Black Effendi has been asked by his uncle, Enishte, to write stories to supplement the pictures in the book. The book is a central aspect of the novel– Elegant was killed because his religious beliefs led him to disapprove of the book, which utilized perspective (a European concept, which replicated human viewpoint, rather than traditional Islamic art, which works to replicate the view that Allah would see– all on the same level.) Right now, it seems like Enishte asked Black because he thinks he can be controlled through his love/desire for Shekure.
As Black is investigate the death of Elegant, he interviews the three other miniaturists: Butterfly, Stork, and Olive. But first, he talks to master illustrator Osman about how to tell a great/genuine miniaturist from the ordinary. Osman says he asks three questions:
- should he have an individual style?
- how does he feel about pictures being removed from their original texts and added to others? (this is a question about an illustrator’s time vs human time)
- and blindness! (Blindness is silence. The answer to the first two questions combined is blindness.)
And each of the three miniaturists answer the question with three parables. And I don’t *really* understand the meaning of them, but I’m pretty sure the key to the mystery is there. (These are chapters 12, 13, and 14, so I can return to this if necessary.)
Butterfly doesn’t wait for the questions (or doesn’t relate them, in his narrative)– emphasizes “money and fame as the “inalienable rights of the talented.”
A later chapter (18) is narrated by one of the miniaturists, but in his guise as a murderer. He says “I have no individual style or flaws in artistry to betray my hidden persona. Indeed, I believe that style, or for that matter, anything that serves to distinguish one artist from another, is a flaw– not individual character, as some arrogantly claim.” … “If I do have style and character, it’s not only hidden in my artwork, but in my crime and in my words as well! Yes, try to discover who I am from the color of who I am from the color of my words!”
And later, he says “that evil can be endured, and moreover, that it’s indispensable to an artist” … it allows “brighter and bolder colors, and most important, realized that [he] could conjure up wonders in my imagination.”
Another quote, from Black’s chapter, quoting Enishte: “And it isn’t enough that we be in awe of the authority and money of these men who commission the works, they also want us to know that simply existing in this world is a very special, mysterious event.”
“He was frightened because he suddenly understood– and perhaps desired–that Islamic artistry, perfected and securely established by the old masters of Herat, would meet its end on account of the appeal of portraiture. “However, it was as if I too wanted to feel extra-ordinary, different and unique.”
“An illustration that does not complement a story, in the end, will become but a false idol.”
“What filled my Enishte with fear was the notion of situating at the center of the page– and thereby, the world– something other than what God had intended.”
This is NOT making sense yet.