Ece Temelkuran: Novels by Provocative Turkish Writer Coming Soon to China


In a welcome move to break the near-monopoly of fiction sourced from a familiar pool of American, European and Japanese writers, a batch of new Turkish works will be appearing in bookstores throughout China in 2017. And they won’t be limited to further releases by Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, whose name is virtually synonymous with Istanbul among Chinese readers, or Turkey’s most popular female novelist Elif Şafak (The Bastard of Istanbul).

One of the fresh faces coming to China is Ece Temelkuran’s. Notably, she will have not one but three books — including two novels — out in Chinese within

Ece Temelkuran: Turkish novelist, political commentator and investigative journalist

Ece Temelkuran: Turkish novelist, political commentator and investigative journalist

2017. The first of these, 香蕉的低语 (Banana Sounds), set in war-torn Beirut, launched in October 2016. Now under translation are a novel about four women motoring across North Africa, 《下诅咒的女人》(暂译)(Why Have a Revolution if I Can’t Dance), and a book-length exploration of “Turkishness,” intriguingly entitled 我的祖国:土耳其的疯狂与忧愁 (Turkey: The Insane and the Melancholy).

At long last, Turkey’s most classic novel of the 20th century, The Time Regulation Institute, was published in Chinese earlier this year (时间调校研究所). Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar’s satirical look at the effects of a social engineering project gone awry — in which the Turkish authorities urge the public to jettison its Ottoman culture and ape the West no matter how bizarre the result — has been rendered by a German-based Chinese translator, Tan Lin (谭琳). 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 Pamuk’s novels have been translated from the Turkish for Horizon Books.

%e9%a6%99%e8%95%89%e7%9a%84%e4%bd%8e%e8%af%adThe Time Regulation Institute joins a series of five Chinese renditions of contemporary Turkish novels already published by Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing (土耳其当代文学丛书). They include novels by some of Turkey’s best known living writers, such as Oya Baydar and Mario Levi. An additional four Turkish novels will join the series in 2017. They are: The Dervish Gate by Ahmet Ümit (托钵僧之门); Hakan Günday’s The Few (黑暗边缘); Hakan Bıçakçı’s Dark Room (黑屋), and Secrets Dreamed in Istanbul (伊斯坦布尔寻梦记,暂译) by Nermin Yıldırım. [Read more…]

Mini-database: Modern Turkish Literature in Translation (当代土耳其文学译著迷你数据库)

Updated: Mar 22, 2017


20th-21st Century Turkish Authors 

Turkish Titles

Translations into West European Languages & Chinese


Sait Faik Abasıyanık

Pir Sultan Abdal

Neslihan Acu

Mehmet Açar

Bilgin Adalı

Halide Edip Adıvar (哈莉黛·埃迪布·阿迪瓦尔)

Erhan Afyoncu 

Adalet Ağaoğlu

Beyazit Akman

[Read more…]

Writing by Controversial Turkish Writer Coming Soon to China

Here, in French, but coming soon in Chinese

Here, en français, but coming soon in Chinese

Like any journalist worth her salt in today’s Turkey, Ece Temelkuran (伊切•泰玛尔库兰) 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 Ece Temelkuran’s The Sound of Bananas (香蕉的低语), 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). It is already out in Taiwan, entitled 我的祖國:憂鬱與瘋狂 , and will be published in the mainland as 我的祖国:土耳其的疯狂与忧愁. 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.

Coup d’état Fiction: A Curiously Turkish Genre

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…]

Soft Power Strategy: Where Does China Figure in Turkey’s Literary Translation Program?

Turkey's funding for literary translation into other tongues: Bulgarian editions outnumber Chinese 10:1

Turkey’s funding for literary translation into other tongues: Bulgarian editions outnumber Chinese 10:1

Over the last 11 years, Turkey has spent US$4.4m to fund translation and publication of fiction by Turkish authors via its TEDA grant program, according to Turkish Books, an article that appeared in the Hürriyet Daily on February 24, 2016. TEDA’s own chart shows that just 24 titles appeared in Chinese as a result, compared to 258 in German, 147 in Arabic, 100 in Persian, 103 in English, and 65 in French.

