In 2021, popular Turkish writer Elif Shafak made her literary comeback with The Island of Missing Trees. Her 12th novel, The Island of Missing Trees depicted the turbulent contemporary history of Cyprus through the love story of a Turkish Cypriot and a Greek Cypriot. It was a love story doomed from the start. a modern Romeo and Juliet. Shafak, a political scientist, has also been known for being critical of local politics and her latest work was no different. For this quotable quote update, I am sharing some lines and passages from this controversial book that has left an impression on me.

Do check out my complete review of this literary work by clicking here.


“A map is a two-dimensianal representation with arbitrary symbols and incised lines that decide who is to be our enemy and who is to be our friend, who deserves our love and who deserves our hatred and who, our sheer indifference. Cartography is another name for stories told by winners. For stories told by those who have lost, there isn’t one.”

~ Elif Shafak, The Island of Missing Trees

“Love is the bold affirmation of hope. You don’t embrace hope when death and destruction are in command. You don’t put on your best dress and tuck a flower in your hair when you are surrounded by ruins and shards. You don’t lose your heart at a time when hearts are supposed to remain sealed, especially for those who are not of your religion, not of your languace, not of your blood.”

~ Elif Shafak, The Island of Missing Trees

Because in real life, unlike in history books, stories come to us not in their entirety but in bits and pieces, broken segments and partial echoes, a full sentence here, a fragment there, a clue hidden in between. In life, unlike in books, we have to weave our stories out of threads as fine as the gossamer veins that run through a butterfly’s wings.

~ Elif Shafak, The Island of Missing Trees

“He knew, even back than, that she was prone to bouts of melancholy. It came to her in successive waves, an ebb and flow. When the first wave arrives, barely touching her toes, it was so light and translucent a ripple that you might be forgiven for thinking it insignificant, that it would vanish soon, leaving no trace. But then followed another wave, and the next one, rising as far as her ankles, and the one after that covering her knees, and before you knew it she was immersed in liquid pain, up to her neck, drowning. That’s how depression sucked her in.”

~ Elif Shafak, The Island of Missing Trees

I wish I could have told him that loneliness is a human invention. Trees are never lonely. Humans think they know with certainty where their being ends and someone else’s starts. With their roots tangled and cuaght up underground, linked to fungi and bacteria, trees harbour no such illusions. For us, everything is interconnected.”

~ Elif Shafak, The Island of Missing Trees

There was something childlike in the way grown-ups had a need for stories. They held a naive belief that by telling an inspiring anecdote – the right fable at the right time – they could lift their children’s moods, motivate them to great achievements and simply change reality. There was no point in telling them that life was more complicated than that and worlds less magical than they presumed.

~ Elif Shafak, The Island of Missing Trees

“A fig is not exactly a fruit, you see. It is a synconium – a fascinating structure that hides flowers and seeds in its cavity, with a barely visible opening through which wasps can enter and deposit their pollen. And sometimes, seizing the opportunity, ants, too, crawl through that opening and eat what they can.”

~ Elif Shafak, The Island of Missing Trees

They ooze down slowly, a flow so slight as to be imperceptible, moving across time and space, until they find a crack in which to settle and coagulate. The path of an inherited trauma is random; you never know who might get it, but someone will.

~ Elif Shafak, The Island of Missing Trees

Life below the surface is neither simple nor monotonous. The subterranean, contrary to what most people think, is bustling with activity. As you tunnel deep down, you might be suprised to see the soil take on unexpected shades. Rusty red, soft peach, warm mustard, lime green, rich turquoise… Humans teach their children to paint the earth in one colour alone. They imagine the sky in blue, the grass in green, the sun in yellow and the earth entirely brown. If they only knew they have rainbows under their feet.

~ Elif Shafak, The Island of Missing Trees

It is a map, the body of an ex-lover, pulling you into its depths and bringing you back to a part of yourself that you thought had been left behind sometime, somewhere. It is a mirror too, though, chipped and cracked, showing all the ways you have changed, and, like every mirror, it dreams of becoming whole again.”

~ Elif Shafak, The Island of Missing Trees

We are scared of happiness, you see from a tender age we have been taught that in the air, in the Elesian wind, an uncanny exchange is at work, so that for every morsel of contentment there will follow a morsel of suffering, for every peal of laughter there is a drop of tear to roll, because that is the way of this trange world, and hence, we try not to look too happy even on days when we might feel so inside.

~ Elif Shafak, The Island of Missing Trees

Hey, I am serious. And I want you to understand a fundamental rule about love. You see, there are two kinds: the surface and the deep water. Now, Aphrodite emerged from foam, remember? Foam love is a nice feeling, but just as superficial. When it’s gone, it’s gone, nothing remains. Always aim for the kind of love that comes from the deep

~ Elif Shafak, The Island of Missing Trees