“The Sultan Has No Clothes”: Press Freedom on Trial in Turkey

We all know the story of the small child who piped up “the emperor has no clothes” while everybody was pretending to admire the despot parading through the streets. This child is analogous to those who, in the same spirit of honesty, have come out to tell the truth in today’s Turkey. The truth-tellers are in fact the real patriots, and they succeeded in becoming the conscience of a country by dispelling the fog clouding our perceptions to show us reality.

My father, Murat Sabuncu, is a truth-teller. He is the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily newspaper, which is one of the very few remaining critical but respected voices in the Turkish media. He and 11 of his colleagues from Cumhuriyet have been detained for the past nine months. Their trial will start in Istanbul on Monday. 

For the full essay in The Guardian, click here.

非漂 [Fēi Piāo] Newsbriefs: July 2017

Cartographer Alexander Akin asserts that an ancient Chinese map of Africa — proudly cited by China as proof of early Sino-African ties  — may be a copy of a Korean version, and not based on the expeditions of the explorer Zheng He (1371–1435).

The way media in other parts of the world — including China — portray Africa attracted attention at the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) 2017. Africans in Yiwu explores the lives of 18 African families who have settled in Yiwu, Zhejiang Province.


Alibaba’s Jack Ma recently visited Kenya and Rwanda with 38 fellow Chinese billionaires in tow. He spoke at the YouthConnekt Africa summit, an initiative launched by the Rwandan government to encourage entrepreneurship among the country’s youth, and at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. Reports Quartz Africa: From an underdog to one of the richest men in the world, Ma’s story is one that resonates in Kenya. Ma applied for 30 jobs, including at KFC when it opened in his home city of Hangzhou. He was rejected from all of them. Unlike Zuckerberg who created Facebook from his Harvard dorm room, Ma struggled to go to college — he failed the entrance exam three times, and started Alibaba from his apartment.





本 “迷你数据库” 刚开始建设,绝对不算齐全,只供参阅。至今,原文都是英文或法文的书籍,但希望将来能包括其他本地语言,例如斯瓦希里、科薩語、阿拉伯语等。“年” 指的是译著出版年,而非原著作出版时间。欢迎留言!

Short Story Collections

Leila Aboulela (阿布列拉; 阿鮑蕾拉; 阿布雷雅; 莉拉·阿鲍蕾拉 萊雅‧阿布雷雅)

Chinua Achebe (钦努阿•阿契贝)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (奇玛曼达·恩戈齐·阿迪奇埃)

  • Half of a Yellow Sun  《半轮黄日》(石平萍 译, 2010 年)
  • Purple Hibiscus 《紫木槿 (文静 译, 2017 年)
  • The Thing Around Your Neck 《绕颈之物》(文敏 译, 2013 年)
  • We Should All Be Feminists《女性的权利》(2017 年)

José Eduardo Agualusa (裘瑟·阿古瓦盧薩; 若泽·爱德华多·阿瓜卢萨)

Ama Ata Aidoo (阿玛·阿塔·艾杜)

Uwem Akpan (乌文·阿克潘)

T. M. Aluko

Mariama Bâ (瑪莉亞瑪·芭)

Ishmael Beah (伊斯梅尔·比亚)

Tahar Ben Jelloun (塔哈尔·本·杰伦)


J. M. Coetzee (J.M.库切)

  • Age of Iron 《铁器时代》(文敏 译, 2013 年)
  • Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life男孩》(文敏 译, 2013 年)
  • Childhood of Jesus 耶稣的童年》(文敏 译, 2013 年)
  • Diary of a Bad Year  凶年纪事》(文敏 译, 2009 年)
  • Disgrace   《》(张冲  译, 2010 年)
  • In the Heart of the Country内陆深处》(文敏 译, 2007 年)
  • Life & Times of Michael K迈克尔·K 的生活和时代》(文敏 译, 2004 年)
  • Summertime夏日》(文敏 译, 2010 年)
  • Waiting for the Barbarians  《等待野蛮人》(文敏 译, 2003 年)

[Read more…]

Event: Bayburt Turkey July 14-16, Dede Korkut Festival

Event:              23rd International Bayburt Dede Korkut Culture and Art Festival

Date:               July 14-16, 2017

Venue:             Bayburt, Bayburt Province, Turkey (various sites)

Notes:             The Book of Dede Korkut (Dede Korkut Hikâyeleri) is the most famous among the epic stories — dastan — of the Oghuz Turks. The character Dede Korkut, i.e. “Grandfather Korkut”, was a widely renowned soothsayer and bard. The stories carry morals and values significant to the social lifestyle of the nomadic Turkic peoples and their pre-Islamic beliefs. The book’s mythic narrative is part of the cultural heritage of Turkic countries, including Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

The latest version of Dede Kurkut in World Languages, compiled by Dr. Metin Yurtbaşı, now includes an excerpt in Chinese translated by Professor Liang Zhenhui of Xi’an International Studies University.

Turkey’s Purge: Kurdish Suffer along with Suspected Gülenists

In Amid Turkey’s Purge, a Renewed Attack on Kurdish Culture, Patrick Kingsley reports from Diyarbakir:

Across southeast Turkey, where most people are Kurdish, Mr. Erdogan’s government fired over 80 elected mayors and replaced them with state-appointed trustees. Here in Diyarbakir, the spiritual capital of Turkish Kurdistan, the trustee not only fired most of the city’s municipally employed actors, but also 80 percent of the staff of the municipal department that promoted the teaching of Kurdish and other minority languages.