Oh, yes, and 251 in . . . Bulgarian, a language with an estimated number of less than 10 million native speakers. Granted, Bulgaria was ruled by the Ottomans, so nostalgia may be a factor here. But still, one has to wonder: Who determines how TEDA’s funds are spent, and what is their soft power strategy?

Chinese readers can be forgiven if the only Turkish author they’ve ever heard of is 奥尔罕·帕慕克 (Orhan Pamuk) as rendered我脑袋里的怪东西 by translator 陈竹冰 (Chen Zhubing). Pamuk’s latest novel, Kafamda Bir Tuhaflı (A Strangeness in My Mind) has just been launched in Chinese by Shanghai People’s Publishing House (我脑袋里的怪东西). After all, at least 10 of his novels have appeared in Chinese and he is very popular in the PRC.

The number of Turkish authors available in Chinese is rather short (see here for a partial list), but the good news is that Turkey’s most famous 20th century work of fiction, Tanpınar’s Saatleri Ayarlama Enstitüsü (The Time Regulation Institute) is being translated and may — according to Istanbul’s Kalem Agency — appear in Chinese within 2017. Elif Şafak is also fairly well known, but her novels normally appear first in Taiwan.

“Lost Lands of Paradise”: 库尔德村子的故事

I wrote this novel because I wanted to tell the story of a people whose voice is not heard, whose language is not recognized, whose story is not known, who is despised and degraded,” 土耳其籍库尔德作家 Yavuz Ekinci 写道。

他的愤怒是有根据的。80 年代以来,为了对付东南边武装分裂库尔德工人党(PKK)的游击战,土耳其中央政府曾动Cennetin Kayıp Toprakları用了200,000 军队,也宣布了戒严,同时进行了镇压库尔德文化的政策,例禁止用库尔德语授课、出书、播放节目等。

最近几年,所谓 “库尔德问题” 有了一些进展,而且双方今年正在进行和平商谈。也许 《The Lost Lands of Paradise》 (原文:Cennetin Kayıp Toprakları) 得以出版跟这个缓和有关。


这是土耳其共和国社会建立 (1923 年)后一直不敢公开讨论的话题。第一次世界大战后,奥斯曼帝国面临侵略与解体,亚美尼亚人被怀疑勾结外国、出卖国家利益。因此,亚美尼亚人从土耳其被大规模、残酷地赶走,西方历史家估计路上至少死了好几十万。此为至今颇深受争论的 “亚美尼亚种族大屠杀” 事件。 [Read more…]


伊斯坦布尔法国领事馆的图书馆对外开放,我几乎每几天在那儿复习土语、搞文学翻译、做白日梦。地方不大,但采购书的负责人很有品位。我最近借到了获得了 2013 年法国地中海奖(Prix Méditerranée)的外国作品奖,《L’ange rouge》。原文是土耳其语的 《Şeytan, Melek ve Komünist》。据我所知,本书至今没有中文版。

Nedim Gürsel作为不愿意讨好官方的土耳其作家, Nedim Gürsel (纳迪姆·居尔塞尔)的经历是比较典型的:两次被告,部分作品 -- 《A Summer without End》和 《The First Woman》-- 有段时间被禁,后来他定居海外,在法国的大学教当代土耳其文学。80 年代被控诽谤当时掌权的军队;第二次是他 2008 发表的小说 《Daughters of Allah》被认为是亵渎宗教。不过,两次都没判有罪。

《L’ange rouge》围绕着二十世纪土耳其著名诗人 Nazım Hikmet (纳奇姆·希克梅特) 流亡东德和苏联的故事,涉及到伊斯坦布尔、柏林与莫斯科。虽是虚构的小说,但 Hikmet 确实是左派人士,1963 年在莫斯科病故。



土耳其官方在文学作品 “输出”正在学日本颇成功的老路。文化与旅游部下的 “土耳其文学翻译基金会” (TEDA) 至今一共资助TEDA 资助外文出版项目 了 1,132 本土耳其语书的外译与出版。


排在第二位是保加利亚语,一共 194 本。保加利亚曾经是奥斯曼帝国的领土,如今人口七百万,等于上海人口的一半。

那么,得到翻译与出版资助的中文版本有多少呢?21 本,即保加利亚语版本的九分之一左右。不过,比中文版的数目更少的也有,包括荷兰文 (20)、西班牙语(20)和日文(5)等。(点击见原表)

