"In my mid-twenties, I moved to Istanbul, the city I adore. I lived in a very vibrant, diverse neighborhood where I wrote several of my novels. I was in Istanbul when the earthquake hit in 1999.When I ran out of the building at three in the morning, I saw something that stopped me in my tracks. There was the local grocer there -- a grumpy, old man who didn't sell alcohol and didn't speak to marginals. He was sitting next to a transvestite with a long black wig and mascara running down her cheeks. I watched the man open a pack of cigarettes with trembling hands and offer one to her, and that is the image of the night of the earthquake in my mind today -- a conservative grocer and a crying transvestite smoking together on the sidewalk. In the face of death and destruction, our mundane differences evaporated, and we all became one even if for a few hours. But I've always believed that stories, too, have a similar effect on us. I'm not saying that fiction has the magnitude of an earthquake, but when we are reading a good novel, we leave our small, cozy apartments behind,go out into the night alone and start getting to know people we had never met before and perhaps had even been biased against."
"Writers are entitled to their political opinions, and there are good political novels out there, but the language of fiction is not the language of daily politics. Chekhov said, "The solution to a problem and the correct way of posing the question are two completely separate things. And only the latter is an artist's responsibility." Identity politics divides us. Fiction connects. One is interested in sweeping generalizations. The other, in nuances. One draws boundaries. The other recognizes no frontiers.Identity politics is made of solid bricks. Fiction is flowing water."
"Books have saved the introverted, timid child that I was -- that I once was. But I'm also aware of the danger of fetishizing them. When the poet and mystic, Rumi, met his spiritual companion, Shams of Tabriz, one of the first things the latter did was to toss Rumi's books into water and watch the letters dissolve. The Sufis say, "Knowledge that takes you not beyond yourself is far worse than ignorance."The problem with today's cultural ghettos is not lack of knowledge -- we know a lot about each other, or so we think -- but knowledge that takes us not beyond ourselves: it makes us elitist, distant and disconnected."