In towns across the region, trustees have changed the names of streets previously named for prominent Kurdish figures, or removed statues of Kurdish heroes. More than a dozen lawmakers from the main pro-Kurdish party have been arrested in recent months. A Kurdish artist was jailed for doing a painting of the ruins of Nusaybin, one of several Kurdish towns partly destroyed in 2015 during fighting between the Turkish army and Kurdish militants.

Kurdish or pro-Kurdish journalists are some of the principal victims of the post-coup crackdown on free speech. According to the Free Journalist Society, a now-banned, pro-Kurdish news media watchdog, 173 journalists are now in Turkish prisons; of those, 50 worked for Kurdish or pro-Kurdish news outlets.

June 30-July 2 London Event: Africa Writes Festival

Event: Africa Writes Festival

Date: June 30-July 2

Venue: British Museum, London

Highlights: Alain Mabanckou in Conversation . . . Translation Roundtable: Translating into and between African Languages . . . The Chibok Girls: Ascent of Boko Haram in Nigeria, Stories of Survivors and Bereaved in northern Nigeria . . . Dreams & Deceptions: A Night of Storytelling

Feminist: A Dirty Word in Xi Jinping’s China?

Chimamanda Adichie is hot. Not just in her homeland Nigeria, and the US where she spends much of her time nowadays, but in China too.

Witness the fact that four of her works have been translated into Chinese, including her moving portrayal of the Biafran war,  Half of a Yellow Sun  (半轮黄日), The Thing Around Your Neck (绕颈之物), and two just this year, Purple Hibiscus  (紫木槿), and We Should All Be Feminists (女性的权利). African literature is notoriously little translated into Chinese, and four books puts her in the illustrious company of just a handful of oft-translated black African writers such as Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, also Nigerians (see my mini-database of African lit in Chinese).

We Should All Be Feminists, just out this month (June 2017) in Chinese, is a personal essay adapted from the writer’s TEDx talk of the same name. Writes Shelley Diaz (School Library Journal), as cited in the Amazon.com blurb for the English version of the essay:

Drawing on anecdotes from her adolescence and adult life, Adichie attempts to strike down stereotypes and unpack the baggage usually associated with the term [feminism]. She argues that an emphasis on feminism is necessary because to focus only on the general ‘human rights’ is ‘to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded’.

I wonder if Ms. Adichie knows what has become of her essay in the Chinese? I have not read it, but I do know this: The very word “feminist”— and the bold call for all of us, irregardless of our gender — to be “feminists,” have been removed from the title.  The Chinese title,  女性的权利 (nǚxìng de quánlì), is a rather flat “Women’s Rights.” No feminist (女权主义者) or feminism (女权主义), no call to take action, just five words, which lack even a verb.

Word has it that the sticking point was the “ism” (the Chinese term for “feminist” is literally “feminism” + “person”). Apparently there’s only one “ism” around today that is considered politically correct; it has “Chinese characteristics,” and it ain’t “feminism.” I don’t know if the decision to tone down the title was made by the higher-ups at People’s Literature Publishing House or someone in the Ministry of Truth, but this is arguably yet another telltale sign of the sensitivity regarding feminist activism that has become increasingly evident since the mid-2015 arrest of “China’s Feminist Five.”

According to The Guardian, the women – Wei Tingting, Li Tingting (Li Maizi), Wu Rongrong, Wang Man and Zheng Churan (Datu) – were detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” (寻衅滋事罪) after planning a multi-city protest aimed at bringing an end to sexual harassment on public transport.

It’s obvious that the marketeers over at People’s Literature Publishing House, censorship or no, fully understand that the original We Should All Be Feminists is much more likely to drive sales. Just look at the cover (top of article): The lame Chinese title definitely didn’t get top billing.

Altaic Storytelling Quote of the Week: Musa Anter

“If my mother tongue is shaking the foundations of your state, it probably means that you built your state on my land.”

(Musa Anter, Kurdish writer, assassinated in 1992)

The Xinjiang Gold Rush, Uyghur Scavengers and a Kind of Freedom

In a discussion of Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World — about Southeast Asian refugee immigrants and white Vietnam War vets picking mushrooms in Oregon — Darren Byler is struck by the way the mushroom pickers speak of freedom. He writes:

In a corner of China, several thousand kilometers from the Yunnan forests Tsing writes about in the second half of her book, I have lived with another group of pickers. They are Uyghurs who scavenge the dry river valleys near Yaken and Hotan on the border with Afghanistan for jade. Armed with hoes, these young Muslim men sort through rocks for months, avoiding the thousands of Han settlers and state-owned corporations that have come in the Jade Rush that has overtaken their homeland. After filling a fanny pack with stones they go to the city, dodging the many police checkpoints that stand between them and the regional capital Ürümchi. If they are seen by the police, they will be sent back or arrested. They will be caught up in the so-called People’s War on Terror, which targets young Uyghur men and thrives on indefinite detention and labor camps. Yet if these young men do manage to arrive in the city, they too, like the mushroom pickers, speak of a kind of freedom.

Read Byler’s full essay, Salvage Freedomhere.

Altaic Storytelling Quote of the Week: Elif Şafak on Bilingual Road Signs

The next day I am on my way to the Hay Festival. This year I am prepared for the rain – boots, scarves and raincoats. I remember the first time I went to Hay as a young novelist. I stopped by a road sign just because it was written in Welsh and English. I had never seen anything similar in Turkey. It was unthinkable: a simple road sign written in Turkish and Kurdish.

(From the online diary of Elif Şafak, Turkey’s best-known novelist)