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Author corner: Elif shafak

Author- Elif Shafak

Nationality- Turkish

Age- 49 years

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist. She has published 19 books, 12 of which are novels. She is a bestselling author in many countries around the world and her work has been translated into 55 languages.  Her latest novel 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and RSL Ondaatje Prize; and chosen Blackwell’s Book of the Year. The Forty Rules of Love was chosen by BBC among 100 Novels that Shaped Our World. The Architect’s Apprentice was chosen for the Duchess of Cornwall’s inaugural book club, The Reading Room. Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she has taught at various universities in Turkey, the US and the UK, including St Anne’s College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow. She also holds a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Bard College.

Shafak is a Fellow and a Vice President of the Royal Society of Literature. She was a member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy and a founding member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations). An advocate for women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and freedom of expression, Shafak is an inspiring public speaker and twice TED Global speaker. Shafak contributes to major publications around the world and she was awarded the medal of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2017 she was chosen by Politico as one of the twelve people “who will give you a much needed lift of the heart”. Shafak has judged numerous literary prizes, including PEN Nabokov Prize and she has chaired the Wellcome Prize.

Shafak spent her teenage years in Madrid, Spain before returning to her native Turkey. Throughout her life she has lived in numerous cities and states, including Ankara, Turkey, Cologne, Germany; Amman, Jordan; and Boston, Michigan, and Arizona. She has at the same time been deeply attached to the city of Istanbul, which plays an important part in her fiction. As a result, a sense of multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism has consistently characterized both her life and her work.

Shafak has published nine books, seven of which are novels. She writes in both Turkish and English. Her most recent novel, THE FORTY RULES OF LOVE will be released by Viking in the USA in February 2010. Selling more than 150 000 copies in a month it instantly became number one best-seller in Turkey. The novel narrates a modern love story between a Jewish-American housewife and a modern Sufi living in Amsterdam. Their unusual story is told against the remarkable spiritual bond between Rumi and Shams of Tabriz. Sufism has always played an important role in Shafak’s writing but it was in this book that she dealt with the subject head-on.

Þafak debuted in literature with her story Kem Gözlere Anadolu, published in 1994. Her first novel, Pinhan (The Sufi) was awarded the “Rumi Prize” in 1998, which is given to the best work in mystical literature in Turkey. Her second novel, Þehrin Aynalarý (Mirrors of the City), brings together Jewish and Islamic mysticism against a historical setting in the 17th century Mediterranean. Þafak greatly increased her readership with her novel Mahrem (The Gaze), which earned her the “Union of Turkish Writers´ Prize” in 2000. Her next novel, Bit Palas (The Flea Palace), has been a bestseller in Turkey.  “The setting is a stately residence in Istanbul built by Russian noble émigré Pavel Antipov for his wife Agripina at the end of the Tsarist reign, now sadly dilapidated, flea-infested, and home to ten families. Shafak uses the narrative structure of A Thousand and One Nights to construct a story-within-a-story narrative.”

The book was followed by Med-Cezir, a non-fiction book of essays on gender, sexuality, mental ghettoes, and literature.

Þafak´s first novel written in English The Saint of Incipient Insanities was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Her second novel written in English is The Bastard of Istanbul (a literal Turkish translation of the title would be “The Father and the Bastard”), which was the bestselling book of 2006 in Turkey. The novel brought Þafak under prosecution by the Turkish government for “insulting Turkishness” under Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code. The charges were ultimately dismissed.

Following the birth of her daughter in 2006 she suffered from post-natal depression for more than ten months, a period she addressed in her first autobiographical book, Black Milk, which combines fiction and non-fiction genres.

In addition to writing fiction, Shafak is also a political scientist and assistant professor, having graduated from the program in International Relations at Middle East Technical University. She holds a Masters degree in Gender and Women’s Studies and a Ph.D. in Political Science. Focusing mainly in contemporary Western political thought, with a supplementary interest in Middle Eastern studies, Shafak’s scholarship has been nurtured by an interdisciplinary and gender-conscious re-reading of the literature on the Middle East and West, Islam, and modernity. Her master’s thesis on Islam, women, and mysticism received an award from the Social Scientists Institute.

Shafak has taught at various universities around the world, including Ýstanbul Bilgi University, the University of Michigan, the University of Arizona, and Istanbul Bahcesehir University. Her courses have explored the intersections between Turkish history, women’s studies, and literature, including classes such as “Ottoman History from the Margins,” “Turkey and Cultural Identities, “Women and Writing,” “Sexualities and Gender in the Muslim World,” “Exile, Literature, and Imagination,” and “The Politics of Memory.”

Shafak continues to write for various daily and monthly publications in Turkey. She has also contributed to various papers in Europe, and the United States,  including The Guardian, Le Monde, Berliner Zeitung, Dutch Handelsbladt, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Time Magazine, and has recently been featured in the US on National Public Radio.

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