi a generation later.

The period also saw a number of artists migrating to the Mughal courts, to
set up the tradition of Mughal miniature painting there.  Among them were the
Saffavid minaturists Mīr Sayyid Ali and Abd-us-Samad, who emigrated to
Humayun's court in exile at Kabul in 1545, and eventually to Delhi.  They
are noted for the illustrations of Dastan-e-Amir Hamzah.



Pamuk on My name is Red

	    transcribed from interview at BBC world book club.
	    [Pamuk bio: "Transl into 40+ languages.  Has won major literary
	    awards in France, Ireland, Italy and Germany" ]

Q. Why did you write this story with so many narrators

Pamuk: I like stories told from many POVs.
   inspired by : James Joyce's inner monologue, adapted by William Faulkner.
   Also Japanese film Rashomon [by Akira Kurosawa, based on the story, "In a
   grove", by Akutagawa Ryunosuke (1892-1927).  Had seven characters
   describing the murder of a samurai, from completely different perspectives.]

   I like to adapt the voice of a person rather than describe it "objectively".
   [As a child, Pamuk was a great mimic, family would applaoud - would imitate
   the Greek shopgirl in the bazaar to mother.]

   Historical novels have a quality of "I know everything" which Pamuk hates -
   3P voice is too academic. Here everyone is telling his own story,
   Pamuk is not the objective organizer.

Q. Why speak with the voice of the dead?

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Beginning of a novel is very crucial - "should
represent essential qualities of the novel".   Pamuk: Must also "hook the
reader".  Death speaks in the novel - 300 pages later - with a narrator
that interviews the dead person.  What is said is based on Islamic
eschatology.
	(lit. 'study of the last') is a part of theology and philosophy
	concerned with what four ‘the four last things: death, judgement,
	heaven, and hell’ [OED])

Pamuk is not happy with the name "murder fiction" for the book.  The
detective side of this book is commercial, in a bad way, though he tries to
satisfy that part also.

Why about medieval painting?

Wanted to write about painters since he wanted to be a painter between the
ages of 7 and 22.  Contemporary Turkish painting would be too derivative of
the West, since that is what it is.  Wanted to highlight aspects of
imitation, original, identity, artistic jealousy, innovation, etc.  He read
for two years, learning about the history.

Miniature paintings were present before the 15th c. both in East and West.
Perspectives, portraits, etc were the unstoppable strength of Renaissance
painting.   West has first realized its strength over the East in Art rather
than Military.  Eastern emperor's gave a lot of money to Bellini or
Phillippo.

Effect of international fame

"With each book, in my mind's eye, I see an audience.  This audience is there,
looking over my shoulder.  I want to avoid it, but it is there."

With the intl audience, is he writing primarily for this large
international audience?  He also wants to please his audience.  Discourse
on the philosophy of who the author is writing for; Said's Orientalism -
is he writing for the Western reader?  Eventually, esp in the non-western
world, the author becomes suspect in the eyes of his national audience.

Who is Shekure based on?

Shekure is the name of his mother, and to some extent her character is based
on his mother.  His mother was happy because he described her as "the
beautiful Shekure".   His brother was a bit wary about the fights and
beatings.

In his previous books, woman readers told him that the women in his fiction
were less convincing than his men.  He was worried about not giving enough
satisfying voices to his women's characters.  This is an eternal problem.

He used to read to his wife, and wife used to say - give us more Shekure.
And her role grew because of this feedback.

Fundamentalism in medieval Islam


Fundamentalism in 16th c. : late 16th c. coffee debate in Turkish
literature - taught in High Schools.  Coffee was introduced around the
time of MNIR in Istanbul and in early 17th c., coffee houses were
introduced, and were the first public placew where people from all
classes met, discussed politics - and some Ottoman rulers were upset by
the resistance.  They wanted to ideologically legitimize the closing of
coffee shops by saying that coffee is bad for the stomach, not in the
Koran, etc.  Even the liberals of the 16th c. were expressing their ideas
through religion.  Even Sufi saints were foreign (from Persia) and were
being burnt.  They were fundamentalists in today's sense, but of course
they were called by different names.

Q. How come so many of your books have colours in the title?

Colours are not symbols for Pamuk - though there is a large literature on
colour symbolism in Islamic art.  He likes to point out strange peculiarities
of immense objects when there is high drama going on in another place.
"Essentially, because I have a painterly eye".

People ask him this q about colours quite often, and he will be calling his
coming book of essays as the called "The other colours"

---
The book in part, is an attempt to "look at the cultural truth in art",
Pamuk says (in this Feb 2010 interview) :
      In My Name is Red I wanted to create a panorama, to look at the spirit
      of the nation to look at the cultural truth in art. In The Black Book,
      I look at this spirit through the layers of Istanbul and the enigmas of
      history. In Snow I see the same culture through politics.
	from interview at BBC world service.  [my transcriptions]


Excerpts



1: I am a Corpse 3

Before my birth there was infinite time, and after my death, inexhaustible
time. I never thought of it before: I'd been living luminously between two
eternities of darkness. 3

I made the best illuminations in Our Sultan's workshop, no one could rival my
mastery. Through the work I did privately, I earned nine hundred silver coins
a month, which, naturally, only makes all of this even harder to bear.  ... I
can't say it seems insignificant now.  You know the value of money even when
you're dead. 3

[When] I knew I would die, an incredible feeling of relief filled me.  I felt
this relief during the moment of departure; my arrival to this side was
soothing, like the dream of seeing oneself asleep.  The snow- and mud-covered
shoes of my murderer were the last things I noticed. I closed my eyes as if I
were going to sleep, and I gently passed over. 5 "like the dream": 

... if the situation into which we've fallen were described in a book, even
the most expert of miniaturists could never hope to illustrate it.  As with
the Koran - God forbid I'm misunderstood - the staggering power of such a
book arises from the imposssibility of its being depicted.  I doubt you're
able to comprehend this fact. 6 


2: I am called Black 6


[In a barber's shop] I noticed that the head washing basin, which hung by a
chain from the ceiling, still traced the same old arc, swinging back and
forth as he filled it with hot water. 8, I am called Black

Had my late mother seen the day when she'd have to spend three silver pieces
for a dozen eggs, she'd say, "We ought to leave before the chickens grow so
spoiled as to shit on us instead of the ground." 8

Nusret Hoja attributed the catestrophes that had befallen Istanbul ... to our
having strayed from the path of the Prophet... 9


3: I am a Dog 10

[Storyteller called a "curtain caller" - hangs up a picture of a dog] drawn
on rough paper hastily bhut with a certain elegance [gives voice to the dog,
and points occasionally at the painting. 10

[the shop owner] fondly watched me eat each bite as if he were feeding a
cat. 10	

For a dog, you see, there is nothing as satisfying as sinking his teeth into
his miserable enemy in a fit of instinctual wrath.  10, I am a dog

[The dog commenting on Nusret Hoja's fiery sermons] When Muhammad lived, were
the prayers called haughtily and pompously to show how close one's Arabic was
to an Arab's? 11, I am a dog

to be human is to err 11

[Today the people] tie votive pieces of cloth everywhere, and make promises
of sacrifrice in return for atonement... These dervishes, the Mevlevis, the
Halvetis, the Kalendris and those who sing to the Koran to musical
accompaniment ... are all kaffirs. [says Husret Hoja] with spittle flying
from his mouth. 12 

Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, [once] cut off a piece of
his robe upon which a cat lay sleeping rather than wake the beast.  12

[Dog's voice:]
In the lands of the infidel Franks, the so-called Europeans, every dog has an
owner.  These poor aniaals are paraded on the streets with chains around
their necks, they're fettered like the most miserable of slaves and dragged
around in isolation. ... Dogs who roam the streets of Istanbul freely in
packs and communities, the way we do, dogs who threaten people if necessary,
who can curl up on a warm corner or stretch out in the shade and sleep
peacefully, and who can shit wherever they want and bite whomever they want,
such dogs are beyond the infidels' conception. 14 


