My Name is Red

My Name is Red

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of My Name is Red published in 2002.
Chapter 3 Quotes

I'm a dog, and because you humans are less rational beasts than I, you're telling yourselves, "Dogs don't talk." Nevertheless, you seem to believe a story in which corpses speak and characters use words they couldn't possibly know. Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.

Related Characters: The Dog (speaker)
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage is from the opening of the chapter narrated by the dog, whom the storyteller is impersonating to entertain the patrons of the coffeehouse. The dog has boasted about his long canines, and he now taunts the audience for believing that “dogs don’t talk.” On one level, this statement is tongue-in-cheek; after all, it is not truly a dog talking, but a man impersonating a dog. The claim that humans are less rational than dogs is both a joke and a provocation to religious zealots who argue that humans have higher status than other animals because of their rational capacities.

This quotation can also be read as a statement about the novel as a whole, as, throughout the book, Pamuk plays with conventions of realism (such as by having corpses speak from the afterlife). The dog’s reference to characters using “words they couldn’t possibly know” could point to an evaluation of the characters’ intelligence or worldliness, but it could also refer to the way writers of historical fiction must, to some degree, use the language of their own era because, if the characters spoke in a way that was entirely historically accurate, contemporary readers would not be able to understand them.


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I heard tell that this Husret Hoja, taking matters even further, declared with spittle flying from his mouth, "Ah, my devoted believers! The drinking of coffee is an absolute sin! Our Glorious Prophet did not partake of coffee because he knew it dulled the intellect, caused ulcers, hernia and sterility; he understood that coffee was nothing but the Devil's ruse. Coffeehouses are places where pleasure-seekers and wealthy gadabouts sit knee-to-knee, involving themselves in all sorts of vulgar behavior; in fact, even before the dervish houses are closed, coffeehouses ought to be banned. Do the poor have enough money to drink coffee? Men frequent these places, become besotted with coffee and lose control of their mental faculties to the point that they actually listen to and believe what dogs and mongrels have to say.

Related Characters: The Dog (speaker), Nesrut, Hoja of Erzurum
Related Symbols: Coffee
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

At the coffeehouse, the dog has been telling stories about the “Husret Hoja,” a thinly-veiled version of the Hoja of Erzurum. The stories are intended to make the hoja sound ridiculous, and this passage is no exception. Despite its satirical tone, however, the passage also explains some of the actual reasons for religious opposition to coffee. Under strict interpretations of Islam, Muslims should avoid behaviors that did not exist during the time of the Prophet Muhammad as much as possible. The hoja also opposes coffee because of its association with earthly pleasure and “vulgar behavior.” Significantly, the hoja’s words illustrate the fact that the conflict between strict and liberal interpretations of Islam during this period was closely related to class tensions. Religious zealots like the hoja fashioned themselves as representatives of poor (and rural) people against the cosmopolitan, liberal elite.

Chapter 4 Quotes

Nevertheless, being a murderer takes some getting used to. I can't stand being at home, so I head out to the street. I can’t stand my street, so I walk on to another, and then another. As I stare at people's faces, I realize that many of them believe they're innocent because they haven't yet had the opportunity to snuff out a life. It's hard to believe that most men are more moral or better than me simply on account of some minor twist of fate. At most, they wear somewhat stupider expressions because they haven't yet killed, and like all fools, they appear to have good intentions.
After I took care of that pathetic man, wandering the streets of Istanbul for four days was enough to confirm that everyone with a gleam of cleverness in his eye and the shadow of his soul cast across his face was a hidden assassin. Only imbeciles are innocent.

Related Characters: The Murderer (speaker), Elegant
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

The murderer has admitted that, at first, he found it difficult to believe that he had actually killed Elegant and that he still sometimes struggles to acknowledge the fact that he has “committed any crime at all.” In this passage, he discusses the sense of alienation he feels among the people of Istanbul who “believe they’re innocent.” The murderer has a very cynical idea about innocence and morality, arguing that people are only innocent because they haven’t had an “opportunity to snuff out a life.” This provocative statement raises the question of whether the murderer sincerely believes this, or whether he is simply trying to comfort himself and ease his own loneliness and guilt.

This passage is also significant in light of the murder mystery plot that lies at the heart of the novel. Over the course of the book, the search to discover the murderer’s identity provides narrative momentum, as both the characters and the reader search for clues that will help determine who is innocent and who is guilty. Yet the murderer argues that crime is more a matter of circumstance than disposition; if this is true, trying to discover who murdered elegant based on different characters’ personalities and possible motivations may prove impossible.

