10 minutes, 38 seconds in this strange world – Elif Shafak

A very special book to me. I have always been a big fan of Elif Shafak’s writing but this one exceeded all my expectations. Elif Shafak was inspired by an article which claimed that the mind still functioned for 10 minutes and 38 seconds after death. During these last moments of consciousness, memories of one’s life are replayed, prompting the author to wonder: what parts of a person’s life stick the most? ⁣

This question lies at the heart of Leila’s story, which unravels with her death and the beginning of the countdown of her last moments of consciousness. As the most important moments of her life are explored, it almost feels like we are inside her brain accompanying her through her early childhood memories of a code-driven domestic and social life. When she escapes her provincial life for the promises of Istanbul, Leila becomes a sex worker who navigates the beauty and pain of the metropolis with her five friends. These friends become her pillars who help her find joy in a city and society which have constantly normalized her suffering. ⁣

This is where Shafak’s writing conveys its brilliant depth, Leila’s daring narrative is a tribute to women’s strength in the face of trauma and an underlying critique of patriarchy and cultural hypocrisy.While this might seem like a depressing read, I think that it is absolutely not. It is a story full of hope, love, and indescribable courage. Elif Shafak has a gift: her storytelling is so vivid and rich that I could almost smell the scents associated to Leila’s memories. Most importantly, I have never read an author who does so much justice to the complex melancholy and beauty of Istanbul.⁣

There is so much I could still say about this incredible read, yet I don’t want to spoil the story if you intend to read it. Instead, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite quotes:⁣
-“She was a walking embodiment of imperfection”.⁣
-”Istanbul was an illusion. A magician’s trick gone wrong”.⁣
-”Istanbul was a liquid city. Nothing was permanent here”.⁣
-”But religion for her was less a scripture frozen in time than an organic, breathing being”.⁣

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