« Desert Island Discs

Elif Shafak

2017-05-28 | 🔗
Kirsty Young's castaway this week is the Turkish writer Elif Shafak. Elif Shafak has published ten novels and several volumes of non-fiction and her work is translated into 47 languages. She is the most widely read female novelist in Turkey today. Born in 1971, she was raised by a single working mother and also, for the first ten years of her life, by her grandmother in Ankara. Her mother's job as a diplomat led to a move to Madrid when Elif was ten years old - and so began a peripatetic life which has taken her to places as diverse as Jordan and Germany, the United States and finally to London where she has lived for the past seven years. Elif wrote her first novels in Turkish, but began writing in English shortly after the start of the new millennium. English, she says, has given her a new freedom to write about sensitive issues in Turkey. Her books draw on diverse cultures and reflect her interest in history, philosophy, spiritualism and Sufism. One commentator has said of her work: "Stepping into the writing of this Turkish-born author for the first time is like breaking through the back of a children's wardrobe and walking into a whole new multicultural world of lives and histories - and, above all, fabulous stories." She is a regular columnist both for English as well as Turkish papers and also writes lyrics for rock musicians. Producer: Sarah Taylor.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is the bbc. hello, uncursed young. Thank you for downloading this programme. the desert island discs from BBC radio for four right, Reasons the music choices are shorter than in the radio broadcasts from. information about the programme. Please visit bbc dotcom, dont uk slash radio for. The. My castaway this week is the turkish writer leafs fac watch describes as an almost existential need for words and books has led to becoming the most popular female novelist in her homeland today, but her work
has relevance and appeal. Well beyond the borders of her best place has been translated into forty seven languages. She writes nonfiction and some verdicts too The storytelling started early in the little turquoise notebook she was given as an eight year old. It was a who dominated not just by words but by place jordan, germany, in spain would just some of the countries as a child. She called whom she said as to be human means to embody at least several conflicting and coexisting selves within. It is the job of the novelist to peel off those layers and show the heart that beats underneath I,
to show the east within the west in the west within the east. I believe that as human beings, we can have multiple belongings and so welcome, and if I make at this particular point, then I would say in human history, where I density and migration and notions of culture and belonging seem to be the very forefront of social and political change. How much do you think I density is more than ever, a very big struggle for us to try to get our hands around identity is a massive struggle, and it's amazing that it has not lost its importance just ale possess. Maybe it made a very strong come back and I come from a country that is turkey that is very much confused about its identity, a country that so much in between east and west, that could have been a source of strength or rich
in this, but many people don't see it that way in turkey, and I've always been troubled by that. Partly this is understandable because we live in a very liquid world where so much can change so fast and as human beings were a bit terrified by unpredictability. The problem is when populist demagogues tell us You know what sameness is: gonna bring us safety. This is what they are telling us telling telling that we should all belong in our own tribes. I've always believe that this life. If we ever going to learn anything, we ve learned from people who are different than us, so diversity is precious, it's difficult, but its pressure, what about your own notion identity? I mean you started writing. Understandably, in turkish more recently, you ve chosen to write in english. What's difference in how you can express yourself, and why have you made that choices, writer, all
my early novels, I've written in turkish first and then about fourteen years ago. I switched to writing in english first, and that was a big chow and because I did not grow up bilingual the way my kids are growing up, so they're always making fun of my miss pronunciation. I love this language, english language. I also love the turkish language for me. I don't have to make it Choice between them, it's not an either or thing because Can dream in more than one language in our minds: do not make those distinctions when we're sleeping. They don't recognize those national boundaries. So I think over the years. I realise there are things I find much easier to write in english, for instance, when it comes to humor irony satire, definitely which he soon english But if there's more melancholy in my writing or longing, I think I find it easier to express that in turkish,