Not one could approach my mastery in imbuing illustrations with the poetry of the soul, not even in gilding. I'm not bragging, but explaining this to you so you might fully understand me. Over time, jealousy becomes an element as indispensable as paint in the life of the master artist.

Related Characters: The Murderer (speaker)
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

The murderer has explained that he has taken to going to the coffeehouse at night in order to ease his loneliness. Most miniaturists go to the coffeehouse every night, but the murderer dislikes these other men, accusing them of being gossip-prone and jealous of his superior skills as an artist. He boastfully states that he is the best miniaturist, before assuring the reader that he is “not bragging.” This passage explores the link between the murderer’s identity as a criminal and his identity as a talented artist; both isolate the murderer from other people, albeit for different reasons. The murderer’s statement about jealousy is also important. Every character in the novel experiences jealousy, a form of desire that is often shown to be one of the prime motivators for the characters’ actions.

Where there is true art and genuine virtuosity the artist can paint an incomparable masterpiece without leaving even a trace of his identity.

Related Characters: The Murderer (speaker)
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

The murderer has stated that if he names even one detail about Elegant’s death, the reader will identify him straight away. He goes on to bring up the question of individual style, and whether miniaturists have such a style. This statement further emphasizes the connection between the murderer’s identity as a criminal and his vocation as an artist. In the miniaturist tradition, painters are not supposed to leave any hint of their own unique style on their work; such a signature, even if left deliberately, would be thought of as a flaw. Instead, the best miniaturists are those whose work is least distinguishable from that of the great masters. In this sense, miniaturist painting is comparable to murder, as both require the person committing the act to leave no trace of their own identity.

While the murderer is confident that he paints without a signature style (which also suggests that he has left no identifiable clues at the scene of the crime), it’s not clear whether it is truly possible to paint without leaving a trace of one’s identity, or to commit a crime without leaving any clues. Humans are neither all-powerful nor perfect, and thus human endeavors arguably all carry traces of human flaws—flaws which can be evidence of a person’s unique identity.

Chapter 9 Quotes

Perhaps one day someone from a distant land will listen to this story of mine. Isn't this what lies behind the desire to be inscribed in the pages of a book? Isn't it just for the sake of this delight that sultans and viziers proffer bags of gold to have their histories written? When I feel this delight, just like those beautiful women with one eye on the life within the book and one eye on the life outside, I, too, long to speak with you who are observing me from who knows which distant time and place. I'm an attractive and intelligent woman, and it pleases me that I'm being watched. And if I happen to tell a lie or two from time to time it's so you don't come to any false conclusions about me.

Related Characters: Shekure (speaker)
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

Shekure has recapped the story of her relationship with Black, who has returned to Istanbul after Enishte exiled him for 12 years as punishment for falling in love with her. Now that Black has returned, Shekure has taken to spying on him when he visits Enishte’s house and secretly sending him notes. She then switches to addressing the reader directly, saying: “Don’t be surprised that I’m talking to you.” In this passage, she describes the delight she experiences from imagining that someone in an unknown time and place will read about her story.

This is a metafictional moment in the narrative, meaning a passage in which a character self-consciously refers to the fact that they are in a story. Shekure playfully indicates that she may be an unreliable narrator with the humorously ironic admission that she might lie in order to make sure the reader doesn’t get any wrong ideas about her. This confession speaks to a major theme in the novel—the gulf between who we think we are and how other people perceive us. Shekure likes the idea of being immortalized in a book, but is wary about being misrepresented or misunderstood. This anxiety conveys the fact that being depicted in any art form—whether a painting or a novel—is a mixed blessing, as it leaves the subject unable to control how their story is interpreted.

Chapter 18 Quotes

When a God-fearing man like myself unexpectedly becomes a murderer, it takes time to adjust. I've adopted a second voice, one befitting a murderer, so that I might still carry on as though my old life continued. I am speaking now in this derisive and devious second voice, which I keep out of my regular life. From time to time, of course, you'll hear my familiar regular voice, which would've remained my only voice had I not become a murderer. But when I speak under my workshop name, I'll never admit to being "a murderer." Let no one try to associate these two voices, I have no individual style or flaws in artistry to betray my hidden persona. Indeed, I believe that style, or for that matter, anything that serves to distinguish one artist from another, is a flaw––not individual character, as some arrogantly claim.

