The Really Popular Book Club: My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
Tuesday 31 May 2022, 7.00pm to 8.00pm BST
The Really Popular Book Club is the reading group hosted by Cambridge University Libraries. Everyone is invited to join them and their special guests to discuss a really popular book, one that we all know and perhaps or perhaps not love.
This May the University Library Book Club will be discussing My Name is Red, Orhan Pamuk’s acclaimed work is a genre-bending, multi-voiced novel. The plot of My Name is Red is composed of three intersecting storylines: firstly, the story of painting and how artistic innovation clashes with established religion and culture; secondly, the story of enduring love between the two characters Black and Shekure; and thirdly and finally, the mystery of who did kill Elegant Efendi. It draws on recognisable tropes from a wide range of international literature: crime novels; Sufi poetry; travel narratives; existentialism; and postmodernism. Bringing together these rich philosophical and literary traditions, the novel furthermore complicates its discussion by placing it in the Ottoman past: so, what is this story really about? In the end, My Name is Red, is a complex and often playful novel, deeply invested in exposing the notion of self through the multiple prisms that shape and restrict its potential.
Special guest for the evening will be Dr Keya Anjaria. Keya is a Lecturer in Middle East Studies at SOAS, University of London. Her research is on the 20th and 21st century Turkish novel, comparative literature and world literature. Keya recently published an article on multilingualism in the late-Ottoman novel and is currently working on a new manuscript which seeks to explore representations of Istanbul in the Turkish novel at the turn of the millennium, including Orhan Pamuk’s Black Book.
About the book, Keya says: ‘My Name is Red is really the breakthrough novel for Pamuk internationally, with two of his translations -in French and English- winning prizes. This reflects the maturity and complexity that becomes synonymous with Pamuk’s work in the early 2000s, culminating in recognition through the Nobel Prize in Literature, 2006. For me, the brilliance of this novel (and all of Pamuk’s novels) is in his ability to confound the reader’s expectation. We are left weeding through the weight of philosophical and literary inquiry and the work is for us, the reader, to undertake, not the novel…’
As well as hearing from Keya about her thoughts and observations on My Name is Red, the Club will once again be opening the floor up to club members, to share observations and remarks. To get you thinking and to help prepare any comments or questions you might want to share, we have prepared three starter questions:
- Orhan Pamuk can be a controversial author and has been criticized for oversimplifying and misrepresenting Turkey and Islam. How do you feel about how Islam is presented, and how does it compare to representations of Islam you have read in other books?
- One of the most noticeable features of My Name is Red is the use of multiple narrators. What is the outcome of having multiple narrators (for example, for our understanding of the themes; the plot; the meaning of the novel, among other possibilities)?
- Many of the themes in My Name is Red our political (representations of Islam; of East/West relations; of power; of orthodoxy etc) but there is also a powerful love story at its center. How can we reconcile the story of love with these other themes?
Further information about The Really Popular Book Club, including our FAQs, can be found here.