Elif Shafak: ‘Nations don’t always learn from history’

When The Bastard of Istanbul was published in Turkey in 2006, the author was accused of insulting her homeland. Sadly, things have been getting worse since then …

When BBC Radio 4 asked to feature my novel The Bastard of Istanbul in its Reading Europe season this month, I found myself reflecting on the cultural and political journey that my motherland, Turkey, has undergone in the years since the book was published.

The novel came out in Turkey in 2006. It tells the story of a Turkish family and an Armenian-American family, mostly through the eyes of four generations of women. It is a story about buried family secrets, political and sexual taboos, and the need to talk about them, as well as the ongoing clash between memory and amnesia. Turkey, in general, is a society of collective amnesia.

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Elif Shafak: ‘It is time we stopped denigrating the public intellectual’

The Turkish novelist warns against complacency and self-consciousness and urges western thinkers to speak out It is an unhappy country that hates its public intellectuals. Turkey, my motherland, is one such place. Increasingly today, intellectuals are demonised in pro-government media, trolled on social media, accused of being “traitors” or “collaborating with western powers”, put on trial, imprisoned or exiled. But one thing they are not is ignored. Turkey, just like Russia, has a long and depressing tradition of taking its intellectuals seriously and making them suffer for daring to think differently. Here in the UK things are very different. Freedom of speech prevails, democracy is strong. Novelists are not sued for tackling controversial issues, academics are not expelled in their thousands, journalists are not put in jail en masse. Compared with their Turkish, Russian, Venezuelan, Pakistani or Chinese counterparts, British intellectuals have so much freedom. One would expect them ...

A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex and the Mind by Siri Hustvedt – review

The novelist’s smart essays on science and the arts bridge the gap between the disciplines, inviting us to look at the world anewBehind this ambitious collection of essays on art, creativity, sexuality and the mind is CP Snow’s old question: why is there such a wide chasm between the world of literary intellectuals and that of empirical scientists? Snow, married to a novelist and with friends working across all disciplines, was critical of the limits of rigid specialisation – a problem Hustvedt recognises from her own life: “In the last decade or so, I have repeatedly found myself at the bottom of Snow’s gulf, shouting up to the persons gathered on either side of it.” Drawing on insights from the humanities and the sciences, Hustvedt divides the book into three parts. The first section focuses on a range of male artists, extending from Picasso to Mapplethorpe and Almodóvar. ...

‘The Bataclan attack in Paris is another example of art under siege. The west must raise its voice’

Creativity is a fundamental human right and we should defend it

The terrorists who attacked the Bataclan concert hall in Paris last week and massacred 89 young music fans, injured hundreds of others and terrorised millions of people across the world had chosen their target carefully. Not only because they knew they could cause the most damage at a sold-out concert, but also because the Bataclan held a symbolic value: a place of music, joy and freedom, all of which they opposed.

In the fight against extremism, political analysis dominates discussions while military solutions hover in the background. Culture, however, does not receive enough attention, even though it is at the heart of today’s conflicts. Extremist attacks on art and artists are neither sporadic nor isolated phenomena. Islamic fundamentalism, like fundamentalisms of all kinds, is at direct odds with culture.

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‘Nationalist and religious extremists are the beneficiaries of cultural boycotts’

When writers and academics stay away from countries in protest at human rights violations, it is the people who lose out

There are few issues among artists and writers as controversial as cultural boycotts. On almost every other subject we tend to agree, more or less: freedom of expression; the need to support local libraries; promoting literacy etc. But a cultural boycott is a conceptual rift that divides us. As a Turkish novelist, I am acquainted with both sides of that rift: I have dear friends – writers and academics – who have recently signed petitions to boycott Israel. And coming from Turkey, a country with a poor record of human rights, I also know what it feels like to be the one who is boycotted.

Related: As storytellers, we speak for pluralism and democracyy | Elif Shafak

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