Elif Shafak Biograpgy

Elif Shafak: A Journey Through Words and Worlds

Who is Elif Shafak?

Elif Shafak is the author of popular books such as 40 Laws of Love (The Nation of Love), Three Daughters of Eve, Me and My Master, Sharaft, Island of Lost Trees, Louse Palas, etc., and is one of the most successful British-Turkish novelists. She is also the deputy president of the Royal Society of Literature and one of the world’s 100 most inspiring and influential women.

Who is Elif Shafak | Everything about Elif shafak

About Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak is a novelist, essayist, speaker, political scientist of Turkish descent, and activist for the defense of women’s and minorities rights. He is known all over the world for his popular and famous novels. He is the author of 19 outstanding books, including The 40 Laws of Love, The Three Daughters of Eve, The Island of Lost Trees, 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World, The Bastard of Istanbul, and…

Elif Shafak is one of the founding members of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations) and one of the most inspiring Turkish women worldwide. An advocate for women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and freedom of speech, she is also a public speaker and has been a TED Global Speaker twice.

Shafak’s works have been translated into almost 57 languages and nominated for several literary awards. She has been described by the Financial Times as “Turkey’s leading female novelist.” A recipient of many awards, she recently received the Halldor Laksnes International Literature Prize for his contribution to the “Renaissance of the Art of Storytelling.”

Elif Shafak's childhood

Elif Shafak’s childhood

Elif Şafak (Elif Şafak), the original name of Elif Bilgin, was born on October 25, 1971, in Strasbourg, France. His father, Nouri Bilgin, was a philosopher, and his mother, Shafak Ataiman, was a diplomat. After the separation of his parents, she lived with his mother. Because of his mother’s job, she traveled to many cities such as Boston, Michigan, Arizona, Istanbul, London, etc., and during these trips, she mastered English, Spanish, and Arabic languages.

Shafak spent his teenage years in Madrid, Jordan, and Germany, and then he returned to Turkey to live with his mother and grandmother. According to Elif Shakaf, growing up in a dysfunctional family was difficult, but growing up in a non-patriarchal environment benefitted him.

When she was 18, Elif added his mother’s name, Shakaf, which means Shafaq in Farsi, to his name before going to university. She studied international relations at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, then received a master’s degree in women’s studies and a doctorate in political science.

Alif started writing his stories and novels from the same student period. She published his first short story, Anatoly for Bad Eyes, in 1994, followed by his second story in 1997. From 2003 to 2004, Shafak worked as an assistant professor at the University of Michigan and then at the Near Eastern Studies Department at the University of Arizona, and from 2005 to 2009, she was a columnist for Zaman newspaper. Also, after receiving his doctorate in political science, she started teaching in Turkish universities.

Entering the career of writing and fame

Entering the career of writing and fame

Elif Shafak Wisandeh is the author of 19 fiction and nonfiction books, 12 of which are novels. She published her first novel, “Panhan,” in 1998, which won the first Elif Award and the Molvi (Turkish Literary Award) the same year.

His second novel, Maherem (Naghah) Shafak, was published in 1999 and won the best novel award from the Turkish Writers Association in 200.

Shafak’s third novel, Kakh Kek, known in Iran as Pesh Palas, had some side effects. This book faced accusations of plagiarism by Krikanat, a Turkish novelist and the author of “Sink Sarai,” according to the opinion of the Elif Shakaf court, she was accused of plagiarism and sentenced to pay damages to Krikanat. Still, this issue is one of the successes of this work. It did not decrease, and finally, the novel Pash Palas was included in the list of the best independent foreign fiction in the world in 2005.

Only two English novels are among Shakaf’s works. His first English novel, The Saint of Incipient Insanities, was published in 2004 but was not as successful and popular as his second English-language novel, Bastard of Istanbul.

Shafak, in his second English novel, The Bastard of Istanbul, was accused of “insulting Turkey” by the Turkish courts for referring to the Armenian Genocide. His case was closed in June 2006 but reopened in July of the same year, and she faced the possibility of three years in prison. His translator and publisher faced the same number of years in jail, but on September 21, 2006, his case was closed again due to lack of evidence.

After the remarkable success of “The Bastard of Istanbul,” Shafak increased his fame by publishing the novel 40 Laws of Love, famous in Iran under Nation of Love. This novel quickly became a bestseller after its publication in Turkey. By 2009, it had sold more than 200,000 copies in Turkey, surpassing the previous record of 120,000 copies of The New Life written by Orhan Pamuk.

