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Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak tijdens 'Geheugen, Spreek' in Theater aan het Spui/Filmhuis Den Haag op vrijdagavond 18 januari in Winternachten 2008.  - foto Serge Ligtenberg
Elif Shafak tijdens 'Geheugen, Spreek' in Theater aan het Spui/Filmhuis Den Haag op vrijdagavond 18 januari in Winternachten 2008.  - foto Serge Ligtenberg

(France, 1971) is an important critical voice in world literature and the most widely read female Turkish author, with an extensive oevre of novels, essays and non-fiction to her name. Many of her works have been translated into English. Her novel 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World was shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize. In 2006, she had to appear in court for The Bastard of Istanbul on the charge of "insulting Turkish identity"; she was exonerated. Her 2006 novel The Flea Palace deals with the picturesque lives of the inhabitants of a crumbling apartment building in Istanbul. Other well-read titles include Black Milk: On Writing, Motherhood and the Harem Within (2012), The House of the Four Winds (2013) and The Three Daughters of Eva (2017). Injustice, gender, sexuality and the position of women are important themes in her work. Shafak spent part of her youth in Madrid and Amman. She studied at the Technical University of Ankara, where she graduated in political science. She has lectured on gender studies and other subjects at the universities of Michigan and Arizona.

(WN 2022)

Archive available for: Elif Shafak

  • Winternachten 2008

    Winternachten Lecture: Elif Shafak

    With: Bas Heijne, Elif Shafak, Osama Abdulrasol

    The writer as commuter

    The novels of Elif Shafak have been praised in the Dutch press as "cosmopolitan, with a universal human message". In 2005 Winternachten introduced Shafak in the Netherlands. Now she opens the festival with the Winternachten Lecture. The lecture can be downloaded here as PDF.

    In our polarised society, in which the islamic and western worlds are often diametrically oppsed we need new cultural forces. Shafak sees a role for literature. In her Winternachten Lecture she will portray the ideal writer as a commuter between cultures, a nomad who by means of art brings two conflicting worlds closer together. She challenges writers to descend from their ivory towers. Using examples from presentday eastern and western literature she will illustrate her views on literature and multiculturalism.

    In recent years Elif Shafak's novels have created quite a stir, not only in Turkey, but alsoi elsewhere in the world. Her first novel in Dutch translation was The Flea Palace (2006), about the pictutesque lives of the inhabitants of a dilapidated apartment building in Istanbul. Important themes in her work are multiculturalism, sexuality and the position of women. In 2006 her novel The Bastard of Istanbul appeared. Shafak was born in Strassbourg and raised as the daughter of a single Turkish diplomat and spent a large part of her youth in Madrid and Amman. She studied international relations at the Technical University of Ankara, where she got her Ph.D. in political science on a dissertation entitled: 'State, secularism and masculinity in the modern Turkish society'. She taught among other things gender studies at the universities of Michigan and Arizona. Other books by Shafak are The Saint of Incipient Insanities (2004), The Gaze (2006) and Black Milk, which appeared in November 2007. Shafak publishes regularly in Turkish newspapers and magazines.

    After the lecture Elif Shafak will be interviewed by essay writer and NRC Handelsblad editor Bas Heijne. An English/Dutch text of the lecture will be made available.

    DOEN Foundation supports the Winternachten Lecture 2008, because international writers are given an opportunity here to share their views. With their colleagues at the festival, but also with the broader public. Thus new insights are born offering a contribution to the social debate in the Netherlands.

    The lecture and the interview are in English.

  • Winternachten 2008 – Winternachten vrijdagavond

    Memory, speak

    Three writers of international stature talk about the fear of forgetting the past and the task of the writer to recall that past. 'I am the Second World War', Mulisch once claimed about himself. In the work of Shafak and Krog national history also plays an important role. Interview by Rudi Wester. Partly in Dutch and in English.

  • World Speakers - april 2006

    Islam and disrupted childhood

    With: Elif Shafak, Fouad Laroui, Margalith Kleijwegt, Pieter Hilhorst, Rema Hammami

    This was the first programme in the series 'World Speakers' in Korzo Theatre in The Hague, organised by Winternachten and the Institute of Social Studies. The debate looked at traditions and Islam in the education of children in changing and hostile social environments. Participants were Elif Shafak, a writer from Istanbul and lecturer in gender studies in the USA, Rema Hammami from Palestine, lecturer in anthropology and women's studies, Dutch journalist Margalith Kleijwegt, writer of Onzichtbare ouders - de buurt van Mohammed B. (Invisible parents – the neighbourhood of Mohammed B.) and writer Fouad Laroui, raised in Morocco, emigrated to Paris, now living in Amsterdam. Moderator was Pieter Hilhorst.

    We compared three situations: immigrants in the jungle of Dutch cities, migrants from Turkish rural areas to Istanbul and other Turkish cities, and Palestinian youth in the 'war zone'. In these situations parents lose control of their children. They rely on school, neighbourhood and government to keep their children on the right track. But in these situations things get out of hand. The traditional Islamic organisations seem to provide a refuge: they give the children structure and a traditional religious education, in Turkey as well as in Palestine and the Netherlands. Rema Hammami's opinion is that the success of the Hamas in Palestine has to do with this kind of social support they offer.

    The first part of the evening was a discussion with the four guests. The writers (Fouad Laroui, Elif Shafak, Margalith Kleijwegt) read from their literary work (in the original language, with simultaneous projection of the English translation). In the second part a panel of students from the ISS took part in de debate. The debate was in English.

  • Winternachten 2005 – WINTERNACHT 1

    The house of the people - on the threshold between East and West

    The Turkish writer Elif Shafak and her Dutch colleague Vonne van der Meer create in their novels a world based on human relationships, where coincidence brings characters together or uproots their lives. Chaired by Joyce Roodnat, the two novelists discuss humanity in Turkish and Dutch society. Elif Shafak opens the programme with her essay on Turkey on the threshold between East and West, written for Winternachten.
    English spoken