Can Dündar, former editor-in-chief of Turkey’s Cumhuriyet newspaper, was arrested in late 2015 for publicizing the discovery of a covert arms shipment by the Turkish secret service to radical Islamist organisations fighting government forces in Syria. He was charged with espionage, aiding a terrorist organization, trying to topple the government and revealing state secrets. The newly launched We Are Arrested is Dündar’s account of the discovery, the weighing up of the pros and cons of publishing the news, and the events that unfolded after the decision.
In a polished English accent, she began, “In my country,” but she paused, trying to reframe her sentence more academically. “You’re right,” she said instead. After giving this sign of acquiescence, sacred to all sane Oxfordites, she continued, “In my country, they grant the highest importance to the law that the height of minarets can’t exceed that of the government’s secular monuments. For this reason, in fact, they’ve built unbelievably ugly monuments to Atatürk all over Istanbul in recent years, just so they’ll overshadow the minarets of mosques that are hundreds of years old.”
Stevenson waited for the main course to arrive before emitting a short, quiet, acceptable chuckle.
Then he asked, “You’re Turkish, correct?”
“Let’s not say I’m Turkish,” Deniz said, smiling. “Let’s simply say I’m from Turkey.”
With glazed eyes, Stevenson combed the knowledge he had in his Turkey database. “Oh yes,” he said. “I believe Turkey, like Germany, is dealing with a national identity conflict. Am I mistaken?”
Deniz had discussed this with foreigners so many times that she’d memorized an overly simplified speech on the matter, which she’d titled “The Turkish Intellectual’s Problematization of Nationalism.” She recited it in a single breath, “You’re right. As a way of rejecting the nationalist strategies that appeared when the country was founded, and in reaction to the country’s destructive policies toward its various ethnic groups, Turkish intellectuals prefer to say they’re from Turkey rather than Turkish.”
(Excerpted from Banana Sounds, a translation of Ece Temelkuran’s Turkish novel, Muz Sesleri. The translation is by Deniz Perin.)
Coup d’état Fiction: A Curiously Turkish Genre offers suggested reading for books that capture the Zeitgeist during the years that followed modern Turkey’s not infrequent periods of dictatorship.
The winners of the Junma Literary Awards for Ethnic Minority Writers (骏马奖) — handed out every three years since 1981 — were announced in early August. The competition is designed to promote writing by authors who belong to one of China’s non-Han peoples. A roundtable of five literary figures including Liu Daxian (刘大先), the editor of the quarterly民族文学研究 , discuss the winning titles in聚焦时代生活 彰显民族特色. One trend: Emerging female writers such as Jin Malian (Hui), Xiao Mei (Naxi) and Tao Liqun (Zhuang). Tao wrote 母亲的岛 (陶丽群著) about the escape of a trafficked village woman.
《保安语汉语词典》, a Bonan-Chinese dictionary, has just been published by the authorities in Gansu’s Linxia City. The Bonan people (aka, Bao’an 保安族), now numbering around just 20,000, “are believed to be descended from Muslim Mongol soldiers stationed in Qinghai during the Yuan or Ming dynasties,” according to Wikipedia, and speak a Mongolic tongue. Since the language does not have its own script, the dictionary represents the sounds of Bonan in IPA and a proposed set of letters (保安语使用记音符号字母表 (方案)). In 2001, the city also published 《东乡语汉语词典》, a Dongxiang-Chinese dictionary. The Dongxiang speak a Mongolic language and number over 600,000, and are concentrated in the Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture, but also live in Ningxia, Qinghai and Xinjiang.
At long last, what is arguably Turkey’s most classic novel of the 20th century, Saatleri Ayarlama Enstitüsü, known in English as The Time Regulation Institute, has been published in Chinese. Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar’s satirical look at the effects of a social engineering project gone awry — as the Turkish authorities desperately instructed the public to ape the West while jettisoning its Ottoman culture — has been rendered by a German-based Chinese translator, Tan Lin, as 时间调校研究所 (谭琳译). Regrettably, the Chinese is based upon the German translation of Tanpınar’s original; indeed, there is a dearth of well trained Turkish-Chinese literary translators, though several of Orhan Pamuk’s novels have been translated from the Turkish for Horizon Books by the likes of Shen Zhixing (我的名字叫红，沈志兴译) and Chen Zhubing (我脑袋里的怪东西, 陈竹冰译). 时间调校研究所 joins a series of five Chinese renditions of contemporary Turkish novels (土耳其当代文学丛书) already published by Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing. They include novels by some of Turkey’s best known living writers, such as Oya Baydar and Mario Levi (whose Istanbul Was a Fairy Tale was also translated direct from the Turkish as 伊斯坦布尔是一个童话). And more good news: An additional four Chinese translations of Turkish novels will join the series in late 2016 or early 2017, according to a spokesperson for the publishing house. They are: The Dervish Gate by Ahmet Ümit; Hakan Günday’s The Few; Hakan Bıçakçı’s Dark Room, and Secrets Dreamed in Istanbul by Nermin Yıldırım. [Read more…]
Like any journalist worth her salt in today’s Turkey, Ece Temelkuran was once fired for writing copy that the government of the day deemed politically incorrect. Her novels are edgy too, touching on sensitive social and political issues, and as a columnist and a novelist she has built up quite a following at home and abroad. While similarly provocative writing by the PRC’s homegrown authors is actively discouraged in the Xi Jinping Era, China’s publishers have apparently taken a liking to the outspoken Temelkuran, and three of her books are now being translated into Chinese.
