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Invitation to World Literature

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Glossary

audio-iconBihzad (or Behzad) (c. 1460-1535)
(also known as Kamal al din Bihzad) A master Persian miniaturist whose art influenced painters around the Islamic world. Like Master Osman in the novel, Bihzad was the master of a painting workshop or atelier. He trained apprentices and directed the style and execution of many other miniaturists' work. Bizad was born and worked in Herat, in modern-day Afghanistan.
Black
An artist who has returned to Constantinople, after previously being sent away for his childhood confessions of love for Shekure. His pursuit of her, and his relationship with Elegant Effendi, who draws him into the creation of the book, are central elements of the novel.
Book of Kings or Shahnameh
The epic poem Shahnameh was compiled and written down by the Persian poet Firdausi and published around 1000, after thirty years' effort. Its recounting of the mythic and historical origins of Persia has been a foundation for many later works of literature, illustrated books, and other art works. Several of the tales referred to in My Name Is Red come from the Book of Kings, and the mysterious book that is being created for the Sultan is likened to it.
audio-iconBosporus
The Strait of Bosporus is the narrow body of water that Istanbul staddles; considered the dividing line between Europe and Asia, it separates the Black Sea from the Mediterranean Sea.
Butterfly
One of the three artists asked to work on the mysterious book; a murder suspect.
audio-iconConstantinople/Istanbul
Setting of the novel and historical center of the Ottoman Empire.
audio-iconElegant Effendi
The artist responsible for the gilding of the mysterious book. He is concerned about the book, including the final illustration in an individualistic Venetian style, which troubles him. His voice (as a corpse) is the first in the novel, and the story is animated by the mystery of who killed him.
audio-iconEnishte Effendi
(Beloved Uncle) An artist who directs the creation of a mysterious commission for the Sultan, a book in the style of Italian painters, which he knows from travel to Venice. The final page of Enishte Effendi's book is missing.
Esther
A Jewish peddler, go-between, and match maker. Esther carries (and reads) notes between Hasan and Shekure, but later supports Shekure's design to evade Hasan.
Frame Story
A narrative that introduces another narrative within it: a story within a story. Frame stories are used explicitly or evoked many times in My Name Is Red, for instance when the storyteller relates stories at the coffee house, or figures from the novel discuss and embody stories and points of view of earlier historical figures (for instance, Bizhad.) The courtship of Black and Shekure is directly likened to the older tale of Husrev and Shirin.
audio-iconHasan
Shekure's brother-in-law, who may take his place as her husband if his brother is truly dead. Shekure has been living in Hasan's house, but moves to her father's home, where Hasan sends her notes via Esther.
audio-iconHusrev and Shirin
(also known as Khosrow and Shirin) The main characters of a Persian love story that is retold in the novel, which parallels the love of Shekure and Black. Husrev and Shirin's story is the subject of many miniatures. In the book, Black has created his own painting of the story with his name and Shekure's written underneath each character.
audio-iconMaster Osman
Head of the Sultan's painting workshop, or atelier, a master miniaturist and key detective in finding the stylistic clues that can disclose the identity of the murderer, Master Osman is a rival of Enishte Effendi.
audio-iconNizami (c. 1140-1210)
A Persian poet whose masterpiece The Five Jewels is a foundation for romantic epics in Middle Eastern literature, and includes the stories of Husrev and Shirin and of Leyla and Majnun, both echoed and referred to in My Name Is Red.
audio-iconNusret Hoja
A religious figure whom the storyteller ridicules. Nusret Hoja and the sect he leads, the Erzurumis, are opposed to modern practices and innovations. Their fundamentalism extends to opposition to innovation in paintings and their attacks on the café storyteller turn violent.
Olive
One of the miniaturists, also aspiring to marry Shekure.
Ottoman Empire
Established c. 1300, the Ottoman Empire at its height encompassed major regions in Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe, a reach that extended around the Mediterranean from Algiers nearly to Vienna, and as far east as northern India. The apogee of the Ottoman Empire is the first half of the 16th century; by the time of the novel, 1591, increasingly successful military challenges to the empire, as well as internal conflicts, were creating great pressures to change. The Ottoman Empire ended with the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.
audio-iconSafavid Empire
A Persian dynasty, dominant in the Middle East from 1501-1736. Military conflict between Safavid and Ottoman forces are taking part during the period of the book.
audio-iconShekure
Enishte Efendi's daughter, whom Black pursues. Before the period of the book, Shekure has married a soldier and had two sons, Shevket and Orhan. Her husband has not returned from war, and at the beginning of the book she is reluctantly living in the house of her husband's brother, Hasan.
Stork
A miniaturist, and a murder suspect. He aspires to become head of the illustrators and leader of a workshop.
audio-iconSultan Murat III (1567-1603)
(or Murad III) An actual historical figure who presided over the Ottoman Empire during the period of the book. The novel portrays Sultan Murat as commissioning creation of a secret book in the Western style. This fictional book has a real precedent: Sultans did have communication and relationships with Western artists, sitting for portraits by Venetian painters and employing Western artists—to later controversy—to decorate parts of Ottoman palaces.
Workshop
(also school or atelier) A term used to define a group of artists who, often under the guidance of a master, create artworks that reflect a common approach, heritage, and artistic style. The term may be more loosely used to describe a group of artists who have a characteristic in common, but who do not work together. In the novel, Master Osman's workshop includes direct instruction and apprenticeship in a specific style; this is in accordance with schools of painting associated with varieties of Middle Eastern and Asian art.
Venetian School
The Venetian school refers generally to artists who worked within the emerging realistic style of portraiture and perspective established by fifteenth and sixteenth century painters working in Venice, including Bellini, Titan, Tintoretto, and Veronese among many others.