Cavafy in Turkish.

Orhan Pamuk has an appreciation of C. P. Cavafy in today’s NY Times Book Review focusing on his best-known poem, “The City” (a sidebar gives the Keeley/Sherrard translation, which I am not happy with, but then there are no really good translations of Cavafy; see this ancient LH post for my attempt at one). Pamuk has nice things to say about the poet, his poem, and his city, Alexandria, but what leads me to post is this bit towards the end: “A longtime friend once published a selection in Turkish, working from Edmund Keeley’s translations…” That made me sad. Theoretically, you would think any Turk interested in foreign literature, and especially Cavafy, would learn Greek as a matter of course; the countries are right next to each other and their histories and cultures are inextricably intertwined. In fact, of course, the longstanding mutual fear and loathing makes that a utopian thought. How I dislike nationalism! (I also dislike ignoring the strict rhyme and meter of Cavafy’s great poem when you’re translating it, but that’s a separate issue.)

While I’m on the Times Book Review, I might as well quote the most educational correction I’ve seen in a while:

A review on Dec. 1 about “Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion,” by Anne Somerset , misstated the successional status of Queen Anne’s father before he became King James II. He was the heir presumptive of Charles II , not the heir apparent. (Generally, in the British system of royal primogeniture, the heir apparent, in contrast to an heir presumptive, is one whose claim to the throne cannot be superseded by the birth of a closer heir.) As the brother of Charles, who had no legitimate offspring, James was heir presumptive, but could have been displaced by the birth of a legitimate child to Charles.

I did not know that!

Comments

  1. Theoretically, you would think any Turk interested in foreign literature, and especially Cavafy, would learn Greek as a matter of course; the countries are right next to each other and their histories and cultures are inextricably intertwined. In fact, of course, the longstanding mutual fear and loathing makes that a utopian thought.

    So it would be fair to say that their histories and cultures are intertwined in mutual fear and loathing. As a consequence, some Turks might be motivated to learn enough Greek to spy on Greeks, though not in order to read their belles-lettres. This is not necessarily a Bad Thing – one has to start somewhere.

    As you may recall, in some 1960s Texas highschools courses in Russian were offered as being the language of the enemy. That was how I learned Russian basics. German and French came later, for completely different reasons.

    It was precisely the belles.lettres at which I balked in Russian at some point – too hard to read. I might have ended up fluent if I had joined the CIA – that was the spirit of the times. The money follows the Zeitgeist.

  2. They should correct the correction: he became James VII and II.

  3. As you may recall, in some 1960s Texas highschools courses in Russian were offered as being the language of the enemy.

    The complimentary Russian expression (in fact, bureaucratic term) was “the language of probable enemy” (“язык вероятного противника”; the Russian word for “enemy” used here is not from high-flown rhetoric, as in “foe”, but rather one used technically by the military or even in sports, as in “adversary”, “opponent”). The expression in question was only used in some rare civil documents and in the military, and typically only used in jest outside of those native contexts – or this is how I remember it now. A schoolboy attending a “school with reinforced English teaching” (“школа с усиленным преподаванием английского языка”) would smile knowingly to a half-teasing “so, how are you doing, learning the language of probable enemy?” in 1980s; an official term in casual conversation would automatically turn sarcasm on and produce those smiles.

  4. Theoretically, you would think any Turk interested in foreign literature, and especially Cavafy, would learn Greek as a matter of course

    I’m not so sure of that. How many people who are interested in literature and whose first language uses the Latin alphabet can read another language that uses another alphabet? When was the last time you saw non-English literature in its original language in even a large bookstore?

    Turkish-Greek relations are of course messy in the extreme, which probably doesn’t help in this particular case, though I note that there is a Cavafy entry in Turkish Wiki. At least some of his poetry has been translated into Turkish.

    I recall browsing the bookstores along İstiklal Avenue in Istanbul and remarking that a great big chunk of the Western canon had been translated into Turkish.

  5. How many people who are interested in literature and whose first language uses the Latin alphabet can read another language that uses another alphabet?

    We’re talking about people who want to translate, not just people with a vague interest.

    At least some of his poetry has been translated into Turkish.

    Yes, apparently from English.

