“An enchanting combination of compassion and cruelty...Elif Shafak is the best author to come out of Turkey in the last decade.”—Orhan Pamuk
A new title from the author of The Flea Palace, shortlisted for the Independent Prize for Foreign Fiction and chosen for Waterstone’s 2005 Summer Reading promotion.
In her prize-wining novel, The Gaze, Shafak explores the subject of body image and desirability. An overweight woman and her lover, a dwarf, are sick of being stared at wherever they go, and decide to reverse roles. The man goes out wearing make up, and the woman draws a moustache on her face.
The couple deal with the gaze of passers by in different ways. The woman wants to hide away from the world, while the man meets them head on, even compiling his own ‘Dictionary of the Gaze’ to show the powerful effects a simple look can have.
The narrative of The Gaze is intertwined with the dwarf’s dictionary entries and the story of a bizarre freak-show organized in Istanbul in the 1880s as Shafak explores the damage which can be done by our simple desire to look at other people.
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Elif Shafak, born 1971 in Strasbourg, spent her teenage years in Spain before returning to Turkey. She is an outstanding name amongst young Turkish authors, and has written four novels and won the Mevlana Prize for the best work in mystical and transcendental literature. She holds a masters degree in Women's Studies and is currently an Assistant professor at Tuscan University, Arizona.From Publishers Weekly :
Originally published in Turkey in 1999 to wide acclaim, this screwball love story is Shafak's third novel. (Her fifth, The Saint of Incipient Insanities, was published here in 2004.) Loosely organized around a neurotic obese woman and a feisty dwarf, it teems with parallel plots and digressions, freely leaping from modern apartment living in Istanbul to a 19th-century Turkish freak show and fur hunts in 17th-century Siberia. Shafak's prose (ably translated by Freely) follows a humorous, idiosyncratic course, seizing on arresting visual details, such as "a house the color of salted green almonds" and dispensing oddly charming aphorisms: "Love is a corset." (She adds: "In order to understand the value of this you have to be exceedingly fat.") At one moment, a faceless newborn's features are etched on by an anxious aunt; at another, a shipwrecked Russian sailor surprises a shaman in flagrante delicto with an oversized sable. The early parts of the novel can feel maddeningly unfocused for a book about the power of the stare. Later pages home in on an unexpected emotional trauma, and the atmosphere of fantastical levity clears to reveal an urgent, human pain. Shafak probes the many ironies of appearance and perception with entertaining and affecting results. (Oct.)
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