Elif Shafak, What Can't You Say
Elif Shafak: Every writer, journalist or poet in Turkey knows that words can get one in trouble. Because of a novel, an article, a poem or a tweet, one can be put on trial, even imprisoned. When we write, this knowledge keeps tugging at the back of our minds. As a result, there is a lot of self-censorship. But it is hard to admit this as it is embarrassing, unheroic. When I write non-fiction, especially opinion pieces for newspapers and magazines, I can try to be more careful. When I write fiction, however, things are different. Deep inside a novel, the story flows with a force of its own. I am neither the master nor a puppeteer who controls the characters from above. I am inside the flow, not above. All I have to do is to keep writing. Once the book is over and I hand it to my editor, I start to worry. What will people say? But by then the story is out. It is alive, breathing. As writers from lands where democracy is still an unattained dream, we do not have the luxury of being apolitical. We ought to ask questions. We need to give a voice to the silences and the silenced. Hence I do and I don’t censor myself. In my daily life, I am an anxious, perplexed soul. But stories change storytellers. When I am writing fiction, I am wiser and calmer and I know that the art of storytelling is stronger than my fears.
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