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my name is red kitabı orhan pamuk
30.09.2015, 19:48
Yorum: #1
my name is red kitabı orhan pamuk
My Name is Red
Orhan Pamuk

You slew a man and then fell out with one another concerning him.
—Koran, The Cow. “ ”
The blind and the seeing are not equal.
—Koran, The Creator.” “
To God belongs the East and the West.

I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well. Though I drew
my last breath long ago and my heart has stopped beating, no one, apart from
that vile murderer, knows what s happened to me. As ’ for that wretch, he felt
for my pulse and listened for my breath to be sure I was dead, then kicked me
in the midriff, carried me to the edge of the well, raised me up and dropped
me below. As I fell, my head, which he d smashed with a stone, broke apart; ’
my face, my forehead and cheeks, were crushed; my bones shattered, and my
mouth filled with blood.
For nearly four days I have been missing: My wife and children must be
searching for me; my daughter, spent from crying, must be staring fretfully at
the courtyard gate. Yes, I know they r e a l l a t t h e w i n d o w , h o p i n g f o r m y ’
But, are they truly waiting? I can t even be sure o ’ f that. Maybe they ve ’
gotten used to my absence—how dismal! For here, on the other side, one gets
the feeling that one s former life persists. Before my birth there was infinite ’
time, and after my death, inexhaustible time. I never thought of it before: I d ’
been living luminously between two eternities of darkness.
I was happy; I know now that I d been happy. I made the best illuminations ’
in Our Sultan s workshop; no one could rival my mas ’ tery. Through the work I
did privately, I earned nine hundred silver coins a month, which, naturally,
only makes all of this even harder to bear.
I was responsible for painting and embellishing books. I illuminated the
edges of pages, coloring their borders with the most lifelike designs of leaves,
branches, roses, flowers and birds. I painted scalloped Chinese-style clouds,
clusters of overlapping vines and forests of color that hid gazelles, galleys,
sultans, trees, palaces, horses and hunters. In my youth, I would decorate a
plate, or the back of a mirror, or a chest, or at times, the ceiling of a mansion
or of a Bosphorus manor, or even, a wooden spoon. In later years, however, I
only worked on manuscript pages because Our Sultan paid well for them. I
can t say it seems insignificant now. You know the value of money even when ’
you re dead. ’
After hearing the miracle of my voice, you might think, Who“ cares what
you earned when you were alive? Tell us what you see. Is there life after death?
Where s your soul? What about Heaven and Hell? What s death like? Are you ’ ’
in pain? You re right, the living are extremely cu ” rious about the Afterlife. ’
Maybe you ve heard the story of the man who was so driven by this curiosity ’
that he roamed among soldiers in battlefields. He sought a man who d died ’
and returned to life amid the wounded struggling for their lives in pools of
blood, a soldier who could tell him about the secrets of the Otherworld. But
one of Tamerlane s warriors, taking the seeker for the enemy, cleaved him in ’
half with a smooth stroke of his scimitar, causing him to conclude that in the
Hereafter man gets split in two.
Nonsense! Quite the opposite, I d even say that souls divided in life merge ’
in the Hereafter. Contrary to the claims of sinful infidels who ve fallen under ’
the sway of the Devil, there is indeed another world, thank God, and the proof
is that I m speaking to you from here. I ve died, but as you can plainly tell, I ’ ’
haven t ceased to be. Granted, I must confess, I haven t encountered the rivers ’ ’
flowing beside the silver and gold kiosks of Heaven, the broad-leaved trees
bearing plump fruit and the beautiful virgins mentioned in the Glorious
Koran—though I do very well recall how often and enthusiastically I made
pictures of those wide-eyed houris described in the chapter That Which Is “
Coming. Nor is there a trace of those rivers of mi ” lk, wine, fresh water and
honey described with such flourish, not in the Koran, but by visionary
dreamers like Ibn Arabi. But I have no intention of tempting the faith of those
who live rightfully through their hopes and visions of the Otherworld, so let
me declare that all I v e s e e n r e l a t e s s p e c i f i c a l l y t o m y o w n v e r y p e r s o n a l ’
circumstances. Any believer with even a little knowledge of life after death
would know that a malcontent in my state would be hard-pressed to see the
rivers of Heaven.
In short, I, who am known as Master Elegant Effendi, am dead, but I have
not been buried, and therefore my soul has not completely left my body. This
extraordinary situation, although naturally my case isn t the first, has inflicted ’
horrible suffering upon the immortal part of me. Though I cannot feel my
crushed skull or my decomposing body covered in wounds, full of broken
bones and partially submerged in ice-cold water, I do feel the deep torment of
my soul struggling desperately to escape its mortal coil. It s as if the whole ’
world, along with my body, were contracting into a bolus of anguish.
I can only compare this contraction to the surprising sense of release I felt
during the unequaled moment of my death. Yes, I instantly understood that
the wretch wanted to kill me when he unexpectedly struck me with a stone
and cracked my skull, but I didn t believe he d follow through. I suddenly ’ ’
realized I was a hopeful man, something I hadn t been aware of while living ’
my life in the shadows between workshop and household. I clung passionately
to life with my nails, my fingers and my teeth, which I sank into his skin. I
won t bore you with the painful details of the subsequent blows I received. ’
When in the course of this agony I knew I would die, an incredible feeling
of relief filled me. I felt this relief during the moment of departure; my arrival
to this side was soothing, like the dream of seeing oneself asleep. The snowand
mud-covered shoes of my murderer were the last things I noticed. I closed
my eyes as if I were going to sleep, and I gently passed over.
My present complaint isn t that my teeth have fallen like nuts into my ’
bloody mouth, or even that my face has been maimed beyond recognition, or
that I ve been abandoned in the depths of a well ’ — ’it s that everyone assumes
I m still alive. My troubled soul is anguished that my family and intimates, ’
who, yes, think of me often, imagine me engaged in trivial dealings somewhere
in Istanbul, or even chasing after another woman. Enough! Find my body
without delay, pray for me and have me buried. Above all, find my murderer!
For even if you bury me in the most magnificent of tombs, so long as that
wretch remains free, I ll writhe restlessly in my grave, waiting and infecting ’
you all with faithlessness. Find that son-of-a-whore murderer and I ll tell you ’
in detail just what I see in the Afterlife —but know this, after he s caught, he ’
must be tortured by slowly splintering eight or ten of his bones, preferably his
ribs, with a vise before piercing his scalp with skewers made especially for the
task by torturers and plucking out his disgusting, oily hair, strand by strand, so
he shrieks each time.
Who is this murderer who vexes me so? Why has he killed me in such a
surprising way? Be curious and mindful of these matters. You say the world is
full of base and worthless criminals? Perhaps this one did it, perhaps that one?
