Past Events

Elif Shafak book reading & signing:

This event was made possible by contributions from Efes Turkish Cuisine, Ilker Altinoglu and Fikriye Kurban.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

December 13th, 2004. Changing Hands Bookstore @ 7:00 pm.
(Changing Hands Bookstore is located at 6428 S. McClintock Dr., SW corner of Guadalupe & McClintock)

7:00-7:45 pm: Author will be reading from "the Saint of Incipient Insanities"

7:45-8:30 pm: Author will be signing her books during the reception. Reception will be catered by Efes Restaurant (SW, Guadalupe & McClintock).


THE SAINT OF INCIPIENT INSANITIES is the comic and heartbreaking story of a group of twenty-something friends, and their never-ending quest for fulfillment.

Omer, Abed and Piyu are roommates, foreigners all recently arrived in the United States. Omer, from Istanbul, is a Ph.D. student in political science who adapts quickly to his new home, and falls in love with the bisexual, suicidal, intellectual chocolate maker Gail. Gail is American yet feels utterly displaced in her homeland and moves from one obsession to another in an effort to find solid ground. Abed pursues a degree in biotechnology, worries about Omer's unruly ways, his mother's unexpected visit, and stereotypes of Arabs in America; he struggles to maintain a connection with his girlfriend back home in Morocco. Piyu is a Spaniard, who is studying to be a dentist in spite of his fear of sharp objects, and is baffled by the many relatives of his Mexican-American girlfriend, Alegre, and in many ways by Alegre herself.

Keenly insightful and sharply humorous, The Saint of Incipient Insanities is a vibrant exploration of love, friendship, culture, nationality, exile and belonging.

"This is an exhilarating roller coaster ride of a novel-a breathless and vivid journey into the lives of a motley assortment of brilliant, obsessive, and often troubled young immigrants, and an American whom one of them marries. With its themes of displacement, its Boston-area setting, and its ease with academic topics, Shafak's novel suggests Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake with the amplifier cranked up all the way to eleven. A work replete with dazzling wordplay, an infatuation with pop culture, and a fearless intellect, The Saint of Incipient Insanities marks Elif Shafak as a compellingly original voice in 21st Century fiction."
-Adam Langer, author of Crossing California

"Elif Shafak offers us an indelibly haunting portrait of contemporary America, in all its sexual/ethno/religious contortions. Goofy, sad, wise, and heart-breakingly funny, her novel is a bittersweet delight to read."
-Fernanda Eberstadt, author of The Furies


Elif Shafak was born in France, Strasbourg, in 1971. She spent her teenage years in Spain, before returning to Turkey. Her first novel, Pinhan-The Sufi (8th edition), which she published at age 27, was awarded the Rumi Prize--a recognition given to best works in mystical/transcendental literature. The novel tells the story of a hermaphrodite mystic--a little known but revered tradition--inside the Sufi orders. The body with both sexual organs is astonishingly linked to the path of the dialectics of life in the outer order. As in Shafak's other works, Pinhan explores and challenges the question of identity at the nexus of physical and metaphysical definitions. Her second novel, The Mirrors of the City (7th edition), is about the lives of conversos expelled from Spain, and especially, about one particular young Se phardic Jew -gifted with wit, fury and cynicism- who moves to 17th century Ottoman Empire. By bringing together Jewish and Islamic characters in Istanbul, the novel opens up questions on estrangement and deterritorialization. Titled Mahrem (Hide-and-Seek) (8th edition), her third novel is about the interventionist gaze of the Muslim/Jalal God, of the society, as well as of the male lover. The novel traces the steps of the runaway of the female body that must search for its elusive autonomy while being encroached upon by the gazes of others. With an intricate plot and language, the novel travels from Siberia in 17th century to France in 19th century and the story finds its links back to the life of a bulimic woman and to her childhood and a sexual abuse in 1980s Turkey, Istanbul. Going through multiple printings, Mahrem received the Turkish Novel Award.

back to top

Elif Shafak published her fourth novel, The Flea Palace (9th edition), a humorously narrated story of an apartment building where all the characters and stories are interlaced to develop the theme of "the seen and the unseen degradation" --moral, physical, social as well as cultural-- in the heart of the aging city of Istanbul. In three months time, the book sold over 15 000 copies and for more than nine weeks it was a national best seller. The novel is translated into English and published by Marion Boyars in the UK and the USA in 2004.

While on a fellowship in the USA, Elif Shafak completed her fifth novel, in English. The novel, The Saint of Incipient Insanities is published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, fall 2004.

back to top

Elif Shafak is also a social scientist, graduated from International Relations at Middle East Technical University. She holds MSc degree from Gender and Women Studies, and has her Ph.D in the Department of Political Science. Her major in Contemporary Western Political Thought and her minor in Middle Eastern Studies, Elif Shafak's academic background has been nurtured by a critical, interdisciplinary and gender-conscious rereading of the literature on Middle-East & West, Islam & modernity.

Shafak's MS thesis titled on Islam, Women and Mysticism titled "The Deconstruction of Femininity Along the Cyclical Understanding of Heterodox Dervishes in Islam" was awarded by Social Scientists Institute. Shafak has taught Ottoman History From the Margins', 'Turkey & Cultural Identities' and 'Women and Writing' in Istanbul Bilgi University.

back to top

Elif Shafak has been awarded a one-year residency in the Five Colleges Women's Studies Research Center in 2002-2003. Then she has been offered a position to teach in 2003-2004 two courses at Ann Arbor, University of Michigan. (1st semester: Women writing on women: East-West Encounters / 2nd semester: The Queer in the Middle East) Most recently Elif Shafak has joined the faculty at the University of Arizona, Department of Near Eastern Studies.

Shafak is currently writing at various dailies, weeklies and monthlies in Turkey. Contesting the dominant and manipulative discourse of religious orthodoxy and nationalist ideologies, as well as the established gender patterns & roles has been a central theme in her writings, fiction and nonfiction alike.

back to top

• Read an excerpt from Mahrem (Hide and Seek or Hidden) in English here:

• To read interviews with the author in Turkish please click here.

For more information on Elif Shafak and to read reviews of her books, please visit:

• Read an excerpt from The Saint of Incipient Insanities in BAP-Q issue 1:
click here

©2004 Bosphorus Art Project
Design by Sinan Yucel