Honour. Think about this word. “An action of honoring or paying respect to; act or gesture displaying reverence or esteem; state or condition inspiring respect; nobleness of character or manners; high station or rank; a mark of respect or esteem; a source of glory, a cause of good reputation.” Sounds heavy, obliging, demanding, and in total opposition to “humble”.
What do you honor by killing? Can you get rid of guilt of killing for honour? … this novel raises so many questions from a variety of perspectives. What is “honour” to a sister, a daughter, a loving son, an unforgiving son, a wife, a community of the same faith, a society of many faiths… I loved the story line, and the dual timelines, and every single character. Shafak is a unique writer to me, as she breaths the life into her characters as if she lived each of their stories separately and then jointly. And she does so with grace and humility.
I am very much enjoying books telling stories from the perspective of vulnerable. « The secrets we left behind » tells the story of British nurses left behind during the army’s evacuation from France at the beggining of the WWII. Cate, a brave nurse and Jack, her rescued patient, meet two French sisters who shelter them under the nose of Germans. The story takes time to unfold, so you might need to be patient at the beginning. The author tried to show us that even during unbelivable hurdles humans can fall in love. I found though this part a bit overboard, perhaps because all female characters fell in love one after another.
The background scenery serves well its purpose, so that the mind can picture and place the characters in Normandie at the time of the action.
An Armenian family, a Turkish family, United States, Turkey, past and present and the unspoken atrocities of what was done… « The Bastard of Istanbul » is not a light, entertaining reading. I have enormous admiration for the unbiased way Shafak tells us the story with love and respect to all concerned.
A painfully beautiful and beautifully painful story of love and division, commitment and betrayal, brotherhood and hate crimes, fear and renewal, hope and abyss, science and superstitions, and all – in couple of decades on one island. As Shafak herself puts it, this work of fictions is “a mixture of wonder, dreams, love, sorrow and imagination.”
Each character is a delight to get to know. The fig tree and the gentle way it narrates about what humans do not see and how it communicates with all living things around it. The Greek families and the Turkish families, and the impossible love between Kostas and Defne in 1974, separated overnight by war and reunited decades later, to become parents to Ada on British soil in London. I loved Ada’s superstitious aunt – Meryem and all her womanly advice to her niece. Yusuf and Yiorgos and their love. The Happy Fig tavern and its changing role for the characters. …
After having read the novel, I will never look the same way at trees and all those who re-planted their “roots” in foreign soil. I also wonder how much does humanity need to go through to finally learn. There is nothing to win in a war or from a division. There is no need to attack.
My favorite quotes:
“A map is a two-dimensional representation with arbitrary symbols and incised lines that decide who is to be our enemy and who is to be our friend, who deserves our love and who deserves our hatred and who, our sheer indifference. Cartography is another name for stories told by winners. For stories told by those who have lost, there isn’t one.”
“The bear knows seven songs and they are all about honey.”
“You must understand, whenever something terrible happens to a country – or an island – a chasm opens between those who go away and those who stay. I’m not saying it’s easy for the people who left, I’m sure they have their own hardships, but they have no idea what it was like for the ones who stayed.”
“I have never understood why humans regard butterflies as fragile. Optimists they may be, but fragile, never!”
“Knowledge is nobody’s property. You receive it, you give it back.”
“There was something childlike in the way grown-ups had a need for stories. They held a naive belief that by telling an inspiring anecdote – the right fable at the right time – they could lift their children’s moods, motivate them to great achievements and simply change reality.”
Yet another delight from Elif Shafak. I loved it. Shafak guides the reader through intricacies of humanity with wit and love, compassion and wisdom. Her Istanbul became mine.
“The Architect’s Apprentice” is to me a love story, a story of brotherhood, a story of creation, a story of jealousy, a story of grandiose failures and humble beginnings. In other words, it is fully human. I found her characters authentic to the core.
I rejoiced yet another time in the tides of Safak’s wisdom. Here are a few of favourite quotes:
‘When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.’
“Little did he know, back then, that the worth of one’s faith depended not on how solid and strong it was, but on how many times one would lose it and still be able to get it back.”
“Centre of the universe was neither in the East nor in the West. It was where one surrendered to love.”
‘Truth is a butterfly: it lands on this flower and that. You run after it with a net. If you capture it, you are happy. But it won’t live long. Truth is a delicate thing.’
In her Autor’s Note, Shafak expresses “hope that this story, too, will flow like water in the hearts of its readers.” I definitely did in my heart.
If you ever wondered what happened to the legacy of Mary Magdalene, and who she might have been (as opposed to the story told be the church), you might be curious enough to read “Mary Magdalene Revealed”:
“The earliest evidence of the lost gospel of Mary Magdalene was discovered in January 1896, at an antiquities market in Cairo, by a German scholar named Carl Reinhardt. It was written in Coptic on ancient papyrus. … It was placed in the Egyptian museum in Berlin with the official title and catalogue number of Codex Berolinensis 8502, which is a mouthful. So, scholars refer to it as the Berlin Codex.” There are different answers to as to why the Gospel of Mary, and those of Philip and Thomas for that matter, were not selected by the church at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. to be hammered out in the creed of the Christian faith. To me this does not matter. They made their choice. I make mine.
Watterson is a trained theologian who introduces herself as a “person who engages in the study of all that has been left out of our ideas of god”. I became a bit sus when I got to the lines were she positioned herself as a feminist. Having lived in comunism, I am wary of any -isms. Yet she explains the kind she is and I find it resonating with my belief as “True freedom means having the power to define what being free means in our lives.” This enabled my brain to read the book with a grain of salt, as the author reveals to us her personal life, all for a reason. So be patient when you get to these passages.
Watterson introduces us to what she believes to be the most “eloquent way to describe love” from the opening lines of the Gospel of Mary: “Every nature, every modeled form, every creature, exists in and with eachother.” And invites us to see “the Christianity we haven’t tried yet”. Not a Christian herself she is able to question the conventional wisdom, so I found myself furthering into the inquiry of what I have forgotten.
What some of us missed in the Chrstianity that was designed by the church is encapsulated in a quote from Leloup The Sacred Embrace of Jesus and Mary: « The restitution of the true character of Miriam of Migdala as a companion of Yeshua of Nazareth can help men and women today realize their potential of anthropos, their full humanity, which is both flesh and spirit, both human and divine. »
The book was revelatory to me in many ways. If, for example, you wondered if there is a meditation concept or tradition in Christianity, you’ll gladly discover Hesychast from 4th century Cappadocians and the masterpiece of Saint John of Sinai The Ladder of Divine Ascent. Or if you are wondering about included and excluded scriptures, you’ll find the reference to Dr. Hal Taussig A New, New. Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century revelatory.