The novel’s achievements do not end here! In France, it won the ALEF—Mention Spéciale Littérature Etrangère award and was nominated for the 2012 Impec Dublin International Literary Award. In 2019, the BBC named The 40 Laws of Love one of the “100 Inspirational Novels” and one of the “100 Novels That Shape Our World.”

In 2012, she published the novel Honour, which focuses on an honor killing, and was nominated for the 2012 Asian Male Literary Award and the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction. After that, The Architect’s Apprentice, a historical fiction novel, was nominated in 2014.

Shafak’s next bestselling novel, The Three Daughters of Eve (2017), is set in Istanbul and Oxford from the 1980s to the present day. The novel was chosen as the year’s favorite book by the Mayor of London, Siddique Khan. American writer Siri Hastodt also praised this book. This book explores the themes of secular versus orthodox religion, conservative versus liberal politics, and Turkey’s modern attitude toward these matters.

After publishing Three Daughters of Eve, Shafak was selected as the 2017 Writer of the Year for the Future Library Project. His work, The Last Taboo, is the third part of a collection of 100 literary works for future library projects. It is interesting to know that the works of this project will not be published until 2114!

Shafak’s 2019 novel, 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World, which revolves around the life of an Istanbul sex worker, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the RSL Ondaatje Prize. In 2019, Şafak was investigated by Turkish prosecutors for covering child abuse and sexual violence in his fiction.

Shafak’s latest work, “Island of Lost Trees,” published in 2021, was shortlisted for the Costa, British Literature, RSL Ondaatje, and Best Women’s Fiction awards.

Non-fiction works of Elif Shafak

Non-fiction works of Elif Shafak

Shakaf’s non-fiction works are generally collected in four books in Turkish:

  • Med-Cezir (2005)
  • Firarperest (2010)
  • Şemspare (2012)
  • Sanma ki Yalnızsın (2017)

In addition, in 2020, Shafak published a book titled “How to stay wise in the Age of Division.”

Shafak’s activities in different media

It is interesting to know that Shafak’s activities are not limited to writing books and novels. Elif Shafak has written many articles for various Turkish and English media.

Time, the Guardian, La Repubblica, the New Yorker, the New York Times, Der Spiegel, the New Statesman, and… are among these media. Shafak has also participated in the BBC World, Euronews, and Al Jazeera English panel.

Elif Shafak’s writings have prominent features. For example, Shafak mixes Eastern and Western storytelling methods and uses oral and written culture.

Most of Shafak’s novels deal with human rights issues, especially in Turkey. She has said often: “What literature tries to do is re-humanize people who have been dehumanized … people whose voices are never heard. That’s a big part of my work.”

Also, in Shafak’s writings, feminist issues and the role of women in society have been repeatedly discussed. For example, we can mention motherhood and violence against women.

The role of Istanbul in Elif Shafak’s writings

One of the prominent features of Elif Shafak’s writings is the city of Istanbul. Istanbul has always been prominent in Shafak’s writings. She portrays Istanbul as a melting pot of different cultures and contradictions. In an interview with Time magazine, Shafak said: “Istanbul makes people intellectually and intuitively understand that East and West are ultimately imaginary concepts and can be de-imagined and re-imagined.”

Elif Shafak Personal Life

Elif Shafak is married to Turkish journalist Eyup Jan Saghlik, former editor of Liberal Radical newspaper, with whom she has a daughter and a son. Shafak said that after the birth of her daughter in 2006, she suffered from postpartum depression, and after this period, she started writing a book called “Black Lion.” This book is a combination of actual events and the biography of Elif Shafak.

It might be interesting to know that the main character of Virginia Woolf’s book Orlando: A Biography is one of Elif Shafak’s favorite fictional characters. Her favorite authors also include Emily Bronte, Albert Camus, Marcel Proust, William Shakespeare, and Miguel de Cervantes, who pointed out that all are famous world literature writers.

Shafak has been living in London since 2013 and has been in self-imposed exile from Turkey since 2019 due to fear of prosecution.

