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Elif Shafak Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Flea Palace (2004) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Saint of Incipient Insanities (2004) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Gaze (2006) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Bastard of Istanbul (2007) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Forty Rules of Love (2010) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Honour (2012) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Architect's Apprentice (2014) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Three Daughters of Eve (2016) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

Black Milk (2011) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Happiness of Blond People (2011) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Elif Safak is a Turkish speaker, columnist, and author that has earned the title of most popular female novelist in Turkey. Safak is the daughter of diplomat Safak Atayman and philosopher Nuri Bilgin. Her parents separated when she was little, and she was for the most part brought up by her mother, which had a significant influence on her later writing and work. As a child raised in a single parent household she felt more affinity to her mother, and hence she took up her mother’s first name Safak as a middle name in many of her works. In 2010, she was awarded the title of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. She sits on Creative Economy’ Weforum Global Agenda Council, is a speaker at TED Global, and one of the founders of the European Council on Foreign relations (ECFR). With over 10 novels and 5 nonfiction works, Safak writes novels in English and Turkish that blend Eastern and Western traditions of storytelling in telling narratives about youth, subcultures, immigrants, minorities, and women. Her writing is inspired by the diverse literary traditions and cultures reflecting cultural politics, oral culture, Sufism, philosophy, and history.

Given that a single mother that loved to travel raised her, she had few friends and thus found refuge in books. Studying in Turkey, she was exposed to a nationalistic curriculum, before she went to a very multicultural British school in Madrid with learners from across the globe. She would go on to get a degree in International Relations, a PhD in political science, and a master in women’s studies. She then taught in several universities all across Europe before she decided to quit and write full time. She is one of the most multicultural of writers having also lived in London, Istanbul, Arizona, Michigan, and Boston. Her writing has also moved from city to city, country to country and language to language, as he has asserted that she takes into account the local language whenever she is writing from a particular city. Nonetheless, through it all, her cultural attachment to her home city of Istanbul has remained the strongest as it appears in most of her fiction works. However, she has been cited as a perfect example of cosmopolitanism as her work multiplies affiliations and attachments instead of increasing identity politics. Apart from her most popular fiction works, she regularly contributes to some of the biggest publications in her homeland of Turkey and international ones as well such as The Guardian, The Economist, The Huffington Post, and the New York Times. She loves to write on the themes of coexistence, multicultural literature, daily life politics, mental ghettos, gender, identity, and belonging.

Elif Safak first broke into the scene with her debut title “Pinhan”, a mystical novel that won the 1998 Rumi Prize, and is considered one of Turkey’s best ever works of literature. She next wrote about Islamic and Jewish mysticism in a historical narrative set in 17th century Europe. She would gain even more traction with “Mahrem” her third novel that was the winner of the 2000 Turkish Writers Union Prize. She would shift to writing in English with the publication of the 2004 novel “The Saint of Incipient Insanities” published by French publishing house Farra, Straus, and Giroux. “The Bastard of Istanbul” that she published in 2006 made the long list for the Orange Prize and was that year’s bestseller in Turkey. In the novel, Samak eloquently asks questions about the genocide of Turkish Armenians that the government refused to acknowledge. The novel is one of the very first Turkish novels that deal with issues of deportation, atrocities, and massacres of Armenians that resulted in almost total decimation of the population at the tail end of Ottoman rule. For her efforts, Elif found herself in the dock for insulting Turkishness, an offense that could have earned her up to three years in prison. Overall, the author has been an overt and outspoken critic of her government. She has been speaking on taboo issues including rigid ideologies, ultranationalism, and minority questions that have rubbed many in the Kemalist government the wrong way. In addition to the novels’ political stand on Turkey and a range of different countries and multicultural settings, they also address freedom of speech, motherhood and feminism, and mysticism.

“The Saint of Incipient Insanities” is a humorous and insightful novel that explores the themes of belonging, exile, nationality, culture, friendship, and love. Piyu, Abed, and Omer are college roommates that happen to be all foreigners in the US. Omer is a Turk from Istanbul studying for PhD in political science. Omer has fallen in love with Gail a chocolate maker with philosophical, suicidal, and bisexual tendencies. Unlike the friends, Gail is an American citizen but never feels at home in America, as she flits from one passion to another trying to find a foothold. Abed is studying for a biotechnology degree, and worries about his mother’s impression of him and his friends, when she comes into town to visit him. He is worried that Omer’s non-Turkish ways will not paint him in a positive way to his mother. In addition to worrying about this mother, he has yet to come to terms with the stereotyping of Middle Easterners in the US. He has a girlfriend back home in Morocco, but recently maintaining a connection with her is becoming an uphill task. The Spaniard Piyu is a dentistry student with a fear of sharp objects, who is puzzled by just how many relatives his Chicano girlfriend seems to have.

“The Flea Palace” is another excellent novel by Elif Safak set in Istanbul, Turkey. “The Flea Palace” is a novel about a fictional building in Istanbul known as the “Bonbon Palace”. Pavel Antipov, a Russian nobleman that had immigrated to Turkey following the overthrow of the Tsarist regime in the early 20th century, supposedly built the building. After years of mismanagement, the building is flea infested, dilapidated, and home to ten families that could not be any more different. Using a cinematic narration, the author offers a bird’s eye view of the happenings inside the apartment complex with each chapter telling the story of a family in the decrepit building complex that is full of the smell of garbage and bugs. While the novel is a somber look at life in the less desirable parts of Istanbul, the novel itself and the stories therein are a tragic and comic look into the lives of ordinary Turks. From the modernity, tradition, squalor, beauty, Marxist intellectualism, and religious fervor, the book has it all.

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