The entire My Name Is Red novel is composed of dozens of short stories. Stories about different people, things and events happening in different times, ranging from the present (17th century) to ‘a long, long time ago’, and in different places, although most stories are set in or around Istanbul. And yet, they are all written from the first person point of view. Time and space, which really matter here, are the here and now, in the place and moment of the encounter between the storyteller and the listener. It is not about the facts that the storytellers were supposed to convey so that the listener could arrive at some objective truth; it is about engaging with the story. About café entertainment. 


By the way, if I were to try to guess why Orhan Pamuk is not entirely satisfied with the criminal aspect of the novel, I would say that the reason might be the dissonance between this central premise and the rather classically structured intrigue with a murder, suspects, and so on. Overall, it is not a question of what happened, it is a question of how and who is telling the story, and on the topic of murder – we are aiming to explain the mystery unambiguously. I think I’d prefer it if it didn’t just turn out, but if it were to get blurred, as in gossip. And so it goes for the absolute majority of the novel; it remains unclear what only seemed to happen, what was only a dream, and what may have really happened, if separating such a category even makes sense.


All in all, stories. Longer, shorter – different ones. Seemingly unrelated, but in truth, the stories are in deep and astonishing relations with one another.


Composition lessons with Uliana Bilan were held at cafés. Most often in “Śnieżka” in Gliwice. I would sit there with Uliana Bilan for long, long hours, listening to incredible stories, memories of Lviv’s cafés and kind remarks about my creative attempts. I remembered one lesson especially well. I did not bring anything new, thinking that this one time nothing would happen and I could just listen to the stories after all. Uliana Bilan went pale. And that paleness was terrible, contrasting with her red hair. After a moment’s silence, she moved on to telling stories and I never ever allowed myself for such a thing again. To this day, I shudder at the thought that I would one day simply skip working.


I have acquired a long-necked seven-string Turkish saz and I’m strumming on it.


(transl. Magdalena Małek-Andrzejowska)