Elif Şafak’s London

ELİF ŞAFAK IS A WRITER WHOSE BOOKS HAVE BEEN TRANSLATED INTO 30 LANGUAGES. WE ASKED HER ABOUT LONDON, THE SETTING FOR HER LATEST NOVEL, İSKENDER.

When did you first say, “London is my city”?

I think I’ve always likened my own mental state to that of London. Rainy, overcast, grey, incomprehensible from the outside, an autumn state of mind. I love that. I can’t write on sunny days anyway. Summer is never good because it brings lethargy. Fall isn’t like that. Rain gives a person energy. That’s why I’ve always felt close to London ever since my first visit years ago.

How did London influence your most recent novel?

I wrote my new novel, İskender, in London. It tells the story of a half-Kurkish, half-Turkish family living in London. That’s why there are so many references to London in the novel. I roamed the streets, I wrote in the railroad stations. I chatted a lot with immigrants: they talked, I listened. I also observed the young people and the subcultures in the city a lot.

What other cities will we read about in İskender?

The novel spans a period of almost fifty years and takes place in four different places: an imaginary Kurdish village, Istanbul, London and Abu Dhabi. But mostly in London and Istanbul.

What would you recommend to people going to London?

That they should sit down in the parks and squares for a while and just do nothing. London is a very green place, and city planning has been done very carefully there with parks, places to walk, lakes… We’re always running somewhere, you know, always in a hurry to get some place. Stopping for a while can be good sometimes.

1  The moving capsules of the London Eye draw tourists all day long.
2  Historic buildings rise side by side with modern skyscrapers in London.
3  The Houses of Parliament stand elegantly on the banks of the Thames.
4  The London Eye is part and parcel of the city’s skyline.