A look at all Elif Shakaf awards:

A look at all Elif Shakaf awards:

1. The Island of Missing Trees, shortlisted for Women’s Prize For Fiction, 2022
2. The Island of Missing Trees, shortlisted for Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards, 2022
3. The Island of Missing Trees, shortlisted for Costa Novel Award, 2021
4. Patron of Human Rights Watch Book Club
5. Halldór Laxness International Literature Prize, 2021
6. The Island of Missing Trees is a Reese’s Book Club choice
7. Bard College Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, 2021
8. Fellow and Vice-President of the Royal Society of Literature
9. PEN Nabokov Prize judge, 2020
10. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World, shortlisted for RSL Ondaatje Prize, 2020
11. The Orwell Prize for Political Writing judge, 2020
12. Honour is among the 40 best books of the decade, Independent, 2019
13. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World is one of The Economist’s best books of the year, 2019
14. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World, The Blackwell’s Book of the Year, 2019
15. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World, shortlisted for Booker Prize, 2019
16. The Forty Rules of Love is on the BBC’s list of 100 Novels That Shaped Our World
17. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World is among 50 recommended novels by The Times, 2019
18. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World is among NPR’s favorite books, 2019
19. Chair of the Wellcome Book Prize 2019 judging panel.
20. Honorary Fellow at St. Anne’s College, Oxford University.
21. Patron of the National Centre For Writing in Norwich, UNESCO City of Literature
22. Weidenfeld Visiting Professor in Comparative European Literature at Oxford
23. Berggruen Prize Juror for Philosophy & Culture
24. Judge for The Goldsmiths Prize 2018
25. Future Library Author 2017, Oslo, Norway
26. Caravan Award for Peacebuilding Through the Arts, 2017
27. Prize for Tolerance in Thinking and Acting, Prize of Honour of the Austrian Booksellers, 2017
28. Judge for The Sunday Times/Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award, 2017
29. Member of the Berggruen Prize Award Committee
30. WOW committee member
31. Lahore Literary Festival Lifetime Achievement Award, 2016
32. Granted the Seal of the City and Certificate of Commendation by the City of Milan, 2016
33. 2016 GTF Award for Excellence in Promoting Gender Equality
34. Judge for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize
35. Judge for FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Awards, 2016
36. Judge for the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction
37. Cultural Leader; Member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy, Davos 2016
38. Judge for the 10th Women of the Future Awards, 2015
39. Judge for FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Awards, 2015
40. Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2015: Global Empowerment Award
41. The Architect’s Apprentice, shortlisted for RSL Ondaatje Prize, 2015
42. The Architect’s Apprentice, longlisted for Walter Scott Historical Novel Prize, 2015
43. Judge for Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards, 2015
44. Board Member of Free Word Centre, which promotes literacy, literature, and freedom of expression
45. Member of English PEN
46. Cultural ambassador for The Ottoman Orient in Renaissance Art/ BOZAR
47. Member of the judging panel for the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award for two consecutive years (2014, 2015)
48. Cultural Leader; Member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy, Davos 2014
49. Member of the Folio Academy
50. Women To Watch Award, March 2014, Mediacat & Advertising Age
51. Honour (Crime d’honneur, Phébus), Prix du livre Lorientales 2014
52. Honour (Crime d’honneur, Phébus) le prix Escapades, 2014
53. Honour, Nominated (longlisted) for International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, 2013
54. Turkish American Society Young Society Leader, 2013
55. Honour (Crime d’honneur, Phébus), 2013 Prix Relay des voyageurs, France 2013
56. Honour, Longlisted for Women’s Prize for Fiction, 2013
57. Member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on The Role of Arts in Society
58. Member of the 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize judging panel.
59. Honour, Longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, 2012
60. The Forty Rules of Love, Nominated (longlisted) for International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, 2012
61. The Forty Rules of Love (Soufi, mon amour, Phébus), Prix ALEF – Mention Spéciale Littérature Etrangère, France 2011
62. Marka 2010 Award, Turkey
63. Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et Letters, France, 2010
64. Twice TED Global speaker
65. Ambassador of Culture Action Europe Campaign, 2010
66. Special Envoy, EU-Turkey Cultural Bridges Programme, 2010
67. Turkish Journalists and Writers Foundation “The Art of Coexistence Award-2009”
68. International Rising Talent, Women’s Forum – Deauville, France 2009
69. The Bastard of Istanbul, Longlisted for Orange Prize for Fiction, London 2008
70. Founding member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations)
71. The Gaze, Longlisted for Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, United Kingdom 2007
72. Maria Grazia Cutuli Award – International Journalism Prize, Italy 2006
73. The Flea Palace, Shortlisted for Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, United Kingdom 2005
74. The Gaze, Union of Turkish Writers’ Best Novel Prize, 2000
75. Pinhan, The Great Rumi Award, Turkey 1998

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