In that case let me caution you: My death conceals an appalling conspiracy
against our religion, our traditions and the way we see the world. Open your
eyes, discover why the enemies of the life in which you believe, of the life
you re living, and of Islam, have destroyed me. Learn why one day they might ’
do the same to you. One by one, everything predicted by the great preacher
Nusret Hoja of Erzurum, to whom I ve tearfully listened, is coming to pass. Let ’
me say also that if the situation into which we ve fallen were described in a ’
book, even the most expert of miniaturists could never hope to illustrate it. As
with the Koran God forbid I m misunderstood — ’ —the staggering power of
such a book arises from the impossibility of its being depicted. I doubt you ve ’
fully comprehended this fact.
Listen to me. When I was an apprentice, I too feared and thus ignored
underlying truths and voices from beyond. I d joke about such matters. But ’
I ve ended up in the depths of this deplorable well! It could happen to you, be ’
wary. Now, I ve nothing left to do but hope for my thorough decay, so they ’
can find me by tracing my stench. I ve nothing to d ’ o but hope —and imagine
the torture that some benevolent man will inflict upon that beastly murderer
once he s been caught. ’

After an absence of twelve years I entered Istanbul like a sleepwalker. The “
earth called to him, they say of men who are about ” to die, and in my case, it
was death that drew me back to the city where I d been born and raised. ’
When I first returned, I thought there was only death; later, I would also
encounter love. Love, however, was a distant and forgotten thing, like my
memories of having lived in the city. It was in Istanbul, twelve years ago, that I
fell helplessly in love with my young cousin.
Four years after I first left Istanbul, while traveling through the endless
steppes, snow-covered mountains and melancholy cities of Persia, carrying
letters and collecting taxes, I admitted to myself that I was slowly forgetting
the face of the childhood love I d left behind. Wit ’ h growing panic, I tried
desperately to remember her, only to realize that despite love, a face long not
seen finally fades. During the sixth year I spent in the East, traveling or
working as a secretary in the service of pashas, I knew that the face I imagined
was no longer that of my beloved. Later, in the eighth year, I forgot what I d ’
mistakenly called to mind in the sixth, and again visualized a completely
different countenance. In this way, by the twelfth year, when I returned to my
city at the age of thirty-six, I was painfully aware that my beloved s face had ’
long since escaped me.
Many of my friends and relatives had died during my twelve-year exile. I
visited the cemetery overlooking the Golden Horn and prayed for my mother
and for the uncles who d passed away in my absence. The earthy smell of mud ’
mingled with my memories. Someone had broken an earthenware pitcher
beside my mother s grave. For whatever reason, gazing at the broken pieces, I ’
began to cry. Was I crying for the dead or because I was, strangely, still only at
the beginning of my life after all these years? Or was it because I d come to the ’
end of my life s journey? A faint snow fell. Entranced by the flakes blowing ’
here and there, I became so lost in the vagaries of my life that I didn t notice ’
the black dog staring at me from a dark corner of the cemetery.
My tears subsided. I wiped my nose. I saw the black dog wagging its tail in
friendship as I left the cemetery. Sometime later, I settled into our
neighborhood, renting one of the houses where a relative on my father s side ’
once lived. It seems I reminded the landlady of her son who d been killed by ’
Safavid Persian soldiers at the front and so she agreed to clean the house and
cook for me.
I set out on long and satisfying walks through the streets as if I d settled not ’
in Istanbul, but temporarily in one of the Arab cities at the other end of the
world. The streets had become narrower, or so it seemed to me. In certain
areas, on roads squeezed between houses leaning toward one another, I was
forced to rub up against walls and doors to avoid being hit by laden
packhorses. There were more wealthy people, or so it seemed to me. I saw an
ornate carriage, a citadel drawn by proud horses, the likes of which couldn t ’
b e f o u n d i n A r a b i a o r P e r s i a . N e a r t h e Burnt Column, I saw some “ ”
bothersome beggars dressed in rags huddling together as the smell of offal
coming from the chicken-sellers market wafted over them. One of them who
was blind smiled as he watched the falling snow.
Had I been told Istanbul used to be a poorer, smaller and happier city, I
might not have believed it, but that s what my heart told me. Though my ’
beloved s house was where it d always been among linden and chestnut trees, ’ ’
others were now living there, as I learned from inquiring at the door. I
discovered that my beloved s mother, my maternal aunt, had died, and that ’
her husband, my Enishte, and his daughter had moved away. This is how I
came to learn that father and daughter were the victims of certain
misfortunes, from strangers answering the door, who in such situations are
perfectly forthcoming, without the least awareness of how mercilessly they ve ’
broken your heart and destroyed your dreams. I won t describe all of this to ’
you now, but allow me to say that as I recalled warm, verdant and sunny
summer days in that old garden, I also noticed icicles the size of my little finger
hanging from the branches of the linden tree in a place whose misery, snow
and neglect now evoked nothing but death.
I d already learned about some of what had befallen my relatives through a ’
letter my Enishte sent to me in Tabriz. In that letter, he invited me back to
Istanbul, explaining that he was preparing a secret book for Our Sultan and
that he wanted my help. He d heard that for a period while in Tabriz, I made ’
books for Ottoman pashas, provincial governors and Istanbulites. What I did
then was to use the money advanced by clients who d placed manuscript ’
orders in Istanbul to locate miniaturists and calligraphers who were frustrated
by the wars and the presence of Ottoman soldiers, but hadn t yet left for ’
Kazvin or another Persian city, and it was these masters —complaining of
poverty and neglect who — m I commissioned to inscribe, illustrate and bind
the pages of the manuscripts I would then send back to Istanbul. If it weren t ’
for the love of illustrating and fine books that my Enishte instilled in me
during my youth, I could have never involved myself in such pursuits.
At the market end of the street, where at one time my Enishte had lived, I
found the barber, a master by trade, in his shop among the same mirrors,
straight razors, pitchers of water and soap brushes. I caught his eye, but I m ’
not sure he recognized me. It delighted me to see that the head-washing basin,
which hung by a chain from the ceiling, still traced the same old arc, swinging
back and forth as he filled it with hot water.
Some of the neighborhoods and streets I d frequented in my youth had ’
disappeared in ashes and smoke, replaced by burnt ruins where stray dogs
congregated and where mad transients frightened the local children. In other
areas razed by fire, large affluent houses had been built, and I was astonished
by their extravagance, by windows of the most expensive Venetian stained
glass, and by lavish two-story residences with bay windows suspended above
high walls.
