Invitation to World Literature
My Name Is Red My Name is Red – Connections
In the Images of World Literature slideshow, you saw images related to My Name Is Red. Here you can find resources connected to the text and its world.
Orhan Pamuk’s works have been analyzed and reviewed in many scholarly and popular publications. A list of his works, as well as selected reviews and links to interviews can be found on his English-language site.
Azade Seyhan’s Tales of Crossed Destinies: The Modern Turkish Novel in a Comparative Context (World Literatures Reimagined) (2008) has commentary on Pamuk and other novelists.
My Name Is Red draws on both classical Middle Eastern Literature as well as contemporary writers for its inspiration. Here are some of those works:
Hakīm Abu’l-Qāsim Firdausi’s The Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings (2009), has been translated by Dick Davis, who also reviewed My Name Is Red for the Times Literary Supplement (TLS).
Nizami’s The Story of Layla & Majnun (1996) is available in a translation by Colin Turner, from 1996, Omega Publications.
Read English translations of essays and fiction excerpts by young Turkish writers at
An Anthology of Turkish Literature (2006) by K. Silay is a text used in Turkish Literature in Translation courses.
Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire, (2000) by Jason Goodwin, a British travel writer, takes an anecdotal and novelistic approach to Ottoman history.
The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age 1300-1600 (2001) by Halil Inalcik, a Turkish historian, is a scholarly work that covers the centuries framing the period of the novel.
Many novels and novelists in the traditions of World Literature have been mentioned in connection with Pamuk. Particularly interesting connections to My Name Is Red can be found in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying (whose multiple narrators Pamuk has himself mentioned as a precedent in interviews), Umberto Eco’s medieval murder mystery, The Name of the Rose, Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities (a collection of miniature city portraits, framed in an East-West encounter between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan) and the Ficciones of Jorge Luis Borges.
The Smithsonian’s museums of East Asian Art, the Freer and Sackler Galleries have online exhibits of their important Islamic Art Collections.
A special feature on the Freer and Sackler site called Haft Awrang (Seven Thrones) allows you to browse an illustrated Persian manuscript page by page, including a section that tells the story of Layla and Majnun.
Iran Review has an article on Persian Miniatures with ancient and modern examples.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has extensive holdings in Islamic Art, including over one hundred pages from manuscripts from the era of My Name Is Red.
An academic article from Asianart.com analyzes a single page of a Mughal album, with attention to how single lines of the image of a horse are drawn.
Orhan Pamuk has given talks and lectures around the world, including the 2009-2010 Norton Lectures at Harvard University, a series he entitled “The Naïve and the Sentimental Novelist.” These lectures are forthcoming in early 2011; videotapes of them are available at the Lamont Poetry Room at Harvard University. More information can be found at
Read “My Father’s Suitcase,” Pamuk’s Nobel lecture, delivered on December 7, 2006.
and the site also includes other information and addresses by the author.
A Web site on Ottoman history and culture in association with a faculty member at Bogazici University.
A comprehensive list of links on Turkey from the University of Michigan.
Cultural and historical information from the Iran Chamber Society.
Unit 1 The Epic of Gilgamesh
The first known human story is that of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk. Images of artifacts from ancient Iraq mix with beautiful illustrations, dance, and costume to tell of the relations between gods and mortals, the search for friendship, love, and immortality. Featured cast members include Assyriologist Ben Foster, comic book illustrator Jim Starlin, and poet and playwright Yusef Komunyakaa.
Unit 2 My Name Is Red
Both an historical novel and a graphic murder mystery set among the miniaturists of the Ottoman court. With its focus on Istambul, a major crossroads of the world, it tells of the artistic/cultural contest between Europe and the East. Cast members include the book's Nobel-prize winning author, Orhan Pamuk, and its English translator, Erdağ Göknar.
Unit 3 The Odyssey
Odysseus must travel the known and unknown world before he can return home to his beloved island kingdom of Ithaca. What does this ancient story say to readers today? In this program, Odysseus's story is given ancient and modern historical and philosophical context, and illustrated with centuries of art. Featured are theater director Mary Zimmerman, actor-director Tim Blake-Nelson, and psychologist/author Jonathan Shay.
