My enormous thanks to Georgia Taylor at Penguin Random House for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak.
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World was published by Penguin imprint Viking on 6th June 2019 and is available for purchase through the links here.
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World
‘In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila’s consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away…’
For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works.
Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World
Leila’s death is only the beginning.
As intricate and beautifully wrought as the finest Turkish carpet, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World is a truly fabulous book. The story of Leila’s life as she gradually shuts down after being murdered and her physical body has died, all life is here in a tale that is moving, perfectly crafted and totally captivating. I found 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World such a potent and emotionally engaging book that it actually took me quite a long time to read because I had to give myself breaks from the intensity to reflect on the story and regain some composure.
What is so wonderful is the way in which Elif Shafek takes Leila and her five friends who are all social misfits, whether that is as a result of dwarfism, prostitution or being a transsexual for example, and illustrates what warm, vibrant and sublime human beings they really are so that the reader understands the hopes and despairs of all humanity through the dynamics of their relationships and friendship. There’s more of a feeling of inclusion through these characters, despite the prejudices of politics, religion and state presented, than in any factual treatise I’ve encountered. I wanted to climb into the pages and be with these stupendous people. I genuinely felt bereft when I had to close the book at the end. I miss them still.
The portrayal of Istanbul is magnificent. All of the senses are catered for making the city come alive both in the time of the narrative and at different points in its history so that it is a character in its own right; flawed, dynamic, fascinating. I felt I learned more about its real essence than in any of the time I’ve actually spent there. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World is a totally transporting book.
In 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World Elif Shafek explores the nature of love, ambition, fulfilment, identity and life and so much more. I’d challenge any reader to come up with an aspect of human existence and not find an example woven into this spellbinding story.
It’s impossible to convey the intricacies, the resonances and the sheer beauty of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World without recourse to hyperbole. Let me just say that I loved every single second of being immersed in Leila’s story. It’s a book to savour, to reflect upon and to be moved by. I thought it was wonderful.
About Elif Shafek
Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist and the most widely read female author in Turkey. She writes in both Turkish and English, and has published seventeen books, eleven of which are novels. Her work has been translated into fifty languages.
Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she has taught at various universities in Turkey, the US and the UK, including St Anne’s College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow.
She is a member of World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy and a founding member of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). An advocate for women’s rights, LGBT rights and freedom of speech, Shafak is an inspiring public speaker and twice a TED global speaker, each time receiving a standing ovation. Shafak contributes to many major publications around the world and she has been awarded the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.
In 2017 she was chosen by Politico as one of the twelve people who would make the world better. She has judged numerous literary prizes and is chairing the Wellcome Prize 2019.
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