As in many other cities, money no longer had any value in Istanbul. At the
time I returned from the East, bakeries that once sold large one-hundred
drachma loaves of bread for one silver coin now baked loaves half the size for
the same price, and they no longer tasted the way they did during my
childhood. Had my late mother seen the day when she d have to spend three ’
silver pieces for a dozen eggs, she d say, We ought to leave before the chickens ’ “
grow so spoiled they shit on us instead of the ground. But I knew the ”
problem of devalued money was the same everywhere. It was rumored that
Flemish and Venetian merchant ships were filled with chests of counterfeit
coin. At the royal mint, where five hundred coins were once minted from a
hundred drachmas of silver, now, owing to the endless warring with the
Persians, eight hundred coins were minted from the same amount. When
Janissaries discovered that the coins they d been p ’ aid actually floated in the
Golden Horn like the dried beans that fell from the vegetable-sellers pier, they
rioted, besieging Our Sultan s palace as if it were an enemy fortress. ’
A cleric by the name of Nusret, who preached at the Bayazid Mosque and
claimed to be descended from Our Glorious Prophet Muhammad, had made a
name for himself during this period of immorality, inflation, crime and theft.
This hoja, who was from the small town of Erzurum, attributed the
catastrophes that had befallen Istanbul in the last ten years including the —
Bah ekap and Kazanj lar district fires, the plague ç s that claimed tens of
thousands, the endless wars with the Persians at a cost of countless lives, as
well as the loss of small Ottoman fortresses in the West to Christians in
revolt—to our having strayed from the path of the Prophet, to disregard for
the strictures of the Glorious Koran, to the tolerance toward Christians, to the
open sale of wine and to the playing of musical instruments in dervish houses.
The pickle seller who passionately informed me about the cleric from
Erzurum said that the counterfeit coins —the new ducats, the fake florins
stamped with lions and the Ottoman coins with their ever-decreasing silver
content that flooded the markets and bazaars, just — like the Circassians,
Abkhazians, Mingarians, Bosnians, Georgians and Armenians who filled the
streets, were dragging us toward an absolute degradation from which it would
be difficult to escape. I was told that scoundrels and rebels were gathering in
coffeehouses and proselytizing until dawn; that destitute men of dubious
character, opium-addicted madmen and followers of the outlawed Kalenderi
dervish sect, claiming to be on Allah s path, would spend their nights in ’
dervish houses dancing to music, piercing themselves with skewers and
engaging in all manner of depravity, before brutally fucking each other and any
boys they could find.
I didn t know whether it was the melodious sound of a lute that compelled ’
me to follow, or if in the muddle of my memories and desires, I could simply
no longer endure the virulent pickle seller, and seized upon the music as a way
out of the conversation. I do, however, know this: When you love a city and
have explored it frequently on foot, your body, not to mention your soul, gets
to know the streets so well after a number of years that in a fit of melancholy,
perhaps stirred by a light snow falling ever so sorrowfully, you ll discover your ’
legs carrying you of their own accord toward one of your favorite
This was how I happened to leave the Farrier s Market and ended up ’
w atching the snow as it f ell into the Golden Horn from a spot beside the
S leymaniye Mosque: Snow had ü already begun to accumulate on the rooftops
facing north and on sections of the dome exposed to the northeasterly breeze.
An approaching ship, whose sails were being lowered, greeted me with a
flutter of canvas. The color of its sails matched the leaden and foggy hue of the
surface of the Golden Horn. The cypress and plane trees, the rooftops, the
heartache of dusk, the sounds coming from the neighborhood below, the calls
of hawkers and the cries of children playing in mosque courtyards mingled in
my head and announced emphatically that, hereafter, I wouldn t be able to ’
live anywhere but in their city. I had the sensation that my beloved s face, ’
which had escaped me for years, might suddenly appear to me.
I began to walk down the hill and melded into the crowds. After the
evening prayer was called, I filled my stomach at a liver shop. In the empty
shop, I listened carefully to the owner, who fondly watched me eat each bite as
if he were feeding a cat. Taking his cue and following his directions, I found
myself turning down one of the narrow alleys behind the slave market —well
after the streets had become dark—and located the coffeehouse.
Inside, it was crowded and warm. The storyteller, the likes of whom I had
seen in Tabriz and in Persian cities and who was known thereabouts as a
“ curtain-caller, was perched on a raised platform b ” eside the wood-burning
stove. He had unfolded and hung before the crowd a picture, the figure of a
dog drawn on rough paper hastily but with a certain elegance. He was giving
voice to the dog, and pointing, from time to time, at the drawing.

As you can doubtless tell, dear friends, my canines are so long and pointed
they barely fit into my mouth. I know this gives me a menacing appearance,
but it pleases me. Noticing the size of my teeth, a butcher once had the gall to
say, My God, that s no dog at all, it s a wild boa “ r! ’ ’ ”
I bit him so hard on the leg that my canines sank right through his fatty
flesh to the hardness of his thighbone. For a dog, you see, nothing is as
satisfying as sinking his teeth into his miserable enemy in a fit of instinctual
wrath. When such an opportunity presents itself, that is, when my victim, who
deserves to be bitten, stupidly and unknowingly passes by, my teeth twinge
and ache in anticipation, my head spins with longing and without even
meaning to, I emit a hair-raising growl.
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.
Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a faraway land, a brash cleric from a
provincial town arrived at one of the largest mosques in a capital city; all right,
let s call it the Bayazid Mosque. It d be appropriate to withhold his name, so ’ ’
let s refer to him as Husret Hoja. But why should I cover up anything more: ’ “ ”
This man was one boneheaded cleric. He made up for the modesty of his
intellect with the power of his tongue, God bless it. Each Friday, he so
animated his congregation, so moved them to tears that some would cry until
they fainted or dried up and withered away. Don t get me wrong, unlike other ’
clerics with the gift of preaching, he himself didn t weep. On the contrary, ’
while everyone else cried, he intensified his oration without a blink as if to
chastise the congregation. In all probability, the gardeners, royal pages, halva
makers, riffraff and clerics like himself became his lackeys because they
enjoyed the tongue lashing. Well, this man was no dog after all, no sir, he was
a human being—to be human is to err —and before those enthralled crowds,
he lost himself when he saw that intimidating throngs of people was as
pleasurable as bringing them to tears. When he understood that there was
much more bread to be made in this new venture, he went over the top and
had the nerve to say the following:
“The sole reason for rising prices, plague and military defeat lies in our
forgetting the Islam of the time of our Glorious Prophet and falling sway to
falsehoods. Was the Prophet s birth epic read in memory of the dead back ’
then? Was the fortieth-day ceremony performed, where sweets like halva and
fried dough are offered to honor the dead? When Muhammad lived, was the
Glorious Koran recited melodically, like a song? Were the prayers called
haughtily and pompously to show how close one s Arabic was to an Arab s? ’ ’
Was there such a thing as reciting the call to prayer coyly, with the flourish of
a man imitating a woman? Today, people plead before gravesites, begging for
amends. They hope for the intervention of the dead on their behalf. They visit
the tombs of saints and worship at graves like pagans before pieces of stone.
