Orhan Pamuk was born in Istanbul in 1952 into a family of engineers. He was educated in Istanbul at an American school. He dropped out of his architecture course to become a full-time writer and obtained a degree in journalism from Istanbul University. Since 1982, when his first novel was published to great acclaim, Pamuk has been one of Turkey's most successful authors. After three years in the USA, he returned to Istanbul. In 1995 Pamuk was among a group of authors tried for criticising the Turkish regime's treatment of the Kurds in a book of essays exercising the freedom of speech. He is the author of seven novels. The White Castle won the 1990 Independent Award for Foreign Fiction, and the publication of The New Life caused a sensation in his native land, becoming the fastest-selling book in Turkish history. In 2003 Pamuk was awarded the IMPAC Awards for My Name is Red and in 2005, the Prix Medicis Etranger for Snow.
Meshing the tropes of the tavern storyteller with the recent fashion for historical mysteries ( la The Name of the Rose and An Instance of the Fingerpost), Pamuk's novel could cause a sensation here, just as it did in his native Turkey. Set in the 16th century, at the tipping point when the Ottoman Empire was being transformed from the world's most feared superpower into an imperial backwater, Pamuk's story works on three levels. As a murder mystery, it asks who killed a gilder named Elegant, employed by an atelier of miniaturists, and then Enishte, the man who was funding the atelier? On another level, this is a story of ideas. In coffeehouses frequented by poets and artists, the backwash from the European Renaissance is starting to call into question fundamental principle of Islamic culture. Enishte, in particular, has become enamored of the perspectival method favored by Venetian painters, and wants his artists to achieve a comparable representation of reality, rather than abiding by traditional rules of representation. Pamuk not only immerses us in this debate; he makes the pictures of dogs, Satan, gold coins, etc., "talk," imitating the shadow-play method of traveling storytellers. His own ability to draw stunning pictures makes Istanbul as grimly vivid as Raskolnikov's St. Petersburg. On the third level, this is a love story. Black, a clerk and Enishte's nephew, must win Enishte's beautiful daughter, the widowed Shekure. The book's jeweled prose and alluring digressions, nesting stories within stories, make one want to say of Pamuk what one of the characters says of the head of the miniaturists' coterie, Osman: "...God had blessed him with an enchanting artistic gift and the intellect of a jinn." Widely respected abroad for his previous novels, The White Castle and The New Life, Pamuk should gain new readers here with this more accessible, charming and intellectually satisfying, narrative. (Sept. 6) Forecast: An irresistible jacket, vibrant with strong colors and an Islamic patterns, will lure browsers. Critical coverage should alert discriminating readers, and if there's handselling passion from booksellers, this could be Pamuk's breakout book. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
'Magnificent... In this world of forgeries, where some might be in danger of losing their faith in literature, Pamuk is the real thing, and this book might well be one of the few recent works of fiction that will be remembered at the end of this century.' Observer 'More than any other book I can think of, it captures not just its past and present contradictions, but also its terrible, timeless beauty. It's almost perfect, in other words. All it needs is the Nobel Prize.' New Statesman 'We in the West can only feel gratitude that such a novelist as Pamuk exists, to act as a bridge between our culture and that of a heritage quite as rich as our own.' Daily Telegraph
In 16th-century Istanbul, master miniaturist and illuminator of books Enishte Effendi is commissioned to illustrate a book celebrating the sultan. Soon he lies dead at the bottom of a well, and how he got there is the crux of this novel. A number of narrators give testimony to what they know about the circumstances surrounding the murder. The stories accumulate and become more detailed as the novel progresses, giving the reader not only a nontraditional murder mystery but insight into the mores and customs of the time. In addition, this is both an examination of the way figurative art is viewed within Islam and a love story that demonstrates the tricky mechanics of marriage laws. Award-winning Turkish author Pamuk (The White Castle) creatively casts the novel with colorful characters (including such entities as a tree and a gold coin) and provides a palpable sense of atmosphere of the Ottoman Empire that history and literary fans will appreciate. Recommended. Marc Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.