What is Storytelling and What Makes a Good Storyteller?: My Name is Red

20 Jun

MyNameisRed

There’s something so refreshing about perspective. It nods to the juxtaposition between one’s heart and mind: both the reader’s and the writer’s. This is one of the many reason why I find My Name is Red so beautifully fascinating – especially since in its original form it was not written in English.

My Name Is Red is a 1998 Turkish novel by Orhan Pamuk which was translated into English in 2001. You can borrow My Name is Red from BCCLS libraries in English or Korean translations.  It is also available as an unabridged audiobook on CD.  You can check it out as an ebook or a digital audiobook from eBCCLS.

Whilst the “main” layer of Pamuk’s novel leans toward a genre of mystery, it also seamlessly blends romance and philosophical puzzles, causing one to think twice about the true narration within each chapter. The main characters in the novel are miniaturists in the Ottoman Empire, one of whom is murdered in the first chapter. In order to figure out whom is the killer, each chapter of the novel has a different narrator, giving way a different perspective and truth that gets you closer to finding the murderer. Since each chapter leads the way to a deeper and more detailed truth, there are thematic and chronological connections between chapters and because of this, unexpected voices are used. It is these chapters told by different voices, character’s, and “things” that nod to such a question that goes deeper than mind and heart: “what is a storyteller?” We are immediately thrown into a new wave of storytelling when the table of contents reveals each narrator within this novel starting from the corpse of the murdered, to a coin, to then Satan, and curiously even the color red.

The figure of the storyteller and the art of storytelling in My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk opens up new ground to the reality that is a storyteller – which also sparks this question “can a color tell a story?” Allowing you to look at things through a more colorful light, it both challenges and excites the reader to experiment with the connection one would have with the narrator.

The book plays with this idea of voice, but every voice is invented. Referencing the title, we are introduced to Red as an actual chapter and narrator in the book as it brags “The truth is I can be found everywhere”. Suggesting a small truth in this story within a story within a story, as this color can be seen everywhere. It is this impossible voice that sparked quite a kindred reaction within me. Not only is red my favorite color, it also gave me this glimpse into the child’s wonder we are initially born with. A creativity that has no bounds – an impossible voice.

Even the thought of being narrated by a color and being introduced as “My Name Is Red” is mind boggling and makes me giggle from the pure genius of the writer. Why can’t colors be storytellers? Its hues are found everywhere and probably know more about what is the truth than any living organism.

So, even though the mystery is solved in the end, it’s the colorful words and creative ways of storytelling that made this one of the most memorable books I have ever read. I am personally not a huge fan of mystery novels, but this particular one is deserving of a chance even for nonmystery fans. The way it was written and how each chapter is broken down, beautifully expands your mind and allows you to think twice about your own opinions.

If you enjoy My Name is Red you can check out several of Pamuk’s other works from the Hoboken Public Library including The Red-Haired Woman, Silent House, and The Museum of Innocence.

Written By:
Sherissa Hernandez
Adult Programming Assistant

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