4: I will be called a murderer 15

I can't stand my street, so I walk on to another, and then another.  As I
stare at people's faces, I realize that many of them believe they're innocent
because they haven't yet had the opportunity to snuff out a life.  15, I will
be called a murderer 

Warming up with steaming coffee at the coffeehouse, [I was laughing at the
story that the dog recounted]. Then I had the sensation that one of the men
beside me was a common murderer like myself.  Though he was simply laughing
at the storyteller as I was, my intuition was sparked, either by the way his
arm rested near mine or by the way he restlessly rapped his fingers on his
cup. 16 

I force myself to think of different things, just as I forced myself,
writhing in embarrassment, to banish thoughts of women when performing
prayers as an adolescent.  But unlike those days of youthful fits when I
couldn't get the act of copulation out of my thoughts, now, I can indeed
forget the murder I've committed. 17 

Husrev and Shirin

Husrev and Shirin: I refer to Nizami's version, not Firdusi's. ... [from an
illustration by Bihzad, master of masters] The lover's finally marry, but
Shiruye, Husrev's son by his previous wife, has his eye on Shirin.
Shiruye, of whom Nizami writes, "His breath had the stench of a lion's
mouth," [imprisons his father and succeeds to the throne.]  One night,
entering the bedchamber of his father and Shirin, he feels his way in the
dark, and finding the pair in bed, stabs his father on the chest with his
dagger.  The father's blood flows till dawn and he slowly dies in the bed
with the beautiful Shirin, who remains sleeping peacefully beside him. 17

[signing pictures - is an ugliness. great master Bihzad:]
"This is so Bihzad that there's no need for a signature." 18, I will be
      called a murderer

What was venerated as style was nothing more than an imperfection or flaw
that revealed the guilty hand. 18

I fear no one but Allah.  It was He who provided us with reason that we might
distinguish Good from Evil. 20

I struck him so swiftly and brutally that I was momentarily startled, as if
the blow had landed on my own head.  Aye, I felt his pain. 21 

After i'd dropped him into the well, I contemplated how the crudeness of my
deed did not in the least befit the grace of a miniaturist. 21, I will be
called a murderer


5: I am your beloved Uncle 22

["Enishte" ==> Turkish for 'mAmA', maternal uncle; he's Black's Enishte, but
everyone calls him Enishte. ] 22 

his polite and demure habit of sitting before me with his knees respectfully
together. [about Black] 22 

the moment when Hüsrev spied the naked Shirin bathing in a lake at midnight:
[most illustrators who] whimsically colored the lovers' horses and clothes
without having read Nizami's poem, were motivated by nothing more than
greed. 23

[Kashmiri handicraft] ... the folding X-shaped reading stand. 24

[I used to think] that painting without its accompanying story is an
impossibility. [has changed after seeing Venetian masters] 26


6: I am Orhan 27

Does illustrating in a new way signify a new way of seeing? 28
     [ * UNUSUAL THOUGHT SEQUENCE ]


7: I am called Black 31

[in my imagination] I had widened Shekure's mouth out of desire and had
imagined her lips to be more pert, fleshy and irrestistible, like a large,
shiny cherry. 31, I am called Black   

If a lover's face survives emblazoned on your heart, the world is still your
home. 31 

Seeing Shekure's son up close and kissing him, aroused in me a restlessness
peculiar to the luckless, to murderers, and to sinners. 32 


8: I am Esther 35


[Esther is surprised that Shekure's letter is not to Hassan but to someone
else ] 36

A letter does not communicate by words alone. A letter, just like a book, can
be read by smelling it, touching it and fondling it.  Thereby, intelligent
folk will say, "Go on then, read what the letter tells you!" whereas the
dull-witted will say, "Go on then, read what he's written!" 37, I am Esther

What else Shekure said:

1. Though I've sent this letter in secret, by relying on the commercial
   Esther, I am signifying that I don't intend to conceal that much at all.
2. That I've folded it up like a French pastry implies secrecy and mystery,
   true.  But the letter isn't sealed and there's a huge picture enclosed.
   The apparent implication is, "Pray, keep our secret at all costs," which
   more befits an invitation to love than a letter of rebuke.
3. The smell of the letter confirms this - fragrance is faint enough to be
   ambiguous - did she intentionally perfume it? yet alluring enough to
   fire the reader's curiosity.
4. Although the flow of the script and the handwriting seems to say "I am
   rushed, writing carelessly" but these alphabets that twitter elegantly as
   if caught in a gentle breeze convey the exact opposite message.
5. the picture sent along with the letter depicts pretty Shirin gazing at
   handsome Husrev's image and falling in love, as told in the story ...

It happens all the time to you fortunate literary people: A maiden who can't
read begs you to read a love letter she's received.  Th letter is so
surprising, exciting and disturbing that it's owner, though embarrassed,
ashamed, and distraught, asks you all the same to read it once more.  In the
end both of you have memorized it.  Before long, she'll take the letter in
her hands and ask, "Did he make that statement there?" and "Did he say that
here?" As you point to the appropriate places, she'll pore over those
passages, still unable to make sense of the words there... 38 


9: I, Shekure 38

sherbets made with ice said to have been brought all the way from snow-capped
Mount Ulu...  40, I am Shekure 

in such situations reasonable people immediately sense that love without hope
is simply hopeless... the illogical realm of the heart 40

a person never knows exactly what she herself is thinking ... sometimes I'll
say something and realize upon uttering that it is of my own thinking, but no
sooner than I arrive at that realization than I'm convinced that the very
opposite is true. 41

I'm not sure how it happened, but later in the room with the closet, Orhan
and I found ourselves hugging each other.  Shevket joined us; there was a
brief skirmish between them.  As they tussled, we all rolled over onto the
floor.  I kissed them on the backs of their necks and their hair.  I pressed
them to my bosom and felt their weight on my breasts. 42

Mother, why did you wear your fine purple blouse?" Shevket said.

I [changed out of my purple blouse] and pulled on the faded green one. As I
was changing, I felt cold and shivered, but I could sense that my skin was
aflame, my body vibrant and alive.  42 

I shudder in delight when I think of two-hundred-year-old books, dating back
to the time of Tamerlane, volumes for which acquisitive giaours gleefully
relinquish gold pieces and which they carry all the way back to their own
countries... 43

"Is it snowing?" he asked in such a faint and melancholy voice that I
understood at once this would be the last snowfall my poor father would ever
see. 47 


10: I am a Tree 47

   [this section has a picture of a tree talking about miniature painting,
   its history and culture, competition among royalty for miniature artists,
   etc. ]

one day when he had grown even older, he was possessed by a jinn, had a
nervous fit, and begging God's forgiveness, completely swore off wine,
handsome young boys and painting, which is proof enough that after this great
shah lost his taste for coffee, he also lost his mind. 48

Cross-eyed Nedret Hoja of Sivas: coffee was the devil's work... "coffee is a
sin, coffee is a vice... " 50

[Frank master: One could draw a tree in a forest such that if you could come
here, and if desired,] correctly select that tree from among the others. ...
I don't want to be a tree, I want to be its meaning. 51 [opposes this view of
individuality; 


11: I am called Black 51


Gazzali's The revival of religious science, two benefits of marriage: spared
the guilt of self-abuse or of dragging oneself behind pimps leading through
dark alleyways... 52

[with masturbation in mind,] I retired to a corner of the room, as was my
wont, but after a while I realized I couldn't jack off -- proof well enough
that I'd fallen in love again after twelve years! 52

As soon as Ismail assumed the throne, in a mad frenzy, he had his younger
brothers strangled -- some of whome he had blindfolded beforehand.  In the
end however, Ismail's enemies succeeded in plying him with opium and
poisoning him... 54 

painters and colorists whose brushes made horses gallop at full speed and
whose butterflies fluttered off the page... 55, I am called Black

