Monday 10 June 2024

Şafak, Elif "10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World"

Şafak, Elif "10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World" - 2019

"Now he has again preceded me a little in parting from this strange world. This has no importance. For people like us who believe in physics, the separation between past, present and future has only the importance of an admittedly tenacious illusion." Albert Einstein upon the death of his closest friend, Michele Besso

This is my fifth novel by Elif Şafak and I have enjoyed them all tremendously. Well, as far as you can talk about enjoyment when reading about the murder of a woman.

We follow Leila from the minute of her birth until several minutes after her death and then her friends. We learn about the way she lived, how she ended up in her situation, how her friends found themselves in their situations. We hear about Istanbul and Leila's hometown Van in Eastern Anatolia, right near the border to Iran.

The idea that you can still be conscious several minutes after your death is something I had never heard of before. But this gives us an opportunity to get all aspects of Leila's life and death, that of her friends and how she met them. All of them social outcasts, they form their own kind of family and fight for it, even beyond death.

The book is divided into three parts, each of them different from the other but they all contribute to our understanding of the life.

In the first part, we read about Leila's thoughts in the first minutes after her death, she thinks about her family and her friends. All the memories are included in the story. In the second part, Leila is dead and we follow her friends who try to bury her somewhere decent. The third part is about Leila's soul.

This novel is extraordinary. An extraordinary book about an extraordinary woman in an extraordinary town.

Book Description:

"'In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila's consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore...'

For Leila, each minute after her death recalls a sensuous memory: spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the birth of a yearned-for son; bubbling vats of lemon and sugar to wax women's legs while men are at prayer; the cardamom coffee she shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each fading memory brings back the friends she made in her bittersweet life - friends who are now desperately trying to find her …

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World is an intensely powerful and richly evocative novel from one of the greatest storytellers of our time."


  1. That's certainly a different premise & way to tell a story, having her die in the first part like that. Sounds a little sad and bittersweet.

    1. It definitely is sad, Lark. Reading about how she ends up in that situation and also her friends. So very interesting.

  2. What a fascinating premise, but so tragic. I will probably pass on this one.

    1. You're not much into fiction, anyway. But I do understand, Sarah. Still, maybe try one of her other books, especially the one about Rumi, The Forty Rules of Love.

  3. This author turns often up, and I am still to read something by her. Maybe the first one will not be this one. Lisbeth

    1. Probably not, Lisbeth. But it is a fanastic book as she is a gret author.. My favourite is The Island of Missing Trees.