Unit 4 The Bacchae
The city of Thebes is torn apart by the conflicting demands of reason and religion, as the disguised god Dionysus returns to his home town demanding to be worshipped. Opposing him is the young king Pentheus, who is doomed to suffer the ultimate punishment for his disbelief. Featured speakers include world-renowned playwright/author Wole Soyinka, actor Alan Cumming, and Daniel Mendelsohn of Bard College.
Unit 5 The Bhagavad Gita
This epic tale of the warrior-prince Arjuna confronting a life-or-death dilemma during civil war presents a unique and powerful philosophy of duty, discipline, and serving a higher purpose. Beautiful illustrations connect the story with its rich history and culture. Featured speakers include Sheldon Pollock, Professor of Sanskrit Studies and acclaimed composer Philip Glass.
Unit 6 The Tale of Genji
This portrait of court life in medieval Japan follows the life and exploits of the great Genji. Written by Murasaki Shikibu, a lady of the Japanese court, it provides an insider's view of Japanese court life, the official and behind the screen. Art, clothing, music from the time of the novel illustrate the obserations of authors Jane Smiley and Chiori Miyagawa, among others.
Unit 7 Journey to the West
The powerful and mischievous Stone Monkey King brings chaos to heaven and earth. Freed from a mountain prison in order to guard a Chinese monk on his journey to retrieve the Buddhist scriptures from India, Monkey seeks his own spiritual transformation. Modern performance, contemporary art, and Buddhist philosophers provide a rich context to the ancient tale. Featured cast members include playwright David Henry Huang, storyteller Diane Wolkstein, and translator Professor Anthony Yu.
Unit 8 Popol Vuh
The Mayan book of creation, the dawn of life, and the glories of gods and kings. This magnificent epic was saved from destruction at the hands of the Spanish by Quiché chroniclers. Once repressed, the story is now interwoven with the history of today's Mayan people. Featured speakers include archaeologist Richard Hanson, humorist Mo Rocca, and Guatemalan artist Shuni Giron.
Unit 9 Candide
A satirical novel following the travails of Candide, a hopeless optimist whose faith in his tutor's mantra that his is "the best of all possible worlds" is tested beyond all limits. Voltaire's challenge to the aristocracy of his day proves refreshingly amusing and biting today. Original illustrations, songs, and comic book figures plumb the depths of this satire. Featured speakers include director Harold Ramis, actress Kristin Chenoweth, and cartoonist Chris Ware.
Unit 10 Things Fall Apart
In this foundational modern African novel, Chinua Achebe's story follows the lives of people trying to understand which belief systems deserve their loyalty. The protagonist, Okonkwo is a tribal leader who battles neighboring villages, the English, and his own demons in early colonial Nigeria. The perspectives of readers from around the world reveal the novel's universal themes. Cast members include playwright and professor Tess Onwueme and theater director Chuck Mike.
Unit 11 One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel García Márquez's multigenerational saga of the Buendía family in the isolated town of Macondo inaugurated the boom in Latin American literature in the 1970s and marked the beginning of magical realism. Writer Sandra Cisneros and scholar of Latin American literature, Ilan Stavans lend their thoughts and voices to the discussion of this epic novel.
Unit 12 The God of Small Things
Fraternal twins Rahel and Estha struggle to reclaim their lives after their childhood is destroyed by tragic circumstances. As past and present merge in this narrative of Indian society and politics, the many layers of the caste system are mirrored in the poetic and inventive language of the author. Featured speakers include Simon Gikandi of Princeton University, author Evelyn Ch'ien.
Unit 13 The Thousand and One Nights
Shahrazad must hold the interest of her despotic husband the sultan with nightly tales, lest she lose her life in the morning. This wellspring of storytelling, circulating from medieval Persia to Egypt to Iraq, like its wily raconteur lives on in many modern adaptations. Art, performance, and film images are employed to show the collection's broad span of influence. Featured speakers include Marin Alsop, musical director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Aly Jetha and Shabnam Rezai, co-producers of the 1001 Nights animated series.