Elif Şafak on stories as wall-breakers: Crossing circles, moving between


Today’s post is written to honor the power of storytelling – and specifically stories that cross circles, move between spaces (or ghettos) and break down walls. Let me start with the circles.

My students often come up to me and explain that they are not doodling circles because they are bored – but because it helps them focus. I have always doodled overlapping circles in my notebooks. I tell them, “no problem, I totally get it.”

But today’s post is also to honor an author that I have found inspiring as I make my way along this roadtrip called cross-cultural marriage. In addition to loving the writing and thinking of Elif Şafak (Elif Shafak in American parlance), perhaps the circles she refers to in this TED talk were particularly enthralling to me (see this link or the video, above) as a lifelong doodler.

In her talk, Ms. Şafak addresses the importance of moving beyond ghettoized circles of crossing cultures and both sharing and feeling stories – as I heard her. I hope you will enjoy Ms. Şafak’s talk on the politics of fiction. She speaks in a most passionate – and breakneck pace of a way – as if the words cannot come out fast enough. I thought of the world spinning and her words trailing quickly around the equator when she was talking, that was the image that came to mind.

While my writing is mostly non-fiction… (the puppets are screaming at me now) OK, OK, the puppets in my head are literary mechanisms to embody the jumble of cross-cultural confusion that exists in my overly analytical head as one half of a Turkish-American couple on a life-long roadtrip. As a matter of full disclosure, I had been thinking about the Karagoz puppet characters as the voices in my head for some time – but once I read Ms. Şafak’s book Black Milk: On Writing, Motherhood and the Harem Within, in which she becomes acquainted with the tiny ladies in her head, genies of sorts, this whole project crystallized. If other people write about people in their head, well, I can too…it isn’t EXACTLY that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” but it is close as I already had the idea. 🙂 So, thank you Ms. Şafak, for your bravery in letting those little ladies out into your mind and onto the pages.

…so as I was saying, whilst my writing is MOSTLY non-fiction, I found Ms. Şafak’s talk to echo some of my own feelings about the importance of sharing my own story, and giving voice to the joys, challenges and in between moments of cross-cultural life in a globalized era.

I’ll finish with Ms. Şafak’s final words from her talk…

“In the end, stories move like whirling dervishes, drawing circles beyond circles. They connect all humanity, regardless of identity politics, and that is the good news. And I would like to finish with an old Sufi poem: “Come, let us be friends for once; let us make life easy on us; let us be lovers and loved ones; the earth shall be left to no one.”

Thank you.

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This entry was posted in Introducing the Karagöz puppets, On writing about my life with the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Elif Şafak on stories as wall-breakers: Crossing circles, moving between

  1. Alan says:

    it has been my pleasure to know of this lady and her writing and lecturing for a number of years – she is remarkable in many very different ways. She is Turkish and a great ambassador for Turks and Turkish culture; but she is so much more – she is an ambassador for humanity. Whilst Turkey brings forth such gems there is always hope for the country and the world. If I was religious I’d have her canonised!!

  2. Jack Scott says:

    What a remarkable woman. As Alan writes, gives me hope for a more humanitarian world based on rationality, reason and reaching out.

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  4. Liz Cameron says:

    She is indeed. I am waiting for her Turkish-language books to be translated into English – cannot wait for more.

  5. Liz Cameron says:

    I’m with you, 100%! M. feels she is an opportunist – but I disagree. Will make for lively debate.

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