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My Name Is Red (Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics)

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Reading Group Guide

1. Have Pamuk’s books changed your perceptions of Turkey? What insights do they offer into the country’s history and place in the world?

2. Have his books given you a deeper understanding of the Muslim world? Have they altered your opinion about the current situation in the Middle East and other parts of the world where Islam is the dominant religion? Have you become more or less sympathetic?

3. Pamuk’s novels range over a wide span of time, from the sixteenth century (My Name Is Red) to the present day (Snow). Compare your reactions to the historical novels and the contemporary works. Which do you prefer and why?

4. In these books what impact do the tensions between Eastern and Western beliefs and customs have on individual lives, on the relations between classes and ethnic groups, or on political debates? What competing ideologies (or ways of thinking) affect the characters’ behavior and emotional responses? Consider the ethical, religious, and social dilemmas individuals face and how they resolve them.

5. Snow is prefaced by epigraphs from Robert Browning, Stendahl, Dostoevsky, and Joseph Conrad. How does each of them apply not only to Snow, but also to the other Pamuk books you have read? Citing specific passages, how would you characterize the author’s feelings about Western attitudes toward the Muslim world?

6. What role do perceptions—or misperceptions—about Islamic law and religious customs play in the assumptions Westerners make about Muslims? Are there current controversies in the United States or Europe that support your view?

7. Do Pamuk’s depictions of the relationships between men and women conform to your impressions of romance, marriage, and family life in a Muslim society? How are women presented in the historical novels? In what ways do the women in the novels set in the present (or in the recent past) embody both traditional female roles and the new opportunities they have to express their opinions and act on their beliefs?

8. Istanbul opens with an essay about Pamuk’s feelings as a child that “somewhere in the streets of Istanbul . . . there lived another Orhan so much like me that he could pass for my own twin, even my double” (page 3). Many reviewers, including John Updike, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, and Charles McGrath, have written about what McGrath calls “an enduring Pamuk preoccupation: the idea of doubleness or split identity” (New York Times, October 13, 2006). Can you find examples of doubleness in the books you have read, and if so, what do these add to the story? What insights do they reveal about Pamuk’s own sense of identity?

9. What techniques does Pamuk use to bring his characters, real and fictional, to life? How do his descriptions of settings, manners, and other everyday details enhance the portraits he creates? What use does he make of humor, exaggeration, and other stylistic flourishes in his depictions of particular situations, conversations, musings, and arguments?

10. Pamuk employs many of the literary devices associated with postmodern and experimental fiction. (McGrath, for example, notes his use of “narratives within narratives, texts that come alive, labyrinths of signs and symbols . . .”). In what ways do his books echo Italo Calvino’s allegorical fantasies? What do they share with the writings of Jorge Luis Borges and other magical realists? What aspects of his literary style can be traced to earlier masters of innovative fiction like Kafka and Nabokov?

11. In an essay on the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa in Other Colors, Pamuk writes, “It is clear . . . that there is a sort of narrative novel that is particular to the countries of the Third World. Its originality has less to do with the writer’s location than with the fact that he knows he is writing far from the world’s literary centers and he feels this distance inside himself” (page 168). Discuss how this manifests itself in Pamuk’s own works, as well as the works of Vargas Llosa and other authors writing from the Third World. Are there creative advantages to living and writing “far from the world’s literary centers”?

12. Pamuk writes in Istanbul of authors who left their homelands—Conrad, Nabokov, Naipaul: “Their imaginations were fed by exile, a nourishment drawn not through roots, but through rootlessness” (page 6). If you have read the works of these writers, or other authors in exile, do you agree that their books reflect—in style or in content—the effects of living in a new, foreign culture? To what extent is Pamuk’s writing rooted in the storytelling traditions of Eastern cultures? In what ways does it show the influence of his early exposure to Western literature, his participation in international literary circles, and his longtime association with American academia?

13. Despite the many differences between the societies Pamuk describes and our own, why do his characters and their behavior resonant with contemporary English-speaking readers? Are there aspects of Turkish mores that make it difficult to sympathize or engage with the characters in the novels? Do these factors also influence your reactions to his autobiographical pieces, literary criticism, and cultural observations in both Other Colors and Istanbul?

