The most widely read Turkish female author worldwide made a name for herself with her novels “The Bastard of Istanbul” and “Love”. Her books display a great sensitivity for cultural, ethnic and religious diversity.


After Orhan Pamuk, Elif Şafak is the most internationally renowned of Turkey’s postmodern writers. Her “linguistic nomadism”, as she calls it, certainly plays a role in this. She wrote several of her novels in English and then had them translated into Turkish, in close cooperation with the translators. This could be described as a kind of refined, intellectual duplicity: she views Turkish as the language of her emotions and English as the language of reason.

Born in 1971 in Strasbourg as Elif Bilgin, she grew up mainly surrounded by women, after her diplomat mother separated from her father, who was a teacher. Her childhood years were shared between the homes of her two grandmothers in Turkey, and at a young age she learned about the Islamic religion’s varying conceptions of God. Her paternal grandmother revealed the wrathful side of God who must be feared, while her maternal grandmother worships the same God as an almighty, benevolent force.


Islamic specialist Prof. Dr. Erika Glassen lectures at the University of Freiburg. Together with Prof. Dr. Jens Peter Laut, she edited the “Turkish Library”, published by Unionverlag.

© KulturForum / Erika Glassen, Freiburg, November 2010

Extract from an essay in the booklet accompanying the film series “Human Landscapes – Portraits of Six Turkish Authors”, produced and published by the Turkish-German Forum of Culture.

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