BookBrowse Reviews The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak

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The Bastard of Istanbul

By Elif Shafak

The Bastard of Istanbul
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2007,
    368 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2008,
    368 pages.

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A bold, powerful tale that will confirm Shafak as a rising star of international fiction

Shafak says that she did not set out to deal with big macro-political questions in The Bastard of Istanbul. Instead, her aim was quite the opposite - to "probe the simple and basic ingredients in the everyday life of Armenian and Turkish women" to find their commonalities.

"I am a novelist. When I write, I don't calculate the consequences of what I'm writing. I just surround myself with the story."

That maybe so, but The Bastard of Istanbul unleashed quite a backlash in her native Turkey, achieving the dubious honor of becoming the first fictional work to be tried under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code which prohibits "public denigration of Turkishness". Other fictional books, such as Orhan Pamuk's Snow have been threatened with Article 301* but Shafak's was the first to go to trial. If ...



Elif Shafak was born in Strasbourg, France in 1971. Her mother was a diplomat and single-mother whose first appointment was in Spain, where Shafak spent her teenage years. At the time, the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) was staging attacks on Turkish citizens, particularly diplomats, across Europe; so while she was growing up "Armenian" meant only one thing to Shafak - a terrorist who wanted to kill her mother.

Faced with hatred she says she hated back. It took her years to ask the simple question: Why did the Armenians hate us?

"My ignorance was not unusual. For me in those days, and for most Turkish citizens even today, my country's history began in 1923, with the founding of the modern Turkish state. The roots of the Armenians' rage -- in the massacres, ...

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