  6. Theoretically, you would think any Turk interested in foreign literature, and especially Cavafy, would learn Greek as a matter of course; the countries are right next to each other and their histories and cultures are inextricably intertwined. In fact, of course, the longstanding mutual fear and loathing makes that a utopian thought. How I dislike nationalism!

    While I quite agree about nationalism as being about fear and loathing first and foremost, I think that the unavailability of direct translations of the poetry of a single poet (even if the poet in question is a must-read) should not be automatically explained by relations between the nations in question; after all, there is so much else to a literary process (e.g. English translations being well-known, recognized and accessible), and national feelings of the intelligentsia are at times so complex, that one can not reason from availability of texts to prevailing feeling as the supposed reason so easily.

    Perhaps the comparison with other languages that use different alphabets and writing systems could reinforce or weaken your hypothesis? For example, how many direct translations from Chinese to Turkic are available? If they are much more numerous than those from Greek where English translations are also available, then perhaps it is indeed the national bias showing?

  7. J. W. Brewer says:

    How many people, in any European country, learn modern Greek (as opposed to classical/NT/etc.) as a standalone L2? Is it a lot more in nearby countries? Has Cavafy been translated into Bulgarian directly from the original?

  8. Hat: (At least some of his poetry has been translated into Turkish) . . .apparently from English.

    I suppose that’s not surprising. How did you come to that conclusion?

    The Turkish Publishers Association provides numbers on publishing and related information on its website. Imported books are only about ten percent of total book sales. Presumably Amazon has not made big inroads yet, as there are some 6,000 bookstores in the country. About 42,000 trade titles were published last year with an average print run of some 7,000 copies. Almost 15,000 titles in the “Literature and Rhetorics” category were published. No information on translations, and — no surprise here — no breakdown on Turkish vs Kurdish.

  9. J. W. Brewer says:

    It is in any event a bit anachronistic to speak of a “British” system at the time (and even unto this day it is often imprecise to refer to “British” law). James eventually succeeded his brother as a matter of both English law and Scots law and even if the functional point here is the same (i.e. that any legitimate offspring of Charles – I think a daughter would have have sufficed — would have been ahead of James in the line of succession), it is quite possible that Scots law referenced the distinction with different jargon than apparent/presumptive, since in my very limited exposure Scots law has different jargon than English law for quite a lot of things.

    A related quirk of the law (namely that a monarch’s newborn son would have rights superior to those of his older sisters) helped precipitate James’ downfall, of course, since James’ daughters from his first marriage (Mary and Anne) seemed safely Protestant such that the birth (subject at the time to a certain amount of suspicion and conspiracymongering) of the future Old Pretender thus changed the dynamics of the situation.

  10. Here’s Ithaca translated into Hebrew from the Greek.

  11. I think that the unavailability of direct translations of the poetry of a single poet (even if the poet in question is a must-read) should not be automatically explained by relations between the nations in question

    Oh, absolutely; I have no idea what the story is with this particular translation. But it’s hard not to think of general Greek/Turkish relations in connection with it.

    How did you come to that conclusion?

    Oh, I was just referring to this situation. Maybe this is an outlier and all other Cavafy translations into Turkish are from the original, in which case I would be happy to withdraw my reference to cultural antagonism.

  12. J. W. Brewer says:

    Pamuk’s own work has now allegedly been translated into 60 languages, including Greek http://www.orhanpamuk.net/news.aspx?id=25&lng=eng. I would wager a modest amount that not all of those translations into all 60 target languages were made directly from a Turkish original and that perhaps some (Estonian? Malayalam?) were made via a French or English edition. I wouldn’t wager a lot of money one way or another as to whether the Greek edition(s) of Pamuk were direct or indirect. And these days there’s probably more money to be made publishing Pamuk in translation (in virtually any language) than publishing Cavafy.

  13. Herkül Millas/Ηρακλής Μήλλας translated Kavafis from Greek into Turkish [with Özdemir İnce].

  14. And these days there’s probably more money to be made publishing Pamuk in translation (in virtually any language) than publishing Cavafy.

    Oh, I doubt money is much of a consideration in publishing any poetry.

    Herkül Millas/Ηρακλής Μήλλας translated Kavafis from Greek into Turkish [with Özdemir İnce].

