Elif Şafak “The Bastard of Istanbul”


One day a 19-year-old woman comes to a gynaecologist to have an abortion. She says “I can’t have her”. The doctor fails to fulfil her request, though.

Twenty years later, the bastard becomes a young woman, equally rebellious as her mother. In the young  Asya’s life appears another young lady, a cousin from America searching for her own roots. The girl will wake up the family ghosts and irreversibly stir the Kazanci family’s past.

 The cover quotes The Observer describing the book as „Shocking, ambitious, exuberant”.

But I think “brave” is the best suitable word here as Elif Shafak showed real courage to talk about a topic which is denied in the Turkish world.

On the other hand, who else is in a position to discuss such controversial topics if not her, the world famous writer and journalist. It has  to be noted she risked being put to jail for her statements in the book. Under the Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code she  was put on trial for ‘denigrating Turkishness’. The charges were dropped but she may have been facing up to three years in prison, like  one of the characters in the book – the Dipsomaniac Cartoonist being sent to prison for drawing the Prime Minister as a penguin and a  wolf in the sheep’s skin.

The Bastard of Istanbul is a fascinating story. If not for other duties I woud have read it at one go.

The women characters are so vivid and real and I’m quite sure each female reader would find some similarities in the relationship with their mothers, aunts or daughters. Difficult – this is one word that suits perfectly.

It is a beautiful story of love and endurance but also of hate, violence, vindictiveness, denial, shame, and penitence.

Together with showing the reader the world of delicious smells and meals, family feelings, the author draws our attention to the home violence and denial of historical facts.

I especially  love the inclusion of the supernatural in the form of the djinni and it always makes me wonder if they really believe in them. It is so my style to mix the modern and the old, the mundane and the supernatural.

Elif Shafak brings the painful history and everyday pain to day light in an engrossing and moving way.

An obligatory read for anyone wanting to learn some more about Turkey, Armenians but also about  mother-daughter feelings.


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