Elif Shafak was born in Strasbourg, France, in 1971. She is an award-winning novelist and the most widely read woman writer in Turkey. Her books have been translated into more than thirty languages



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Elif Shafak was born in Strasbourg, France, in 1971. She is an award-winning novelist and the most widely read woman writer in Turkey. Her books have been translated into more than thirty languages. Shafak has published ten books, seven of which are novels. She writes in both Turkish and English. Shafak blends Western and Eastern traditions of storytelling, bringing out the multiple stories of minorities, immigrants, women subcultures and global souls. Her work draws on diverse cultures and literary traditions, as well as deep interest in history, philosophy, oral culture, and cultural politics. 

Shafak’s writing breaks down categories, clichés, and cultural ghettoes, bringing out the multiple stories of minorities, immigrants, women, subcultures and global souls. She also has a keen eye for black humor, as well as spirituality and Sufism.  

Shafak's first novel, Pinhan (The Mystic) was awarded the "Rumi Prize" in 1998, which is given to the best work in mystical literature in Turkey. Her second novel, Şehrin Aynaları (Mirrors of the City), brings together Jewish and Islamic mysticism against a historical setting in the 17th century Mediterranean. Shafak greatly increased her readership with her novel Mahrem (The Gaze), which earned her the "Best Novel-Turkish Writers' Union Prize" in 2000. Her next novel, Bit Palas (The Flea Palace), has been a bestseller in Turkey and was shortlisted for the independent Best Fiction Award.  The book was followed by Med-Cezir, a non-fiction book of essays on gender, sexuality, mental ghettoes, and literature.

Shafak' wrote her next novel in English. The Saint of Incipient Insanities was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Her second novel written in English is The Bastard of Istanbul, which was the bestselling book of 2006 in Turkey and was longlisted for the Orange prize. The novel brought Shafak under prosecution but the charges were ultimately dismissed.

Following the birth of her daughter in 2006 she suffered from post-natal depression, an experience she addressed in her first autobiographical book, Black Milk. In this book Shafak explored the beauties and difficulties of being a writer and a mother. The book was received with great interest and acclaim by critics and readers alike, being an instant bestseller.

Shafak's most recent novel, The Forty Rules of Love sold more than 550 000 copies, becoming an all time best-seller in Turkey.

In addition to writing fiction, Shafak is also a political scientist, having graduated from the program in International Relations at Middle East Technical University. She holds a Masters degree in Gender and Women's Studies and a Ph.D. in Political Science. Her thesis on "Islamic Mysticism and the Circular Understanding of Time" was awarded by the Social Scientists Institute. Today Shafak continues to write for various daily and monthly publications in Turkey. She has been featured in major newspapers and periodicals, including the Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Economist. She also writes lyrics for rock musicians in her country.

She lives with her husband and two children and divides her time between Istanbul and London.


Awards and Special Recognition
Marka 2010 Award, Turkey

Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres, France 2010

Turkish Journalists and Writers Foundation "The Art of Coexistence Award-2009"

International Rising Talent, Women's Forum - Deauville, France 2009

The Bastard of Istanbul, Long listed for Orange Prize for Fiction, London 2008

Maria Grazia Cutuli Award - International Journalism Prize, Italy 2006

The Flea Palace, Short listed for Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, United Kingdom 2006

The Gaze, Union of Turkish Writers' Best Novel Prize, 2000


Pinhan, The  Great Rumi Award, Turkey 1998

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