They tie votive pieces of cloth everywhere, and make promises of sacrifice in
return for atonement. Were there dervish sectarians who spread such beliefs in
Muhammad s time? Ibn Arabi, the intellectual mentor of these sectarians, ’
became a sinner by swearing that the infidel Pharaoh had died a believer.
These dervishes, the Mevlevis, the Halvetis, the Kalenderis and those who sing
the Koran to musical accompaniment or justify dancing with children and
juveniles by saying we pray ” together anyway, why not? are all kaffirs. Dervis “ h
lodges ought to be destroyed, their foundations excavated to a depth of seven
ells and the collected earth cast into the sea. Only then might ritual prayers be
performed there again. ”
I heard tell that this Husret Hoja, taking matters even further, declared with
spittle flying from his mouth, Ah, my devoted beli “ evers! 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. But those
who curse me and our religion, it is they who are the true mongrels. ”
With your permission, I d l i k e to r e s p o n d to th i s l a st c o m m e n t b y th e ’
esteemed cleric. Of course, it is common knowledge that hajis, hojas, clerics,
and preachers despise us dogs. In my opinion, the whole matter concerns our
revered Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, who cut off a
piece of his robe upon which a cat lay sleeping rather than wake the beast. By
pointing out this affection shown to the cat, which has incidentally been
denied to us dogs, and due to our eternal feud with this feline beast, which
even the stupidest of men recognizes as an ingrate, people have tried to
intimate that the Prophet himself disliked dogs. They re convinced that we ll ’ ’
defile those who have performed ritual ablutions, and the result of this
erroneous and slanderous belief is that we ve been barred from mosques for ’
centuries and have suffered beatings in their courtyards from broomstickwielding
Allow me to remind you of The Cave, the most beautiful of “ ” the Koran s ’
chapters. I m reminding you not because I suspect there may be those who ’
never read the Koran among us in this good coffeehouse, but because I want
to refresh your memories: This chapter recounts the story of the seven youths
who grow tired of living among pagans and take refuge in a cave where they
enter a deep sleep. Allah then seals their ears and causes them to doze off for
exactly three hundred and nine years. When they awake, they learn just how
many years have passed only after one of them enters the society of men and
tries to spend an outdated silver coin. All of them are stunned to learn what
has happened. This chapter subtly describes man s attachment to Allah, His ’
miracles, the transitory nature of time and the pleasure of deep sleep, and
though it s not my place, allow me to remind you of the eighteenth verse, ’
which makes mention of a dog resting at the mouth of this cave where the
seven youths have fallen asleep. Obviously, anyone would be proud to appear
in the Koran. As a dog, I take pride in this chapter, and through it I intend to
bring the Erzurumis, who refer to their enemies as dirty mongrels, to their
So then, what s the actual reason for this animosity toward dogs? Why do ’
you persist in saying that dogs are impure, and cleaning and purifying your
homes from top to bottom if a dog happens to enter? Why do you believe that
those who touch us spoil their ablutions? If your caftan brushes against our
damp fur, why do you insist on washing that caftan seven times like a frenzied
woman? Only tinsmiths could be responsible for the slander that a pot licked
by a dog must be thrown away or retinned. Or perhaps, yes, cats…
When people left their villages for the sedentary life of the city, shepherd
dogs remained in the provinces; that s when rumors of the filthiness of dogs ’
like me began to spr ead. Y et befor e the advent of Islam, two of the twelve
months of the year were months of the dog. Now, h “ ” owever, a dog is
considered a bad omen. I don t want to burden you with my own problems, ’
my dear friends who have come to hear a story and ponder its moral to be —
honest, my anger arises out of the esteemed cleric s attacks upon our ’
What would you think if I said that this Husret of Erzurum was of dubious
birth? But they ve also said of me, What kind of dog do you think you are? ’ “
You re attacking the venerable cleric because your master is a picture-hanging ’
storyteller who tells tales at a coffeehouse and you want to protect him. Go
on, scat! God forbid, I m not denigrating anyone. ” But I m a great admirer of ’ ’
our coffeehouses. You know, I have no problem with the fact that my portrait
was drawn on such cheap paper or that I m a four-legged beast, but I do regret ’
that I can t sit down like a man and have a cup of coffee with you. We d die ’ ’
for our coffee and our coffeehouses —what s this? See, my master is pouring ’
coffee for me from a small coffeepot. A picture can t drink coffee, you say? ’
Please! See for yourselves, this dog is happily lapping away.
Ah, yes, that hit the spot, it s warmed me up, sharpened my sight and ’
quickened my thoughts. Now listen to what I have to tell you: Besides bolts of
Chinese silks and Chinese pottery adorned with blue flowers, what did the
Venetian Doge send to Nurhayat Sultan, the esteemed daughter of our
respected Sultan? A soft and cuddly Venetian she-dog with a coat of silk and
sable. I heard that this bitch is so spoiled she has a red silk dress as well. One of
our friends actually fucked her, that s how I know, and she can t even engage ’ ’
in the act without her dress. In that Frankish land of hers, all dogs wear outfits
like that anyway. I ve heard tell that over there a ’ so-called elegant and wellbred
Venetian woman saw a naked dog—or maybe she saw its thing, I m not ’
sure anyway, — she screamed, My dear God, the dog is naked! and “ ” fainted
dead away.
In the lands of the infidel Franks, the so-called Europeans, every dog has an
owner. These poor animals are paraded on the streets with chains around their
necks, they re fettered like the most miserable of slaves and dragged around in ’
isolation. These Franks force the poor beasts into their homes and even into
their beds. Dogs aren t permitted to walk with one another, let alone sniff and ’
frolic together. In that despicable state, in chains, they can do nothing but gaze
forlornly at each other from a distance when they pass on the street. Dogs who
roam the streets of Istanbul freely in packs and communities, the way we do,
dogs who threaten people if necessary, who can curl up in a warm corner or
stretch out in the shade and sleep peacefully, and who can shit wherever they
want and bite whomever they want, such dogs are beyond the infidels ’
conception. It s not that I haven t thought that this might be why the ’ ’
followers of the Erzurumi oppose praying for dogs and feeding them meat on
the streets of Istanbul in exchange for divine favors and even why they oppose
the establishment of charities that perform such services. If they intend both
to treat us as enemies and make infidels of us, let me remind them that being
an enemy to dogs and being an infidel are one and the same. At the, I hope,
not too distant executions of these disgraceful men, I pray our executioner
friends invite us to take a bite, as they sometimes do to set a deterring
Before I finish, let me say this: My previous master was a very just man.