[Osman suddenly switches topics and introduces Elegant Effendi's
disappearance. ] 55 

Nuri effendi had grown old in vain. 56 

I saw the lion, representing Islam, chase away a gray-and-pink pig,
symbolizing the cunning Christian infidel. 57

[they are talking about gilding; parag break:
The shouts and screams of children could now be heard through the open door
that faced the inner courtyard. 58 [SUDDEN-SHIFT; NOVELCRAFT]

Painting is the silence of thought and the music of sight. 59 

[he wants] an individual painting technique, his own style?  does he want to
have a manner, an aspect distinct from others, and does he attempt to prove
this by signing his name somewhere 60

Blindness is silence. 60

She took her baksheesh 61 


12: I am called "Butterfly" 61


This Khan loved only one of the women in his harem, and this striking Tatar
woman, whom he loved madly, loved him in return. 62
       [beautiful Tatar woman: see also  Blue Wolf ]

[The artist draws the Khan and his Tatar beauty in place of Leyla-Majnun, or
Husrev-Shirin.] In the paintings which the Khan observed at length, he felt
his former bliss had been disrupted in numerous ways...  [Tatar beauty hangs
herself]. The Khan, understanding the mistake he'd made and realizing
that the miniaturists's own fascination with style lay behind gthe terrible
incident, immediately blinded this master artist whom the Devil had tempted.
- 63 story ALIF

elderly Sultan, lived happily with his Chinese wife of unsurpassed beauty.
[connections to China] 63, story BA

[Sultan's son from earlier marriage, and his young Chinese wife, fall in love
with each other.  The guilty son starts to paint. ] Since he painted out of
the sorrow and strength of his love, each of his paintings was so magnificent
that admirers couldn't distinguish them from the work of the old masters.
[Sultan praises his work to Chinese wife, who wants him to sign the
pictures.] The Sultan responded, "If my son signs his paintings, won't he be
saying 'My paintings bear my imperfections'?"
[But CW convinces her stepson, who signs his name] in a corner of a painting,
between wall and grass, in a spot he assumed was beyond notice.  This, the
first picture he signed, was a scene from Husrev and Shirin...  after they
are wed, Shiruye, Husrev's son from his first marriage falls in love with
Shirin, [and stabs his father].  The Sultan reacted to the picture with the
thought. "This painting bears a flaw." ... [he was] seized by a kind of
panic, suspecting that this volume he was reading recounted not a story or a
legend but what was most unbefitting a book: reality itself.  When the
elderly man sennsed this, he was overcome with terror. His illustrator son
had entered through the window, as in the painting, and without even looking
twice at his father's bulging eyes, swiftly drove his dagger -- as large as
the one in the painting -- into the father's chest. 63-64, story BA

In his history, Rashiduddin of Kazvin merrily writes that 250 years ago in
Kazvin, manuscript illumination, calligraphy and illustration were the most
esteemed and beloved arts. 64 story DJIM

it is true that the old masters in their exquisite paintings, would depict
beautiful maidens as Chinese, this is an unalterable rule come to us from the
East. [65]

... imperfection gives rise to what we call 'style'. 65

The poverty, plague, immorality and scandal we are slave to in this city of
Istanbul can only be attributed to our having distanced ourselves from the
Islam of the time of Our Prophet, Apostle of God, to adopting new and vile
customs and to allowing Frankish, European sensibilities to flourish in our
midst.  [sayings of the preacher Erzurumi] 68


13: I am called "Stork" 68


Ibn Shakir believed these books would last till the end of the world, and,
therefore, lived with a deep and infinite notion of time.
	[Endless time ==> endless, non-perspectival space]  69
[Books were destroyed by Hulagu's soldiers after sack of Baghdad 1258 month
of Safar]

the notion of endless time that had rested in the hearts of Arab
calligrapher-scribes for 500 years would finally manifest itself not in
writing, but in painting. 70


14: I am called "Olive" 75


Akbar Khan, the emperor of Hindustan and the world's richest shah, is
preparing what will one day become a legendary book. ... invited the world's
greatest artists to join him. 75

To see is to know without remembering. 76

Persian poet Jami's Gift of Intimacy: story of artist who is blinded by
Jihan Shah of the Blacksheep, so he cannot create a greater work.  But he is
able to do so, for neighbouring king Tall Hasan, from memory.  Tall Hasan
then routs and executes Jihan Shah.  76

Firdusi's Book of Kings / Nizami's Treasury of Secrets / Sadi's Rosegarden 78

We mistakenly assumed that these stories arose out of words and that
illustrations were painted in service of these stories.  Quite to the
contrary, painting is the act of seeking out Allah's memories and seeing the
world as He sees the world. - Ulug Bey 79

[Seyyit Mirek, mentor to the great master Bihzad]. According to master
miniaturist Mirek, blindness wasn't a scourge, but rather the crowning reward
bestowed by Allah upon the illuminator... Allah's vision of His world only
becomes manifest through the memory of blind miniaturists. 80


15: I am Esther 82


Tell me then, does love make one a fool or do only fools fall in love? 82

Every idiot assumes there's a pressing circumstance about his love that
necessitates particular haste, and thereby lays bare the intensity of his
love, unwittingly putting a weapon into the hands of his beloved.  If his
lover is smart, she'll postpone the answer.  The moral: haste delays the
fruits of love. 82

linden tea: 82
http://www.herbcompanion.com/articles/02_03_05-stress
Linden tea, a favorite in Turkey, has the same properties as chamomile.
This tree grows wild in the foothills of Italy's mountains but also is widely
used for parks and gardens. When the tree is in bloom in early June the sweet
intoxicating fragrance can be almost overpowering and the whole canopy hums
with happy bees. Linden honey is delicious and soothing.

To make a relaxing bath, boil 1 1/2 cups linden flowers in 2 quarts of water
for 5 minutes. Strain the fragrant water with a coffee filter. Fill your tub
and add the linden water for a relaxing bath. You'll feel renewed and soothed
from the day's stress ready for a pleasant night's sleep.

Come get stunning shawls from Kashmir, my Bursa velvet sash cloth, my superb
silk-edged Egyptian shirt cloth... 83


18 : I will be called a murderer


And, I must mind what I think about and say. Actually, I know that you're
listening to me even when I'm mulling over matters in private. I can't afford
careless contemplation of my frustrations or the incriminating details of my
life. 98  

[The murderer (one of Stork, Butterfly, Olive) sees Black whispering to
Enishte. ]
I thereupon thought how easy it was to end a life. My dear God, you've given
each of us this unbelievable power, but you've also made us afraid to
exercise it.

Still if a man but once overcomes this fear and acts, he straightaway becomes
an entirely different person. There was a time when I was terrified not only
of the Devil, but of the slightest trace of evil within me.  Now, however, I
have the sense that evil can be endured, and moreover, that it's
indispensable to an artist.  After I killed that miserable excuse of a man,
discounting the trembling in my hands which lasted only a few days, I drew
better, I made use of brighter and bolder colours, and most important,
realized that I could conjure up wonders in my imagination.  100-101

The larger and more colorful a city is, the more places there are to hide
one's guilt and si; the more crowded it is, the more people there are to hide
behind.  A city's intellect ought to be measured not by its scholars,
libraries, miniaturists, calligraphers and art schools, but by the number of
crimes insidously committed on its dark streets over thousands of years.  By
this logic, doubtless, Istanbul is the world's most intelligent city. 101


19: I am a gold coin 102


Behold! I am a twenty-two-carat Ottoman Sultani gold coin and I bear the
glorious insignia of His Excellency Our Sultan, Refuge of the World. 102

you bristle with envy at my owner, Master Stork. You're justified in behaving
so, for there's no better measure of an illustrator's talent than I. 102

If you think you're better than Stork, then by all means, get hold of me.


