Cultural understanding connects the modern world, according to speaker
May 4, 2011
Written by Alexandros Letsas
Award-winning novelist Elif Shafak, considered the most widely read female writer in Turkey, delivered the 2011 Campagna Kerven Lecture to about 40 students and faculty in the Castle on Tuesday.
In 2006 Suzanne Campagna launched the annual lecture in memory of her father, Mehmet Nahid Kerven, and her husband, Gerald Campagna, to promote themes on Modern Turkish society, economy, culture and politics, according to the lecture’s website.
Shafak first gave a speech about her background, her work and her concept of the modern world and then initiated an open conversation with the audience.
After her parents divorced, Shafak said her single mother in the patriarchic environment of Ankara, Turkey raised her.
“It was difficult being raised by a single, working mother,” Shafak said, adding that her mother her grandmother also played an important role in shaping her.
Shafak contrasted her mother, who she said was modern, passionate and educated individual, to her less educated, traditional grandmother.
“These two very different type of women lived under the same roof and understood each other,” she said.
Shafak said her household emphasized coexistence and empathy.
“This is what I saw in my micro-level environment, but I also found that it applies in the macro-level,” she said.
The production of art is a transcendental experience and always requires putting yourself in another person shoes, she said. “I am not interested in my self at all.”
Writing in both Turkish and English is much more common today than it was when she started writing, she said.
The feelings and experiences of writing in two languages makes her feel connected and attached to both of them.
“This is the age of migrations, movements and renewals – the age of nomadic existences and global souls,” she said.
Shafak stressed the importance of cultural understanding in the 21st century, and that she believes that people of the art must make use of this “cosmopolitan energy.”
“Our stories, our fates, our happiness – all are interconnected in our day and age,” Shafak said.
Shafak’s speech was followed by a brief reading excerpt of her book, “The Forty Rules of Love,” which led into a discussion with the audience.
“I found out about Mrs. Shafak’s books from a very close Turkish friend, and I must say that I initially thought they would be very girly,” said Billy Giannouli, a freshman in the College of Engineering.
“Last summer, however, I had the time to read one of them, and I must say that I was blown away by her magical, cosmopolitan air of writing.”