Saturday, March 25th
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
Sunday, July 6th, 2008
At the end of the second chapter of Autobiographies of Orhan Pamuk I learn that Other Colors, ostensibly a translation of Pamuk's 1999 collection �?teki Renkler: Seçme Yazılar ve Bir Hikaye, is actually a separate collection, with only about a third of the contents taken from the older book.*
All the essays on Turkish literature and politics were omitted from the English version. Replacing them were... assessments of the works of authors he admires -- ranging from Fyodor Dostoyevsky to Salman Rushdie -- ...others are autobiographical or contain thoughtful reflections on his own novels.
This is surprising to me. I like the selection in Other Colors; but I'd be very interested to read Pamuk's essays on Turkish literature and politics as well. McGaha quotes a passage from Pamuk's essay (which he had written in 1974, at the outset of his career) on the Turkish author Oğuz Atay:
Pamuk argues that critics were bewildered by the novelty of Atay's novels, in which the author's voice and attitude, his peculiar tone of intelligent sarcasm, were more important than plot or character development. What is most distinctive about these novels is their style:
When the novelist puts the objects that he saw into words in this or that way, what he is doing is a kind of deception that the ancients called "style," manifesting a kind of stylization. There are deceptions every writer uses, like a painter who portrays objects. This is the only way I can explain Faukner's fragmetation of time, Joyce's objectification of words, Yaşar Kemal's drawing his observations of nature over and over. Talented novelists begin writing their real novels after they discover this cunning. From the moment that we readers catch on to this trick, it means that we understand a little bit of the novelistic technique, what Sartre called "the writer's metaphysics."
This passage seems pretty key to an understanding of My Name is Red, and how it fits in with Pamuk's other novels. I'm sorry to see neither of Atay's novels has been translated into English.
* A little thought makes it obvious that many of the essays in Other Colors could not have appeared in the earlier collection, dealing as they do with events occuring in 2005 and later. My grasp of Pamuk's timeline was not as firm when I first looked at this book as it is now.
I also went back just now to reread the preface, which makes clear that this is a separate work from the earlier collection. Look at its beautiful final paragraph:
I am hardly alone in being a great admirer of the German writer-philosopher Walter Benjamin. But to anger one friend who is too much in awe of him (she's an academic, of course), I sometimes ask, "What is so great about this writer? He managed to finish only a few books, and if he's famous, it's not for the work he finished but the work he never managed to complete." My friend replies that Benjamin's œuvre is, like life itself, boundless and therefore fragmentary, and this was why so many literary critics tried so hard to give the pieces meaning, just as they did with life. And every time I smile and say, "One day I'll write a book that's made only from fragments too." This is that book, set inside a frame to suggest a center that I have tried to hide: I hope that readers will enjoy imagining that center into being.
Drop me a line! or, sign my Guestbook.
Check out Ellen's writing at Patch.com.