20: I Am Called Black 107


"As if a virulent plague had struck, everyone was having his portrait made,"
he said. "In all of Venice, rich and influential men wanted their portraits
painted as a symbol, a memento of their lives and a sign of their riches,
power and influence -- so they might always be there, standing before us,
announcing their existence, nay, their individuality and distinction." 107

Was there a noise somewhere in the house? 108 

"It is the story that's essential," our wisest and most Glorious Sultan had
said. "A beautiful illustration elegantly completes the story. An
illustration that does not complement a story, in the end, will become but a
false idol...." 109


21 I Am Your Beloved Uncle 110


shadow: the greatest of innovations manifest in the paintings of the Venetian
masters 111

22  I Am Called Black 115

[This chapter presents a completely different view of events]

23  I Will Be Called a Murderer 120

when the evening prayer is called the jinns and demons within them will grow
agitated and rebellious, urging in unision: "Out! Outside!" This restless
inner voice demands, "Seek the company of others, seek blackness, misery and
disgrace." 120

... the torments of demons depicted by Chinese and Mongol master artists 121

Now, if I run ahead eight or ten paces, catch up to Black and land a blow
onto his head with all my might, everything will go on as usual. Enishte
Effendi will invite me to finish our book. 123

As I watched Black walking before me, however, I knew with utmost certainty
that none of this would happen. It was all illusion. Black Effendi was more
real than I. It happens to us all: In reaction to being overly logical we'll
feed fantasies for weeks and years on end, and one day we'll see something, a
face, an outfit, a happy person, and suddenly realize that our dreams will
never come true... 124

Men like Black, free from pangs of conscience and with promising
futures before them, assume that the entire world is their home; they open
every door like a sultan entering his personal stable and immediately
belittle those of us crouched inside. The urge to grab a stone and run up
behind him was almost too great to resist. 124

We were two men in love with the same woman; he was in front of me and
completely unaware of my presence as we walked through the turning and
twisting streets of Istanbul, climbing and descending, we traveled like
brethren through deserted streets given over to battling packs of stray dogs,
passed burnt ruins where jinns loitered, mosque courtyards where angels
reclined on domes to sleep, beside cypress trees murmuring to the souls of
the dead, beyond the edges of snow-covered cemeteries crowded with ghosts,
just out of sight of brigands strangling their victims, passed endless shops,
stables, dervish houses, candle works, leather works and stone walls; and as
we made ground, I felt I wasn't following him at all, but rather, that I was
imitating him. 124


24 I Am Death 125


the old man
excited the master miniaturist by flaunting the best paper from Hindustan,
brushes made of squirrel hair, varieties of gold leaf, all manner of reed
pens and coral-handled penknives, indicating that he would be able to pay
handsomely. 125

No matter how masterful a miniaturist might be, when he paints an object for
the first time, he'll render it as an apprentice would 125

"It's not experience of subject matter that makes us masters, it's never
having experienced it that makes us masters." 126

What we essentially want is to draw something unknown to us in all its
shadowiness, not something we know in all its illumination. 127

"Venetians die like Venetians,"
"All our deaths resemble one another" 126

[after the illustrator does the painting]
Later, he regretted what he'd done. Not due to the terror with which he'd
imbued his picture, but because he dared to make the illustration at all.

It must've even dawned on him, as it does now on some of the imbeciles who
have tired of me and are smiling: Death is no laughing matter. 128


25: I am Esther 129

There's nothing I'd trade for the pleasure of delivering letters to lovers
addled by loneliness or the lack of wife or husband.  Even if they're certain
of receiving the worst news, when they're about to read the letter, a shudder
of hope overcomes them. 132

Once one accepts evil-- and rejection in love is a significant cause for
doing so -- cruelty follows quickly. 132,


26: I, Shekure 135

I was in the midst of folding [clothes] yesterday when Hayriye announced
Esther had come... or this was what I planned to tell you.  But why should I
lie? All right then, when Esther arrived, I was spying on my father and Black
through the closet peephole.  135 

Shevket to Orhan: You only attack from behind
Orhan: My tooth is loose [DISJOINTED] 137

Enishte: After beholding the portraits of the Ventian masters, we realize
with horror that, in painting, eyes can no longer simply be holes in a face,
always the same, but must be just like our own eyes, be holes in a face,
always the same, but must be just like our own eyes, which reflect light like
a mirror and absorb it like a well. Lips can no longer be a crack in the
middle of faces flat as paper, but must be nodes of expression -- each a
different shade of red -- fully expressing our joys, sorrows and spirits with
their slightest contraction or relaxation.  137

[Shekure is peeping at Black talking to Enishte in the room below; Black
is talking]
Just then, when I saw that he'd opened his pink mouth as a child would have,
I unexpectedly felt, yes, like putting my breast into it.  With my fingers on
his nape and tangled in his hair, Black would place his head between my
breasts, and as my own children used to do, he'd roll his eyes back into his
head with pleasure as he sucked on my nipple. After understanding that only
through my compassion would he find peace, he'd become completely bound to
me.  138 

I perspired faintly and imagined Black marveling at the size of my breasts
with surprise and intensity-- rather than studying the illustration of the
Devil that my father was actually showing him. I, Shekure 138

When I closed my eyes again -- Allah, it wasn't my own desire-- in my
thoughts, Black had approached me so sweetly that in the dark I could feel
him beside me.  Suddenly, I sensed that he'd come up from behind me, he was
kissing the nape of my neck, the back of my ears, and I could feel how strong
he was.  He was solid, large and hard, and I could lean on him.  I felt
secure.  My nape tingled, my nipples were stiffening.  It seemed as if there
in the dark, with my eyes closed, I could feel his enlarged member behind me,
close to me.  My head spun.  What was Black's like? I wondered. --p.138

At times in my dreams, my husband in his agony shows his to me.  I come to
the awareness that my husband is struggling to keep his bloody body, lanced
and shot with Persian arrows, walking upright as he approaches.  But sadly,
there is a river between us.  As he calls to me from the opposite bank,
covered in blood and suffering terribly, I notice that he has become
erect. If it's true what the Georgian bride said at the public bath, and if
there's truth to what the old hags say, "Yes, it grows that large," then my
husband's wasn't so big.  If Black's is bigger, if that enormous thing I saw
under Black's belt when he took up the empty piece of paper I'd sent him by
Shevket yesterday; if that was actually it -- and surely it was-- I'm afraid
I'll suffer great pain, if it even fits inside me at all. 138-9

[Shekure goes out to meet Black, for the first time after childhood, in the
desolate house of the Handed Jew.]

     "Remove your veil," he said in a whisper. "Please."
     "I'm married. I'm awaiting my husband's return."
     "Remove your veil," he said in the same tone. "Your husband won't ever
come back."
     "Have you arranged to meet me here to tell me this?"
     "Nay, I've done so to be able to see you. I've been thinking of you for
twelve years. Remove your veil, my darling, let me look at you just once."
     I removed it. I was pleased as he silently studied my face and stared at
length into the depths of my eyes. 147

... at the time my appreciation of the magic of what he said was purely
visceral and it bound me to him. I felt guilty for having caused him such
pain for twelve years. What a honey-tongued man! What a good person this
Black was! Like an innocent child! I could read all of this from his
eyes. The fact that he loved me so much made me trust him. 148

We embraced. This so pleased me that I felt no guilt. I let myself be borne
away by sweet emotion. I hugged him tighter. I let him kiss me, and I kissed
him back. 148

Let me describe for you how our embrace might've been depicted by the master
miniaturists of Herat, if this tragic story of mine were one day recorded in
a book. There are certain amazing illustrations that my father has shown me
wherein the thrill of the script's flow matches the swaying of the leaves,
the wall ornamentation is echoed in the design of the border gilding and the
joy of the swallow's matchless wings piercing the picture's border suggests
the elation of the lovers. 148

Thank God I've seen enough of life to know that such well-being never lasts
for long.  Black sweetly took my large breasts into his hands.  This felt
good and, forgetting all, I longed for him to suck on my nipples.  But he
couldn't quite manage it, because he wasn't sure of what he was doing...