When we set out at night to thieve, we d cooperate: I d begin to bark, and ’ ’
he d cut the throat of our victim whose screams would be drowned out by my ’
barking. In return for my help, he d cut up the guilty men that he d punished, ’ ’
boil them and feed them to me. I don t like raw mea ’ t. God willing, the wouldbe
executioner of that cleric from Erzurum will take this into account so I
won t upset my stomach with that scoundrel s raw flesh. ’ ’

Nay, I wouldn t have believed I could take anyone s life, even if I d been told ’ ’ ’
so moments before I murdered that fool; and thus, my offense at times recedes
from me like a foreign galleon disappearing on the horizon. Now and again, I
even feel as if I haven t committed any crime at all. Four days have passed ’
since I was forced to do away with hapless Elegant, who was a brother to me,
and only now have I, to some extent, accepted my situation.
I would ve preferred to resolve this unexpected and awful dilemma without ’
having to do away with anybody, but I knew there was no other choice. I
handled the matter then and there, assuming the burden of responsibility. I
couldn t let the false accusations of one foolhardy man endanger the entire ’
society of miniaturists.
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.
Tonight, for example, while warming up with a steaming coffee at the
coffeehouse located in the back streets of the slave market, gazing at the sketch
of a dog hanging on the back wall, I was gradually forgetting my plight and
laughing with the rest of them at everything the dog recounted. Then, I had
the sensation that one of the men beside me was a common murderer like
myself. Though he was simply laughing at the storyteller as I was, my intuition
was sparked, either by the way his arm rested near mine or by the way he
restlessly rapped his fingers on his cup. I m not sure how I knew, but I ’
suddenly turned and looked him directly in the eye. He gave a start and his
face contorted. As the crowd dispersed, an acquaintance of his took him by the
arm and said, Nusret Hoja s men will surely raid t “ his place. ’ ”
Raising an eyebrow, he signaled the man quiet. Their fear infected me. No
one trusted anyone, everyone expected to be done in at any moment by the
man next to him.
It had become even colder, and snow had accumulated on street corners
and at the bases of walls. In the blindness of night, I could find my way along
the narrow streets only by groping with my hands. At times, the dim light of
an oil lamp still burning somewhere inside a wooden house filtered out from
behind blackened windows and drawn shutters, reflecting on the snow; but
mostly, I could see nothing, and found my way by listening for the sounds of
watchmen banging their sticks on stones, for the howling of mad dogs, or the
sounds coming from houses. At times the narrow and dreadful streets of the
city seemed to be lit up by a wondrous light coming from the snow itself; and
in the darkness, amid the ruins and trees, I thought I spotted one of those
ghosts that have made Istanbul such an ominous place for thousands of years.
From within houses, now and again, I heard the noises of miserable people
having coughing fits or snorting or wailing as they cried out in their dreams,
or I heard the shouts of husbands and wives as they tried to strangle each
other, their children sobbing at their feet.
For a couple of nights in a row, I came to this coffeehouse to relive the
happiness I d felt before becoming a murderer, to raise my spirits and to listen ’
to the storyteller. Most of my miniaturist friends, the brethren with whom I d ’
spent my entire life, came here every night. Since I d silenced that lout with ’
whom I d made illustrations since childhood I didn t want to see any of them. ’ ’
Much embarrasses me about the lives of my brethren, who can t do without ’
gossiping, and about the disgraceful atmosphere of joviality in this place. I
even sketched a few pictures for the storyteller so they wouldn t accuse me of ’
conceit, but that failed to put an end to their envy.
They re justified in being jealous. Not one of them could surpass me in ’
mixing colors, in creating and embellishing borders, composing pages,
selecting subjects, drawing faces, arranging bustling war and hunting scenes
and depicting beasts, sultans, ships, horses, warriors and lovers. 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.
During my walks, which grow increasingly longer due to my restlessness, I
come face-to-face occasionally with one of our most pure and innocent
religious countrymen, and a strange notion suddenly enters my head: If I think
about the fact that I m a murderer, the man before me will read it on my face. ’
Therefore, I force myself to think of different things, just as I forced myself,
writhing in embarrassment, to banish thoughts of women when performing
prayers as an adolescent. But unlike those days of youthful fits when I couldn t ’
get the act of copulation out of my thoughts, now, I can indeed forget the
murder that I ve committed. ’
You realize, in fact, that I m explaining all these things because they relate ’
to my predicament. But if I were to divulge even one detail related to the
killing itself, you d figure it all out and this would relieve me from being a ’
nameless, faceless murderer roaming among you like an apparition and
relegate me to the status of an or dinary , confessed criminal who has given
himself up, soon to pay for his crime with his head. Give me the license not to
dwell on every single detail, allow me to keep some clues to myself: Try to
discover who I am from my choice of words and colors, as attentive people like
yourselves might examine footprints to catch a thief. This, in turn, brings us to
the issue of style, which is now of widespread in “ ” terest: Does a miniaturist,
ought a miniaturist, have his own personal style? A use of color, a voice all his
Let s consider a piece by Bihzad, the master of masters, patron saint of all ’
miniaturists. I happened across this masterpiece, which also nicely pertains to
my situation because it s a depiction of murder, am ’ ong the pages of a flawless
ninety-year-old book of the Herat school. It emerged from the library of a
Persian prince killed in a merciless battle of succession and recounts the story
of H srev and Shirin. You, of course, know the fate ü of H srev and Shirin, I refer ü
to Nizami s version, not Firdusi s: ’ ’
The two lovers finally marry after a host of trials and tribulations; however,
the young and diabolical Shiruye, H srev s son by h ü is previous wife, won t give ’ ’
them any peace. The prince has his eye on not only his father s throne but also ’
his father s young wife, Shirin. Shiruye, of whom Nizami writes, His breath ’ “
had the stench of a lion s mouth, by hook or crook imprisons his father and ’ ”
succeeds to the throne. One night, entering the bedchamber of his father and
Shirin, he feels his way in the dark, and on finding the pair in bed, stabs his
father in the chest with his dagger. Thus, the father s blood flows till dawn and ’
he slowly dies in the bed that he shares with the beautiful Shirin, who remains
sleeping peacefully beside him.
