Turkish translation of Paulo Coelho ‘removed mention of Kurdistan’

Publisher and translator express shock that version of Eleven Minutes published in Turkey had reference cut

A Turkish publishing house is pulling its translation of the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho’s Eleven Minutes after readers discovered that the translation had removed a reference to Kurdistan and changed it to the Middle East.

In the English translation of the original Portuguese, Coelho writes: “She went into an internet cafe and discovered that the Kurds came from Kurdistan, a nonexistent country, now divided between Turkey and Iraq.” The Turkish translation changes the second part of the sentence to “it was written on the internet that the Kurds lived in the Middle East.”

The Turkish translation containing this line has gone through 38 reprints since 2004.

Can Öz, the owner of Can publishing house, responded to criticism on Twitter by saying readers were right to be outraged. “We will correct in the next edition,” he said.

“I don’t know who is responsible for the differences between the original and translated versions. Our edition is very old. However, there is no right for the publisher to change the text as they wish,” he added.

Saadet Özen, the translator, said she had no idea how the change had happened. She said she was sure it was not her decision, sharing examples from her other translations that have included references to Kurdistan.

“I have been trying to remember if I thought differently back then, but no. I am still the same person. Principles are what save us at times of indecision. Translation always walks hand in hand with interpretation, but censorship is out of the question. I have never sided with censorship,” she wrote on Twitter.

Öz also defended Özen. “This intervention was done at the editorial stage, no doubt,” he said.

There have long been tensions between the Turkish government and the Kurdish population, the country’s largest ethnic minority. In 1924, writing or using the words Kurd, Kurdish and Kurdistan was outlawed in Turkey, then later overturned. However, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP party has led many crackdowns against Kurdish political parties and media over the last decade. In 2017, AKP passed a resolution that banned the mention ofKurdistan in parliament.

Coelho is Brazil’s most successful author, most famous for his 1988 allegorical novel The Alchemist. He has sold more than 350m books around the world.

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