But when he grabbed my thighs to pull me close, pressing his large hardened
manhood against my stomach, I liked it at first: I was curious. I wasn't
embarrassed.  I told myself that an embrace such as we'd had would
naturally lead to another such as this.  And though I turned my head away,
I couldn't take my widening eyes off its size.

[fellatio] Later still, when he abruptly tried to force me to perform that
vulgar act that even Kipchak women and concubines who tell stories at the
public baths wouldn't do, I froze in astonishment and indecision.
   "Don't furrow your brow, my dear," he begged.
   I stood up, pushed him away and began shouting at him without paying the
slightest heed to his disappointment. 148-9


27 : I Am Called Black 149


Within the darkness of the house of the Hanged Jew, Shekure furrowed her brow
and began raving that I might easily stick the monstrosity I held in my hands
into the mouths of Circassian girls I'd met in Tiflis, Kipchak harlots, poor
brides sold at inns, Turkmen and Persian widows, common prostitutes whose
numbers were increasing in Istanbul, lecherous Mingerians, coquettish
Abkhazians, Armenian shrews, Genoese and Syrian hags, thespians passing as
women and insatiable boys, but it would not go into hers. She angrily accused
me of having lost all sense of decorum and self-control by sleeping with all
manner of cheap, pathetic riffraff -- from Persia to Baghdad and from the
alleyways of small hot Arabian towns to the shores of the Caspian -- and of
having forgotten that some women still took pains to maintain their
honor. All my words of love, she charged, were insincere.

A few dogs, not too far away, giving themselves over completely to whatever
they were up to, began barking excitedly. 152 

"I was, of course, certain to be married off to someone," she said. This was
true, and it succinctly and cleverly explained her marriage in a way that
avoided praising her husband and upsetting me. 

We kissed. This time I didn't find myself immobilized by a staggering yoke of
lust; both of us were stunned by the fluttering -- like a flock of sparrows --
of a powerful love that had entered our hearts, chests and stomachs. Isn't
lovemaking the best antidote to love? 154

As I palmed her large breasts, Shekure pushed me away in an even more
determined and sweeter way than before. She implied that I wasn't a
mature-enough man to maintain a trustworthy marriage with a woman that I'd
sullied beforehand.


28: I will be called a murderer

In place of an answer, he gestured very delicately and elegantly with his
hand -- as if to warn me there was a child sleeping in the room... 159 

[Islamic eschatology]
    "You know quite well why! Because they remembered Our Prophet's warning
that on Judgment Day, Allah will punish painters most severely."
    "Not painters," corrected Enishte Effendi. "Those who make idols. And
this not from the Koran but from Bukhari."
    "On Judgment Day, the idol makers will be asked to bring the images
they've created to life," I said cautiously. "Since they'll be unable to do
so their lot will be to suffer the torments of Hell. Let it not be forgotten
that in the Glorious Koran, "creator" is one of the attributes of Allah. It
is Allah who is creative, who brings that which is not into existence, who
gives life to the lifeless. No one ought to compete with Him. The greatest of
sins is committed by painters who presume to do what He does, who claim to be
as creative as He." 160

We owe Bihzad and the splendor of Persian painting to the meeting of an
Arabic illustrating sensibility and Mongol-Chinese painting. Shah Tahmasp's
best paintings marry Persian style with Turkmen subtleties. 160-1

However, in the books he perused, he increasingly discovered imitations
inspired by him rather than his original work. In later years, he came to
realize that two generations of artists had adopted as models of form the
illustrations he himself had renounced, ...  At the end of his life, as the
Master of Isfahan burned his own art, he not only witnessed the fact that his
work, instead of disappearing, actually proliferated and increased; he
understood that everybody now saw the world the way he had seen it. 161
Those things which did not resemble the paintings he made in his youth were
now considered ugly. 161

A great painter does not content himself by affecting us with his
masterpieces; ultimately, he succeeds in changing the landscape of our
minds. Once a miniaturist's artistry enters our souls this way, it becomes
the criterion for the beauty of our world. 161

Had I lived this exact moment long ago? In a distant city, at a time which
now seemed far from me, as a snow that I couldn't see fell, by the light of a
candle, I was attempting to explain through tears that I was entirely
innocent to a crotchety old dotard, who'd accused me of stealing paint. Back
then, just as now, dogs began to howl as if they'd smelled blood. And I
understood from Enishte Effendi's great chin, befitting an evil old man, and
from his eyes, which he was finally able to fix mercilessly into mine, that
he intended to crush me. I recalled this tattered memory from when I was a
ten-year-old miniaturist's apprentice like a picture whose outlines are clear
but whose colors have faded. Thus was I living the present as though it were
a distinct but faded memory.


29: I am your beloved uncle 165


[history of painting / styles]
A prince dies, a shah loses a battle, a seemingly never-ending era ends, a
workshop is closed and its members disband, searching for other homes and
other bibliophiles to become their patrons. One day, a compassionate sultan
will assemble these exiles, these bewildered but talented refugee
miniaturists and calligraphers, in his own tent or palace and begin to
establish his own book-arts workshop. Even if these artists, unaccustomed to
one another, continue at first in their respective painting styles, over
time, ... they'll quarrel, bond, struggle and compromise. The birth of a new
style is the result of years of disagreements, jealousies, rivalries
... 167-68

We agreed that if the Mongols hadn't brought the secrets of red paint --
which they'd learned from Chinese masters -- to Khorasan, Bukhara and Herat,
we in Istanbul couldn't make these paintings at all. 169

They depict what the eye sees just as the eye sees it. Indeed, they
paint what they see, whereas we paint what we look at. 170

Bindings will fall apart and pages will drop out. Women lighting their
stoves, thieves, indifferent servants and children will thoughtlessly tear
out the pages and pictures. Child princes will scrawl over the illustrations
with toy pens. They'll blacken people's eyes, wipe their runny noses on the
pages, doodle in the margins with black ink. And religious censors will
blacken out whatever is left. They'll tear and cut up our paintings, perhaps
use them to make other pictures or for games and such entertainment. While
mothers destroy the illustrations they consider obscene, fathers and older
brothers will jack off onto the pictures of women and the pages will stick
together... 171

Just before I died, I actually longed for my death... Nonetheless, I was
overcome with the indecision of a man about to take a long journey and unable
to refrain from taking one last glance at his room, at his belongings and his
home. 175


30: I, Shekure 177


it suddenly seemed that the elongated shadows we were casting by the light of
the oil lamp belonged to others. Most frightening of all was the horror that
overcame us like a silent act of piety, as we solemnly washed his bloodied
face and changed his clothes 184


31: I am Red 185


Color is the touch of the eye, music to the deaf, a word out of the
darkness. Because I've listened to souls whispering -- like the susurrus of
the wind -- from book to book and object to object for tens of thousands of
years, allow me to say that my touch resembles the touch of angels. Part of
me, the serious half, calls out to your vision while the mirthful half soars
through the air with your glances. 186

I do not conceal myself: For me, delicacy manifests itself neither in
weakness nor in subtlety, but through determination and will. So, I draw
attention to myself. I'm not afraid of other colors, shadows, crowds or even
of loneliness. How wonderful it is to cover a surface that awaits me with my
own victorious being! Wherever I'm spread, I see eyes shine, passions
increase, eyebrows rise and heartbeats quicken. Behold how wonderful it is to
live! Behold how wonderful to see. Behold: Living is seeing. 186

