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Updated: Nov 22, 2021


In 2019 one of my favourite books of the year was Elif Shafak’s “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World”. A brilliant book that went on to be shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize. It was the first time I had read this remarkable, brilliant author. I am currently reading her latest novel, “The Island of Missing Trees” and once again the writing is sublime, her prose beautiful to read.

Elif Shafak wears many hats. She is an activist for women’s rights, a gifted public speaker, a political scientist.

Shafak was born on the 25th of October 1971 and I was surprised to find that she has published 19 works. She has been nominated for several literary awards and her work has been translated into 55 different languages. She has been described as Turkey’s leading female novelist.

Much of her work deals with the themes of human rights issues, East and West politics, she has a PhD in political science and many of them take place and feature in Istanbul. She is passionate about child abuse and has even put her life in danger after writing about the Armenian genocide. Turkish authorities launched legal action and she was forced to emigrate to the United Kingdom.

Shafak’s debut novel “Pinhan (The Hidden) was awarded the Rumi Prize in 1998, a Turkish literary prize. Her first novel released in English was “The Saint of Incipient Insanities” in 2004, but it was her second novel in English which started to make waves and signal the literary world that something was coming. “The Bastard of Istanbul” was long-listed for the Orange Prize, which is now know as the Women’s prize for Literature. It was this novel which was denied by the Turkish government which then prosecuted Shafak on charges of “insulting Turkishness”. These draconian charges had Shafak staring down the barrel of a three-year jail sentence. She was acquitted on these charges in the same year she was charged, 2006.

Shafak has lived in Istanbul, the United States, and now lives in exile in London, still fearing prosecution from Turkey. She has been quoted as saying that she “carries Istanbul in her soul.

Book awards

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, 2019

The Architect's Apprentice, shortlisted for RSL Ondaatje Prize, 2015

The Architect's Apprentice, longlisted for Walter Scott Historical Novel Prize, 2015

Honour, second place for the Prix Escapade, France 2014

Honour, longlisted for International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, 2013

Crime d'honneur (Phébus, 2013), 2013 Prix Relay des voyageurs

Honour, longlisted for Women’s Prize for Fiction, 2013

Honour, longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, 2012

The Forty Rules of Love, nominated for 2012 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

Soufi, mon amour (Phébus, 2011), Prix ALEF – Mention Spéciale Littérature Etrangère

The Bastard of Istanbul, longlisted for Orange Prize for Fiction, London 2008

The Gaze, longlisted for Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, United Kingdom 2007

The Flea Palace, shortlisted for Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, United Kingdom 2005

The Gaze, Union of Turkish Writers' Best Novel Prize, 2000

Pinhan, The Great Rumi Award, Turkey 1998.

2016 GTF Awards for Excellence in Promoting Gender Equality

Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2015: Global Empowerment Award

Women To Watch Award, Mediacat & Advertising Age, March 2014

Marka Conference 2010 Award

Turkish Journalists and Writers Foundation "The Art of Coexistence Award, 2009"

Maria Grazia Cutuli Award – International Journalism Prize, Italy 2006

Even though I have only read a couple of her books, I intend to read them all, and I rate her as one of my favourite authors already.

Even considering her prolific work I hope she goes on to write many more books and continues her crusades against the many forms of injustice that plague this world.

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