Dalkey Literary Awards - 20th June 2020
Dalkey Literary Awards - 20th June 2020

Elif Shafak and Rumi’s compass

David McWilliams has been joined on the stage by he incredible Elif Shafak and she’s straight in there with an astonishing metaphor for her sense of Turkishness and identity.

She quotes the 13th century Persian poet Rumi, whose notion of a person is that of a compass – one leg stays, the other rotates around the face of the compass.

Journalist and author, Shafak is one of the most prolific writers in Turkey.

“I don’t like organised religions, they divide us into us and them.”

“I am interested in God. I need a little bit of faith and a little bit of doubt. There is faith in our lives. But I need both in my life and that describes my relationship to sufism.”

Elif is talking about how Turkey is sliding backwards, and how it’s visible in women’s rights.

“The Turkish experience is an intriguing case study – the transition from the Ottoman Empire to a homogeneous nation state is intriguing.”

We’re back onto the intriguing components of Elif’s writing.

David puts it to Elif why she writes in English – “It’s an animal instinct”, she says.

She talks about gaps in her understanding between Turkish and English – “A new language gives you lightness.” She also mentions that Turkish women will swear in English, but not in English, what do you know.

“Language lives longer than we do,” she says.

It’s started to rain and the bay is looking extremely ominous as Elif talks about writing about depression.

We’re talking about Elif’s book Black Milk and how it dealt with post-natal depression.

“Depression is a season. We talk about democracy as an external fact, but we need internal democracy too.”

David bumps in to say that Elif and Yanis Varoufakis are going be having a discussion tomorrow morning on modern day Turkey and Greece. “A Greek and Turk walk into a pub,” would’ve been a way better title Elif suggests.

Elif speaks about how in Turkey people will share the same book over and over again, so that there’s about five people on each copy of a book, “it turns into a little family.”