Books: Turkey slipping backwards, says novelist Shafak

Author opens Bookcity with 'Three Daughters of Eve'

17 November, 11:24

    The cover of Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak The cover of Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak

    ROME - One of the most important authors in contemporary Turkey, Elif Shafak, spoke to ANSA on the eve of the opening of a Milan book fair called Bookcity. She will be opening the event on Wednesday with her book 'Three Daughters of Eve' - the Italian translation of which was published by Rizzoli and released on November 10 - in an event at Teatro Dal Verme with Rula Jebreal, a Palestinian foreign policy analyst, journalist, novelist and screenwriter with dual Israeli and Italian citizenship.

    ''It is difficult to be a writer in Turkey. You get a lot of love from people, readers,'' she said. ''But at the same time you get many messages of hate, slander and attacks. It's more difficult if you are a woman, because there is a lot of sexism.

    But we must continue to imagine stories, raising our voices.'' Three very different Muslim female friends are the protagonists of her latest novel: the sinner, the believer and the doubter. The book discusses women's conditions, religion and politics, crushed dreams and love, and gives voice to the contrasts in a Turkey filled with ''unexpressed potential''.

    ''I am interested,'' Shafak said, ''in the dance between belief and doubt. I am not a religious person in any sense. In reality, I do not like organized religions nor collective identities, but I am spiritual in my own way. I have respect for both faith and doubt. People like me - agnostics, heterodox mystics and humanists - are a minority in Turkey. But we exist and are able to challenge this duality between atheism and absolute religiousness.''

    A beautiful Iranian atheist Shirin, an American devout Muslim of Egyptian origins named Mona and Peri, who is unable to take a position between the secularity of her father and the beliefs of her devout Muslim mother are the three main characters in the book. The story begins when a Polaroid photo falls from Peri's bag during a robbery.

    ''Spirituality can be all-understanding and individual at the same time. But this type of spirituality does not exist in Turkey, because Turkey is a society with collective identities and in which these collective identities clash. I do not identify with all of this, and I would like to broaden individual liberties,'' the Turkish author said. ''I am a feminist and I support the rights of women and LGBT rights. In this sense, Turkey is sliding backwards. There has been an increase in domestic violence. We need to speak about difficult issues like 'honor crimes', incest, gender-based violence, rape, and homophobia. Women's rights cannot be postponed.''

    Saddened and concerned about the situation in her country, Shafak said that ''the only people who will benefit from a Turkey disconnected from Europe are the ultra-nationalists and the Islamists. Thy have continued to repeat to the population, 'look, Europe is not with us and so we will side with Russia, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia'. '' She added that she found this ''very dangerous. I would like Turkey to share basic European values and to improve its damaged democracy. '' ''In my country,'' she said, ''there is a great deal of tension and no harmony. We have been a country badly divided, bitterly politicized for too long, but now it is worse. There are over 130 journalists in prison. Writers, academics and intellectuals have been stigmatized, targeted, indicted and imprisoned. All of this makes me very sad and depressed. All journalists and intellectuals and leaders of the Kurdish political party should be released immediately. Democracy needs pluralism and diversity.''

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