This picture by the great master Bihzad, as much as the tale itself, addresses
a grave fear I ve carried within me for years: The horror of waking in the black ’
of night to realize there s a stranger making faint sounds as he creeps about ’
the blackness of the room! Imagine that the intruder wields a dagger in one
hand as he strangles you with the other. Every detail, the finely wrought wall,
window and frame ornamentation, the curves and circular designs in the red
rug, the color of the silent scream emanating from your clamped throat and
the yellow and purple flowers embroidered with incredible finesse and vigor
on the magnificent quilt upon which the bare and vile foot of your murderer
mercilessly steps as he ends your life, all of these details serve the same
purpose: While augmenting the beauty of the painting, they remind you just
how exquisite are the room in which you will soon die and the world you will
soon leave. The indifference of the painting s beau ’ ty and of the world to your
death, the fact of your being totally alone in death despite the presence of your
wife, this is the inescapable meaning that strikes you.
“This is by Bihzad, the aging master said twenty ye ” ars ago as we examined
the book I held in my trembling hands. His face was illuminated not by the
nearby candle, but by the pleasure of observation itself. This is so Bihzad that “
there s no need for a signature. ’ ”
B i h z a d w a s s o w e l l a w a r e o f th i s f a c t th a t h e d i d nt hide his signature ’
anywhere in the painting. And according to the elderly master, there was a
sense of embarrassment and a feeling of shame in this decision of his. Where
there is true art and genuine virtuosity the artist can paint an incomparable
masterpiece without leaving even a trace of his identity.
Fearing for my life, I murdered my unfortunate victim in an ordinary and
crude manner. As I returned to this fire-ravaged area night after night to
ascertain whether I d left behind any traces that might betray me, questions of ’
style increasingly arose in my head. What was venerated as style was nothing
more than an imperfection or flaw that revealed the guilty hand.
I could ve located this place even without the brilliance of the falling snow, ’
for this spot, razed by fire, was where I d ended the life of my companion of ’
twenty-five years. Now, snow covered and erased all the clues that might have
been interpreted as signature, proving that Allah concurred with Bihzad and
me on the issue of style and signature. If we actually committed an
unpardonable sin by illustrating that book as that — half-wit had maintained
four days ago —even if we had done so unawares, Allah wouldn t have ’
bestowed this favor upon us miniaturists.
That night, when Elegant Effendi and I came here, the snow hadn t yet ’
begun to fall. We could hear the howling of mongrels echo in the distance.
“Pray, for what reason have we come here? the unfortunate one had asked. ”
“What do you plan to show me out here at this late hour? ”
“ Just ahead lies a well, twelve paces beyond which I ve buried the money ’
I ve been saving for years, I said. If you keep e ’ ” “ ’ verything I ve explained to you
secret, Enishte Effendi and I will see that you are happily rewarded. ”
“Am I to understand that you admit you knew what you were doing from
the beginning? he said in agitation. ”
“I admit it, I lied obligingly. ”
“You acknowledge the picture you ve made is in fact a desecration, don t ’ ’
you? he said innocently. It s heresy, a sacrilege ” “ ’ that no decent man would
have the gall to commit. You r e g o i n g t o b u r n i n t h e p i t s o f H e l l . Y o u r ’
suffering and pain will never diminish and you ve m — ade me an accomplice. ’ ”
As I listened to him, I sensed with horror how his words had such strength
and gravity that, willingly or not, people would heed them, hoping that they
would prove true about miserable creatures other than themselves. Many
rumors like this about Enishte Effendi had begun to fly due to the secrecy of
the book he was making and the money he was willing to pay —and because
Master Osman, the Head Illuminator, despised him. It occurred to me that
perhaps my brother gilder, Elegant, had with sly intent used these facts to
buttress his false accusations. To what degree was he being honest?
I had him repeat the claims that pitted us against each other, and as he
spoke, he didn t mince his words. He seemed to be provoking me to cover up a ’
mistake, as during our apprentice years, when the goal was to avoid a beating
by Master Osman. Back then, I found his sincerity convincing. As an
apprentice, his eyes would widen as they did now, but back then they hadn t ’
yet dimmed from the labor of embellishing. But finally I hardened my heart;
he was prepared to confess everything to everyone.
“Do listen to me, I said with forced exasperation. ” “ We make illuminations,
cr eate bor der designs, draw frames onto pages, we brightly ornament page
after page with lovely tones of gold, we make the greatest of paintings, we
adorn armoires and boxes. We ve done nothing else for years. It is our calling. ’
They commission paintings from us, ordering us to arrange a ship, an antelope
or a sultan within the borders of a particular frame, demanding a certain style
of bird, a certain type of figure, take this particular scene from the story, forget
about such-and-such. Whatever it is they demand, we do it. Listen ” , Enishte “
Effendi said to me, here, draw a horse of your own ” imagining, right here. For “
three days, like the great artists of old, I sketched hundreds of horses so I might
come to know exactly what a horse of my own imagin ” ing was. To accustom ‘
my hand, I drew a series of horses on a coarse sheet of Samarkand paper. “
I took these sketches out and showed them to Elegant. He looked at them
with interest and, leaning close to the paper, began to study the black and
white horses in the faint moonlight. The old maste “ rs of Shiraz and Herat, I ”
said, claimed that a miniaturist would have to ske “ tch horses unceasingly for
fifty years to be able to truly depict the horse that Allah envisioned and
desired. They claimed that the best picture of a horse should be drawn in the
dark, since a true miniaturist would go blind working over that fifty-year
period, but in the process, his hand would memorize the horse. ”
The innocent expression on his face, the one I d also seen long ago, when ’
w e w e r e c h i l d r e n , t o l d m e t h a t h ed become completely absorbed in my ’
“They hire us, and we try to make the most mysterious, the most
unattainable horse, just as the old masters did. There s nothing more to it. It s ’ ’
unjust of them to hold us responsible for anything more than the illustration. ”
“ ’I m not sure that s correct, he said. We, too, have responsibilities and ’ ” “
our own will. I fear no one but Allah. It was He who provided us with reason
that we might distinguish Good from Evil. ”
It was an appropriate response.
“Allah sees and knows all…” I said in Arabic. He ll know that you and I, “ ’
we ve done this work without being aware of what we were doing. Who will ’
you notify about Enishte Effendi? Aren t you aware that behind this affair rests ’
the will of His Excellency Our Sultan? ”
I wondered whether he was really such a buffoon or whether his loss of
composure and ranting had sprung out of a sincere fear of Allah.
We stopped at the mouth of the well. In the darkness, I vaguely caught
sight of his eyes and could see that he was scared. I pitied him. But it was too
late for that. I prayed to God to give me one more sign that the man standing
before me was not only a dim-witted coward, but an unredeemable disgrace.