Related Characters: The Murderer (speaker)
Page Number: 97-98
Explanation and Analysis:

At Elegant’s funeral, the murderer proclaims his sorrow in such a dramatic way that he begins to fear he is overdoing it and goes to hide behind a tree. He has explained the way each of the master miniaturists came to have their own nickname, and how happy it used to make him to be addressed by Master Osman and feel his love and aspiration. In this passage, the murderer elaborates on the connection between murder and artistry, proposing that individual style unites the two. He also emphasizes the idea that he has become alienated from himself (as well as those around him) ever since he committed his crime.

The murderer explains that he has had to develop a whole separate identity and narrative voice in his mind in order to be able to bear the fact that he is both a master miniaturist and a murderer. This is significant, as the murderer literally speaks in two separate voices in the novel, narrating some chapters as “Olive” and some as “the murderer.” Even when the murder mystery is solved and Olive is identified as the murderer, these narrative voices never merge into one, and this passage helps to explain why. It is impossible for the murderer to reconcile his own vision of himself with the reality that he has taken another man’s life.

Chapter 20 Quotes

He was frightened because he suddenly understood––and perhaps desired––that Islamic artistry perfected and securely established by the old masters of Herat, would meet its end on account of the appeal of portraiture.
"However, it was as if I too wanted to feel extraordinary different and unique," he said. As if prodded by the Devil, he felt himself strongly drawn to what he feared, "How should I say it? It is as if this were a sin of desire, like growing arrogant before God, like considering oneself of utmost importance, like situating oneself at the center of the world."

Related Characters: Black (speaker), Enishte
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

At Enishte’s house, Black has been listening to his uncle tell stories about the time he was sent on a diplomatic mission to Venice. Enishte has described the way in which the Venetian paintings—executed in the realist style, with the subjects placed in the centre of the portrait—both frightened and intrigued him. In this passage, Enishte further examines his mixed feelings about the European style, and Black notes his concern that a desire to paint in this manner will be the death of the Islamic miniaturist tradition. These realizations convey the idea that there is something dangerous about both European painting and desire in general, particularly when that desire manifests itself as a kind of self-centeredness and competitiveness with God.

At the same time, Enishte also speaks honestly about the fact that this sinful desire—and the fear that accompanies it—is appealing. This is important not only on a thematic level, but also in what it tells us about Enishte’s character. Many of the other characters in the novel—particularly the three master miniaturists—keep negative feelings (such as jealousy, fear, arrogance, and hatred) secret, confessing them to the reader but not to others around them. Enishte is more open and honest about the ambiguities that define life as a miniaturist and religious believer—ambiguities that also pervade the cosmopolitan world of Istanbul. In this sense, Enishte can be seen as having more wisdom and moral integrity than the other characters.

Chapter 28 Quotes

“Why did they all believe that painting would bar them from the gates of Heaven?"
"You know quite well why! Because they remembered Our Prophet's warning that on Judgment Day, Allah will punish painters most severely."
"Not painters," corrected Enishte Effendi. "Those who make idols. And this is not from the Koran but from Bukhari."
"On Judgment Day, the idol makers will be asked to bring the images they've created to life," I said cautiously. "Since they'll be unable to do so their lot will be to suffer the torments of Hell. Let it not be forgotten that in the Glorious Koran, ‘creator’ is one of the attributes of Allah. It is Allah who is creative, who brings that which is not into existence, who gives life to the lifeless. No one ought to compete with Him. The greatest of sins is committed by painters who presume to do what He does, who claim to be as creative as He."

Related Characters: The Murderer (speaker), Enishte (speaker)
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

The murderer has gone to Enishte’s house, and the two men have been discussing the secret book. Enishte has asked the murderer if he is afraid of the illustrations; although the murderer did not answer directly, he expressed concern about the rumors that are now spreading about the book. In this passage, the two discuss the question of whether or not painting itself is a sin. The murderer takes a surprisingly conservative view, perhaps in order to antagonize Enishte. At the same time, the murderer does seem to be speaking out of a place of genuine fear.

This passage highlights the ambiguity of religious doctrine and illustrates the way in which this can cause neurosis in believers. Enishte is confident that painting does not constitute idolatry, but there are certainly many within the world of the novel who disagree with him—particularly when it comes to the European style of painting, which the miniaturists have used for the Sultan’s secret book. It is easy to sympathize with the murderer’s anxiety; at the same time, the murderer’s fears are somewhat ironic given that he has already committed a much more serious crime of killing someone.