Due out within 2016 is The Sound of Bananas (Muz Sesleri), while the tale of four women on the road from Tunisia to Lebanon, What Good is a Revolution If I Can’t Dance (Düğümlere Üfleyen Kadınlar, at left) – which reportedly sold 120,000 copies in Turkey — is scheduled for early 2017, both from Dookbook (读客图书). Horizon Books (世纪文景), which has a virtual monopoly over Orhan Pamuk’s novels in Chinese on the mainland, has purchased the rights to Temelkuran’s book-length essay exploring what it means to be Turkish, Turkey: The Insane and the Melancholy (Çılgın ve Hüzünlü). She is represented by Istanbul-based Kalem Agency.
In the China context, three books from a contemporary Turkish writer is quite something. Granted, none have hit the bookshelves yet, but when they do, she will join just a handful of authors with several of their books in Chinese, such as Orhan Pamuk, Elif Shafak and Ahmet Ümit.
In an insightful interview with Refinery29 conducted in Istanbul’s trendy Cihangir just a few days ago, Temelkuran tried to explain how she sees her role after the recent failed coup:
What are your hopes for Turkey in the coming weeks?
Maybe because of the things that I have been through I am not a big fan of the word hope. I am more into the word determination. My determination at the moment is to tell the story of Turkey from those people’s point of view who have been dismissed. My mother was imprisoned when she was a Leftist student in the 1971 coup and my father, as a young lawyer, rescued her from the hands of generals. This is the family I was born into. These are decent people, and the story of people like them has not been told. These are people who believed that there could have been a Turkey without political Islam, one with equal and dignified citizens. They dreamed of a country that could break away from the vicious cycle I have been talking about. Generations paid for this dream like in Iran, Iraq, Syria or Lebanon or even in Afghanistan. It is almost like Persepolis – over and over again. My dream right now is just to tell this story.
The winners of the Junma Literary Awards for Ethnic Minority Writers (骏马奖) — handed out every three years since 1981 — have just been announced. The competition is designed to promote writing by authors who belong to one of China’s non-Han peoples. Entries are permitted in all indigenous languages. Eight of the 24 winners were written in a minority language, and three were translated into Mandarin, one each from Mongolian, Tibetan and Uyghur.
第十一届（2012—2015）全国少数民族文学创作 “骏马奖” 获奖名单
For full list that includes award-winning novels, short stories, reportage, poetry, essays, and translation, see 骏马奖.
In the wake of the military’s badly botched putsch, as of July 21st Turkey finds itself once again living under a formal State of Emergency (SOE). This should not come as a big surprise to many citizens, because according to Dr. Zafer Üskül, a law professor and founding member of the Turkish Human Rights Organization, as of 2001 during “40 of its 78 years the Republic of Turkey had, in some form or another, been under extraordinary rule,” (Wikipedia). Prominent among them, of course, being the military coups of 1960, 1971 and 1980.
President Erdoğan’s decision to declare a three-month SOE, while strongly supported by many Turks nationwide, certainly has its critics — though many must be fearful of speaking out. In Why State of Emergency Brings Back Bad Memories in Turkey, Diyarbakir-based Mahmut Bozarslan reminds us of what happened after it was implemented in several Kurdish-dominated provinces in southeastern Turkey starting July 19, 1987:
With the SOE regime, Turkey saw the emptying of villages. It started at Anilmis and Boyunyaka villages of Sirnak, continued with Diyarbakir’s Kelekci and would be repeated thousands of times.
Some villages were emptied for allegedly supporting the PKK, while others were abandoned under PKK pressure or for refusing to join the government-sponsored village guards. Villages were set on fire to prevent their residents’ return. According to a report by a parliamentary investigation committee in 1998, 905 villages and 2,523 rural settlements were emptied and 378,335 people were uprooted until that point. Civil society groups say the numbers are far greater.
This State of Emergency only ended in late 2002, after 15 years.