[preparing the red paint:] ... furiously pounded the best variety of dried
red beetle from the hottest climes of Hindustan into a fine powder using his
mortar and pestle. He prepared five drachmas of the red powder, one drachma
of soapwort and a half drachma of lotor. He boiled the soapwort in a pot
containing three okkas of water. Next, he mixed thoroughly the lotor into the
water. He let it boil for as long as it took to drink an excellent cup of
coffee.  ...  He sprinkled the red powder into the kettle and carefully mixed
the concoction with one of the thin, clean sticks reserved for this task. I
was ready to become genuine red, but the issue of my consistency was of
utmost importance: The liquid shouldn't be permitted to just boil away. He
drew the tip of his stirring stick across the nail of his thumb (any other
finger was absolutely unacceptable). Oh, how exquisite it is to be red!  187

   "But, what if we'd been born blind? How would we have been truly able to
comprehend this red that our handsome apprentice is using?"
   "An excellent issue," the other said. "But do not forget that colors are not
known, but felt."
    "My dear master, explain red to somebody who has never known red."
    "If we touched it with the tip of a finger, it would feel like something
between iron and copper. If we took it into our palm, it would burn. If we
tasted it, it would be full-bodied, like salted meat. If we took it between
our lips, it would fill our mouths. If we smelled it, it'd have the scent of
a horse. If it were a flower, it would smell like a daisy, not a red rose." 187-199

... as the cat-hair brush spreads me onto the waiting page, I become delightfully
ticklish. Thereby, as I bring my color to the page, it's as if I command the
world to "Be!" 188


32: I, Shekure 188


Marriage douses love's flame, leaving nothing but a barren and melancholy
blackness. Of course, after marriage, love itself will vanish anyway; but
happiness fills the void. Still, there are those hasty fools who fall in love
before marrying and, burning with emotion, exhaust all their feeling,
believing love to be the highest goal in life."
   "What, then, is the truth of the matter?"
   "The truth is contentment. Love and marriage are but a means to obtaining
it: a husband, a house, children, a book. Can't you see that even in my
state, with a missing husband and a deceased father, I'm better off than you
in your isolation? I'd die without my sons, with whom I spend my days
laughing, tussling and loving. 191


33: I Am Called Black 193

I changed five of the Venetian Lions at a perpetually smiling Jewish money
changer.  193 

[I was quite pleased to] divide our daylong adventure into four scenes,
imagining each in the illustrated pages of my mind. 195

I explained, my Enishte's time was upon him, and according to his last wish,
I was to marry his daughter, who, by decision of the Üsküdar judge, had just
been granted a divorce from a husband lost at war. The preacher objected that
by the dictates of Islamic law a divorced woman must wait a month before
remarrying, but I countered by explaining that Shekure's former husband had
been absent for four years; and so, there was no chance she was pregnant by
him. 199  

the wedding guests dispersed, having heartily partaken of the walnuts,
almonds, dried fruit leather, comfits and clove candy. 204 


34: I, Shekure 205


[with Orhan on her lap] As occasionally happened, I had the urge to take out
my breast and nurse him. 208


35: I Am a Horse 216

Ignore the fact that I'm standing here placid and still; if truth be told,
I've been galloping for centuries; I've passed over plains, fought in
battles, carried off the melancholy daughters of shahs to be wed; I've
galloped tirelessly page by page from story to history, from history to
legend and from book to book. 216


37: I Am Your Beloved Uncle 228

[list of things he sees from beyond death]
a portly woman in the new Langa bazaar holding a huge head of
cabbage like a child she was about to nurse 231


38: It Is I, Master Osman 232


I noticed a dog, more meaningful than all the pictures of dogs I'd ever
seen. I saw a horse, a lesser creation than what my master miniaturists might
make. I spied a plane tree in the Hippodrome, the same tree whose leaves I'd
just now accented with tones of purple. 234


41: It Is I, Master Osman 249

    "But didn't the great masters also create their masterpieces from memory
without ever even looking at real horses, trees or people?" said Black.
    "True," I said, "but those are memories acquired after years of thought,
contemplation and reflection. Having seen plenty of horses, illustrated and
actual, over their lifetimes, they know that the last flesh-and-blood horse
they see before them will only mar the perfect horse they hold in their
thoughts.  252

genuine artists have an instinctive desire to draw what's forbidden!  253

Attributes of Olive:
 His given name was Velijan.
 [note: Velijan is a historical character, a noted miniaturist who started
	in the nakkashane of Nakkas Osman; he was one of the popular
	miiaturists of 17th c. Istanbul.  (see wiki article, Ottoman miniature) ]

I believe, ten years old, was trained by Siyavush, the
famous illustrator specializing in faces in the Persian Shah's Tabriz
workshop. He hails from a long line of masters whose genealogy goes back to
the Mongols, and just like the elderly masters who bore a Mongol-Chinese
influence and settled in Samarkand, Bukhara and Herat 150 years ago, he
rendered moon-faced young lovers as if they were Chinese. 156

Contrary to what is commonly believed, all murderers are men of extreme faith
rather than unbelievers. 157

Manuscript illumination leads to painting, and painting, in turn, leads to --
God forbid -- challenging Allah.

The Attributes of Butterfly
Hasan Chelebi from the Gunpowder Factory district

There are times when I think Allah wants the world to be seen the way
Butterfly illustrates it, that He wants life to be jubilation. Indeed, this
is a realm where colors harmoniously recite magnificent ghazals to each
other, where time stops, where the Devil never appears. 259

in his work everything was as joyous as a holiday, but devoid of depth. Child
princes and senile old harem women on the verge of death enjoy his paintings,
not men of the world forced to struggle with evil. 259


42: I Am Called Black 264


[letter ending with: Your wife, Shekure]
I carefully read the last three words of this beautiful note thrice as if
staring at three wondrous red roses in a garden. 265

As Jemalettin of Kazvin wrote in his The Illustration of Horses, one can
properly complete a picture of a horse beginning from its hoof only if he
carries the entire horse in his memory. 267


43: I Am Called "Olive" 273


brushes made from hair clipped from a cat's ear 274


46: I Will Be Called a Murderer 279


Like everyone else I, too, kissed my companions on the cheeks with
exaggerated gestures, 283

I had the urge to say, "It was Satan who first said "I"! It was Satan who
adopted a style. It was Satan who separated East from West." 287


47: I, Satan 287


I am fond of the smell of red peppers frying in olive oil, rain falling into
a calm sea at dawn, the unexpected appearance of a woman at an open window,
silences, thought and patience. 287

While all the other angels bowed before man, I refused. I reminded all that
Adam was made from mud, whereas I was created from fire, a superior element
as all of you are familiar. So I didn't bow before man. And God found my
behavior, well, "proud." 288

Even the Almighty couldn't find anything evil in passing wind or jacking
off. 289


48: I, Shekure 291


There, in the dark, without pity, I sensed how my words were driving into his
flesh like nails -- as the poet Fuzuli had once put it.

   "I'm cold."
   Did I actually say this, I can't remember. We began to kiss. Embracing him
in the dark, still holding the candle in one hand, I took his velvety tongue
into my mouth, and my tears, my hair, my nightgown, my trembling and even his
body were full of wonder. Warming my nose against his hot cheek was also
pleasant; but this timid Shekure restrained herself. As I was kissing him, I
didn't let myself go or drop the candle, but thought of my father, who was
watching me, and of my former husband, and my children asleep in bed. 294



49: I Am Called Black 295

[in the Sultan's library]
    "Frightened?" asked the elderly dwarf, giving voice to my
feelings. "Everybody is frightened on their first visit. At night the spirits
of these objects whisper to each other."
     What was frightening was the silence in which this abundance of incredible
objects was interred. 299

At times, a bird's wing, the way a leaf holds to a tree, the curves of
eaves, the way a cloud floats or the laugh of a woman is preserved for
centuries by passing from master to disciple and being shown, taught and
memorized over generations.  304


51: It is I, Master Osman 309


... the account of the Persian scholar who learned chess simply by looking at
a chess set brought by the ambassador from Hindustan, before defeating the
Hindu master at his own game! A Persian lie! 321

