Friday, March 28, 2008

An Ode to Women

After her internationally acclaimed The Bastard of Istanbul, Elif Shafak is back in the book shelves since the end of November 2007 with a new work in Turkish: Siyah Süt. It has not been translated yet but I am sure it will in a short while. And if no editor has already thought about publishing an English or French version, I can hereby state that I am very much open to work on it in French.

Siyah Süt -Turkish for "Black Milk"- is Shafak's first autobiographical novel, as clearly stated on the cover (see right side bottom). It subtitle says: "Yeni baslayanlar için Postpartum depresyon" -Postpartum depression for beginners. At first view, it wasn't a book for me I thought. I am not a mother and I have no wish to be one, even though I stay open to change my current vision on my life is baby-less. But then I really like Elif Shafak's work, especially her English written novels The Saint of Incipient Insanities and The Bastard of Istanbul - I have to be honest, I have difficulty reading the language she uses in her Turkish novels. I wanted to know more about this writer, because I was sure, no matter what, that she was going to tell her readers about her writing and not about her baby splitting on her nightgown only. And I have been impressed, even more than expected. Black Milk is a brilliant work. During 200 pages and even more, Shafak specifically writes about herself and the many voices inside of her before her pregnancy, enabling her readers to really understand the postnatal depression she went through. Inviting her readers to reflection, Shafak tells about her fears, her wishes, her doubts and moves to the wider theme of being a woman in society. She describes women writer's lives and vision on motherhood and feminism, making parallels with her own states of mind. She gives voice to the different women within her, and talks to herself through these six different characters throughout her story. Artist Latif Demirci's drawings also add another dimension to her storytelling, allowing an outside eye to draw the author's experience.

Shafak thought that she could never write again, but she intelligently and movingly transforms her black-turned maternity milk into ink. However, she wants this ink to be ephemeral as she tells her readers right from the beginning that this book has been written so it could be forgotten as soon as it has been read. "Suya yazi yazar gibi..." - as if you would write on water.
I don't know if it had been designed on purpose, but the ink of the title on the cover of my book has vanished after I read the novel... No matter what, I will not forget this book because for me, it is above all an ode to women.

Elif Safak
Siyah Süt
Dogan Kitapçilik
303 pages
Published November 2007 in Turkish

Friday, March 21, 2008

After winter comes...

...festival season!

Spring might have started with snow this year but the sun has not waited very long to show its rays. As I am typing now, it warms my Amsterdam apartment through the large windows of my living room, where I was watching the snow covering the streets not as long as an hour ago.

Snow or not, winter is now giving its place to spring, and for me, spring goes along with the start of a very long and rich festival season. After the launch of the Iceland on the Edge Festival, going on at BOZAR until 15 June, starts Ars Musica, again in Brussels, celebrating contemporary music. Those of you who are in Brussels in April, I would suggest you to go listen to Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven, a magnificent pianist who also happens to be the husband of a precious friend of mine and the father of a beautiful Antoinette, on 19 April at Flagey. You can also hear his Boulez recording in the exhibition around Paul Klee at BOZAR: Theatre here, there and everywhere.

More theatre and dance in two performing arts festival in Brussels and Amsterdam: kunstenFestivaldesArts and Holland Festival, both offering a very rich international programme. I've spotted several performances: Aydin Teker's HarS and Zan Yamashita's It is written there at the kunstenFestivaldesArts, Amir Reza Koohestani's Quartet: A Journey to North both at the kunstenFestivaldesArts and Holland Festival, Samuel Becket's Happy Days with Fiona Shaw, William Forsythe's Kammer/Kammer and Decreation, the latter based on Anne Carson's eponymous work and Calliope Tsoupaki's brand new oratorio presented in World Premiere at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam, all at the Holland Festival.

After Spring comes Summer... and with it even more festivals... But for the moment, let's enjoy Spring, it's only the beginning!

Sunday, March 16, 2008


One rainy Sunday afternoon, with no will to go out even to get some groceries, ordering food in and watching Kate, Sawyer and Jack's adventures on a faraway island. It sounds silly right? Well, that's what I thought, enough of these silly stories, what the f... is that black smoke on the island, and why the hell are these "Others" treating our nice heroes so badly? So I just stopped the DVD of the third season of LOST to get something to eat and to read some news... and guess what, the real world sounds even sillier! EL PAIS and The Guardian are writing about the possibility to make primary school children eligible for the DNA database if they exhibit behavior indicating they may become criminals in later life. If that's the way it was working in Belgium when I was a kid, my parents would for sure be in serious trouble since I had a kind of hobby knocking guys out in the schoolyard (I stopped soon enough, don't worry, I loved to play the fearless garçon manqué). Anyway, I thought I might read about what was happening in my native country and moved to Turkish paper Radikal where I read a short article entitled: "Alkolsüz türkü üretildi!". It can be translated as: Alcohol free türkü (a type of Turkish folk song) has been created and it explains how during the celebration of "Health/Medicine Day" the members of the Choir, coordinated by the Ministry of Health, have avoided the words "alcohol" or "drunk" in all the türkü's they sang, replacing them by the word "doctor". So the line 'Sarhoşlar geliyor eli şişeli'/ "The drunk are coming bottles in hand" have turned into 'Doktorlar geliyor eli şişeli' / "The doctors are coming bottles in hand".
I'm just going to leave my international-online-newspaper-tour to watch some tattooed doc' kept prisoner on a faraway island.
Some people really don't need to get drunk to get LOST.