“Turkish Culture Year in China”: But Where Are the Books?

Thursday March 21 saw the official launch of “Turkish Culture Year in China” (土耳其文化年) in Beijing.  The road show—destined for 12 cities—includes dance and music performances, fashion shows and a “Turkish Cuisine Week,” but I haven’t found a detailed list or schedule yet. Beijing, Shanghai, Yichang (Hubei), Shenzhen and Hong Kong are confirmed road stops, though.  It comes on the heels of “Chinese Culture Year in Turkey” which ended in February and helped attract 120,000 Chinese visitors to Turkey last year.

Readers who want to get a taste of Turkish literary works in Chinese will find them thin on the ground, however; see my initial list here.  In the PRC, the only widely translated Turkish author is Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk. Several of his best-known novels including My Name is Red, Museum of Innocence and Snow are available in Chinese (奥尔罕·帕慕克).  <伊斯坦布尔的幸福> (Mutluluk, or Bliss in English) by Zülfü Livaneli, the writer, musician, singer, journalist and member of parliament, is one of just a handful of novels—Pamuk’s aside, obviously—that have been genuinely well received in China where Turkey still has a rather low profile.

 

Turkish Literary Works Rendered in Foreign Languages via TEDA Project

(Mid-2012 Statistics)

 

Target Language

Titles Translated

German

175

Bulgarian

119

Arabic

83

English

66

Farsi

56

Albanian

56

French

39

Greek

34

Bosnian

34

Spanish

17

Chinese

10

Other translations into the Chinese tend to be dependent on Turkey’s TEDA, a program under the Ministry of Culture & Tourism that subsidizes translations and publication into many languages. Tellingly, the web site appears in Turkish, German, French and English.

Incredibly, as of end August 2012 when spokesperson Ümit Yaşar Gözüm was cited in an article about the Beijing Book Fair (Debut in Beijing), just ten subsidized works of fiction had been put into Chinese and were on display at the fair. Four of them were by Orhan Kemal (1914-70), who wrote frequently about the working class and did time in jail due to his alleged pro-communist sympathies: <父亲的家园> (Baba Evi; or My Father’s House in English); <杰米莱 > (Cemile); <在富饶的土地上> (Bereketli Topraklar Üzerinde; On Fertile Land); and <流浪的岁月> (Avare Yıllar; Idle Years). These titles in Chinese can all be seen here.

According to Gözüm there are only a handful of qualified Turkish-to-Chinese literary translators, and they can each only handle two titles a year.  They include Shen Zhixing (沈志兴), a professor of Turkish in Henan’s Loyang who has translated several of Pamuk’s novels; and three reporters for the state-run China Radio International, Xia Yongmin (夏勇敏), Yin Tingting (尹婷婷) and Tang Jiankun (汤剑昆).

Xia Yongmin, who studied in Turkey in the late 1980s, is a particularly high-profile translator, both because of his senior position at CRI and his output, including two works by Orhan Kemal (<父亲的家园> and <在富饶的土地上>), and one by a contemporary Turkish author, Murat Gülsoy, <伊斯坦布尔之仁慈七日> (A Week of Kindness in Istanbul).  Xia created and hosts “Xinjiang Today,” and as such plays a key role in China’s propaganda campaign aimed at justifying its Uyghur-related policies to speakers of Turkic languages throughout Central Asia and Turkey.

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