   The turqoise and mother-of-pearl-handled golden plume needle which the
   venerated Talent of Herat, Master of Master Illuminators Bihzad, used in
   the act of blinding his exalted self.
     [description of item in Sultan's treasury, listed among gifts presented
      to the Sultan Selim on his inauguration.] 322

    I bravely, calmly and firmly pressed the needle into the pupil of my
right eye. My innards sank, not because I felt what I was doing, but because
I saw what I was doing. I pushed the needle into my eye to the depth of a
quarter the length of a finger, then removed it.
    In the couplet worked into the frame of the mirror, the poet had wished
the observer eternal beauty and wisdom -- and eternal life to the mirror
itself.
    Smiling, I did the same to my other eye. 324

[Note: Osman is based on the 16th century miniature painter Nakkaş Osman,
	head of the  nakkashane or studio producing miniature paintings. ]


52: I Am Called Black 324



There before me was a horse with peculiar nostrils carrying a coquettish
bride. The beast was looking at me out of the picture. It was as though the
magical horse were on the verge of whispering a secret to me. As if in a
dream, I wanted to shout, but my voice was silent. 327

"The nostrils of the horse are cut open," he said later, breathless. ...
"Cutting open the nostrils of horses so they might breathe easier and travel
farther is a centuries-old Mongol custom," 328,329

[evolution of a style; convention]
.. two hundred years ago when the Mongols retreated and the reign of
Tamerlane and his descendants began, one of the old masters in Herat drew an
exquisite horse whose nostrils were indeed cut open ... I'm sure that the
book and picture were greatly admired and praised -- who knows, maybe by the
sultan's favorite in the harem ... In this fashion, the wonderful horse with
its nostrils gradually became a model of form ingrained in the minds of the
artists in that workshop.  in this manner, even after the Mongols and their
hardy horses retreated from the lands of the Persians and Arabs, even
centuries after new lives had begun in ravaged and burned cities, some
painters continued drawing horses this way, believing it was a standard
form. 331

like the last wish of a disconsolate weary pasha who was responsible for
military defeat and condemned to beheading. 335

How many men and women had fingers in their mouths! This was used as a
gesture of surprise in all the workshops from Samarkand to Baghdad over the
last two hundred years. 336
  [How icons become conventionalized and turn into symbols]

An astonished Hüsrev's finger remained in his mouth as he saw for the first
time the beauty of Shirin, whose skin was like moonlight as she bathed in the
once glimmering lake whose silver leaf had tarnished. 336


53: I Am Esther 339


if Esther's taken out of the scene, she can't possibly continue with the
story, can she now? 351


54: I Am a Woman 352


Seeing a woman's bare face, speaking to her, and witnessing her humanity
opens the way to both pangs of lust and deep spiritual pain in us men 352

In the cities of the European Franks, women roam about exposing not only
their faces, but also their brightly shining hair (after their necks, their
most attractive feature), their arms, their beautiful throats, and even, if
what I've heard is true, a portion of their gorgeous legs; as a result, the
men of those cities walk about with great difficulty, embarrassed and in
extreme pain, because, you see, their front sides are always erect and this
fact naturally leads to the paralysis of their society. Undoubtedly, this is
why each day the Frank infidel surrenders another fortress to us Ottomans. 352

After I understood to some extent what it was like to have breasts, I stuffed
my chest with whatever I could find -- socks and washcloths -- so I might
understand what really made me curious: how it felt to be a large-breasted
woman. ... I understood at once that men, merely catching sight of the shadow
of my overabundant breasts, would chase after them and strive to take them
into their mouths; I felt quite powerful, but is that what I wanted? I was
befuddled: I wanted both to be powerful and to be the object of pity; I
wanted a rich, powerful and intelligent man, whom I didn't know from Adam, to
fall madly in love with me; yet I also feared such a man. 353


55: I Am Called "Butterfly 356


sibling rivalry, as in the Book of Kings, is always provoked by an unjust
father 364

Nimetullah Effendi the Nakshibendi's Persian dictionary 365
	[The 1540 work by Nimetullah Efendi (Lügat-i Nimetullah) from Persian
	to Turkish]

layer upon layer of carefully trimmed Hindustan paper 365
	[Hindustan paper that was valued - is this a type of vellum?]


58: I Will Be Called a Murderer 383


In this picture, objects weren't depicted according to their importance in
Allah's mind, but as they appeared to the naked eye -- the way the Franks
painted. This was the first transgression. The second was depicting Our
Sultan, the Caliph of Islam, the same size as a dog.  391

I used to believe quite sincerely that we Ottoman artists could comfortably
take from this or that aspect of the Frankish methods as much as our hearts
desired or as much as could be seen during a visit abroad -- without
bartering with the Devil or bringing any great harm upon us. 394

In one smooth motion, without losing speed, the sword cut first through my
hand and then clear through my neck, lopping off my head. 404


59: I, Shekure 409

In the hopes that he might pen this story, which is beyond depiction, I've
told it to my son Orhan.  ... don't be taken in by Orhan if he's drawn Black
more absentminded than he is, made our lives harder than they are, Shevket
worse and me prettier and harsher than I am. For the sake of a delightful and
convincing story, there isn't a lie Orhan wouldn't deign to tell. 413

1990-92, 1994-98


Chronology 415


336-330 B.C.: Darius rules in Persia. last king of the Achaemenids, loses
	empire to Alexander
336-323 B.C.: Alexander's empire: conquers Persia, invades India.  exploits
	become legendary in Islamic world even till modern times.
622: The Hegira. emigration of Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina

1010: Firdusi (c.935-1020): Book of Kings presented to Sultan Mahmud of
	Ghazni.  episodes on Persian myth and history --
	Alexander's invasion, tales of the hero Rüstem, struggle
	between Persia and Turan - inspired miniaturists since 14th c.
1206-1227: Genghis Khan
c.1141-1209: Persian poet Nizami. romantic epic the Quintet: stories of
	miniaturist inspiration: The Treasury of Mysteries, Hüsrev and
	Shirin, Leyla and Mejnun, The Seven Beauties and The Book of
	Alexander the Great.
1258: Sack of Baghdad. Hulagu (reigned 1251-1265), the grandson of Genghis
	Khan, conquered Baghdad.
	[Hulagu Khan's armies conquered all of Arabia, Persia and China with
	their horses.  ... they entered Baghdad, put its inhabitants to the
	sword, plundered it and tossed all its books into the Tigris, as we
	know...329
	Three hundred fifty years ago, when Baghdad fell to the Mongols and
	was mercilessly plundered on a cold day in the month of Safar, Ibn
	Shakir was the most renowned and proficient calligrapher and scribe
	not only of the whole Arab world but of all Islamdom...
	Ibn Shakir ascended the minaret of the Caliphet Mosque in the
	coolness of morning, and from the balcony where the muezzin called
	the faithful to prayer, witnessed all that would end a
	five-centuries-long tradition of scribal art. First, he saw Hulagu's
	pitiless soldiers enter Baghdad, and yet he remained where he was
	atop the minaret. He watched the plunder and destruction of the
	entire city, the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people, the
	killing of the last of the Caliphs of Islam who'd ruled Baghdad for
	half a millennium, the rape of women, the burning of libraries and
	the destruction of tens of thousands of volumes as they were thrown
	into the Tigris. 69 ]

1300-1922: The Ottoman Empire.  Sunni Muslims.   Southeastern
	Europe, Middle East and North Africa.
1370-1405: Turkic ruler Tamerlane. Subdued the areas that the Blacksheep
	ruled in Persia. Tamerlane conquered areas from Mongolia to the
	Mediterranean including parts of Russia, India, Afghanistan, Iran,
	Iraq; in Anatolia, defeated the Ottoman Sultan Bayazid I in 1402.

