Tuesday, June 15, 2010
'My Name is Black'
I was born in 1555 in Istanbul. My father was a preacher and a teacher of religious texts. He travelled to many places and occasionally returned to Istanbul. He was not in good terms with my mother even in his small stays with us. This made my mother and I took refuge in the house of my mother's younger sister, fearing his cruel treatment to my mother, whose husband is a miniaturist. I called him Enishte, in whose house i saw my cousin Shekure and fell head over heels in love with her. She was twelve years younger than I. I died in 1617. I was resurrected back to life in 1998 by a Turkish Man, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006 for many of his literary achievements including the exhumation of me back to life. Now I live in 'Benim Adim Kirmizi'. I was born to the English audience in 2001 in the book 'My Name is Red'. You can meet me, if you happen to buy a copy, or even borrow from many of the resources, (you may even think of stealing) of the translation 'My Name is Red'. Thanks to Pamuk, who is presently a teacher in Columbia University, i am known to so many. Let me briefly narrate my story.
I returned to Istanbul after wandering in the Ottoman Empire for twelve years having several stints as clerk, bearer of messages, errand man to Pashas and Clerics and Sultans. I chose to be a clerk and did not want to be a miniaturist and a gilder of paintings. My uncle whom you know as 'Enishte' was very much interested in teaching everything about miniature paintings. Two things deterred him from doing so. My imperviousness in knowing and understanding the technicalities of style in painting and my falling in love with his daughter. Shekure was twelve and i was twenty-four but she was the more matured of the two. Sultan Murat III was the ruler of Istanbul when i returned to Istanbul. He was interested in painting and had summoned my uncle secretly in making a book of miniature-paintings. One of the painters or miniaturists was murdered a couple of days before my arrival. He was 'Elegant Effendi', good at gilding and decorating paintings. My uncle sought my help knowing about my return to Istanbul in completing the secret mission, though i was not a good miniaturist or rather even a drawer of images. To be honest what brought me to Istanbul was the countenance of my dear Shekure, which i almost forgot after three or four years after my departure. She fell in love with a Spahi Cavalryman and married him and now was the mother of two boys.
After my return, i first saw her face through a window. She sent me letters through the Jewess. Her husband had been missing for four years now, never returned from war and she had spent a few years in her in-law's house, where she was parrying the overtures of her husband's brother Hasan. She came to stay with her lonely father after sometime. I was a bit confused at the outset reading her letters that whether she was in love with me or not. She returned to me the kerchief i made for her with the drawing of Husrev and Shirin from the story of the twelfth century poet Nizami Aruzi. My love towards Shekure was responsible for me accepting the task from my Enishte for the completion of the secret book. Sultan Murat III summoned my uncle to do a book of miniature paintings that would depict his achievements and contain his self-portrait, a great sin according to Prophet Mohammad and tenets of Islam, on the model of Franks and Europeans. The final picture of the Sultan was responsible for the death of 'Elegant Effendi'. I faced a lot of hardships due to the task i undertook for my love. My uncle was murdered and i was arrested on suspicion. The great miniaturist of that time Master Osman was entrusted with the job of finding the killer.
The killer had left a trail in the well where he had dropped the corpse of 'Elegant'. There was a portrait of a horse which should have been drawn by one of the apprentices of Master Osman. Three of the apprentices were highly talented and nicknamed 'Butterfly', 'Stork', 'Olive'. Olive was a Persian Miniaturist who was also a purist and never wanted the old works of great masters like 'Bihzad' and others to have been polluted through the violation of techniques of them and blind immitation of the works of the infidels (Franks and Europeans). After much struggle, he was caught and he was eventually murdered by my archenemy Hasan. In the meantime, the two of the boys grew hostile towards me and with much effort I was able to gain a position of getting accepted by them. I realised my long dream of thirty-six years marrying Shekure and living with her for twenty-six years. I thank the Turkish Master-Story teller Orhan Pamuk for writing about me and my love with Shekure, which was the one like that was depicted in the miniature paintings on the love of 'Laila and Mejnun', and 'Husrev and Shirin'. The legend has it that Shirin fell love on seeing the painting of Husrev that was hung on the branch of a desolate tree. I got elevated to such position through the story of mine by Pamuk. If you want to know more about style, schools and miniaturists of Ottoman Empire and Persian Empire with the mingling of Mingian and Chinese Style, do read my story as told by the Turkish Master, Pamuk.