Bozarslan’s article was published in Al-Monitor, an independent online newspaper that reports on the Middle East. At this tense moment in Turkish politics, it is unlikely we will see many such opinion pieces that openly or indirectly criticize the post-coup actions undertaken by Erdoğan’s administration. One key reason: Like the army, judiciary and academia, the media is currently a prime target for purges. Just in the last few days, the Turkish authorities have “ordered the shutdown of 45 newspapers, three news agencies, 16 television channels, 15 magazines and 29 publishers in a decree that was published in the government’s official gazette on Wednesday,” according to the New York Times. Arrest warrants have been issued for 47 journalists employed at Zaman newspaper, and 17 journalists have been charged with membership of a terror group. [Read more…]
Updated: Aug 27, 2016
20th-21st Century Turkish Authors
Translations into West European Languages & Chinese
- Hikayeler / Geschichten aus Istanbul
- / Le Samovar
- / Le Café du coin
- / Un homme inutile
- / Un serpent à Alemdag
- / Une histoire pour deux
Pir Sultan Abdal
- Ölmeye Yatmak / Se Coucher pour mourir
“Le Dernier Quartier de Lune”: French version of Chi Zijian’s ode to the Evenki to launch in September
In September 2016, the French rendition of Chi Zijian’s 《额尔古纳河右岸》will join several previously published foreign language editions including Dutch (Het laatste kwartier van de maan); English (Last Quarter of the Moon); Italian (Ultimo quarto di Luna); Japanese (アルグン川の右岸) , and Spanish (A la orilla derecha del Río Argún).
Le Dernier Quartier de Lune is co-translated by Stéphane Lévêque and Yvonne André, and published by Editions Philippe Picquier.
Narrated in the first person by the aged wife of the last chieftain of an Evenki clan, Last Quarter of the Moon (额尔古纳河右岸) is a moving tale of the decline of reindeer-herding nomads in the sparsely populated, richly forested mountains that border on Russia.
Over the last three centuries, three waves of outsiders have encroached upon the Evenki’s isolated way of life: the Russians, whose warring and plundering eventually pushed the Evenki down from Siberia to the southern bank of the Argun River, the tributary of the Amur that defines the Sino-Russian border; the Japanese, who forcibly recruited them into the ranks of the Manchukuo Army; and the Han Chinese of the People’s Republic, who felled the forests that are crucial to the survival of reindeer, outlawed hunting, and eventually coerced the Evenki to leave the mountains for life in a “civilized” permanent settlement.
For an extract from the French novel, click here.
For a list of multilingual links to the various versions of the novel, book reviews in Chinese, English, French and Spanish and more, click here.
In Vladivostok Lures Chinese Tourists (Many Think It’s Theirs), the NYT’s Andrew Higgins reminds us that the city was ceded by the Qing Dynasty to Russia in 1860 in one of those infamous “unequal treaties”:
Cui Rongwei, a businessman from northeastern China, could not afford a trip to Paris, so he settled for an exotic taste of Europe right on China’s doorstep. He liked Vladivostok so much that he has made three trips there to savor a city so strikingly different from his own hometown just a few score miles away.
Yet, like nearly all Chinese who visit a city whose Russian name means “master of the East,” Mr. Cui is absolutely certain about one thing: The place should really be called Haishenwai [海參崴], the name it had back when China was master in these parts.
A native of the Chinese province of Jilin in Manchuria, Mr. Cui said it was a “historical fact” that the home of Russia’s Pacific Fleet and the showcase of President Vladimir V. Putin’s ambitions to project his country as an Asian power is in reality Chinese territory.
Or at least it was, until the Treaty of Beijing, signed in 1860 after China’s defeat by Britain in the Second Opium War, placed Vladivostok and other territory to the northeast of what is now North Korea firmly in Russian hands.
In an open letter entitled Donnons le prix Sakharov à un intellectuel ouïghour published in the French newspaper Libération on July 14, 2016, three prominent French citizens propose awarding the Sakharov Prize to Ilham Tohti:
Il est temps que l’opinion publique francophone s’empare de son cas : à force d’évoquer les méfaits de Daech, d’Isis ou de Boko Haram, on en vient à oublier que certains citoyens de religion musulmane pourraient faire la différence et ramener la paix dans un monde déchiré par la haine et le rejet de l’autre. Ilham Tohti fait certainement partie de ceux-là. Sa place n’est pas dans le Centre de détention numéro 1 d’Urumqi au Xinjiang, et le prix Sakharov serait à la fois un hommage et un message d’espoir envoyé à une victime innocente de la dictature implacable du président chinois Xi Jinping. Aux députés européens de se mobiliser en sa faveur !
Full text in English: Give the Sakharov Prize to an Uighur Intellectual.