1370-1526: The Timurid Dynasty in Persia, central Asia and Transoxiana.
	brilliant revival of artistic and intellectual life.  schools of
	miniature painting at Shiraz, Tabriz and Herat.  early 15th c Herat
	was center of painting and home to great master Bihzad.
1375-1467: Blacksheep, a Turkmen tribal federation, ruled over parts of
	Iraq, eastern Anatolia and Iran. Jihan Shah (reign 1438-67), last
	Blacksheep ruler, defeated by the Whitesheep Tall Hasan in 1467.
1378-1502: Whitesheep federation of Turkmen tribes rule northern Iraq,
	Azerbaijan and eastern Anatolia. Whitesheep ruler Tall Hasan (reign
	1452-78) fails in attempts to contain the eastward expansion of the
	Ottomans, but defeats Jihan Shah in 1467 and the Timurid Abu Said
	in 1468, extending his dominions to Baghdad, Herat, and the Persian
	Gulf.

1453: Ottoman Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror took Istanbul. Demise of the
	Byzantine Empire. Sultan Mehmet later commissioned his portrait
	from Bellini.
1501-1736: Safavid Empire in Persia. Shia Islam as the state religion helps
	unify the empire. Seat of the empire at first in Tabriz, then to
	Kazvin, and later, to Isfahan.  first Safavid ruler, Shah Ismail
	(reign 1501-24), subdues the Whitesheep areas in Azerbaijan and
	Persia. Persia weakens appreciably during Shah Tahmasp I (reign
	1524-76).
	[In the text, Shah Tahmasp comes up very frequently; clearly a big
	patron of miniaturists.  Is it often in history, that the more
	artistic minded kings are mulitarily weak?]
1512: The Flight of Bihzad. The great miniaturist emigrates from Herat to Tabriz.
1514: The Plunder of the Seven Heavens Palace. The Ottoman Sultan Selim the
	Grim, defeats Safavid army at Chaldiran, plunders the Seven Heavens
	Palace in Tabriz. Returns to Istanbul with an exquisite collection
	of Persian miniatures and books.
1520-66: Süleyman the Magnificent and the Golden Age of Ottoman
	Culture. Conquests include the first seige of Vienna (1529) and the
	capture of Baghdad from the Safavids (1535).
1556-1605: Reign of Akbar in Hindustan, descendant of Tamerlane
	and Genghis Khan. Established miniaturists' workshops in Agra.
1566-74: Ottoman Sultan Selim II. Peace treaties signed with Austria and
	Persia.
1571: The Battle of Lepanto. A four-hour naval battle between allied
	Christian forces and the Ottomans subsequent to the Ottoman
	invasion of Cyprus (1570). Ottomans were defeated, but Venice
	surrendered Cyprus to the Ottomans in 1573. The battle had great
	impact on European morale and was the subject of paintings by
	Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese.
	[Often regarded as the decisive battle that turned the tide against
	Ottoman domination of Europe.]
1574-95: Ottoman Sultan Murat III (MNIR events during his rule) Witnesses a
	series of struggles between 1578-90 known as the Ottoman-Safavid
	wars.  The Ottoman sultan most interested in miniatures and books,
	had the Book of Skills, the Book of Festivities and the Book of
	Victories produced in Istanbul by prominent Ottoman miniaturists,
	including Osman the Miniaturist (Master Osman) and disciples.
1576: Shah Tahmasp's Peace Offering to the Ottomans. After decades of
	hostility, Safavid Shah Tahmasp made a present to the Ottoman
	Sultan Selim II upon the death of Süleyman the Magnificent in an
	attempt to foster future peace. Gifts sent to Edirne include
	an exceptional copy of the Book of Kings, produced over a period of
	twenty-five years. The book was later transferred to the Treasury
	in the Topkapi Palace.
1583: The Persian miniaturist Velijan (Olive), about ten years after coming
	to Istanbul, is commissioned to work for the Ottoman court.
1587-1629: Reign of the Safavid Persian ruler Shah Abbas I, begins by
	deposing his father Muhammad Khodabandeh. Shah Abbas reduced
	Turkmen power in Persia by moving the capital from Kazvin to
	Isfahan. Made peace with the Ottomans in 1590.
1591: A year before the thousandth anniversary (calculated in lunar years)
	of the Hegira, Black returns to Istanbul from the east, beginning
	the events in MNIR.
1603-17: Reign of Ottoman Sultan Ahmet I, who destroyed the large clock
	with statuary sent to the sultan as a present by Queen Elizabeth I.

blurb

My Name Is Red, when published in the original Turkish in 1998, became the
fastest-selling book in Turkish history.  ... This is a dense,
atmospherically fevered book, which demands a high level of patience and
attention from the reader, perhaps mirroring the patience of the
miniaturists. Written in the first person, with multiple narratives, this
is a book full of unreliable witnesses, and as the various stories of the
narrators unfold, the truth of the disappearance slowly emerges. The sense
of place and time are carefully constructed and diligently maintained
throughout the novel, which, like Umberto Eco's The Name Of The Rose, far
exceeds the genre of literary historical crime to become a hypnotic
meditation on religion, love, time, patience and artistic devotion. --Iain Robinson

... part murder mystery, part love story — set amid the perils of religious
repression in sixteenth-century Istanbul. When the Sultan [Murat III,
1574-95] commissions a great book to celebrate his royal self and his
extensive dominion, he directs Enishte Effendi to assemble a cadre of the
most acclaimed artists in the land. Their task: to illuminate the work in
the European style. But because figurative art can be deemed an affront
to Islam, this commission is a dangerous proposition indeed, and no one
in the elite circle can know the full scope or nature of the
project. Panic erupts when one of the chosen miniaturists disappears, and
the Sultan demands answers within three days. The only clue to the
mystery — or crime?—lies in the half-finished illuminations themselves. Has
an avenging angel discovered the blasphemous work? Or is a jealous
contender for the hand of Enishte’s ravishing daughter, the incomparable
Shekure, somehow to blame? Orhan Pamuk’s My Name Is Red is at once a
fantasy and a philosophical puzzle, a kaleidoscopic journey to the
intersection of art, religion, love, sex, and power.



Contents

	[Story told in 20 different voices, each chapter starting like "I am ..."]

 1  I am a Corpse                       3
 2  I am called Black                   6
 3  I am a Dog                          10
 4  I will be called a murderer         15
 5  I am your beloved Uncle             22
 6  I am Orhan                          27
 7  I am called Black                   31
 8  I am Esther                         35
 9  I, Shekure                          38
10  I am a Tree                         47
11  I am called Black                   51
12  I am called "Butterfly"             61
13  I am called "Stork"                 68
14  I am called "Olive"                 75
15  I am Esther                         82
16  I, Shekure                          86
17  I am your beloved Uncle             91
18  I will be called a murderer         96
19  I am a Gold Coin                    102
20  I am called Black                   107
21  I am your beloved Uncle             110
22  I am called Black                   115
23  I will be called a murderer         120
24  I am Death                          125
25  I am Esther                         129
26  I, Shekure                          135
27  I am called Black                   149
28  I will be called a murderer         154
29  I am your beloved Uncle             165
30  I, Shekure                          177
31  I am Red                            185
32  I, Shekure                          188
33  I am called Black                   193
34  I, Shekure                          205
35  I am a Horse                        216
36  I am called Black                   219
37  I am your beloved Uncle             228
38  It is I, Master Osman               232
39  I am Esther                         240
40  I am called Black                   245
41  It is I, Master Osman               249
42  I am called Black                   264
43  I am called "Olive"                 273
44  I am called "Butterfly"             275
45  I am called "Stork"                 277
46  I will be called a murderer         279
47  I, Satan                            287
48  I, Shekure                          291
49  I am called Black                   295
50  We two Dervishes                    306
51  It is I, Master Osman               309
52  I am called Black                   324
53  I am Esther                         339
54  I am a Woman                        352
55  I am called "Butterfly"             356
56  I am called "Stork"                 367
57  I am called "Olive"                 374
58  I will be called a murderer         383
59  I, Shekure                          409
    Chronology                          415


amitabha mukerjee (mukerjee [at-symbol] gmail) 2012 Apr 24