The Books of My Numberless Dreams

The beauty of our world

Posted on: January 5, 2007

“You yourself told me how Sheikh Muhammad the Master of Isfahan burned down the great library containing the paintings he had renounced, and how he also immolated himself in a fit of bad conscience,” he said. “Now let me tell you another story related to that legend that you don’t know. It’s true, he’d spent the last thirty years of his life hunting down his own works. However, in the books he perused, he increasingly discovered imitations inspired by him rather than his original work. In later years, he came to realise that two generations of artists had adopted as models of form the illustrations he himself had renounced, that they’d ingrained his pictures in their minds–or more accurately, had made them a part of their souls. As Sheikh Muhammad attempted to find his own pictures and destroy them, he discovered that young miniaturists had, with reverence, produced them in countless books, had relied on them in illustrating other stories, had caused them to be memorised by all and had spread them over the world. Over long years, as we gaze at book after book and illustration after illustration, we come to learn the following: A great painter does not content himself by affecting us with masterpieces; ultimately, he succeeds in changing the landscape of our minds. Once a miniaturist’s artistry enters our souls this way, it becomes the criterion for the beauty of our world. At the end of his life, as the Master of Isfahan burned his own art, he not only witnessed the fact that his work, instead of disappearing, actually proliferated and increased; he understood that everybody now saw the world the way he had seen it.”

From “My Name is Red” by Orhan Pamuk, translated by Erdaq M. Guknar

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