Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak was born in Strasbourg. When she was only one her parents divorced and her mother, who became a diplomat, took her to Turkey and raised her with the help of Shafak’s grandmother. Shafak has also resided in the US, Spain, Germany, and Britain. She defines herself as a Turkish writer and Istanbul is essential to her writing. Today, she’s one of the most widely read female Turkish writers. Her mother is a Westernized, rationalistic, and modern woman. Her grandmother is traditional and superstitious. Her mother instilled the love of books, European culture, and her grandmother introduced folklore, oral histories, and Eastern heritage. I haven’t read her books yet (I intend to), and I’m fascinated to find out how these influences come together.

Elif Shafak is on the right.

Elif Shafak is on the right.

Shafak can dream in three languages: Turkish, English, and occasionally in Spanish. Spanish was her second language, however she doesn’t write in Spanish. When asked how she decides which language to write in her response was that every story comes with its own style and language. Her mind and heart are open to the possibilities and she lets the story decide. She did add that usually she writes in English and then has a professional translator convert her books into Turkish.

She started writing poetry in English as a child. Since she moved a lot, writing became a

A large crowd gathered to hear her speak.

A large crowd gathered to hear her speak.

constant in her life. And she has a love of words, including old words that have been left out of new Turkish dictionaries. She believes that words and language are older than us. There are no old words. No useless words, and that the loss of these older words and the ability to read older scripts in her country has caused a huge rupture in Turkish memory. When  someone’s vocabulary shrinks, so does their imagination.

Listening to her speak at the London Book fair was fantastic. And it has inspired me to seek out copies of her works. I glanced at the library’s website and they do have copies of several of her novels. Honour, her eighth novel, was published in January and her memoir, Black Milk, will be released in the UK in August. Have you read any of her books.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American living in England. When she isn’t writing, she’s traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs, or reading. Not necessarily in that order.
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46 Responses to Elif Shafak

  1. I really like Shafak’s work. It wrings a chord in me because I am a woman, because I live in India which is similar to Turkey in being a society in flux between traditional/conservative and modernity and I love her stories for portraying the ordinary within the extraordinary. Thank you for sharing a bit about her life here…

  2. I’ve never heard of her; however, you have made me fascinated to I am going to look her up right now :).

  3. mothergrogan says:

    I’ve read her “The Flea Palace” and I must say I was impressed. Magical book.

  4. aFrankAngle says:

    I’ve got the feeling this is one of your favorite events.

  5. That’s awesome! How lucky are you 🙂

  6. Aslı says:

    I highly recommend this book (http://www.elifshafak.com/kitaplar/the_frol.asp) of her. Thanks for your post 😉

  7. niasunset says:

    She is the great writer in my country, and her books always among the best sellers… Nice to see her in London Book Fair. I hope you enjoy reading her books… Thanks and Love, nia

    • TBM says:

      Turkey and Turkish writers were the center of the fair. I heard several Turkish writes speak and I hope to share more soon on the blog. Wonderful people!

  8. Lucid Gypsy says:

    I read and loved The Forty Rules of Love, bought at Istanbul Airport two years ago and highly recommend it!

  9. Madhu says:

    Never heard of her either. Shall try and pick up one of her books right away. Thanks TBM

  10. I haven’t heard of her but this post really makes me want to read her works!

  11. pattisj says:

    I never thought of dreaming in a different language!

  12. biblioglobal says:

    I keep hearing more and more about Elif Shafak and everything I hear is good. I really need to read something (probably several things!) by by her. I’m planning to start with Honour.

    • TBM says:

      I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think. Have you read any other Turkish authors for your project?

      • biblioglobal says:

        I read Snow by Orhan Pamuk for Turkey. It’s quite an interesting novel about the conflict between Islam and secularism in Turkey.

      • TBM says:

        Pamuk was mentioned a lot at the fair, but I haven’t read any of his works. Adding him to my list. These fairs are fun but they are killer on my TBR pile.

  13. nrlymrtl says:

    On a whim, I picked up her book The Bastard of Istanbul. It was awesome. Unlike anything I had read before. The booked focused on 3 generations of women in Turkey and also a young American woman. The story was about these women but without being all, ‘I am woman, hear me roar’. You can find a review on my book blog if you want more info.

  14. She’s new to me but will search out some of her books at the library.

  15. Daniel says:

    I definitely understand how she manages to write, and dream in different languages. My family is from Brazil, but since I was four, I have lived in Angola, the US and Australia. We only speak Portuguese at home, but I have always gone to English speaking schools, and have taken Spanish and German language classes in the past. When people ask me what language I think in, or what language my conscience speaks in, or even my language my dreams are in, I have to explain that it really depends on what I was thinking or dreaming about.
    I had never heard of Elif Shafak, but I’m so glad I did, because her story is so fascinating, and I will definitely look into reading some of her work!

    Daniel
    http://www.myworldatyourfingertips.com

    • TBM says:

      I hope you like her novels. She was a fascinating and sincere person to listen to speak. And how cool that you have such a background. I’m envious. Very envious. I only speak English, but am slowly trying to learn Spanish. I doubt I will ever dream in Spanish, unless it involves not being able to understand when people are speaking to me during our travels.

  16. The Hook says:

    She sounds wonderful.

  17. The Guat says:

    Dude how awesome for you that this chick rocked your world! The fact that she can dream in three languages duuuuuuuuuuuuuude. Definitely got plenty imagination there 🙂

    • TBM says:

      From the description of her books I think she does have a wonderful imagination. I barely remember my dreams. I’m not going to interpret what that says about me and my imagination.

  18. from here to amazon. i’m intrigued and out of books at the moment.

  19. AussyDog says:

    I had know idea who this was…..I just thought she was cute. Who knew there was a sensational brain within that delightful wrapping. =P

  20. Fergiemoto says:

    Sounds fascinating!

  21. Wow! The London Book Fair sounds like an amazing experience. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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