She has been characterized by critics as defiant of orthodoxy, deeply involved in
feminism, political analysis, and Ottoman culture, with "a particular genius for depicting backstreet Istanbul". [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/13/books/review/13freely.html Writers on Trial - New York Times ] ]
Born in France, Şafak remained with her mother, when her parents divorced. She spent her teenage years in
Madrid, Spainand Amman, Jordan, before returning to Turkey. She graduated in International Relations at Middle East Technical Universityin Ankara, Turkey. She holds a Master of Sciencedegree in Gender and Women's Studies, with a thesis on "The Deconstruction of Femininity Along the Cyclical Understanding of Heterodox Dervishes in Islam". She earned her Ph.D.from the Department of Political Science at the same university. Her Ph.D. thesis was entitled "An Analysis of Turkish Modernity Through Discourses of Masculinities". She spent a year at Mount Holyoke Women's College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, United States, on a fellowship and completed her first novel in English there. The book, "The Saint of Incipient Insanities" was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Şafak served as a visiting scholar at the
University of Michiganin Ann Arbor, Michigan, United Statesand served on the faculty in the Near Eastern Studies Department at the University of Arizonain Tucson, Arizona. She has since returned to Istanbul, Turkey, a city she has often called a source of love and inspiration for her.
Şafak debuted in literature with her story "Kem Gözlere Anadolu", published in 1994. Her first novel, "Pinhan" ("The Sufi") was awarded the "
MevlanaPrize" in 1998, which is given to the best work in mystical literature in Turkey. Her second novel, "Şehrin Aynaları" ("Mirrors of the City"), brings together Jewish and Islamic mysticism against a historical setting in the 17th century Mediterranean. Şafak greatly inceased her readership with her novel "Mahrem" ("The Gaze"), which earned her the "Union of Turkish Writers' Prize" in 2000. Her next novel, "Bitu Palas" ("The Flea Palace"), has been a bestseller in Turkey, and was followed by "Med-Cezir", a non-fiction book of essays on gender, sexuality, mental ghettoes, and literature. On the topic of womanhood, national identity, and non-belonging, the contributed the foreword to "Türkçe Sevmek" (Istanbul: Doğan Kitap, 2005), the Turkish translation of the expatriate literature anthology"".
"The Bastard of Istanbul" and criminal prosecution in Turkey
Şafak's 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 Şafak under prosecution by the Turkish government for "insulting Turkishness" under Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code. ["
The Economist," July 27, 2006, "More Turkish writers face prosecution"] The charges stemmed from a statement made by a character in her novel, who characterized the massacres of Armenians in World War I as genocide[http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/15/world/europe/15turkey.html Turkey, a Touchy Critic, Plans to Put a Novel on Trial - New York Times ] ] .
In response, Şafak suggested that "The way [ultranationalists] are trying to penetrate the domain of art and literature is quite new, and quite disturbing". The charges were ultimately dismissed.
Recent life and work
Elif Şafak also writes for newspapers and magazines in
Europeand the United States. In 2005 she married Turkish journalist Eyüp Can during a book promotion trip in Berlin, Germany [ [http://www.signandsight.com/features/252.html Arno Widmann, Elif Shafak: "I like being several people" - signandsight ] ] . On September 15, 2006, their daughter Şehrazad Zelda was born.
Following the birth she suffered from post-natal depression for more than ten months, a period she addressed in her first autobiographical book, which combines fiction and non-fiction genres. Şafak has commented concerning the book: "I named this book "Black Milk" for two reasons. First, it deals with postpartum depression and shows that mother's milk is not always as white and spotless as society likes to think it is. Second, out of that depression I was able to get an inspiration; out of that black milk I was able to develop some sort of ink."
* "Kem Gözlere Anadolu", 96pp, 1994, Evrensel, ISBN 975-785-729-6 [http://www.kitapyurdu.com/yazar/default.asp?id=11242&session=S7194549066249651674&LogID=]
* "Pinhan", 224pp, 1997, Metis, ISBN 975-342-297-0 [http://www.metiskitap.com/Scripts/Catalog/Book.asp?ID=1213]
* "Şehrin Aynaları", 280pp, 1999, Metis, ISBN 975-342-298-9 [http://www.metiskitap.com/Scripts/Catalog/Book.asp?ID=1212]
* "Mahrem", 216pp, 2000, Metis, ISBN 975-342-285-7 [http://www.metiskitap.com/Scripts/Catalog/Book.asp?ID=967]
* "Bit Palas", 361pp, 2002, Metis, ISBN 975-342-354-3 [http://www.metiskitap.com/Scripts/Catalog/Book.asp?ID=1692]
* "Araf" (translation of "The Saint of Incipient Insanities"), 352pp, 2004, Metis, ISBN 975-342-465-5 [http://www.metiskitap.com/Scripts/Catalog/Book.asp?ID=1842]
* "Beşpeşe", 680pp, 2004, Metis, ISBN 467-1 (with
Murathan Mungan, Faruk Ulay, Celil Oker and Pınar Kür) [http://www.metiskitap.com/Scripts/Catalog/Book.asp?ID=1853]
* "Med-Cezir", 254pp, 2005, Metis, ISBN 975-342-533-3 [http://www.metiskitap.com/Scripts/Catalog/Book.asp?ID=1912]
* "Baba ve Piç" (translation of "The Bastard of Istanbul"), 384 pp, 2006, Metis, ISBN 975-342-553-8 [http://www.metiskitap.com/Scripts/Catalog/Book.asp?ID=1930]
* "The Saint of Incipient Insanities", 368pp, 2004, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN 037-425-357-9 [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0374253579]
* "The Flea Palace" (translation of "Bit Palas"), 260pp, 2005, Marion Boyars, ISBN 071-453-101-4 [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0714531014] (with Müge Göcek)
* "The Gaze" (translation of "Mahrem"), 252pp, 2006, Marion Boyars, ISBN 0-7145-3121-9 [http://www3.campusi.com/author_Elif_Shafak.htm]
* "The Bastard of Istanbul", 368pp, 2006, Viking Adult, ISBN 067-003-834-2 [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0670038342]
* "Spiegel der Stadt", Literaturca Verlag, ISBN 393-553-506-6
* "Die Heilige des nahenden Irrsinns", 2005, Eichborn Verlag, ISBN 382-185-750-1 [http://www3.campusi.com/author_Elif_Shafak.htm]
* [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7217653 Audio interview in English]
* [http://www.qantara.de/webcom/show_article.php/_c-310/_nr-323/i.html "In Turkey, a Novel Is a Public Statement"] Elif Shafak interview by Lewis Gropp on Qantara.de (8 August 2006)
* [http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/index.php?pid=33&aid=477&query=shafak International PEN report on Şafak's case]
* [http://www.ifex.org/fr/content/view/full/256/ Censorship in Turkey] - IFEX
* [http://www.metacritic.com/books/authors/shafakelif/bastardofistanbul Survey of reviews for The Bastard of Istanbul] on Metacritic
* [http://www.rusoffagency.com/authors/shafak_e/elif_shafak.htm Marly Rusoff & Associates, Inc. bio]
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