do you need peace in solitude to write? I hate silence. I I panic when there's too much silence, I always writing with music and on pete. So sometimes I listened to the same song, maybe seventy five eighty time while you're writing. While I'm writing, it's like a loop. I enter that loop and I listen again and again to me, but the first disc this morning, then that we're going to hear alicia fuck, so my first This gives by low, not cohesion, and it is the famous blue raincoat, I think, are different. Stages in my life in my journeys, his voice and his lyrics, accompanied me- I it's been a normal. In my soul and cohesion really was a companion for me those travels his legs are so powerful. I've also watched him lie. I've when he gave a concert in stumbles at an older age, He came and he was such a Gentlemen, such a
gracious sold on stage and the way he connected with the order. Was amazing. In the morning the end, these SAM I am writing and urges the sea bed new is cool we're on music. Clinton street. Through the evening the deal building I was had come and famous blue raincoats. You have lived a leash effect and in many places around the world for the last is at seven. People living in london, yes, sly, futures and live in london. I chair The fact that so many languages are spoken on the streets of london and people can
in peace, around shared values, and I felt, as a writer very free here, funny I guess I have to highlight this. Freedom of speech is so important. You have been an outspoken critic of president rigid type when the turkish president. There was a recent referendum. I will remind people. Of course, about him, extending his powers, his government powers. It was given. The majority was a slim majority, but was a majority. Nonetheless, you Is turkey is a divided country to fort? Would you ascribe that lost the apparent loss of shared values throughout turkey? Right now, if I may add, about the referendum prior to the referendum. We have seen a very unfair campaign. It was quite one sided. Almost all of the states. Resources on media outlets were devoted to just one side of the campaign to they yes, voice and the opposite people who
to say no, where either intimidated or stigmatized, sometimes they lost their jobs is quite murky. Em, it was a tight race. But on the day of the referendum- and I think we need to say this openly- all of a sudden- the electoral board changed the rules, which was unheard of freely shocking on the day of the referendum, india, to known actually, the electoral board, all of a sudden shockingly changed the rules they suddenly announce that from now on, they were going to count ballots that did not have office stamps on them, and this, of course created a big confusion. cast a shadow on the credibility of the referendum results, so, despite all of that, the very fact that at least half of the turkish I too could say no shows us that There is a civil society there that knows that
and she deserves better. What I'm worried about is a monopoly of power. I don't want anyone in turkey to have that much power doesn't matter who or which party it's just not healthy. For a proper democracy, we need separation of powers, checks, and balances. Definitely a free media and an independent academia, a birkin two thousand and six. You were tried in absentia for something you had written. It was in a novel. It was something one of your characters said you were acquitted for the things that you had read but more recently, in turkey we have seen newspaper editors are thrown into prison. We have seen huge clear right through the judiciary of people. Who seem to be unsympathetic to the current regime? Are you more? careful now about what you say and what you rights. Given the situation in turkey, I think every rights in turkey, and also every poet, every journalist, every academic, particularly and in this I must emphasize, because journalism has become the most dangerous profession in turkey. But in general,
anyone who belongs to the little darky, let's say no stop as article a plan, a book or even a tweets. We can easily get into trouble and happened so fast. In one day, you can be called a traitor by pro government papers. You can, almost lynched in social media put on trial, exiled or imprisoned. Tell me about your second what we can hear now. This is a french song by a younger bonds and one. year, Lavon no patera, I was born in strasbourg. I did not leave in france for a long time, because shortly afterwards my pants got separated, and I came back to turkey with my mother However, when I hear this song, I think it takes me back to this other connection, but I have- and maybe I was never able to build- I felt connected to france- must see through french literature.
