Elif Shafak: The art of storytelling

Elif Shafak, arguably Turkey’s best female author, gives a speech at TED talks about herself, about writing and life in general. A delightful 20 minutes video that is worth spreading.

Her stories are the perfect blend of Western and Eastern cultures as she is able to represent both the modern woman and traditional Turkish woman conditions. Shafak spent time traveling and living all over the world (currently she lives in London) but she has a deep passion and insight into her home culture and she does one hell of a job of delivering unique perspectives on a variety of complex issues about Turkey. She has seen both sides of the coin and takes her wisdom from that. That is evident in many layers in her writing and public speeches. You can feel it in her general look on things but also in her formal apparoach that she so elegantly lays down without repelling the audiance. Most of her books have two story strands; one of them illustratin , the fictional character filled with western norms and rational thinking, the next one based in her homecountry Turkey, most of the time in Istanbul, a city she deeply adores, that actually…

(…) makes [her] comprehend, maybe not intellectually but intuitively, that east and West are ultimately imainery concepts, and can thereby be de-imained and re-imained…

(Elif Shafak for Time magazine)

Elif Shafak is pretty gorgeous, isn't she?

And the techniques she uses with those characters who happen to be the two main rolemodels from her childhood meet and without weighing one over the other, Elif Shafak explores both and most of all, remarks how they actually are “(…) (unlike) water and oil. They do mix. And in a city like Istanbul they mix intensely, incessantly, amazinly”, she told in a recent interview.

My first contact with Elif Shafak was her novel “The forty rules of Love”, a story evolving around one of the most influential poets the ottoman empire ever brought out, Rumi, a 13th century preacher and poet, and his development from being a very well liked and respected preacher to finding his true destiny in poetry and the endless love of the universe, while the other story strand, in the 21st century, evolves around a middle aed american woman, trapped in a nice but unexciting marriae, stumpling over exactly those RUMI poems that leave her puzzled and at the same time make her rethink her life.

I never was a religious person and always had a problem with the word god because it is dripping with meaning and importance, but the authors approach towards ettin the reader closer to rumis philosophy or Sufism itself I couldn’t help but be intrigued by its simplicity, modesty and Elif’s ability of story-telling. On top of that she manages, and that is in all of her books I’ve read so far- to combine the meaningful content that is of importance to her to share, with a worthwhile, enthralling story, including shaping characters that visit you in your dreams.

Livin in Turkey right now as a child of western civilization,   the discovery of this author obviously has a lot of personal value to me, simply because it fits my current situation. I feel like one of  one of her characters, being fascinated by Istanbul, not being able to leave this city behind and discovering new sides of it everyday, I can deeply emphasize with both her characters and her own fascination with the city. And I am not the only one.


The stories are fiction, not politics… she is an amazing writer…

I love Elif Shafak. She is a good writer and I agree with her completely. Literatüre is universal ,so writer may reflect his/her culture in his/her work.But this isn’t a rule. Maybe he/she write his/her work  by being affected to other language or cultures. I think this is normal.

She is undescribable! She is an amazing woman, a marvelous author and a Great person!

Though Elif Shafak makes valid points about artistic freedom, I would rather read books by writers who write what they know.

“The Sufis say: ‘Knowledge that takes you not beyond yourself is far worse than ignorance.'” … ooooh I’ve been there, anchored into ignorance by knowledge.

I thought it was very obvious, I guess not, let me explain it for you.. Elif Shafak would be the spelling of her last name with all-English letters. An English keyboard doesn’t have the Turkish “ş” letter and when people who are not Turkish see the letter they don’t know how to read/pronunciate it. On the other hand, everyone with a latin-alphabet based keyboard can spell and pronounce “Shafak” which sounds exactly the same as “Şafak”, unsurprisingly since the letter “ş” is basically the sound “sh”.

Wow! As soon as the camera cut to her while she spoke, I just went wow! She’s incredible.

Elif Shafak is an award-winning novelist and the most widely read woman writer in Turkey. Critics have named her as “one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary Turkish and world literature”. Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages and she was awarded the honorary distinction of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.

Shafak has published thirteen books, nine of which are novels. She writes fiction in both Turkish and English. Shafak blends Western and Eastern traditions of storytelling, bringing out the myriad stories of women, minorities, immigrants, subcultures, youth and global souls.

