Most exciting bit of literary news I've heard in a long time came across my desk the other day -- Oğuz Atay's Tutunamayanlar will be published in English translation this month! This novel was a huge influence on Pamuk at the beginning of his career, and has repeatedly been cited as one of the books most in need of a translation into English.
The translation is by Atay's friend (and the book's dedicatee) Sevin Seydi; an excerpt previously won the Dryden Translation Competition. Here is Olric Press's flyer:
Oğuz Atay: The Disconnected [Tutunamayanlar]
translated by Sevin Seydi
715- pages, hardback only, 1/200 copies, published 17 March 2017.
Olric Press is pleased to announce for its first publication a major work in the canon of world literature. The Disconnected was the first book of Oğuz Atay (1934-1977), and was before its time. First published in 1972, it was a cult book among younger writers (Orhan Pamuk, for example, has recorded that he read it twice in the year it came out), but Atay never saw a second printing before his premature death. Since it was reprinted in 1984 it has gone through more than 70 editions, and is widely reckoned to be the most important book in modern Turkish literature.
“My life was a game, but I wanted it to be taken seriously,” says Selim, the anti-hero of the novel. But the game has a terrible end with his suicide, and his friend Turgut’s quest to understand this is the story of the book. He meets friends whom Selim had kept separate from each other, he finds documents in a kaleidoscopic variety of styles, sometimes hugely funny, sometimes very moving, as Selim rails against the ugliness of his world whether in satire or in a howl of anguish, taking refuge in words and loneliness. Under layers of fantasy is the central concept of the Disconnected, Tutunamayanlar, literally ‘those who cannot hold on’, poor souls among whom he counts himself, whose sole virtue is that they do not fit into society as it is constituted. He will be their messiah, at whose second coming they will change places with the comfortable of the world. Confronted with this Turgut sees the faultline in his conventional middle class life, and that he too is one of the Disconnected: he takes a train into Anatolia and ‘vanishes’. What could have been a bleak vision of alienation is transformed by the power of language and the imagination.
In 2002 UNESCO put The Disconnected at the head of their list of Turkish books of which translation was essential, warning that it would be very difficult. A German translation in 2016 was well received (e.g., Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 26 June, found it astonishing that this masterpiece should wait 45 years to appear in German), and needed three printings in six months. But English was the language Atay knew and loved, and his confrontation with literature in English, notably Hamlet and the King James version of the gospels, is a feature of the book. An English translation is therefore called for, and by good chance one has long existed. Sevin Seydi (to whom the original was dedicated) made a rough translation page by page as Atay was actually writing the book, almost as a game with the author, and discussed it with him. After 40 years living, studying, working, marrying in England she has thoroughly revised it, and it should be the definitive version.
This limited edition, with paper and binding of archival quality, is available at £50 or $75 post paid.
Available only from the publisher. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Olric Press, 13 Shirlock Road, London NW3 2HR, UK
(44) 207 485 9801
"My heroes are Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, Oğuz Atay, and Yusuf Atılgan. I have become a novelist by following in their footsteps. … I’ve learned from Oğuz Atay that you can write about the middle class and intellectuals with more of a Chekovist level of humanity, instead of complaining, and be local while using the literary techniques of the West. Oğuz Atay himself is quite influenced by James Joyce and Nabokov. Yet we read him as a local writer. That’s why I love Yusuf Atılgan as well; he manages to remain local although he benefits from Faulkner’s works and the Western traditions. These are my heroes."
Orhan Pamuk, Interview with Çınar Oskay, Milliyet. August 18, 2014