Subject Material

The Bastard of Istanbul - a Novel by Elif Sharak

Published: 15.09.2011, Updated: 04.03.2017
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Do we take freedom of expression and speech for granted? This right is a cornerstone in democratic societies.Turkey is among the countries that have consistently violated this fundamental right, and authors and publishers that have dared to bring up controversial issues, are often met with prison sentences. One of these controversial issues is the Armenian Genocide (1915 - 1919).  A Bastard of Istanbul is a novel in which this genocide is highlighted. Read an excerpt.

Elif Shafak, the author of The Bastard of IstanbulElif Shafak, the author of "The Bastard of Istanbul"

One of the issues that official Turkish authorities traditionally have put a ban on is to discuss the Armenian Genocide (1915 - 1919). In A Bastard of Istanbul, Elif Shafak's fictional character, Armanoush, had a grandfather that was murdered in the genocide. Because of this the author was put on trial for offending "Turkishness". Read an excerpt from the novel. Meanwhile, ponder why you think it was found offensive by Turkish authorities.

Even if Elif Shafak (born in 1971) was born in France and has spent parts of her life in Spain, Jordan, Germany and the USA, she has firmly stated that Turkey raised her.  She was brought up in Turkey by her modern, career-oriented mum and her devotedly religious and traditional grandmother. Some of her background might be reflected in the excerpt from her novel, The Bastard of Istanbul (2006), that you are about to read. To find out more about the author you should take a look at her website.

Elif Shafak's official Homesite  

One of the two main characters in the novel, is the Turkish Asya (19), who has no idea who her father is. She is raised by her affectionate aunts (one of them being her mum) and her grandmother in a grand house in Istanbul. We get to know Asya through Armanoush (19), an Armenian-American girl with an all-American mum, a Turkish stepdad and a biological dad of Armenian ancestry. To find out more about her Armenian family and the genocide that killed more than 1 million Armenians in Turkey, among them her grandfather, Armanoush decides to search for her roots in Istanbul. By this she opposes her Armenian- American friends and family. Since Turkey has continued to deny the genocide, most Armenians in exile consider it both risky and provocative to visit Turkey. Nevertheless, when we meet Armanoush she is in Istanbul and she is with Asya in her Turkish stepfather's family home.


Before you start reading, you should be familiar with these words.



These are words that you should be familiar with:

  1. Genocide
  2. Bastard
  3. Borough
  4. Cosmopolitian
  5. Give birth to a child out of wedlock
  6. Reciprocal
  7. Diaspora
  8. Poignant
  9. Contemplate


The Bastard of Istanbul   




  1. Interactive vocabulary  test
  2. Interactive comprehension test

Further Tasks

The Bastard of Istanbul - Tasks 



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