A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of hearing Elif Shafak speak at the Sunday Times Literary Festival in Oxford. When I booked the ticket, I had never actually heard of her. In general, I try to book a few events a year of things I’ve never heard of or would normally not attend, just to see what I’m missing. Of course, sometimes there is a reason I’ve never heard of them, and I end up spending an hour thinking, Why, oh why, do I keep doing this? But far more often than not, I stumble onto something rather wonderful. This time it was Elif Shafak. There were several things which lured me to her. The first was that the title of the event, The Politics of Fiction, intrigued me. I read on and discovered, like a slap in the face to my ignorance, that she is Turkey’s bestselling female author. Among other things, she writes about Istanbul, a place I’ve never been to other than in my head while reading the likes of Orhan Pamuk and Maureen Freely.
But for all that reading Elif Shafak is a pleasure, hearing her read her own work was a joy. We were in a small room in Oxford, and she read from the opening of her latest novel Honour (which I have since read and loved). It was a longish section for a reading, but everyone was holding their breath throughout. At the end the panel host said he’d happily have sat and listened to her read the whole novel, and the room agreed. I wish I could post that reading for you here, but instead you will have to settle for hearing what else she spoke about that day.
There is enough magic in the air here that I don’t think you’ll feel shortchanged.