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

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