My Name is Red

My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

I had wanted to save this book until after I visited Turkey. That won’t happen any time soon.

1) “‘The drinking of coffee is an absolute sin! Our Glorious Prophet did not partake of coffee because he knew it dulled the intellect, caused ulcers, hernia, and sterility; he understood that coffee was nothing but the Devil’s ruse.'” – Husret Hoja

I like when different books I read discuss the same topic. Within a short span, The Devil’s Cup, 50 Inventions, and this book have all talked about the crackdown on coffee.

2) “Of course, I could’ve immediately come back here to the home of my father, but according to the kadi judge my husband was legally alive, and were I to anger my in-laws, they might not stop at forcing my children and me back to my husband’s home, but humiliate us further by having me and my father, who had ‘detained’ me, punished.”

Shekure is probably the most complicated character in the story. She is set up as a strong heroine who must overcome societal expectations, but she is far from innocent.

3) “Even today, fearing that others will consider this proof of a lack of talent and skill, they pretend to be blind.”

Only when blind can one truly see what Allah sees.

4) “‘Each one was different from the next. They were distinctive, unique human faces!'” – Enishte

The prevailing theme of the book was the tension between the old “Herat” way of illuminations vs the new “Frankish” way of portraits. It took me a bit to wrap my head around this since drawing people as their unique selves is so ingrained in modern day (western) art.

5) “The meaning of color is that it is there before us and we see it. Red cannot be explained to he who cannot see.”

Colorblindness proves that everything is subjective.

6) “‘As I belong to the Shafu sect, there is nothing contrary to the Holy book or my creed in my granting the divorce of this unfortunate Shekure, whose husband has been missing at the front for four years.'” – Proxy Effendi

In a book full of subtle mockeries, this divorce topped them all.

7) “They’ll depict me at a gallop with both of my forelegs extended at the same time. There isn’t a horse in this world that runs like a rabbit. If one of my forelegs is forward, the other is aft.”

I very much enjoyed the chapters narrated by objects, animals, and concepts.

8) “In a Frankish painting, this would result in our stepping outside both the frame and the painting; in a painting made following the example of the great masters of Herat, it’d bring us to the place from which Allah looks upon us; in a Chinese painting, we’d be trapped, because Chinese illustrations are infinite.”

It’s hard for me to find examples of such distinct styles of the same art form nowadays, except maybe Japanese animation.

9) “‘The greatest compliment you can pay a painter is to say that his work has stimulated your own enthusiasm to illustrate.'” – Master Osman

True of any profession.

10) “‘Shekure, your husband’s here.’ ‘Which one?'” – Black, Shekure


This book reads like a classic. It has a bit of everything – mystery, love story, art commentary – all told in a unique narrative structure. It was a tough slog at times, but I’m glad I read it as it really was a rich story.

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