The Duchess of Cornwall attended a tea reception on Thursday, to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the National Literacy Trust’s Books Unlocked programme. This worthwhile initiative presents free copies of Booker Prize shortlisted titles to various prison library groups.
In her capacity as patron to the National Literacy Trust, Camilla took part in a discussion with British-Turkish author Elif Shafak and Peter Florence, the chair of the 2019 Booker Prize judges. Various prison librarians who attended the reception asked Ms. Shafak numerous questions on behalf of their Books Unlocked prison reading groups, and the Duchess herself took part in the discussions.
Known to be an avid reader herself, Camilla inquired to Ms. Shafak about what her choice of language was. The Duchess expressed: “As you know, I am one of your greatest fans and have read a lot of your books and I love them. What interests me is that I know that you write in Turkish and English. How on earth do you decide what language you are going to write in? Obviously some things must sound better in English and vice versa, so how do you decide?”
Elif explained that when she was a child, Spanish actually became her second language but she also had an affection for English. She shared: “English never abandoned me. I always loved it but I kept it to myself. My early novels were written in Turkish. About 15 years ago, I switched to writing in English and at the time in Turkey, there was a bit of a reaction to that.”
Elif also shared with Camilla that she felt that she was able to express sadness more easily in Turkish, while she felt that irony and satire were better conveyed through English.
Ms. Shafak added: “I feel very attached to the Turkish language but maybe my connection with the English is more cerebral and I need that.”
Ms. Shafak’s latest novel – called “10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World” – was on this year’s Booker Prize shortlist. In her book, a Turkish woman reflects on her life in the immediate moments after her savage and vicious death.
The Duchess of Cornwall also met with Stephen Kelman, a previous shortlist author for his work entitled “Pigeon English” and Rachel Seiffert, who was also on the 2001 shortlist for her book, “The Dark Room”. Both of these authors have visited prison reading groups on behalf of the Books Unlocked initiative.
National Prison Radio was on hand to record the reception’s discussion, and in the coming week will directly broadcast it into around 80,000 cells in prisons and young offender institutions across England and Wales.
The Trust’s reception was held in Mayfair, London at KPMG, a location hosting a Books Unlocked Pop-up Cafe for the programme. For every “literacy latte” that is sold between October and December, KPMG will generously donate 10p from each coffee, to support the Books Unlocked initiative and help this very worthy cause.