Have you ever dreamed of making a road trip through the Ukraine? Or meeting your favorite author on the other side of the atlantic ocean? Or seeing the world through the eyes of an insect? Well, imagination triggered by fiction can take you on the nicest journey and Elif Shafakcan take you exactly there.
In her talk „ The politics of fiction” Shafak opens up about living in different countries in Europe as a young child because of her mothers work and how this nomadic life taught her lessons about cultural boundaries. Shafak believes, that telling stories, convincing stories, can help people overcome those clichéd perceptions of each other: „[…] when we are reading a good novel, we leave our small, cozy apartments behind, go out into the night alone and start getting to know people we had never met before and perhaps had even been biased against“.
Being a female Muslim author
She also points out the difficulties of being a well educated, worldly and emancipated Muslim woman: not only do people expect her to write from the perspective of a Muslim woman, they categorize her as a representative of a whole nation – which she is simply not.
„I never forget my first multicultural reading, in Harvard Square about 10 years ago. We were three writers, one from the Philippines, one Turkish and one Indonesian – like a joke, you know. And the reason why we were brought together was not because we shared an artistic style or a literary taste. It was only because of our passports.”
In fact, compared to the majority of the Turkish women, Elif Shafak, with her life story and feminist believes, appears to be quite an opposition.
A question of perspective
But, Shafak explains, the author is just not the protagonist. Characters in fictional books are – surprise – fictional and not real. She herself became a victim of these false assumptions by her own country’s people and reminds the audience that „the language of fiction is not the language of politics.” And unlike politics, Shafak emphasizes, which tend to divide people, fiction is able to connect them. Humans are more likely to pay attention to each others fictions than to their political believes. Therefore they have the power to open up new horizons and bring people’s minds beyond the world that they are used to, that they know.
„Literature has to take us beyond. If it cannot take us there, it is not good literature.”
Elif Shafak invites you to dive into different cultural waters, to learn about the worlds and lives that surround you, that you are not directly in touch with. She invites you to enter a narrators mind and by that learn what he feels, what it is possible to feel outside your own little circle.
So, if you are not convinced by the magic of fiction and imagination yet, grab a book, find out what it adds to yourself and let your mind grow. But first, listen to Elif Shafaks touching Ted Talk!
written by Ece Sahin
Header image credits royalty free