Back in the US! Just returned from the airport on a long (though short) three day trip... From the airport I listened to the (former) words of Elif Şafak...
(a writer for various daily and monthly publications in Turkey) and I'm reminded of the threat of her imprisonment (last month) for publishing the 'non-fictional' novel, "The Bastard of Istanbul."
WRITERS ON TRIAL
By Elif Shafak
Sunday, September 24, 2006
ISTANBUL -- I am a novelist. When I write, I don't calculate the consequences of what I'm writing. I just surround myself with the story.
That's what I did in writing my latest novel, "The Bastard of Istanbul." The tale of two families -- a Turkish Muslim one in Istanbul, and an Armenian American one in San Francisco -- is to me a book about memory and forgetting, about the tension between the need to examine the past and the desire to erase it. It tackles a political taboo -- what we in Turkey call "the Armenian question" -- but when it was published here in March, I didn't think a work of fiction would get me branded a traitor to my country.
But others thought differently.
The novel unleashed a months-long campaign against me by a group of ultranationalist lawyers called the Unity of Jurists, who have forced high-profile prosecutions of as many as 60 writers, journalists, publishers, scholars and other intellectuals in Turkey over the past year under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which prohibits "public denigration of Turkishness."
Last Thursday, my own trial on charges of denigrating Turkishness through the words of some characters in my new novel opened -- and closed, with a surprising but gratifying acquittal. It was the first case against a work of fiction under Article 301; if found guilty, I could have been sentenced to up to three years in prison.
I had waited two months for the trial. But when the day came, I wasn't there. I watched the television reports about my own proceedings from a hospital bed not far away, nursing the daughter I had given birth to the previous Saturday. The court had refused to postpone the trial, even though I was due to deliver my first child soon.
Listening to the testimony, I felt torn: The writer in me wished I was there to defend myself. But the mother in me refused. At the same time, I was gratified by the huge outpouring of support I had received. And after the acquittal was announced, I felt a stirring of hope that my case could finally start breaking the back of Article 301 and the nationalists' efforts to silence those who oppose their views. Continue reading...
"The words of a character could be used as evidence against the author or the film director. I think it is extremely important to defend the autonomy of art, and of literature." - Elif Şafak
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