Elif Shafak’s New Book Reviewed

One of my favourite Turkish writers at last brings out her latest book. I’ve read two of her books The Bastard of Istanbul and Bit Palas (The Flea Palace). Marvelous writer.

Elif Shafak begins her new novel with a dedication containing a dark and portentous anecdote: when she was seven years old, she lived next door to a tailor who was in the habit of beating his wife. “In the evenings, we listened to the shouts, the cries, the swearing. In the morning, we went on with our lives as usual. The entire neighbourhood pretended not to have heard, not to have seen.”

Having dedicated her book to “those who hear, those who see”, Shafak hands over to Esma Toprak, a London-bred Turkish Kurd, as she prepares to set off for Shrewsbury Prison to collect her brother, who has just served a 14-year term for murder. It is implied, but not confirmed, that his victim was their mother. Esma admits to having thought often about killing her brother in revenge. And yet she plans to welcome him back into the house she now shares with her husband and two daughters.

This is the cloud that hangs over the next 300-odd pages, as Esma offers up fragments of family history, beginning with her mother’s birth in a village near the Euphrates. She describes a world where women as well as men enforce an honour code that results in the social death of men who fail to act like men, and the actual death of several female relatives. When her family migrates to Istanbul, and then to London in the early 1970s, they take that code with them, but as they grow accustomed to life in the west it becomes less a system of social regulation than a compulsion they can neither control nor understand.

Adem, the father, falls in love with an exotic dancer. Disgraced, he drifts away. Iskender, the eldest son, is left unprotected and is brutally bullied before forming his own gang and doing much worse to others. His views on masculinity are further sharpened by the neighbourhood’s fledgling radicals and he has one rule for his English girlfriend and another for Pembe, his mother. Tradition dictates that he is now the head of the household, and even though she does not like him controlling her, she nevertheless defers to him, going out of her way to convey her approval for her “sultan”.

Read full article @ The Guardian

ELIF SHAFAK, (born 1971, Strasbourg, France) is a Turkish writer who writes in both Turkish and English. Her books have been translated into more than thirty languages. Elif Shafak has emerged as one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary literature in both Turkish and English. She has published twelve books, eight of which are novels.
Shafak’s first novel, Pinhan (The Mystic) was awarded the Rumi Prize in 1998, which is given to the best work in mystical literature in Turkey. Her second novel, Şehrin Aynaları (Mirrors of the City), brings together Jewish and Islamic mysticism against a historical setting in the 17th century Mediterranean. Shafak’s next novel Mahrem (The Gaze), earned her the Union Turkish Writers’ Prize in 2000. The following novel, Bit Palas (The Flea Palace), was a bestseller in Turkey. The book was followed by Med-Cezir, a non-fiction book of essays on gender, sexuality, mental ghettoes, and literature.


~ by eneryvibes on 1,May 1, 2012.

One Response to “Elif Shafak’s New Book Reviewed”

  1. […] Elif Shafak’s New Book Reviewed (eneryvibes.wordpress.com) […]

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