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À mon chevet: 'My Name Is Red'

À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.

book cover
Nasir the Limner was making a mess of a plate he intended to repair from a version of the Quintet of Nizami dating back to the era of Tamerlane's sons; the picture depicted Hüsrev looking at a naked Shirin as she bathed.

A ninety-two-year-old former master who was half blind and had nothing to say besides claiming that sixty years ago he kissed Master Bizhad's hand in Tabriz and that the great master of legend was blind and drunk at the time, showed us with trembling hands the ornamentation on the pen box he would present as a holiday gift to Our Sultan when it was completed three months hence.

Shortly a silence enveloped the whole workshop where close to eighty painters, students, and apprentices worked in the small cells which constituted the lower floor. This was a postbeating silence, the likes of which I'd experienced many times; a silence which would be broken at times by a nerve-wracking chuckle or a witticism, at times by a few sobs or the suppressed moan of the beaten boy before his crying fit would remind the master miniaturists of the beatings they themselves received as apprentices. But the half-blind ninety-two-year-old master caused me to sense something deeper for a moment, here, far from all the battles and turmoil: the feeling that everything was coming to an end. Immediately before the end of the world, there would also be such silence.

Painting is the silence of thought and the music of sight.

-- Orhan Pamuk, My Name Is Red, p. 59 (translation by Erdağ Göknar)
I cannot speak highly enough of this book, a highly decorated novel that won its author several prizes including, partially, the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. It is many things all rolled into one astounding work: a murder mystery, a multi-narrator experiment in meta-fiction, a deep view into the history of Ottoman Istanbul, and a visual feast in words of the heritage of Islamic manuscript decoration in its overlapping with Persian storytelling. It is also just a great read.

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