there's something in the song. That makes me very emotional. Nor does he alive one who put her up. As you were saying, and if so fuck you you were born in strasbourg. You didn't stay there for longer, because your parents broke up you born in nineteen. Seventy one tell me the circumstances viewpoints meeting they met in turkey afterwards, my father to France. completing his phd, and he became an academic all his life. He stayed in France much longer
so my mother was younger. She had dropped out of university following him. thinking. Love would be enough. That's was all she needed in life, anxious very young, like my ten years old and the major didn't work out by the time she came back to turkey. Imagine she added thirdly, in her arms, no korea, diploma, no job and no money no place to go to. We came to my grandmother's ass in ankara, and this was a very conservative patriarchal mostly muslim neighborhoods, in the middle of ankara usually women in those situations, would be immediately married off because and young women, divorce is regarded as a threat to the entire patriarchal order, and it was my grandmother who intervenes and said
we should not be rushed into another marriage. Why don't you go back to university? He should have a choice in life should have multiple choices, and thus exactly my mother did she graduated with flying colours. She became a diploma afterwards, thus why she- and I travelled alone in my early is, I was raised by my grandmother who, Michael a new which means mother in turkish and my own. Other I called out law, which is big sister. Anne I was raised by these two women completely defend my mother very well educated in the and, of course, they urban secularist. More than my grandmother, they traditional easton spiritual and the solidarity between them. Changed my life in a way your grandmother was somebody. I read the commission's quite interested mysticism. She got up to things that one might consider quite unconveyed. stolen quite unusual. What can you tell me what her heart was? Full of superstitions she was a bit, If a healer people would come to her people risk,
diseases and I've seen her heel them. I know it sounds completely illogical and she was always telling stories that oral culture beautiful oral traditions, sir. She would melt lead in order to ward off the evil. I read coffee cups her house, I think, was full of magic for somebody who is intellect chile muscular. You are not afraid of mysticism. Now fraid of mysticism. It's a subject us very difficult to talk about it. We because live in a vague polarized world, especially in turkey. I found it very difficult to talk about these subjects because you're, either really Judges or your modern any should have no interest whatsoever in faith, always longed for a third path. I carry no religion,
However, I am someone who's interested in faith in the possibility of god, and I not only take faith seriously, but also doubt seriously. I think faith without doubt is a dogma. We need dubbed in our lives constantly and we need it little bit of faith as world because there are lots of secular acts of faith in our lives, so faith for me, is not necessarily religious thing, and for me What is much more interesting is this dance between faith and doubt I lied this is a mysticism people who are more confused, still searching and the journey his endless. Let's have some music my third song is called him. Sir knew there are different version of the song out there, one of the biggest reason. Why I chose it is because, in my mind and soul, multicultural, similar originally means the girl from Egypt. However, when you this,
into the song. There are, of course, egyptian influences turkish influences, hebrew influence There are greek influences, it's the whole mediterranean and the middle east in my mind, and it shows so beautifully how music transcends those national boundaries that we mistakenly take for granted. there was miss in new recorded in nineteen twenty seven and perform, thereby tetanus dmitri addis that, as you say, your mother, goose, educated, gotta, good diploma and sheet, she was first of all. It was
each and then became a diplomat. You moved with her to madrid Think when you run about ten how'd you get on, and schooling in spain that was very different environment. He was quite difficult for me at the beginning. Because I'm here, I was coming from my grandmother's com, the irrational magical environment, zoomed into very push international school. Inland reads. Whereas still on the turk and this the time when a coup data happened in turkey, which was awful. and then I remember before I moved to measure the turkish terrorists had tried to kill the pope and the children were talking about this. Turkey gods, zero points in eurovision song contest there, the next day I would go to school and the kids would make fun of me, I was bullied. instantly- and I wasn't introvert already so I didn't know how to cope with that, and perhaps it pushed me more strongly
words books. I mean books, rina lent, my always my best friends, I was a very lonely. Child may be to my sense of alienation. I started to think about what it means: have a national identity. How can we don't see, cover as individuals from being as young as the icy unjust that children can be very sharp, when it comes yeah national identities, bullying irene. as there was a hierarchy of identities. I remember to be honest, longing to be dutch or swedish, because there's nothing wrong about being that for swedish. They quickly very popular kids. I am aware in this story so far as we speak, I haven't heard anything about your father knew. How often do you see your father going just three or four times in my entire life? Goodness, I grew up very disconnected from him and trying to The stunned stops emptiness took me a long time than there was a time when our
felt very angry about this in my early twenties, probably but anger is very toxic after a while, so it took me a long time to get of tat anger. I went through many seasons, however, was much more difficult for me to digest was the fact that my father was a very good father to his others, children. Of two sons were here. I have two half brothers, Andy put him always here he was a very good academic to his own students and a good husband. I'm assuming second marriage. So what was difficult for me to understand It was when somebody's look so perfect in all other respects, How come our relationship was so broken? Well harder to understand, because if you can look at something say whether just a reprobate, you can't commit to anything and they ve left a trail of destruction. When actually think lets me he's choosing not to include on the deck digital. in on yourself. At one point, I think I felt like the other child, the forgotten child for a long time,
and in the end, towards the later stages of his life, we managed to become friends, but we never manage to become father and daughter, some more music, Ilusha fact tommy. What we're going to hear now this issue forth I like scandinavian ban studs make gothic metals an apocalyptic as is banned, based mostly on cello and the sum that I have chosen is nothing else. Matters by metallica when I was young. I was a big fan of metallica, but here we gonna hear this listen, a very different interpretation of nothing else, matters
apocalyptic and nothing else. Matters tell me a leaf about this little turquoise blue journal, but you had when you are eight. What would be written down in that my mother brought it to me. Because I am. I was constantly speaking with imaginary creatures around me and she probably was worried about my mental health and, and she advised me to keep diary and right everything there, because I thought my life was space. Boring- and there was nothing interesting about reality for me to write about, I started making up things, from direst short stories, it was a very short step for me. From then on, was it evolved into novels? The need to write goes all the way back to my choice.
