Welcome to our new podcast series, Inside the Creative Mind, featuring in-depth interviews with leading cultural figures, recorded at the Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos 2014.
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In the second of four episodes, we hear from Elif Shafak, Turkey’s best-known female author. She writes in English and Turkish, and her 14 books – including bestsellers The Bastard of Istanbul, The Forty Rules of Love and Black Milk – have been translated into more than 40 languages.
Shafak was famously acquitted of charges of “insulting Turkishness” in her novel, The Bastard of Istanbul, which makes reference to the Armenian genocide. Here, she recounts the experience, and also discusses postnatal depression, the role of Sufism in her life, and what it means to write across cultures today. Her interviewer is Marc Spiegler of Art Basel.
I would say 85% of fiction readers in Turkey are women, and these are women from very different backgrounds – Turkish, Kurdish, Azeri, Armenian and Jewish.
“In lands such as Turkey, where there is lots of amnesia going on, memory is transmitted through women. It is always women who give memory to the next generation.
“When you are woman writer, you are a woman first in the eyes of the society … If you are a man writer, you are a novelist first, and people remember that you are also a man. It’s exactly upside down. We find it difficult to talk about these things because it sounds like we are complaining. And nobody likes complaining.
“Writing and motherhood do go hand-in-hand very well. We just need to learn it. We just need to follow the flow and let the experience teach us. Because we learn from our children, and we learn from the writing experience; just to be open to that learning experience is important.
“We should read Balzac, but we should also read Naguib Mahfouz. We should also have dialogue with other cultures, around and far beyond.
“For me the essence of Sufism is love. It’s an inward journey. Instead of criticizing other people, you criticize yourself. Jihad, if there is such a word, is not a war with other people. If it is a battle at all, it is a battle with your own ego; it’s the ego that tells me I am different, I am better, I am superior to other people.”
- Listen to last week’s podcast, Shirin Neshat on Iran’s political art
- Find out more about the Forum’s Arts & Culture activities here
Image: Turkish author Elif Shafak listens during the Shared History session at the Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos 2103. Photograph: Remy Steinegger/swiss-image-ch
This podcast has been amended: the original audio file was truncated and has now been replaced with the full-length version.