Elif Shafak

Turkey is at an existential crossroads

The wonderful Barbara Kingsolver wrote that hope is something you should not admire from a distance, but rather live inside of, ‘under its roof’. Last week I lived under the roof of hope as the campaigns for the first round of the Turkish presidential elections drew to a close. This is an existential crossroads for

The government’s guilt over Turkey’s devastation

Early last week I bought myself a teapot. I have several, but I could not resist this with its turquoise Mediterranean charm. Alongside I purchased tea glasses — not mugs or cups, but glasses. The Turkish way. It comes with a milk jug. The English way. Excited to use them for the first time early

What is so special about heavy metal?

Ever since my early youth I have loved, followed and respected a certain music genre that some people consider strange, even dangerous: heavy metal. The journey started in Istanbul, at a small, stuffy music store on a side street in Taksim, nestled between an Ottoman mosque and a fish market, where I would buy cassettes

Gone for a song: A short story

It was the week after New Year’s Eve, strings of fairy lights still dangling from the trees and silver stars decorating the windows, when they discovered the dead birds. Dozens, at first. Then more. Four thousand, six hundred and twenty-eight in total. Goldfinches, greenfinches, bullfinches, skylarks, reed buntings, yellowhammers, grey wagtails and red-throated pipits —

A diamond set in sapphires

I was a young, aspiring writer when I decided to leave everything behind and move to Istanbul more than two decades ago. I rented a tiny, dingy flat at the bottom of the Street of Cauldron Makers not far from Taksim Square, the heart of the modern city. That first night, I sat by the

What makes Turkey tick

I remember an American author once saying she wrote about love and friendship because, after all, these were the fundamental things that people talked about when they gathered around dinner tables. Not quite so in Turkey. Over lengthy breakfasts and suppers, lunches and drinks, we Turks tend to talk about something else: politics. The truth

Turkey’s continental drift

In Turkish the word ‘yurt’ has two definitions. It means ‘place’, ‘land’, ‘territory’, ‘homeland’. It could also indicate a round, portable tent, the likes of which have been used by nomadic tribes for centuries. In my imagination I have always liked to combine the two definitions, wondering if motherlands could be just as peripatetic as

Sleepless by the strait

In my novel Three Daughters of Eve, a well educated housewife with kids looks at her motherland, Turkey, and thinks: ‘They are not that different. My own life and this land of unfulfilled potentials.’ I wrote this novel in English first. It was then translated into Turkish by a professional translator, after which I rewrote