Giving Voice to Art

An especially interesting part of Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red is the format of the novel. It is split up into lots of short chapters with alternating narrators and these narrators are sometimes pretty unconventional. In addition to having the corpse of Elegant act as a narrator, the pictures hung up in the coffee shop act as the voice of several chapters. Instead of using ekphrasis to describe the drawings, Pamuk has the coffee shop storyteller act as a voice for the art. He is speaking as art rather than about it. This seems to elevate the drawings from being just a backdrop for his stories, showing that they have the power to tell stories on their own.

In the chapter I am a Tree, the storyteller seems to almost be making fun of the fear that all representational art is idolatrous. The tree says, “Since I’m not representing something in a book, what comes to mind is that my picture will be nailed to a wall and the likes of pagans and infidels will prostrate themselves before me in worship” (47). This is made to seem ridiculous coming from the image of a hastily drawn tree on a rough sheet of paper. In addition, even though the tree is not part of a book, the fact that the storyteller is speaking for it shows that it can still be part of a story. Art can act as its own story, whether being used to illustrate written words or not. By giving the pictures a voice, Pamuk almost brings them to life, showing that they have a purpose and a story to tell. They are meant to reveal meaning, and anyone who uses them as an idol to worship does not understand their purpose.

One Reply to “Giving Voice to Art”

  1. Katie,

    I also found the format of the book interesting. At first, due to the similarity of narrative voice in each chapter, I thought each chapter was the same narrator. What was shocking was not that we were meeting someone new with each chapter but that we kept learning more about the narrator with each chapter. Okay he’s dead. His name is Black, and wait he’s a dog. A dead dog named black that was murdered… by himself? I was very confused.

    Obviously my original interpretation was wrong (I discovered this after the murderer chapter), I learned to appreciate the changing perspectives because, like you said, we get to hear the voice of art. This is not a study of art in the classical sense, but a study of art from the perspective of the art’s purpose.

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