“Count off twelve steps and dig, I said. ”
“Then, what will you do? ”
“ ’I ll explain it all to Enishte Effendi, and he ll burn the pictures. What other ’
recourse is there? If one of Nusret Hoja s followers hears of such an allegation, ’
nothing will remain of us or the book-arts workshop. Are you familiar with
any of the Erzurumis? Accept this money so that we can be certain you won t ’
inform on us. ”
“What is the money contained in? ”
“There are seventy-five Venetian gold pieces inside an old ceramic pickle
jar. ”
The Venetian ducats made good sense, but where had I come up with the
ceramic pickle jar? It was so foolish it was believable. I was thereby reassured
that God was with me and had given me a sign. My old companion
apprentice, who d grown greedier with each passing year, had already started ’
excitedly counting off the twelve steps in the direction I indicated.
There were two things on my mind at that moment. First of all, there were
no Venetian coins or anything of the sort buried there! If I didn t come up ’
with some money this buffoon would destroy us. I suddenly felt like
embracing the oaf and kissing his cheeks as I sometimes did when we were
apprentices, but the years had come between us! Second, I was preoccupied
with figuring out how we were going to dig. With our fingernails? But this
contemplation, if you could call it that, lasted only a wink in time.
Panicking, I grabbed a stone that lay beside the well. While he was still on
the seventh or eighth step, I caught up to him and struck him on the back of
his head with all my strength. I struck him so swiftly and brutally that I was
momentarily startled, as if the blow had landed on my own head. Aye, I felt
his pain.
Instead of anguishing over what I d done, I wanted to finish the job quickly. ’
He d begun thrashing about on the ground and my panic deepened further. ’
Long after I d dropped him into the well, I contemplated how the ’
crudeness of my deed did not in the least befit the grace of a miniaturist.

I am Black s maternal uncle, his ’ enishte, but others also call me Enishte. “ ”
There was a time when Black s mother encouraged him to address me as ’
“Enishte Effendi, and later, not only Black, but ev ” eryone began referring to
me that way. Thirty years ago, after we d moved to the dark and humid street ’
shaded by chestnut and linden trees beyond the Aksaray district, Black began
to make frequent visits to our house. That was our residence before this one. If
I w e r e a w a y o n s u m m e r c a m p a i g n w i th M a h m u t P a s h a , Id return in the ’
autumn to discover that Black and his mother had taken refuge in our home.
Black s mother, may she rest in peace, was the older sister of my dearly ’
departed wife. There were times on winter evenings I d come home to find my ’
wife and his mother embracing and tearfully consoling each other. Black s ’
father, who could never maintain his teaching posts at the remote little
religious schools where he taught, was ill-tempered, angry and had a weakness
for drink. Black was six years old at the time; he d cry when his mother cried, ’
quiet down when his mother fell silent and regarded me, his Enishte, with
It pleases me to see him before me now, a determined, mature and
respectful nephew. The respect he shows me, the care with which he kisses my
hand and presses it to his forehead, the way, for example, he said, Purely for “
red, when he presented me wi ” th the Mongol inkpot as a gift, and his polite
and demure habit of sitting before me with his knees mindfully together; all of
this not only announces that he is the sensible grown man he aspires to be,
but it reminds me that I am indeed the venerable elder I aspire to be.
He shares a likeness with his father, whom I ve seen once or twice: He s tall ’ ’
and thin, and makes slightly nervous yet becoming gestures with his arms and
hands. His custom of placing his hands on his knees or of staring deeply and
intently into my eyes as if to say, I understand, “ I m listening to you with ’
reverence when I tell him something of import, or ” the way he nods his head
with a subtle rhythm matching the measure of my words are all quite
appropriate. Now that I ve reached this age, I know that true respect arises not ’
from the heart, but from discrete rules and deference.
During the years Black s mother brought him fre ’ quently to our house
under every pretense because she anticipated a future for him here, I
understood that books pleased him, and this brought us together. As those in
the house used to put it, he would serve as my app“ rentice. I explained to ”
him how miniaturists in Shiraz had created a new style by raising the horizon
line clear to the top of the border, and that while everyone depicted Mejnun
in a wretched state in the desert, craze d w ith l o v e f or h i s Ley l a , th e gr e at
master Bihzad was better able to convey Mejnuns lon’ eliness by portraying
him walking among groups of women cooking, attempting to ignite logs by
blowing on them or walking between tents. I remarked how absurd it was that
most of the illustrators who depicted the moment when H srev spied the ü
naked Shirin bathing in a lake at midnight had whimsically colored the lovers ’
horses and clothes without having read Nizami s poem, my point being that a ’
miniaturist who took up a brush without the care and diligence to read the
text he was illustrating was motivated by nothing more than greed.
I m delighted now to see that Black has acquired another essential virtue: ’
To avoid disappointment in art, one mustn t treat i ’ t as a career. Despite
whatever great artistic sense and talent a man might possess, he ought to seek
money and power elsewhere to avoid forsaking his art when he fails to receive
proper compensation for his gifts and efforts.
Black recounted how he d met one by one all of the master illustrators and ’
calligraphers of Tabriz by making books for pashas, wealthy Istanbulites and
patrons in the provinces. All these artists, I learned, were impoverished and
overcome by the futility of their lot. Not only in Tabriz, but in Mashhad and
Aleppo, many miniaturists had abandoned working on books and begun
making odd single-leaf pictures curiosities that would please Europea — n
travelers even obscene drawings. Rumor has it that — the illuminated
manuscript Shah Abbas presented to Our Sultan during the Tabriz peace treaty
has already been taken apart so its pages could be used for another book.
Supposedly, the Emperor of Hindustan, Akbar, was throwing so much money
around for a large new book that the most gifted illustrators of T abriz and
Kazvin quit what they were doing and flocked to his palace.
As he told me all of this, he pleasantly interjected other stories as well; for
example, he described with a smile the entertaining story of a Mehdi forgery
or the frenzy that erupted among the Uzbeks when the idiot prince sent to
them by the Safavids as a hostage to peace fell feverishly ill and dropped dead
within three days. Even so, I could tell from the shadow that fell across his face
that the dilemma to which neither of us referred, but which troubled us both,
had yet to be resolved.
Naturally, Black, like every young man who frequented our house or heard
what others had to say about us, or who knew about my beautiful daughter,
Shekure, from hearsay, had fallen in love with her. Perhaps I didn t consider it ’
dangerous enough to warrant my attention back then, but everyone —
including many who d never laid eyes on her fell in love with my daughter, ’ —
that belle of belles. Black s affliction was the ov ’ erwhelming passion of an illfated
youth who had free access to our house, who was accepted and well liked
in our home and who had the opportunity actually to see Shekure. He did not
bury his love, as I hoped he would, but made the mistake of revealing his
extreme passion to my daughter.
As a result, he was forced to quit our house completely.
