Speak of the Devil


The Satanic Verses has enjoyed a problematic reputation in Turkey. Two decades ago, following Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa, secularist intellectuals and novelists such as Orhan Pamuk and Aziz Nesin supported the idea of a Turkish edition; Nesin had been threatened many times for this and in 1993 almost died during riots in Sivas, a city in central Anatolia. Today the general impression still is that had it not been for Nesin’s support for Rushdie’s book, the Sivas massacre in which 37 people were burned in a hotel - locked inside by the protesters - would not have taken place. In fact The Satanic Verses is not officially banned here as no one has actually undertaken a full translation —  until last week, when one came out under the imprint of Black Sun.

It had never been published in a Muslim country, so this was big news. A populist newspaper protested against this "provocation", denouncing it first as "a black publication", then as "a black trick" and finally announcing that "Rushdie had been tricked". When Turkish journalists investigated, they learned that Black Sun was a pirate publisher, which had translated the book without informing Rushdie.

The provocation proved so successful that Rushdie, through the Wylie Agency, published an official announcement, confirming that he had never heard of the publisher, who had made no contact with either his agents or himself. “Any such publication will therefore be unauthorized and illegal, an act of literary piracy, to which I have always been strongly opposed. The Turkish reading public should be clear that, as I have no idea of what is being published under my name, it cannot and must not be seen as a true Turkish edition of my novel.”

On the announced day of publication, Black Sun posted an email address on its website, asking for potential readers to send in their names, phone numbers and addresses. In three days they received more than 1,000 requests. “But unfortunately the parcel service with which we had reached an agreement opted out of the arrangement at the very last minute,” the announcement read, so Black Sun had to deliver the books by hand, one by one. The book costs 30 liras -£13- and reveals the names of neither the translator nor the printer, “so that we can protect not only them but also the bookstores that would put themselves into danger had we circulated the book in traditional ways.”

Rushdie maintains that, “with a properly examined and approved translation, through reputable publishers,” he would be open to the possibility of a Turkish edition. So has the time finally come for an official translation of The Satanic Verses? Had it happened in Turkey, it would be a most ironic situation - for the ruling AKP is denounced by its opponents as an anti-secularist party with an Islamist agenda. Satan, too, seems to work in mysterious ways.

Kaya Genç


This article was published in The Guardian on February 5, 2011. You can read a facsimile PDF version from here.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

çok kutlarız. başarılarınız devam eder inşallah. keyifle okuyoruz tüm yazılarınızı.

Kaya said...

rica ederim, beğenmenize sevindim. sevgiler.