Elif Shafak is an experience.
I had read The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak a few months before the lockdown. I remember being blown away by how personal her story felt. I wanted to read and understand Shafak and her style of writing and watched a few of her speeches on pluralism, multiculturalism, diversity and storytelling. Her association of the words she uses in her stories to tastes, smells and colours fascinated me. Shafak, with her diverse background, speaks simply and thinks deeply about society and culture. She then tailors her stories into beautiful symphonies.
She calls herself a writer from wobbly democracies and that’s something I can definitely relate to as an amateur writer. She believes, that it is difficult for those of us, who belong to wobbly democratic countries and collective traumatic experiences to write stories without the influence of those experiences. In her books, you will find the celebration of love, humanity, knowledge, cultural conflicts, societal stereotypes and history spoke about with ease almost like listening to a fairy tale.
The Architect’s Apprentice is a beautiful story about Jahan and Chotta, the while elephant. The book was such a treat I did not need any dessert after my meals, I could just read another chapter. What I love about Shafak’s writing is her takeaway from history and the way she reflects on the personality and achievements of the historical figures rather than the societal impressions and controversies surrounding them.
One of my favourite story by Shafak is The Bastard of Istanbul. I mean it when I say that Shafak brought the tastes and smells of Istanbul to me. The stories of the women described in this book felt so real and personal it felt like I was living the characters of Zeliha, Asya and Armanoush. Interestingly this book gave me insight into the Turkish and Armenian conflict. I couldn’t help but draw parallels to my own history while reading about theirs.
The final book that I read is 10 minutes and 38 seconds in this Strange World. Although Shafak travels and boldly creates stories on many troubled sections of the society, this book felt different. The story of a prostitute called Leyla. In many ways, this book made me relate to the ostracized and neglected. I felt their realities like childhood, family, adolescent ages, interests, feelings of shame and sadness and experiences like my own.
Elif Shafak has been such an all-encompassing experience for me during the lockdown. Whenever someone asked me who my favourite teacher was, I always answered, my books. My books have been my friends, companion and every belief or opinion I have today is because of some piece of literature I have read. Reading Shafak has empowered me to embrace my beliefs and problems with the outside world and put it out there for people to experience and for that, I am forever grateful.