Elif Shafak – Friday 8th July @ The Royal Festival Hall
The Purcell Room
Elif Shafak – Turkey’s biggest selling novelist reads from her novel The Forty Rules of Love and discusses some of the themes of the book.
Shafak started by talking about the nature of writing her novels/books. She stated that every book was a ‘journey’ and that The Forty Rules of Love is a ‘book within a book.’
The passage she read from The Forty Rules of Love captured my imagination. Having read the book a year ago I recognized the passage. Rumi, put in first person narrative discusses his love for Shams Of Tabriz and how others could not comprehend the immensity of such a love. People saw Shams as an eccentric, unknown, utterly unpredictable dervish. They failed to see past this or beyond this initial assumption, in fact they were even scared of Shams. These words left everyone in a beautifying abyss of sheer admiration between the two lovers. Rumi who was water and Shams who was fire. The novel switches between modern American housewife Ella and a modern Sufi living in Amsterdam.
The topic then changed to language and Elif Shafak’s talent in switching from Turkish to English. Some of the audience were curious as to why the books weren’t just translated? Shafak said that she had a fascination with language, she gave the example of a Turkish middle class women who won’t swear in Turkish but will swear in English. This reminded me of when I swear in Urdu, for some reason it is deemed less offensive then swearing in English. Shafak concluded that language was an existential dimension and that language makes us change our voice and sometimes our personality. Thus language often shapes us rather then us being in charge of our languages.
I asked Elif Shafak if Rumi’s message of love could empower the youth of today. She answered brilliantly, saying that although we are familiar with Rumi, we should also be inspired by Shams. She added that their combined message has the power to empower both young and old.
I wrote a poetry response to the book, it has a slightly political edge to it. Some of the messages of The Forty Rules of Love did have a profound impact on me and this is reflected through this poem. Each stanza covers a different concept or theme the book covered through Shams of Tabriz and Rumi.
Reality is a Sketchy imitation,
numbers in bank vaults
inflated oppression like an Israeli occupation
engrained in the minds of the youth
like a pre-pubescent teen singing sensation
hyper hegemony, a twisted hallucinogenic
taking man higher than any cocaine
or powerfully potent chronic.
Made a President’s economics concentrate on semi-automatics
spending millions on star wars not education.
Now that’s advanced Reaganomics
simple misunderstandings taken on face value,
the past tense dictates future events
complex common sense sits on the fence
whilst linguistic lies go from myths to truth.
the Over-curious cat did die another day
9 days later and curiosity saved the mouse
Bond’s built like bridges with the consumer
more poisonous than a cancerous tumour
fake teachers, fake stars…
narcissistic egotistical mentors..
models who aren’t fit for the role..
truth or Haqq, a labour of the heart revealed like a slow-burning coal
a pageant picking the prettiest flowers..
infatuated with the concept that beauty is outward
Anger the by-word for Strength
controlling it is being a apparently a coward
Every word spoken, is stored.
Every truth, untruth and lie
eschatologically more powerful than wi-fi
Into one invisible web of stories
Into one loud silent conversation……..
Life is a temporary loan..
lost in interest, investing our thoughts
we’ve mistaken a toy for the real thing..
I also embarked on a mini-project, I wanted to take pictures of people who encapsulate what Shams Of Tabriz was. People who are unknown, feared, unpredictable in society but have the purest hearts. Often we overlook them and don’t see beyond what our eyes show us.
“The Stronger your Love, the lesser your ego”
“A soul which completes yours, your mirror.”
Filed under: London Literature Festival 2011