I'm jumping ahead of myself a little bit here, but it strikes me. There was a time when later on, you were studying in america and you combined middle eastern studies with algae bt studies, and it wasn't call that members would be called that night. Hockley, steady, clear studies from here and it's a striking combination. I mean how much pleasure you get from sort of disrupting expectations in that way. Usually these departments that don't work together I used to teach a course called the queer in the Middle EAST. Allow me perhaps too put it this way, I always felt closer to minorities, to the other, whoever feels like the other in a given context. For any reason, and so in my work in my books, both cultural, ethnic but so sexual minorities have always played an important role, and in a country like turkey I have. Many readers why fusses raise enough opaque No. When I speak to them publicly. They have all sorts of prejudices.
and armenians greeks, jews, but then they come to man they serve, Your book and I love this character and the catholic they're talking about is made the jewish armenian Similarly, I have many homophobic readers who have grown. in houses in which they were told us. This is a disease. This is, you know their perverts. This is the kind of rhetoric that their hearing, but then come on? They say the character I loved lost in your story was gay or the. by sexual or the transsexual. Do you believe that you're novels can change people not not particularly my novels, but the art of storytelling can change people. I know it because a changed me, so I have no faith in them. Transform it's his power of books? Did you ever see is your mother? Is she went about her diplomatic career and you were transplanted from one place and then to another and then to another and then to another? Can we stop now? Can we go home
Actually, my mother's stopped after a while. I couldn't find, furthermore, music Lucian back. Tell me what we're gonna do. You know this is your fifth saw, song is from radiohead timeless in my in my eyes, its creep. when you cute just skin thanks that was radiohead and creep Elisha. Thank you, spend your twenties pretty much an assembly were teaching and you were beginning to find great success in your writing with your novels and then you If for america, why did you do that? I guess I run away in some ways for me.
he stumbled is like come and I always see stumbled, as is she city female city, of like a very difficult lover. I can't help loving istanbul, I feel very emotionally attached to the city, and then I have to spend a lemme go back to stumble. I favours suffocated, then I run away go back again. You and your husband have to children, you, your fresher, was born to says in six, then again you another child in two thousand and eight and of course, kids. They thrive on routine. They shine on predictability. How much of you had to adapt european unconventional instincts to accommodate being a mother. Yes, at the beginning, I found it out a bit difficult to balance the life of a mother with the life of our rights, because you're, a novelist surveys, self centered world and when you
demands you to stay there. You just stay there. If I don't write for two three days narrow the book will shut me off. It was my priority, but of course, with children. That is your prior to- and I didn't know how to balance it at the beginning, pups many women go through similar questions and even though In the beginning, I went through a bumpy period, In the long run, I learned so much on its brought me new, a new balance. I think many female novelists expire and sometimes we write that, especially those who are mothers of younger kids. Sometimes we write at nights. Sometimes we write during the day we constantly carve out spaces and little periods for ourselves, and now we stick them together, so that differ ways of writing to discover that gave me a sense of freedom
balance. Let's have some more music, then leave tommy what we're gonna unix. This is your six this is an armenian american band metal bond system of down I used to listen to everything they have produced so many times those a big fan of them. This song is called chopped, sway this is about, and that is also very vocal about the armenian genocide, and so Have that political aspect to their work. I was
a sad when they broke up as a ban, but I still listen to them. System of a dime and chop Suey too, have a right to that Ilusha fuck indefinitely menu songs I have played over and over and over again on repeat cultural diversity. Cultural sensitivity is a topic of huge contention here, right now in the uk, Your novel honor was published in twenty twelve. I think you had a lie.
