The identity crisis of modern Turkey

Elizabeth Lowry on Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of Istanbul and Maureen Freely’s Enlightenment, two novels that bravely address the identity crisis of modern Turkey.

From The Guardian:

ShafakIn the last year more than 60 prominent writers and journalists have been put on trial in Turkey, accused of violating article 301 of the criminal code, which makes it a crime to denigrate Turkish national identity. The case brought against Elif Shafak for references made by a character in The Bastard of Istanbul to the large-scale massacre of Armenians by “Turkish butchers” during the Armenian genocide of 1915 – the government continues to insist that these killings occurred in the context of equivalent factional violence against Muslim Turks – was finally dismissed in September 2006, but others have not got off so lightly. The Armenian-Turkish newspaper editor Hrant Dink, who received a six-month suspended sentence, was murdered by an ultranationalist in January this year. Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s best-known novelist, has received death threats as a result of his comments about the Armenian massacres in the Swiss press.

Little wonder, then, that writers such as Shafak feel that they have become political chess pieces. The decision by the Nobel committee to award its prize for literature to Pamuk in 2006 must be seen at least partly in this heightened political context, while Shafak’s novel has arguably been more widely debated than read. Pamuk’s work, however, is nuanced enough to withstand this clumsy manoeuvring. What about Shafak’s?

More here.  [Photo shows Shafak.]