Elif Şafak (Turkish: [eˈlif ʃaˈfak]; born 25 October 1971) is a Turkish author, columnist, speaker and academic. She has been called Turkey's most popular female novelist.
Şafak has published 15 books, 10 of which are novels. She writes fiction in both Turkish and English. Şafak blends Western and Eastern traditions of storytelling in stories of women, minorities, immigrants, subcultures, and youth. Her writing draws on diverse cultures and literary traditions, reflecting interests in history, philosophy, Sufism, oral culture, and cultural politics. Şafak also uses black humour. She was awarded the title of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2010.
Şafak was born Elif Bilgin in Strasbourg to philosopher Nuri Bilgin and Şafak Atayman, who later became a diplomat. After her parents separation, Şafak was raised by her mother. She says not growing up in a typical patriarchal family had a great impact on her work and writing. She incorporated her mother's first name—Turkish for "dawn"—with her own when constructing her pen name.
Şafak spent her teenage years in Madrid and Amman before returning to Turkey. She has lived around the world—Boston, Michigan, Arizona, Istanbul and London—and her writing has thrived upon these journeys. She sees herself as not just migrating from country to country, city to city but language to language, even in her native Turkish she believes she plays to the vocabularies of different cultures. Through it all she has maintained a deep attachment to the city of Istanbul, which plays an important part in her fiction. As a result, a sense of multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism has consistently characterized both her life and her work. In the Huffington Post she defended the cosmopolitan ideal as follows: “Instead of reducing ourselves to the binary opposition of identity politics, we need to do the exact opposite: multiply our attachments and affiliations.”