Chapter 37 Quotes

The world was faithful to the illustrations and legends that I'd avidly scrutinized over the years. I beheld Creation with awe and surprise as if for the first time, but also as if it'd somehow emerged from my memory. What I called "memory" contained an entire world: With time spread out infinitely before me in both directions, I understood how the world as I first experienced it could persist afterward as memory.

Related Characters: Enishte (speaker)
Page Number: 229
Explanation and Analysis:

Enishte is narrating from the afterlife, and has described how pleased he was with his funeral. He then goes on to explain what happened immediately after he died, when his soul was liberated from his body and rose to the heavens, during which time he witnessed an explosion of thousands of different colors. In this passage, Enishte’s claim that he experiences the world as a “memory” could have two possible meanings. On one hand, this statement could broadly refer to the knowledge of Creation from which Enishte was barred as a soul bound to a mortal body. However, Enishte’s words also connect more directly to the idea that miniaturist painters paint from their “memory” of the world as Allah sees it. This interpretation is supported by Enishte’s observation that world is “faithful to the illustrations” he spent his life looking at.

“East and West belong to me.”

Related Characters: Enishte
Page Number: 230
Explanation and Analysis:

Enishte feels a profound sense of peace and sees a brilliant, vivid red; he then realizes that he is in the presence of Allah. Enishte knows that Allah has already asked the angels about him and that the angels will have praised him. He explains that during the last two decades of his life he was influenced by “the infidel illustrations that I saw in Venice” and that he organized the creation of a book in this manner. Allah replies: “East and West belong to me.” This statement indicates that Enishte’s open and tolerant attitude of the European style was correct and not an offense to God.

It also serves as a rejection of the religious orthodoxy and prejudice exhibited by some characters in the book, such as the Erzurumis. Allah’s words suggest that it could even be seen as sinful to presume that European culture is blasphemous, because all human culture is part of God’s creation. This quotation is also particularly significant in relation to the city of Istanbul, which is known as the meeting point between East and West.

Chapter 46 Quotes

I had the urge to say, "It was Satan who first said ‘l'! It was Satan who adopted a style. It was Satan who separated East from West."

Related Characters: The Murderer (speaker)
Page Number: 287
Explanation and Analysis:

The murderer, in an increasingly intense state of turmoil, has gone to the coffeehouse, where he has told two stories about blindness and style. As he is about to begin the third, he is distracted by the storyteller, who is beginning to narrate a story from the perspective of Satan. This passage contains the murderer’s horror at the storyteller’s decision and further conveys the murderer’s generally frantic state of mind. The murderer seems to want to blame Satan for all the problems facing the miniaturists, from the issue of individual style to the tension between the Ottomans and Europeans.

This short quotation contains a number of important allusions to other parts of the book. The murderer’s claim that it was Satan who separated East from West echoes Allah’s statement that “East and West belong to me.” This statement seems to imply that, since Allah says that East and West are not truly separate, Satan must have created the illusion of their separation. The murderer’s argument that Satan should be blamed for first saying “I” is also significant in light of the fact that each chapter of the novel begins with “I.” By associating first-person perspective with the devil, the murderer suggests that the whole way in which the book is narrated could be considered sinful.

Chapter 47 Quotes

I believe in myself, and, most of the time, pay no mind to what's been said about me. Tonight, however, I've come to this coffeehouse to set my miniaturist and calligrapher brethren straight about certain gossip, lies and rumors.
Of course, because I'm the one speaking, you're already prepared to believe the exact opposite of what I say. But you're smart enough to sense that the opposite of what I say is not always true, and though you might doubt me, you're astute enough to take an interest in my words: You're well aware that my name, which appears in the Glorious Koran fifty-two times, is one of the most frequently cited.
All right then, let me begin with God's book, the Glorious Koran. Everything about me in there is the truth. Let it be known that when I say this, I do so with the utmost humility. For there's also the issue of style. It has always caused me great pain that I'm belittled in the Glorious Koran. But this pain is my way of life. This is simply the way it is.

Related Characters: Satan (speaker)
Page Number: 287-288
Explanation and Analysis:

The storyteller’s impersonation of Satan begins with Satan claiming he usually does not care what is said about him, but that he now wishes to clear up certain rumors and lies that have been circulating about him. Once again, this relates to the book’s recurring observation that a person’s perception of their own identity can differ from the way they’re perceived by others. Satan is accustomed to people distrusting him and he doesn’t seem to feel particularly hopeful that he will earn the audience’s sympathy, yet he feels compelled to try anyway—a testament to the desire to take control of one’s own identity through narrative, which is one of the major themes of the book.

