Elif Shafak Exile as a Metaphysical Problem In Turkey, Elif Shafak had already won every notable literature prize but her work is hardly known outside her native country. This may change with her new novel, "The Saint of Incipient Insanities". And the best thing about two people communicating in a shared foreign language is that, in case of doubt, they can also understand each other without words. Returning together from the bar at the crack of dawn, they are like "drowning men attempting to reach the surface of the water.
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Her books explore identity, language and gender and she believes that literature reminds us of our common humanity. The following are excerpts from our interview. You might start as a Sufi and end up as an atheist. You might start as an agnostic and end up as a Christian mystic, who on earth can judge that? No-one can judge that. So to me that heterodox quest was very interesting.
On the other hand many people who are very sure of their atheism want to get rid of faith. What has been happening in Turkey can happen in the West as well. Under the recent two year long State of Emergency 77, people were arrested.
It has become a country in which words feel very heavy. I think all Turkish writers, poets, journalists , academics today know that because of something you have written, because of a poem, because of an article, because of something you say in an interview or a tweet, even a re-tweet, in one day you can get into trouble. In one day you can be called a traitor by all government papers and most of the media in Turkey today is pro-government.
You can be er prosecuted, exiled, arrested, almost lynched on social media by trolls. And Turkey also shows us, tells us in my opinion that. For a democracy to exist and to thrive the ballot box in itself is not enough. What we had in Turkey was primarily the ballot box and over time all those other institutions have been damaged, broken or bruised.
And when you read the works of people who have survived holocausts, genocides, you know horrible tragedies, interestingly they all say the same thing, they say the opposite of kindness is not necessarily evil. When we become indifferent to the pain of other people, I think today all kinds of racism, sexism, ultranationalism operates by turning the other er into someone inferior, in other words by dehumanising the other.
Once you do that you can do anything to other people. What literature does is to re-humanise the other by telling the stories, just reminding us of our common humanity. So in a way I think literature is an This Week.
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