I assumed that Black now also knew how three years after he d left ’
Istanbul, my daughter married a spahi cavalryman, at the height of her
loveliness, and that this soldier, having fathered two boys but still bereft of any
common sense, had gone off on a campaign never to return again. No one had
heard from the cavalryman in four years. I gathered he was aware of this, not
only because such gossip spreads fast in Istanbul, but because during the
silences that passed between us, I felt he d learned the whole story long ago,

judging by the way he looked into my eyes. Even at this moment, as he casts
an eye at the Book of the Soul, which stands open on the folding X-shaped
reading stand, I know he s listening for the sounds ’ of her children running
through the house; I know he s aware that my daughter has returned here to ’
her father s house with her two sons. ’
I ve neglected to mention the new house I had built in Black s absence. ’ ’
Most likely, Black, like any young fellow who d set his mind to becoming a ’
man of wealth and prestige, considered it quite discourteous to broach such a
subject. Still, when we entered, I told him on the staircase that the second
floor was always less humid, and that moving upstairs had served to ease the
pains in my joints. When I said the second floor, “ I felt oddly embarrassed, ”
but let me tell you: Men with much less money than I, even simple spahi
cavalrymen with tiny military fiefs, will soon be able to build two-story
W e w e r e i n t h e r o o m w i t h t h e b l u e d o o r t h a t I u s e d a s t h e p a i n t i n g
workshop in winter, and I sensed that Black was aware of Shekure s presence ’
in the adjacent room. I at once disclosed to him the matter that inspired the
letter I d sent to Tabriz, inviting him to Istanbul.

“ Just as you did in concert with the calligraphers and miniaturists of Tabriz,
I, too, have been preparing an illustrated manuscript, I said. My client is, in ” “
fact, His Excellency Our Sultan, the Foundation of the World. Because this
book is a secret, Our Sultan has disbursed payment to me under cover of the
Head Treasurer. And I have come to an understanding with each of the most
talented and accomplished artists of Our Sultan s atelier. I have been in the ’
process of commissioning one of them to illustrate a dog, another a tree, a
third I ve charged with making border designs and clouds on the horizon, and ’
yet another is responsible for the horses. I wanted the things I depicted to
represent Our Sultan s entire world, just as in the paintings of the Venetian ’
masters. But unlike the Venetians, my work would not merely depict material
objects, but naturally the inner riches, the joys and fears of the realm over
which Our Sultan rules. If I ended up including the picture of a gold coin, it
was to belittle money; I included Death and Satan because we fear them. I
don t know what the rumors are about. I wanted the immortality of a tree, ’
the weariness of a horse and the vulgarity of a dog to represent His Excellency
Our Sultan and His worldly realm. I also wanted my cadre of illustrators,
nicknamed Stork, Olive, Elegant and Butterfl ” “ ” “ ” y, to select subjects of ‘ “ ”
their own choosing. On even the coldest, most forbidding winter evenings,
one of my Sultan s illustrators would secretly visit to show me what he d ’ ’
prepared for the book.
“What kind of pictures were we making? Why were we illustrating them in
that way? I can t really answer you at present. Not because I m withholding a ’ ’
secret from you, and not because I won t eventually tell you. It s as though I ’ ’
myself don t quite know what the pictures mean. I do, however, know what ’
kind of paintings they ought to be. ”
Four months after I sent my letter, I heard from the barber located on the
street where we used to live that Black had returned to Istanbul, and, in turn, I
invited him to our house. I was fully aware that my story bore a promise of
both sorrow and bliss that would bind the two of us together.
“Every picture serves to tell a story, I said. The ” “ miniaturist, in order to
beautify the manuscript we read, depicts the most vital scenes: the first time
l o v e r s l a y e y e s o n e a c h o t h e r ; t h e h e r o R stem cutting off the ü head of a
devilish monster; R stem s grief when he realizes t ü hat the stranger he s killed ’ ’
is his son; the love-crazed Mejnun as he roams a desolate and wild Nature
among lions, tigers, stags and jackals; the anguish of Alexander, who, having
c o m e t o t h e f o r e s t b e f o r e a b a t t l e t o d i v i n e i t s o u t c o m e f r o m t h e b i r d s ,
witnesses a great falcon tear apart his woodcock. Our eyes, fatigued from
reading these tales, rest upon the pictures. If there s something within the text ’
that our intellect and imagination are at p a i n s to c o n j u r e , th e i l l u st r a t i o n
comes at once to our aid. The images are the story s blossoming in color. But ’
painting without its accompanying story is an impossibility.
“Or so I used to think, I added, as if regretfully. ” But this is indeed quite “
possible. Two years ago I traveled once again to Venice as the Sultan s ’
ambassador. I observed at length the portraits that the Venetian masters had
made. I did so without knowing to which scene and story the pictures
belonged, and I struggled to extract the story from the image. One day, I came
across a painting hanging on a palazzo wall and was dumbfounded.
“ More than anything, the image was of an individual, somebody like
myself. It was an infidel, of course, not one of us. As I stared at him, though, I
felt as if I resembled him. Yet he didn t resemble ’ me at all. He had a full round
face that seemed to lack cheekbones, and moreover, he had no trace of my
marvelous chin. Though he didn t look anything like me, as I gazed upon the ’
picture, for some reason, my heart fluttered as if it were my own portrait.
“I learned from the Venetian gentleman who was giving me a tour through
his palazzo that the portrait was of a friend, a nobleman like himself. He had
included whatever was significant in his life in his portrait: In the background
landscape visible from the open window there was a farm, a village and a
blending of color which made a realistic-looking forest. Resting on the table
before the nobleman were a clock, books, Time, Evil, Life, a calligraphy pen, a
map, a compass, boxes containing gold coins, bric-a-brac, odds and ends,
inscrutable yet distinguishable things that were probably included in many
pictures, shadows of jinns and the Devil and also, the picture of the man s ’
stunningly beautiful daughter as she stood beside her father.
“What was the narrative that this representation was meant to embellish
and complete? As I regarded the work, I slowly sensed that the underlying tale
was the picture itself. The painting wasn t the extension of a story at all, it was ’
something in its own right.
“I never forgot the painting that bewildered me so. I left the palazzo,
returned to the house where I was staying as a guest and pondered the picture
the entire night. I, too, wanted to be portrayed in this manner. But, no, that
wasn t appropriate, it was Our Sultan who ought to be thus portrayed! Our ’
Sultan ought to be rendered along with everything He owned, with the things
that represented and constituted His realm. I settled on the notion that a
manuscript could be illustrated according to this idea.
“The Venetian virtuoso had made the nobleman s picture in such a way ’
that you would immediately know which particular nobleman it was. If you d ’
never seen that man, if they told you to pick him out of a crowd of a thousand
others, you d be able to select the correct man with the help of that portrait. ’
The Venetian m
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