Elif Şafak: Ballot-box Victory Is Not a License to Criminalize Criticism

Best-selling Turkish novelist Elif Şafak talks to Ceyda Nurtsch at about everything from the ill health of Turkey’s democracy to when she prefers writing in Turkish vs. in English (Lack of Democratic Culture in Turkey): 

Ceyda Nurtsch: You were one of the writers who signed a petition against the recent Twitter ban in Turkey. In the early days of the AKP’s rule, most critical voices said that the party was making changes that were good for the country. Recent developments, however, have made even hard-line supporters distance themselves from the AKP. What is your assessment of these developments? Do you still see Turkey as being on the threshold of becoming a more democratic state, as the Gezi protests made many people think and hope?

Shafak: I am very worried about the state of Turkey’s democracy. The politicians seem to think that democracy is only – or mostly – about the ballot box. They think that if you get the majority, then you are entitled to do anything. But democracy is not only about the number of votes you get. It is also a culture. It is a culture of inclusiveness, openness, empathy, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. This is why Turkey today lacks a culture of democracy.

For true democracy to exist, one needs the separation of powers, a diverse press and plurality of voices. Increasingly, however, the government sees every criticism as a “national betrayal”. If you voice criticism, they think you are acting for Western powers. I find these clichés very dangerous. Democracy needs self-criticism. Societies can only move forward if and when they allow free speech and criticism.

Elif Şafak’s New Novel: A Great Ottoman Architect, An Elephant and His Keeper

Dec 7 2014 update: Review of The Architect’s Apprentice

The author of eight novels including the best-selling and controversial Bastard of Istanbul, Elif Şafak, has just launched her ninth—Ustam ve Ben—in Turkish. The title literally means “My Master and I.” Curiously, though she wrote it in English, according to Sunday’s Zaman (Homage to Mimar Sinan) the English version won’t appear until October 2014, and not necessarily under that name either.

Ustam ve benSet in 16th-century Istanbul, the book revolves around two characters: a white elephant named Çota and his Indian keeper, Cihan, who is one of four apprentices to Sinan Mimar, the chief architect to three Ottoman Sultans: Suleiman the Magnificent, Selim II, and Murad III. Experts consider the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne his masterpiece, although he is better known for the Suleiman Mosque in Istanbul. Sinan Mimar was reportedly responsible for the construction of more than three hundred major structures, and according to Wikipedia, “his apprentices would later design the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul, Stari Most in Mostar and help design the Taj Mahal in the Mughal Empire.”

The object of much veneration in Turkey due to his unarguably superb architectural contribution to the Ottoman Empire, one aspect of Sinan Mimar’s legacy is both disputed and highly sensitive: his ethnicity. As online readers have commented below the Hürriyet Daily News article, and Wikipedia notes as well, some  historians maintain he was not an ethnic Turk, and may have been of Armenian, Albanian or Greek heritage. It is unlikely that Şafak would directly address this question in her novel, because reminding the public that the architect of some of Turkey’s most beloved mosques was Christian would be asking for trouble. In fact, reports The Guardian, she was prosecuted—but found not guilty in 2006—for “insulting Turkishness” and “faced up to three years in jail over remarks made by a fictional character in her latest novel, The Bastard of Istanbul, which referred to the massacre of Armenians in the first world war as genocide.”

An excerpt from the recent interview with the author:

[Sunday’s Zaman:] In this novel, you write of the refined character and art of Sinan through the stories of other people. But why did you not prefer to focus mostly on the architect?

[Şafak] In my opinion, great people can only be told of through their relationships with others. The people around them hold mirrors to (the inner worlds) of these great people. To be more precise, in order to tell the story of a master like Sinan, I need to tell the story of his relationship with his apprentices. I also need to tell the story of how he treated the laborers who worked for him. The greatness of Sinan was not only on paper. There were letters he sent to sultans, asking them to increase the salaries of the laborers. He was working hard in order to improve conditions. He could just as well have chosen not to deal with such details, but instead he did not step away from construction sites until the end of his long life. When I think of Sinan, I see a person who showed the utmost respect to his art and the people who did their jobs. These are the values that we have long forgotten. I wanted to write about the working principles of Sinan in this novel. I needed to prepare an environment to achieve this. So, I included the apprentices and animals in this story.