to see on the subjects of the so called honour killing for want of a better phase? You say this is not about religion. Why do you say that it's about patriarchy? Of course, religion intensifies. That's the way. I see it that all connected, in fact Extreme religiosity nationalism is certainly authoritarianism. It is no coincidence that Faye patriarchal unclose closed societies at the same time they homophobic societies, for instance, that all connected, but I guess what I'm trying to question is this notion of must salinity how we raise our sons differently than our daughters and unfortunately, sometimes women also take part in the continuity of those. they old and wrong traditions- does nothing, honourable about honour killings. We should stop using that word and in my book I wanted to question. Mothers, son relationship and how
A son is raised in so many traditional middling. Turkish or immigrant families, sometimes thinking that They have a right to keep an eye on the model. These so called modesty of their sisters of their female family members. While what makes them think this The way we raise them, like us, dead, small sultans in the family that needs to change a while back. You said that being a toy kiss novelist feels like being slapped on one she can kissed on the other. Is that still the case? Yes, because in a country like turkey Paradoxically, words also matter stories matter, books matter where there is no freedom of speech. I realize people come to me with books that had been read. Just one copy of a book maybe has been read. Five or six people. People share books underlining different sentences with different colors pencils, and I cherish
the connection with the readers to me it's very hot swarming, but at the same time in a row Should that doesn't understand that art needs independence, where politics dominates everything, you can't even breathe as a writer, and you can be criticised by every single thing like us. experience when it. When I published a bastard of istanbul, I was put on I'll under article three one of four and the word genocide, armenians, the side. We have this article three one in our constitution. That has not abolish sadly still, and it is there to protect turkish nurse again, just insults, even though nobody knows what exactly. That means, therefore, its very vague and open to misinterpretation as well, and my turkish You had to defend my armenians, fictional characters in the courtroom the whole,
was so surreal and absurd. So you get the slump and the love at the love from the readers, but the slap from the system. All the time tell me about your next pieces. You, your my next song, is by mumford than sons, paypal, idle of this group. I have listened to very seldom spy them always on repeats and I'm a big fan of them. that was mumford and sons and paypal. You said, as we begin talking today, unleash a that. We would
about religion. We touched on it and you said you do not believe in it. but you are somebody who is interested in gold that you're interested in the e? U written this too, in the possibility of gold Would you like to be a belief? No, I don't want to their deliver because it just doesn't suit me that there's more certainty that when you are, I her No sir, I don't feel close to organise religions in the sense that there is, at the end of the day, a distinction between in all of them between us a system and this option that somehow us his closer to the truth. Then then that is not close to my heart. I that dualistic way of thinking What I like is individual spiritual journeys and, though was journeys, are plural. Everybody's journey will be different like their fingerprints, so you might be interest then islamic mysticism- you might end up feeling closer to do mysticism or you may
starting in in one bay and swim to other shores. Everything is possible because those paths, stone that individuals on teachers and needs I'm going Have your way to an island is: is there anything about the island that you look forward to as right? This was so used to the sense of solitudes. I think that very much lies at the core of what what we do. in all other areas of art, you learn teamwork when you're a musician when you're done sir, but for rights, especially for novelists. When you spend such a long time in your own imaginary world alone, I think we're not afraid of being cast away on a lonely island. Let's disrupt the harmony known here. Your final disk tell me about this. What are we gonna here? While I hope your this want hates me for this song, this is a metal band, cold archenemy, and the song that I have chosen is war, eternal, it
stay loud, harsh, music has amazingly high energy. I love listening to this music when I'm writing. action and somehow, when I listen to these songs, I produce com, a fiction, and I have to tell to our audience please listen carefully The voice you were here now belongs to a woman
arch and war eternal. It's time then early for me to give you the books. I give castaways a copy of the bible and the complete works of shakespeare, and then they gets take another book along to accompany those two. What are you gonna take? I might take orlando by virtue of a right that is yours. and a luxury to I love luxury stationary, ah and do you have a particular pen that you like to write with you know I was then I was born left handed and I was converted to being right hand at school, some very good with longhand writing, but I love notebooks fountain pants. So all kinds of stationary would be wonderful. Flemish. We give you a little stationary cupboard, vs, vs, s new stationary in it and which of the eight tracks. If he could save just one, which one would it be other so difficult. I would go further, not grant. Ok, it's yours, ilusha fact. Thank you very much for letting us here. You're desert island discs. Thank you
such a pleasure- You ve been listening to download from the bbc. You find Information on the radio for website bbc The code on uk slash radio for
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Transcript generated on 2022-06-12.