Simply About Difficult

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Monday, 21 January 2013

About Elif Shafak and Armenification

In this post I will try to be as sincere as I can be. Many people who are acquainted with Elif Shafak's works usually compare her to Orkhan Pamuk. I remember studying at high school when I first bought Orkhan Pamuk's book because of numerous recommendations coming from my age mates. For now I do not really remember the name of the book but what I precisely remember was that I just put it away nearly after thirty pages read. Maybe because I am always busy enough I try to carefully choose books I read and this time I was mistaken. That was my first disappointment about Pamuk and I never ever I referred to him back again. Only a year after that I have heard that he was granted the Nobel Prize in literature and had a ban on visiting Turkey which is his homeland.

No matter how much I hate generally accepted notions, most people tell that he sold his native land with every single book he wrote and that was the price he paid. I do not think I have the right to critise him as an individual, at least because he is three times older than me and so is his life experience. And also the fact that Pamuk is the professor at Columbia University is something to be really proud about. But when I look at Pamuk's works from the Turkish ideological perspective it is hard for me to accept the messages he tries to convey to readers. He totally destroys the image of current Turkey. He is not the only one who sees ''previous'' Turkey as a perfect model for the turks and people with other background living there but that is another case which I am not going to talk about.

Coming to Elif Shafak...I have heard about her a few times but mainly I got to know her when my great friends suggested me to attend her lecture at SOAS University last November. I must confess that it was good experience but I was really shocked when she arrived almost an hour late and did not even express her regret about that. Well, this is weird, and can be considered as impoliteness in UK and in most other countries I know. She, who has been living in US should have known that. What I can say about her speech was that I knew that writers find it extremely hard to talk in front of the public but I thought that they at least talk in sequence. I was wrong. Elif Shafak was talking about everything, and it was really not structed talk which was then followed by the 'answers to questions session' instead of the lecture. I rarely take notes at the lectures but I did that time. Which meant that, yes, she has some really good ideas and points.

What built a barrier between me and Shafak as between reader and the writer was the fact that at some point I just found her biased. Despite the fact that she was trying to show that in her books she is trying to be tolerant towards all nationalities I really felt that she can not even express herself in unprejudiced way, leave alone writing. As a reader I can not agree with the fact that Turkish people tend to discriminate other nationalities. I just can't. I have always seen the opposite of that. How come a person with Turkish background not see that? And if I was not that sure in this fact I would have been one of those who unquestionably bought the picture that Shafak sold and still continues to sell. The picture that describes Armenians as a poor nation that has been living in Turkey for centuries and that has lost its identity because of the fear of Turks. Fair enough to believe in this bed time story, unless you are rational enough.

After being back to Baku I came across her book- 'Forty Rules of Love' so I just gave it a go. I am still in the process of reading it so again it would be biased to write a review but so far I can say that the way Elif writes doesn't seem to me quite professional. However, what she is really good at is the choice of the topic. She is the one who populirses the topic.  As she did with sufism and kurds. Once again, if anyone asks me if I recommend her book, I would say yes. But do I consider her books as masterpiece? NO. For me she is just one of those writers who lives in their imaginary cacoon (Shafak's favourite expression) which they create based on the idea they sell to the reader. 
Picture source: independent.co.uk.

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