Quotes from My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk*

Before my birth there was infinite time, and after my death, inexhaustible time. [Page 3]

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. With growing panic, I tried desperately to remember her, only to realize that despite love, a face long not seen finally fades. [7]

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 promontories. [11]

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. [18]

I was a maiden of striking beauty then. Any man who caught sight of me once, from afar, or from between parted curtains or yawning doors, or even through the layers of my modest head coverings, immediately became enamored of me. I'm not being a braggart, I'm explaining this so you'll understand my story and be better able to share in my grief. [47]

You know how in such situations reasonable people immediately sense that love without hope is simply hopeless, and understanding the limits of illogical realm of the heart, make a quick end of it by politely declaring, "They didn't find us suitably matched. That's just the way it is." But I'll you know that my mother said several times, "At least don't break the boy's heart." [48]

[A] person never knows exactly what she herself is thinking. This is what I know: Sometimes I'll say something and realize upon uttering it that it is of my own thinking; but no sooner do I arrive at that realization than I'm convinced the very opposite is true. [49]

Drink down your coffee so your sleep abandons you and your eyes open wide. Stare at me as you would at jinns and let me explain to you why I'm so alone. [56]

Painting is the silence of thought and the music of sight. [72]

True ability and talent couldn't be corrupt even by the love of gold or fame. Furthermore, if truth be told, money and fame are the inalienable rights of the talented, as in my case, and only inspire us to greater feats. [75]

If love is part of the subject of the painting, the work ought to be rendered with love...if there's pain involved, pain should issue from the painting. Yet pain out to emerge from the at first glance invisible yet discernible inner harmony of the picture, not from the figures in the illustration or from their tears. [89]

Before the art of illumination there was blackness and afterward there will also be blackness. Through our colors, paints, art and love, we remember that Allah had commanded us to "See!" To know is to remember that you've seen. To see is to know without remembering. Thus, painting is remembering the blackness. The great master, who shared a love of painting and perceived that color and sight arose from darkness, longed to return to Allah's blackness by means of color. Artists without memory neither remember Allah nor his blackness. All great masters, their work, seek that profound void within color and outside time. [92]

Tell me then, does love make one a fool or do only fools fall in love? [99]

Haste delays the fruits of love. [100]

It wasn't aging, losing one's beauty or even being bereft of husband and money that was the worst of all calamities, what was truly horrible was not having anyone to be jealous of you. [106]

The larger and more colorful a city is, the more places there are to hide one's guilt and sin; the more crowded it is, the more people there are to hide behind. [123]

A city's intellect out to be measured not by its scholars, libraries, miniaturists, calligraphers and schools, but by the number of crimes insidiously committed on its dark streets over thousands of years. [123]

[L]ove is the ability to make the invisible visible and the desire always to feel the invisible in one's midst. [139]

If presented with the opportunity, we would choose to do in the name of a greater goal whatever awful thing we've already prepared to do for the sake of our own miserable gains, for the lust that burns within us or for the love that breaks our hearts... [144]

When faced with death, people lose control of their bodily functions - particularly the majority of those men who are known to be bravehearted. For this reason, the corpse-strewn battlefields that you've depicted thousands of times reek not of blood, gunpowder and heated armor as is assumed, but of shit and rotting flesh. [151]

Disappearing in a sulk might be a symptom of love, yet a sulking love is also tiresome and holds no promise of a future. [184]

Color is the touch of the eye, music to the deaf, a word out of the darkness. Because I've listened to souls whispering - like the susurrus of the wind - from book to book and object to object for tens of thousands of years, allow me to say that my touch resembles the touch of angels. Part of me, the serious half, calls out to your vision while the mirthful half soars through the air with your glances. [225]

The first step is marriage ... Let's see to that first. Love comes after marriage. Don't forget: Marriage douses love's flame, leaving nothing but a barren and melancholy blackness. Of course, after marriage, love itself will vanish anyway;  but happiness fills the void. Still, there are those hasty fools who fall in love before marrying and, burning with emotion, exhaust all their feeling, believing love to be the highest goal in life. [231]

Only when one escapes the dungeons of time and space does it become evident that life is a straitjacket. However blissful it is being a soul without a body in the realm of the dead, so too is being a body without a soul among the living; what a pity nobody realizes this before dying. [281]

[I]n order for a genuine wandering dervish to escape the devil within, he must roam his entire life without remaining anywhere too long. [339]

If all men went to Heaven, no one would ever be frightened, and the world and its governments could never function on virtue alone; for in our world evil is as necessary as virtue and sin as necessary as rectitude. [350]

You're seeking what you want with your heart, whereas you need to be making decisions with your mind. [420]

Despite knowing what it takes to be content, a man might still be unhappy. [445]

Time doesn't flow if you don't dream. [466]

Without harboring bad intentions, one never goes to Hell. [482]
*Version published by Faber and Faber 2001


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