Satan’s framing of his objections to the way he is depicted in the Koran is also significant. He acknowledges that everything said in the Koran is true, but suggests that the style in which it is presented is unfair. Of course, it could be the case that stating that everything in the Koran is true is more a matter of obligation than Satan’s real belief, as belief that the Koran is God’s word is one of the most fundamental doctrines in Islam. On the other hand, Satan’s suggestion that the style of the Koran is misleading or unfair is in itself highly controversial. His discussion of style links this passage to the perspective of the murderer, who insists that style itself is evidence of human flaws. In this sense, Satan’s very claim that the Koran has a style can be interpreted as blasphemous.

Chapter 49 Quotes

This chamber was red, tinged with the color of the velvet cloth, carpets and kilims hanging on the walls. With due reverence, I considered how the accumulation of all this wealth was the consequence of wars waged, blood spilt and cities and treasuries plundered.
"Frightened?" asked the elderly dwarf, giving voice to my feelings. "Everybody is frightened on their first visit. At night the spirits of these objects whisper to each other."

Related Characters: Black (speaker), Jemzi Agha (speaker)
Page Number: 299
Explanation and Analysis:

The Sultan has permitted Black and Master Osman to search through the Royal Treasury in service of their quest to discover the murderer’s identity. The treasury is overseen by an elderly dwarf named Jemzi Agha, who shows Black through the collection. There are two important things to note about this quotation, the first of which is the prominence of the color red. In previous parts of the novel, red has been associated with the power of art, creation, and God. This quotation adds another layer of meaning to red by emphasizing the connection of red to violence. This in turn highlights the fact that Ottoman cultural traditions are inextricably tied to violence and imperialism.

The other significant element of this passage is Jemzi Agha’s comment: “At night the spirits of these objects whisper to each other.” Throughout the novel, inanimate things are imagined to have a narrative voice, particularly in the storyteller’s narration from the perspective of the tree, the color red, and the coin. This challenges the assumption that only humans are sentient by suggesting that the inanimate (and animal) worlds also have their own forms of consciousness.

There was a time when Allah looked upon the world in all its uniqueness, and believing in the beauty of what he saw, bequeathed his creation to us, his servants. The duty of illustrators and of those who, loving art, gaze upon the world, is to remember the magnificence that Allah beheld and left to us. The greatest masters in each generation of painters, expending their lives and toiling until blind, strove with great effort and inspiration to attain and record the wondrous dream that Allah commanded us to see. Their work resembled Mankind recalling his own golden memories from the very beginning. Unfortunately, even the greatest masters, just like tired old men or great miniaturists gone blind from their labors, were only vaguely able to recollect random parts of that magnificent vision.

Related Characters: Black (speaker)
Page Number: 303
Explanation and Analysis:

Black and Master Osman have been looking through the books housed in the treasury, poring over the illustrations in silence. Unprompted, Master Osman states: “To paint is to remember,” and in this passage Black elaborates on what this means. Note that Black explains that miniaturists do not paint from their own individual memories, but rather from an attempt to access the divine memory of Allah. In this sense, miniature painting is a form of imitating Allah, a way of attempting to look at creation with the same loving gaze as the Creator. Because miniaturists are only human, they can only partially achieve this.

Black’s claim that the imperfections of humanity stop them from accessing Allah’s vision is paradoxical, however. He argues that human mortality and frailty means that they will become tired, old, and blind before they are able to truly recreate the world as Allah sees it. Yet in miniaturist folklore, blindness is in fact a way of better accessing Allah’s vision, and thus not a hindrance to miniaturists but an added skill.

Chapter 51 Quotes

Hundreds of years hence, men looking at our world through the illustrations

we've made won't understand anything. Desiring to take a closer look, yet lacking the patience, they might feel the embarrassment, the joy, the deep pain and pleasure of observation I now feel as I examine pictures in this freezing treasury––but they'll never truly know.

