British nationalism rising dangerously, warns author

British-based Turkish novelist, Elif Shafak

Turkey’s best-selling female writer has warned against the rise of nationalism in Britain, saying that London’s precious multicultural scene was one of the main reasons she moved to the capital four years ago. Elif Shafak, spoke out against the rise of Ukip in Britain after witnessing the bruising effect of nationalism on the culture of her home country.

She told a packed audience at The Independent Bath Literature Festival that she was very worried about the rise of nationalism in the UK and added that she would like to share a platform with Nigel Farage to debate with him. “Some of my English friends in the literary world say: ‘Don’t take it seriously.’ But I do take it seriously,” the novelist said. “One of the precious things that Turkey has lost is cosmopolitanism. Many minorities have left, or had to leave, and we have lost a lot.”

“Politicians across Europe belittling multiculturalism and targeting minorities make me very sad,” she said. “What worries me is that we haven’t learnt anything from history. Not a long time ago (I’m talking about 70 years) the desire for uniformity and people who look the same was disturbing. The illusion that similarity will bring safety worries me very much. And it’s nothing more than an illusion.”

Shafak was born in Strasbourg and raised in Ankara, before moving to London in 2010 with her children. The writer has won numerous literary awards, including France’s prestigious ‘Ordre des Arts et des Letters,’ and has been long-listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Shafak said she did not have the luxury of being apolitical as a writer, and criticised Turkey, saying freedom of speech was going backwards.