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

A Turk and a Greek walk into a bar: Elif and Yanis in conversation

We’re at the Secret Garden for one of the first events of the second day of the Dalkey Book Festival, and for what sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but is in fact Yanis Varoufakis and Elif Shafak talking about the state of Turkey and Greece, the coalface of the migration crisis, EU politics, and more.

They’re in conversation with Colm O’Mongain.




Yanis and Elif have just come from speaking to Pat Kenny who is live from the festival today, so tune into Newstalk for interviews and more.

Yanis is talking about how highly enriched Greece is by its immigrants. “Much better food thanks to our immigrants,” he adds. He describes xenophobia as the natural result of a “deflationary cycle.” Deflation is the catalyst Yanis insists.

— Guts Magazine (@Guts_Magazine) June 17, 2016

Colm puts it to Elif that the Turkish government is exploiting the migration crisis to make its government “palatable”.

“The EU is trying to outsource the migration crisis to other territories. It’s not possible in a globalised in world. Only part of the migrants live in refugee camps, the others are on the streets,” Elif answers.

“More and more we have Syrian girls being married at 13, more polygamy, more domestic violence. We have an increasingly authoritarian government that is exploiting this.”



It’s question time! And we’re onto the recent Turkey EU deal.

“The EU needs to look itself in the mirror. Supposedly it founded itself on the precepts of the Enlightenment, this move against being a theocracy. The EU has to make the decision is it an enlightenment project or a theocratic project? The EU has to answer that,” Yanis answers a question about the EU’s treatment of Turkey.


And we’re back to Colm.

“The more there is an islamophobic wave, the more there’s a wave of anti-West sentiment,” Elif says, she’s answering Colm’s question about how Turkey joining the EU has been brought into Brexit discussions in the UK as a divisive topic.

And now we’re into basic income, and Yanis refers back to a talk he did a couple of months ago on the question (see below)

“Why shouldn’t everyone have a trust fund?” Yanis says. “Why should Paris Hilton be born with a trust fund and others not?”


Elif says “she’s playing devil’s advocate” and rebuts Yanis citing the example of the men she sees in Turkey who smoke shisha all day and play backgammon. “It’s a culture of idleness that is pertinent to male culture in the Middle East.”

Yanis says that’s because the women do the work and if a basic income is introduced the women will “chuck” the men because they’ve got a support system.

Elif is talking about censorship and the media crackdown happening in Turkey.

Elif has brought up the idea that authoritarian governments are characterised by a loss of a sense of humour. She’s referring to the Erdogan government’s persecution of cartoonists, journalists, and comedians.

“In Greece that’s going through a great depression. Humour and our humanity is all that’s left,” Yanis says, and gets a round of applause.