Her work draws on diverse cultures and literary traditions, as well as deep interest in history, philosophy, Sufism, oral culture, and cultural politics. Shafak’s writing breaks down categories, clichés, and cultural ghettoes. She also has a keen eye for black humor. –Source

Fazıl Say – Black Earth

Fazıl Say (born in 1970) is undoubtedly one of the most talented and respected Turkish artists today. He is a pianist and a composer who has gained success on the internation scale both with his tremendous talent in playing the piano and in creating music.

Fazıl Say wrote his first piece – a piano sonata – as early as 1984, at the age of fourteen, when he was a student at the Conservatory of his home town Ankara. And he never stopped creating ever since…

Fazıl Say stands to some extent in the tradition of composers like Béla Bartók, George Enescu, and György Ligeti, who also drew on the rich musical folklore of their countries. He attracted international attention with the piano piece Black Earth (1997), in which he employs techniques familiar to us from John Cage and his works for prepared piano.

“In April 2012, Say came under investigation by the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office over statements made on Twitter, declaring himself an atheist and retweeting a message poking fun at the Islamic conception of paradise. Say then announced that he was considering leaving Turkey to live in Japan because of the rise of conservative Islam and growing intolerance in his home country. On 1 June 2012, an Istanbul court indicted Say with the crime of “publicly insulting religious values that are adopted by a part of the nation”, a crime that carries a penalty of up to 18 months in prison. According to Anatolia news agency, Say told the Istanbul court he did not seek to insult anybody, but was merely expressing his uneasiness. The court adjourned the case to February 18 after rejecting his lawyers’ request for an immediate acquittal. “When I read them (Say’s tweets), I was heart-broken, I felt disgraced,” Turan Gumus, one of the three plaintiffs, told the court.”

Read more on Wikipedia or Fazıl’s Website.


What do we expect from YOU?

We’ve been talking a lot about what The Other Tour means to us and what we want to do with it as we move into the future.

The vast majority of tourists come to this city, spend a few days here, visit the main attractions, and leave without actually seeing what separates Istanbul from its Constantinople days and what really makes today’s Istanbul quite another story.

The Other Tour exists to tell that story. 500 tours later our goal, our vision, has developed into something more profound.

What we have created, and what we want to foster, is this concept that attracts interesting, open minded people from around the world and brings them together for 14+ hours. In a way, The Other Tour is a brain storming session that uses Istanbul as it’s setting!

We encourage open talk. We want smart, well educated, free-minded people, willing to think outside of the box and consider different perspectives. We want people who question and challenge us.

We want people who are open to discussing the world’s problems and eager to find solutions.

We want to challenge assumptions (both our own as well as participant’s) and we want to do it in an atmosphere where everybody is comfortable.

This tour, as more than 400 TripAdvisor review can attest to, is fun. So we don’t want that previous paragraph to throw you off. People spend all day laughing and joking and hugging. And as about a dozen other reviews emphasize how edgy our approach can sometimes be for conservative guests.


Come with an open mind and the same sort of energy and you, ‘the other’ participants, as well as the guides themselves are guaranteed to have an awesome time!

What we have come to realize is that no matter how different from one another people may seem to be in the morning, as the day progresses everybody is able to find a common ground.

By the end of the day we are truly ONE group. People are able to overlook the little things and they let themselves make the best of the precious little time that they have with all of these great people. We love that!


The Diva of Turkish Music: Müzeyyen Senar

Müzeyyen Senar (born 1918) is a Turkish classical music performer. Her voice and style has inspired so many other musician in recent history. She is definitely one of the best we ever had and probably every will.

Müzeyyen Senar is by far my favourite Turkish singer. Her voice, her attitude brings so much into a song that when you listen to the same song sang by somebody else, you feel like shit. You know the feeling?

2015 Update

Veteran Turkish classical singer Müzeyyen Senar died at the age of 96 at a hospital in the Aegean province of İzmir on Feb. 8.

Senar had been in the Izmir Ege University Medical School Hospital since Feb. 2, her daughter Feraye Işıl said.

In 2013, Turkish classical singer Senar received Turkey’s Culture and Arts Grand Award, which is presented annually by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.