The story takes place in 16th century Turkey. The Sultan wants to have the best illustrators in his realm illustrate a book. As the Sultan wants to impress his Western relations, he wants the book to be illustrated in a modern and western way. This is quite controversial and causes much discussion between the elder and more traditional illustrators, and those who want their style to evolve.
Then one day, one of the miniaturists working on the manuscript is missing. His body is found a few days later. Black, also a miniaturist, is told by the Sultan to find out who killed him. If he does not succeed, he will not be able to marry Shekure, the woman he has loved for twelve years.
What makes the story special is its structure. There are 59 short chapters in which the different characters take turns at being the narrator. Sometimes even the murderer speaks (but he always remains anonymous). Not all the narrators are major characters, or even human. For example, a dog, a drawing, 'death' and a golden coin also get their chance.
It is soon clear that the murderer has to be one of the victim's close colleagues: Stork, Butterfly or Olive. As a reader, one can gather clues, but Pamuk will have you changing your mind over and over again until the very end.
Next to a murder mystery, 'My Name is Red' is also a love story that involves Black and Shekure, Shekure's jealous brother-in-law and a Jewish matchmaker. Thirdly, it is also a philosophical debate about innovation versus tradition in art. Finally, it is a historical novel that tells one more about art and politics in 16th century Istanbul.
This report prepared by L. Peeters