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)

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 Rumi’s 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.

Living in Turkey right now as a child of western civilisation,   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. Literature 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 hard to describe! She is an amazing woman, a marvellous 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/pronounce 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