Born in Strasberg, France, Elif Shafak moved to Turkey when her parents separated. Her mother was a divorcee in a patriarchal environment, and Shafak found coherence and constancy through words and writing as a child. In this TED talk, filmed July 2010, Shafak speaks of the polarities between her mother’s secular and feminist ideals from Europe and her Turkish grandmother who was the town healer and used superstitious means to treat neighbors’ illnesses.
Shafak raises some wonderful points about the ghettos of multicultural literature, which is an issue that often comes up for non-Western artists. What is this false divide between “multicultural” art and the Western world? As if all Western literature and art was inspired and created solely from Western thoughts and ideas. The divide is a lie.
Writing and any art for that matter can’t just be about the artist. The artist submits herself to the art, and her ego is either set aside or used as a channel for what’s outside of her world. It has to be bigger than the self or its not art.
To see Shafak’s talk click below link:
Here are some highlights:
- If you want to destroy something in life, be it a blemish or acne, all you need to do is surround it with thick walls.
- We all live in some kind of social, national, class, and cultural circle.
- My grandmother liked to cover mirrors or turn them backwards. Its not healthy to spend too much time with our own self-image. We tend to form clusters based on similarities, and then we produce stereotypes of other clusters.
- To get out of our cultural ghettos, we read and write stories of other people.
- I thought my life was terribly boring, and the last thing I wanted to do was write about me, so I begun to write about other people.
- Fiction is a transcendental journey into other lives and other possibilities.
- Stories lose their magic if they’re seen as something more than a story.
- The world of identity politics affects the way stories are read, reviewed and circulated. Non-western authors feel this more heavily. If you’re a Muslim writer, especially a woman, you’re expected to write from this viewpoint and leave the experimental and avant garde to your Western counter-parts.
- Writers are not seen as creative individuals but as representatives of their culture.
- When identity politics tries to put labels on us, it is our freedom of imagination that is in danger.
- There’s a fuzzy genre called “multicultural literature” where everything outside of Western literature gets lumped together.
- Multicultural literature is expected to tell the real stories not so much the imaginary.
- Chekov once wrote, “the solution to a problem and the correct way of posing a question were two completely separate things, and only the latter is the artist’s concern.”
- Identity politics separates us. Fiction connects. Identity politics are solid bricks. Fiction is flowing water. Stories cut across all boundaries.
- The Sufis say “knowledge that takes you not beyond yourself is far worse than ignorance.”