Related Characters: Master Osman (speaker)
Page Number: 315
Explanation and Analysis:

Master Osman has been looking through the books housed in the Royal Treasury with great excitement, and he questions the extent to which Black and Jemzi Agha share his enthusiasm. Master Osman then begins to meditate on what he sees as the inevitable death of the miniaturist tradition. In this passage, he laments that future generations will never be able to understand miniaturist painting as he does in that moment. This is one of the most tragic moments in the novel, and it elicits sympathy for Master Osman, who is otherwise a rather cruel and unlikeable character.

On one level, Osman’s prediction about the miniaturist tradition is correct; as the final chapter of the book establishes, the Sultan Murad (who succeeds the current Sultan after his death) ceases to provide support for the arts and, in the long run, miniature painting will die out. On the other hand, the very existence of the novel proves that miniature painting will not be forgotten completely. While future generations may not be able to understand miniature illustrations in the way that Master Osman does, is this not true of all art forms? Change is an inevitable part of artistic tradition, and thus Master Osman is arguably mistaken to hold onto the past too tightly.

Chapter 54 Quotes

My fickle heart longs for the West when I'm in the East and for the East when I’m in the West.
My other parts insist I be a woman when I'm a man and a man when I’m a woman.
How difficult it is being human, even worse is living a human’s life.
I only want to amuse myself frontside and backside, to be Eastern and Western both.

Related Characters: The Storyteller (speaker)
Page Number: 354
Explanation and Analysis:

During his final performance at the coffeehouse, the storyteller has told the audience that, as a child, he became fascinated by women and even felt a desire to be a woman himself. After experimenting with cross-dressing, the storyteller recalls breaking out into a sung poem that he made up on the spot. The poem, which he sings again for the audience, is both comic and serious. The lyrics are somewhat childish and simplistic, with vulgar humor (“I only want to amuse myself frontside and backside”). On the other hand, the song also conveys feelings of conflicted identity, which is one of the most significant themes in the book. The storyteller’s emphasis on East and West also suggests that feelings of conflicted identity are particularly likely to be experienced by inhabitants of Istanbul, known as the nexus between East and West.

Chapter 57 Quotes

From now on, the European style would be preeminent in Our Sultan's workshop; the styles and books to which we'd devoted our entire lives would slowly be forgotten––yes, in fact, the whole venture would come to an end, and if the Erzurumis didn't throttle us and finish us off, the Sultan's torturers would leave us maimed . . . But as I cried, sobbed and sighed––even though I continued to listen to the sad patter of the rain––a part of my mind sensed that these were not the things I was actually crying about. To what extent were the others aware of this? I felt vaguely guilty for my tears, which were at once genuine and false.

Related Characters: Olive (speaker)
Page Number: 381
Explanation and Analysis:

Black, Butterfly, and Stork, who now suspect that Olive is the murderer, have been searching Olive’s house for the final illustration from the secret book, which will prove his guilt. The miniaturists have also been in the midst of a heated discussion about art, morality, vision, and blindness, and Olive finds himself overcome with emotion and starts to cry. In this passage, he explains the reasons behind his tears. Like Master Osman, Olive laments the disappearance of the miniaturist tradition, although Olive imagines it coming to a much more violent close.

However, Olive also admits that this is not necessarily the real reason why he is crying, and he even claims that his tears are “at once genuine and false.” This again conveys the idea of a split identity; right until the end of the novel Olive narrates as himself and the murderer separately, suggesting that he is never able to resolve these identities into one, and never able to fully understand himself.

Chapter 58 Quotes

Had Enishte Effendi’s book been completed and sent to them, the Venetian masters would've smirked, and their ridicule would’ve reached the Venetian Doge––that is all. They'd have quipped that the Ottomans have given up being Ottoman and would no longer fear us.

Related Characters: The Murderer (speaker), Enishte
Related Symbols: The Book
Page Number: 399-400
Explanation and Analysis:

Black, Butterfly, and Stork have discovered that Olive is indeed the murderer, and that in the final illustration of the secret book, Olive has depicted himself where the portrait of the Sultan should be. Olive warns the other miniaturists that continuing to paint in the European style will lead to nothing but trouble. He explains that this is not necessarily because the European style is sinful, but rather because Ottoman miniaturists will never be able to compete with the Europeans in their own tradition.

This is arguably the single moment at which the murderer displays the most wisdom. He points out that a culture should never completely abandon its own traditions in favor of emulating the traditions of others. At the same time, the murderer likely overstates his case. As the novel shows, Ottoman culture is itself a product of imitation, blending a large variety of pre-existing cultural traditions. As Enishte points out much earlier in the narrative, “nothing is pure.”

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