14. How does Pamuk’s personal history, as well as the plots of some novels, mirror the complicated history of Turkey? Consider such topics as: the decline and dissolution of the once powerful Ottoman Empire; the sweeping changes initiated by Atatürk in the 1920s; the conflicting desires to preserve Turkey’s distinctive heritage and to become more active in the global community; and the rise of fundamentalist Islam throughout Middle East today.

15. In discussing the importance of novels, Pamuk says, “Modern societies, tribes, and nations do their deepest thinking about themselves by reading novels; through reading novels, they are able to argue about who they are” (Other Colors, page 233). Do you agree? What can novels provide that nonfiction books and other media do not?

(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit www.readinggroupcenter.com)

What Our Readers Are Saying

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enamoredsoul, January 7, 2011 (view all comments by enamoredsoul)
It is seldom that one picks up a book that bypasses any and all genres, and comes alive in your hands and speaks to you. Such is the kind of book Orhan Pamuk has written. Part love story, part murder plot, part commentary on all things spiritual - it is a beautifully written book with a great many multi-faceted characters.

Pamuk uses various different characters to narrate his book - some of the chapters even narrated by unusual characters such as the murdered corpse of Elegant Effendi, "Ink", a "Coin", Satan, two dervishes and the color "Red". It is especially the voices of these characters that become emblazoned upon your soul.

The plot lies in the murder of Elegant Effendi, the reason for which is stated to be his working on an illustrated book commissioned by the Sultan. 'Black', who is in love with late Elegant's daughter Shekure, is striving hard to uncover the murderer and win widowed Shekure's hand in marriage. Also, we hear from his fellow artists/miniaturists "Butterfly", "Stork" and "Olive", with their views on the West influencing Eastern arts. Thus, Orhan Pamuk is able to masterfully entwine a mystery, a romance, and allegory to the clash of Eastern and Western culture all in one wonderful book.

In his book, Pamuk writes "An artist should never succumb to hubris of any kind, he should simply paint the way he sees fit rather than troubling over East or West." - and that is precisely how Pamuk offers his progressive perspective, richly Eastern in nature, but pleasantly influenced by Western ideologies as well. He creates an amalgamation of both cultures, in which the values of each one are preserved and respected, and does it quite successfully. Olive, one of the miniaturists, offers his perspective on art as, "Through our colors, paints, art and love, we remember that Allah had commanded us to "See"!" - and that is what Orhan Pamuk so craftily presents in this book, a chance for the reader to see beyond cultures and races, similarities and differences and be completely enchanted by the mystical, lyrical and awe-inspiring realm that "My Name is Red" is, as a novel.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780307593924
Author:
Pamuk, Orhan
Publisher:
Everyman's Library
Author:
PAMUK, ORHAN
Subject:
Mystery & Detective - Historical
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Historical fiction
Subject:
Istanbul (Turkey)
Subject:
Mystery Historical
Subject:
fiction;turkey;novel;historical fiction;istanbul;mystery;art;turkish;literature;islam;historical;16th century;ottoman empire;nobel prize;history;nobel;murder;turkish literature;20th century;ottoman;middle east;painting;religion;turkish fiction;literary fi
Subject:
fiction;turkey;novel;historical fiction;istanbul;mystery;art;turkish;literature;islam;historical;16th century;ottoman empire;nobel prize;history;nobel;murder;turkish literature;20th century;ottoman;middle east;painting;religion;turkish fiction;literary fi
Series:
Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics
Publication Date:
20101131
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
536
Dimensions:
8.31 x 5.27 x 1.22 in 1.32 lb

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » Historical

My Name Is Red (Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics) New Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$24.00 In Stock
Product details 536 pages Everyman's Library - English 9780307593924 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , One of the Nobel Prize winner’s best-loved novels, in a special edition featuring an introduction by the author and a chronology of Islamic and Western art history that provides additional context for this dazzling story of a murdered artist in sixteenth-century Istanbul.
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