Elif Shafak Never Fails to Stab Me in the Back

Reading The Bastard of Istanbul got me curious about Turkey (and Armenia) to the point that I visited Turkey this year. Orhan Pamuk also gave me the same feeling, but let’s save it for another post.

Despite being a fictional work, the book enlightened me about the history and culture of Turkey, and how different the role of religion is (specifically Islam) in the society of Turkey compared to the other Islamic countries I have been to.

Elif Shafak is very good at ‘leading you on’ throughout the several long chapters (in a positive way! hers is always a long but engaging read) then slowly unfolding the ‘wtf!!!’ part of the story. It’s not as if dropping a bomb, she will poke the knife first then she will slowly stab you. It will start to hurt but you will keep on reading until you can’t take the pain anymore.

Now I can’t look at the Kodak logo the same way again.

Reading The Bastard of Istanbul was nauseating and traumatic.

But then again, to be fair, Franz Kafka once said:

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. That is my belief.

Franz Kafka, in a letter to Oskar Pollak, January 1904

But that did not stop me from reading more of Elif Shafak. The next book I read was Honour. Of course, I was stabbed in the back once again.

I remember reading the part where the “wtf!!!” moment reveals itself when I was sitting by the pool in a hotel in Antalya. I want to tell the strangers around how much I felt betrayed during that moment.

The whole detail of providing long, seemingly unrelated chapters about Yunus’ trips to the anarchists’ house and Aunt Jamila’s life separate from Pembe’s slowly made sense towards the end.

There were not just one, but two plot twists.

Now I am reading The Forty Rules of Love. I am emotionally prepared for whatever it is that might blow on my face.

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