The Bastard of Istanbul – Elif Shafak – Quotes

Rain is an agony here. In other parts of the world, a downpour will in all likelihood come as a boon for nearly everyone and everything – good for the crops, good for the fauna and the flora, and with an extra splash of romanticism, good for lovers. Not so in Istanbul though. Rain, for us, isn’t necessarily about getting wet. It’s not about getting dirty even. If anything, it’s about getting angry. It’s mud and chaos and rage, as if we didn’t have enough of each already. And struggle. It’s always about struggle. Like kittens thrown into a bucketful of water, all then millions of us put up a futile fight against the drops.

It angers us all when the sky opens and spits on our heads.

That was the one thing about the rain that likened it to sorrow: You did you best to remain untouched, safe and dry, but if and when you failed, there came a point in which you started seeing the problem less in terms of drops than as an incessant gush, and thereby you decide you might as well get drenched.

Little by little, she once again felt that wave of adrenaline escalate in her belly, churning her stomach, accelerating her pulse, making her sense that she, rather than any other woman in her whole family, might someday kill a man.

If she was to be believed, Banu had a bizarre digestive system that stored everything ingested, which could have been a more credible claim had she not also argued that even if it were pure water that she consumed, her body would still evolve it into fat, and thereby she could not possibly be held accountable for her weight or be asked to go on a diet.

Her theory of bread, which she was fond of pronouncing regularly and putting into practice all the time, was that if not given a proper amount at each and every sitting, the stomach would not “know” it was full and would thereby ask for more food. For the stomach to fully comprehend its fullness, one had to eat decent portions of brad with everything. Thus, Banu would have bread with potatoes, bread with rice, bread with pasta, bread with börek, and at those times when she wanted to give her stomach a far clearer message, she would have bread with bread. Dinner without bread was a sheer sin, which Allah might forgive, but Banu definitely would not.

Whether it was the doctors who could not make up their minds or Feride herself industriously working on new infirmities, one could never tell. After a while it didn’t really matter one way or another. Sanity was a promised land, the Shangri-la she had been deported from as a teenager, and to which she intended to return one day. On the way there she rested at sundry stopovers that came with erratic names and dreary treatments.

We are not even a minority. I wish we were an ethnic minority or an indigenous people under the protection of the UN Charter. Then we could have at least some basic rights. But nihilists, pessimists, and anarchists are not regarded as a minority, although we are an extinct species. Our number is lessening every day.

She did not like women, which would have been easier to deal with had she not been one of them. Whenever she met a new woman she did one of two things: either waited to see when she would hate her or hated her right away.

To her way of thinking, anyone who can’t rise up and rebel, anyone devoid of the ability to dissent, cannot really be said to be alive. In resistance lies the key to life.

From the afterword: Separation can be a form of connection. Writing in English created a cognitive distance between me and the culture I come from; paradoxically, this enables me to take a closer look at Turkey and Turkishness.

From the afterword: I believe that if we can dream in more than one language then, yes, we can also write in more than one language.

My review of The Bastard of Istanbul

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska 

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