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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Turkey

8th November 2012

The Forty Rules of Love

The speaker is a Turkish writer born in France. In addition to Turkey she has lived in many other countries, including the United Kingdom. She reads from her latest novel, The Honour; talks about her writing; then answers questions on subjects ranging from comparisons between Ottoman and modern Turkish literature, through writing techniques, to child-rearing in patriarchal societies.

We’re at the British Consulate General in Istanbul for “an evening with Elif Shafak”, jointly organised by Kingston University in London and the British Council. Elif Shafak is one of Turkey’s most prominent modern writers. Her books, some written originally in Turkish and some in English, have been translated into more than 30 languages. She currently lives in London and teaches creative writing at Kingston University.

One of the priorities for any diplomat working in Turkey is to try and understand this magnificent, complex and culturally rich country as well as possible. It’s a privilege as part of that process to have contact with people from all walks of life, from business people and religious leaders to journalists, politicians and writers. I am intrigued to meet Elif Shafak as during my preparations for coming to Istanbul I read two of her novels, The 40 Rules of Love and The Bastard of Istanbul. I look forward to reading The Honour, which I have this week purchased and downloaded to my Kindle.

The evening also demonstrates the important work Kingston University, like many other British educational institutions, is doing in Turkey. Kingston’s activities include sample master classes hosted by Turkish universities and an entrepreneurship competition for undergraduate students offering tuition fee discounts for winning team members. Their website gives a good indication of how international UK education has become, including for their many creative writing courses. If I could sign up for a creative writing course at which Elif Shafak was teaching, I’d do it like a shot.

About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.