The importance of the translator

The importance of the translator

People heard the name Yasemin Aydın when she won the Translated Book of the Year Award at the 25th anniversary of the magazine Dünya Kitap. 

Aydın has translated “The Murderess” by Alexandros Papadiamantis, as “Hadula–Bir Ada Öyküsü”* into our language from Greek.

Milan Kundera has praised Papadiamantis as “the greatest Modern Greek prose writer.”

Papadiamantis was born and raised on the Aegean island of Skiathos, on March 4, 1851 as the fourth son of a Greek Orthodox priest. He died on Jan. 3, 1911 on the same island of Skiathos he was born. The story of Hadoula has gained him the fame as “Greece’s Dostoevsky.”  

Yasemin Aydın was born in Ankara, Turkey in 1978. She graduated from Ankara University’s Contemporary Greek Language and Literature department. 

I will quote from a Metin Celâl article recently written and titled, “The translator has no name.” He wrote, “In her speech at the prize giving ceremony, Defne Halman, while citing her father Talat Sait Halman, mentioned his efforts that a translation should be considered a work of art and the translator should be considered an author. On the Talat Sait Halman Translation Award night organized by Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), we should take into account what his daughter, Defne Halman, has said.”

At the beginning of the book “Hadula- A Tale of an Island,” Herkül Millas said significant things on translation in his foreword and I totally agree with his judgements. 

He wrote: “Alexandros Papadiamantis is the most known and the most loved representative of Greek literature. How are we going to explain the fact that his books had not been translated into Turkish until now?”

“We see this paradox in other famous writers that have not been translated into foreign languages. For instance, why are the translations of Halit Ziya and Hüseyin Rahmi into Greek always delayed? One possibility may be that these writers are considered ‘old.’ If this is the explanation, it can be said that the relationship between the reader and the literary work is not very healthy. When we review Russian, English or French literature, we do not see a similar ‘too old’ excuse.  

“In the literatures of these countries during the 18th century, texts are very well translated into other languages, but not in the 19th century. Another possibility is that these old works are not considered ‘very valuable.’  

“This explanation is also not very believable, as certain old writers, like Papadiamantis or Halit Ziya, compared to many ‘new’ writers, are very valuable and successful writers. 

“There are more credible other explanations that come to the mind. The new writers (and their successors) have one advantage over the writers who are not alive today: They can market their own work. A reason why Sait Faik’s Greek translations are not on the market could be [because of] this. Papadiamantis can also be put into this category.

“Another reason could be the reader’s relationship with literature. In some countries, the interest is for a writer or for a book; not for the entire literary field; whereas, a reader interested in the literature of a country feels the need, or they should, to know the rest, the entirety [of the country’s literature]. As a matter of fact, the reader knows that the way to understand a contemporary writer comes from knowing his/her past and heritage. Unfortunately, in Turkey and in Greece, the translated and published works of the other side is a narrow field of selected works. “  

Read one of the classic works of a good writer from a translator who has been proven to be “good.”
Following the conclusions of Herkül Millas, I suggest that writers, translators, publishers and even the Ministry of Culture should think about this. 

*Alexandros Papadiamantis, ‘Hadula–Bir Ada Öyküsü’, Translator: Yasemin Aydın, Jaguar Books