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Study Guide to Pamuk, My Name is Red (2)

Written by eastern writer on Friday, May 23, 2008

More Notes and Questions on My Name Is Red

(176) Gazzali = Abu Hamid Al Ghazzali (1058-1111), expert in Islamic law, theologian, mystic, and author of many works, most notably The Revival of Religious Sciences, which Armstrong calls "the most-quoted Muslim text after the Quran and the ahadith [sayings of the prophet]." The book "provides Muslims with a daily spiritual and practical regimen," designed to prepare them for "direct knowledge of God" (Armstrong 88). Al Ghazzali is credited with integrating mysticism "into mainstream Muslim life" (Armstrong 90).

(180) jinn = "elemental spirits" (Pickthall 416), either helpful or harmful, genies or demons.

(184) the "Family of Imran" chapter = the third sura, or chapter of the Koran. Some verses are:
125. "Yea,—if ye remain firm, and act aright, even if the enemy should rush here on you in hot haste, your Lord would help you with five thousand angels making a terrific onslaught.
126. Allah made it but a message of hope for you, and an assurance to your hearts: (in any case) there is no help except from Allah. The Exalted, the Wise . . .
145. Nor can a soul die except by Allah's leave, the term being fixed as by writing. If any do desire a reward in this life, We shall give it to him; and if any do desire a reward in the Hereafter, We shall give it to him. And swiftly shall We reward those that (serve us with) gratitude.
(191-192) Hanefi . . . Shafii creed—"By the middle of the tenth century . . . there were four recognized law schools, each regarded with Muslim egalitarianism as equally valid: the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii and Hanbali schools" (Armstrong 65).

1. In what ways can you explain Shekure's psychology? For example, she says Black has attained " a kind of perfection" (138), yet she also says she loves Hasan (140, 214). See also pp. 45 and 212-215.

2. Why do you think Pamuk includes seemingly unnecessary crude or realistic scenes in this book? (See pp. 31-35, 148-150, 217-219.)

3. What do you think Black means when he contrasts truth with sincerity (154-55)? In what ways can artists also be truthful but insincere?

4. Why do you think the murderer tells Enishte Effendi (Uncle) his full name (156)? Why do you think the murderer wants to see the final painting? Why do you think he confesses to Uncle that he's the murderer (154-165)? Why do you think he kills Uncle? Relate your answers to the discussions of style (163, 167-68) and "respect" (170-173).

5. Why do you think this novel is titled My Name Is Red? (In what ways can you relate the meanings of red (185-188) to some meanings in the novel? (See also pp. 169, 173, 197, 208-09, 230, 250, 255, 312-313, 349, 404.)

Further Notes and Questions on My Name Is Red

(259) the celebrated poet ponders in his masnawi = Maulawna Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207-73), Sufi mystic, writer of the Masnavi (sometimes spelled Mathnawi) "which consists of six books of about 25,000 rhyming couplets." The verses express mystic "ecstasy in poetry . . . by shifting images and Aesop-like morality tales. The unity of God, perceived throughout the natural order, is constantly and paradoxically proclaimed" (Ruthven 246). Rumi's poems are quite popular today. Here's a link to some short reviews of transaltions in English.

(367) the sect of the Kalenderis = a sect of wandering dervishes who "in the eyes of the people . . . sought not fame and respect, but blame and censure . . . They avoided all forms of ostentation, all external organization and symbols, and their forms of worship were secret and esoteric. They established no links with the state and were more or less opposed to authority" (Inalcik 191). Many shaved their heads, and "some took their contempt for official Islamic mores so far as to invite accusations of debauchery" (Ruthven 257). See pp. 306-309, 369, 375, 394.

(378) the Bektashis = another unorthodox Sufi sect. The influence of shamanism is "particularly clear in [their] ecstatic dances" (Inalcik 197).

(381) verses at the end of 'The Cow' = Koran, 2.286.

6. Why do you think that Master Osman thinks that "magnificent works of art cannot be made as they once were" (233) and that "all of it'll be forgotten" (261)? (See also pp. 317-318.) In what ways are his reasons like / unlike the Enishte's reasons for saying "our methods will die out, our colors will fade" (171)?

7. Why do you think Master Osman reacts to the illustrations in the "secret" book (239, 249-251) as he does?
Why do you think Shekure fears that Black is the murderer (281-94)? Why do you think that she has the urge to return to her husband's house (293) and then does return (339-45) and then goes back with Black (345-349)? (See also her "conditions" on pp. 190-91.) In what ways might Shekure's situation be like / unlike that of the storyteller who dresses up as a woman (353-354) or like / unlike the woman in his story (355-56)?

8. Why do you think it's important that style, or a "secret signature" (253) is what reveals the murderer? (For more on style, see pp. 160-161, 252, 268-69, 287, 290, 309, 315, 318, 331-335, 375-77, 381, 391-94, 396-400.)

9. Early on the murderer says that he is "completely divided" (97). What do you think he means by that? (Look for examples of his duality.) In what ways can you relate the divisions between East and West, between Venetian and Ottoman styles, to the murderer's division? (For East / West, see pp. 161, 230, 287, 354, 400.)

10. Name some differences between blindness and sight. (See pp. 80-81, 285-87, 321-24 [Bihzad]; 76-77, 311-12 [Sheikh Ali].) Why do you think the verse "the blind and the seeing are not equal" (Koran 35.19; 287, 380) is important to the miniaturists?

11. Why do you think Master Osman scrapes away the eyes in some paintings (321)? Why do you think Master Osman blinds himself (321-24)? Why do you think Black and the others blind the murderer (388-97)?

12. The story of Ibn Shakir inventing Islamic painting is referred to at least three times—pages 69-70, 329-30, and 400. What do you think is the point of the story each time it is told or alluded to? Why do you think Pamuk repeats or elaborates this and other stories and motifs?

13. Why do you think so many characters resort to violence towards the end of the book? (See pp. 346-335, 360-65 [Butterfly], 372-73 [Stork], 387-405 [Black, the murderer, and Hasan].) In what ways might the violence relate to divided selves, or the division between East and West? (See questions 9-10.) Who or what do you think is ultimately responsible for this violence? In what ways might Master Osman be responsible? (See pages on fathers—295, 311, 335-36, 376-77, 395-96.)

14. In what ways are the murderer and Hasan alike? cf. 367. Why do you think Pamuk resolves the murderer's and Hasan's stories as he does?

Works Cited

o Armstrong, Karen. Islam: A Short History. New York: Modern Library, 2000.
o Inalcik, Halil. The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age 1300-1600. 1973. London: Phoenix P, 2000.
o Pickthall, Mohammed Marmaduke. The Meaning of the Glorious Koran. New York: NAL / Meridian, 1997.
o Ruthven, Malise. Islam in the World. New York: Oxford UP, 1984.


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