    Well, then I’m full of crap; it’s not the first time!

  15. Herkül Millas/Ηρακλής Μήλλας appears to be a Turkish-born Greek, whose numbers, 10,000 or so, are fading fast. This Wiki entry suggests that there remain some 4,000 speakers of Pontic Greek in Turkey.

  16. J. W. Brewer says:

    Dr. Millas seems to presently be a member of the much larger number of Turkey-born ethnic Greeks who no longer live in Turkey (the <10,000 numbers are for the remaining ethnic Greeks who have not yet emigrated from Turkey, under duress or otherwise). Millas has apparently been involved both in teaching Greek literature at Turkish universities and Turkish literature at Greek universities, which probably makes him quite a rara avis. It would be interesting to know how popular such courses are or aren't.

  17. ethnic Greeks who have not yet emigrated from Turkey, under duress or otherwise

    Wiki says: To be electable, Turkish law requires the candidates [for office of Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople] to be Turkish citizens by birth. Since the establishment of modern Turkey, the position of the Ecumenical Patriarch has been filled by Turkish-born citizens of Greek ethnicity. As nearly all Greek Orthodox have left Turkey (see Population exchange between Greece and Turkey and Istanbul Pogrom), this considerably narrows the field of candidates for succession.

    From a related Wiki entry:
    Because of its historical location at the capital of the former Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and its role as the Mother Church of most modern Orthodox churches, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has enjoyed the status of “Primus inter pares (first among equals)” among the world’s Eastern Orthodox prelates.

  18. J. W. Brewer says:

    In the last few years some progress has been made on the problem Paul identifies, via a number (maybe a dozen, maybe a few dozen – reports vary) of mostly-ethnic-Greek bishops from around the world (typically not natives of Greece/Cyprus proper) quietly being naturalized as Turkish citizens, including at least one fellow (Metropolitan +Nikitas of the Dardanelles) who was born and raised in the United States. My understanding is that the “by birth” in the language from wiki may be imprecise/outdated. This will hopefully lead to a substantially better and deeper pool of candidates than might otherwise be the case the next time it becomes necessary to select a new Patriarch. Greek-nationalist/anti-Turkish sentiment among many segments of the relevant laity being what it is, this approach has I believe created some controversy, but it enables at least a short/medium-term pragmatic solution while not creating the domestic political headaches with its own hardliners the Turkish government would likely have if it abandoned the citizenship requirement (which is in an abstract sense entirely unjustifiable given modern notions of religious liberty, but history is what history is and what are ya gonna do?).

    What if any Turkish language proficiency these reverend gentlemen had to display in order to be naturalized (or whether they quietly received waivers from whatever requirement Turkish law might otherwise impose in this regard) is not known to me.

  19. I was aware of the British distinction between heir apparent and heir presumptive, but did not realize that it was specifically British. It’s hard to remember sometimes that every monarchy does things differently. (As J. W. Brewer’s second comment above makes clear, it can be hard to remember this even when you’re actively in the process of remembering it!) According to Wikipedia, a number of heirs apparent in various countries have been “forced to abandon their claim” for various reasons, though since one of those reasons is given as “Jointly assassinated with his father”, I guess “forced to abandon their claim” may be euphemistic in some cases.

  20. marie-lucie says:

    I like the equivalence of Dr Millas’ first names: Herkül Millas/Ηρακλής Μήλλας . Herkül is obviously a transliteration of French “Hercule” (from the Latin name of the hero), while Ηρακλής ‘Heracles’ is the actual Greek form. Perhaps Herkül is a way of avoiding attention to an obviously Greek name.

    I know the Greek letters, but have never studied Greek, so here is a question for hellenophiles: is the mark on the ή a stress marker, or what? if not, where is the stress?

  21. marie-lucie says:

    Heir apparent/presumptive: In French I think I have seen héritier présomptif, but don’t remember an apparent alternative. There are still descendants of the Bourbons who are in line for the throne of France. I remember the time of unrest just before De Gaulle was called to power: posters appeared everywhere with Un roi, pourquoi pas? ‘A king, why not?’, emanating from le Comte de Paris, the presumptive heir. Few people were receptive to this proposal. His eldest son and potential heir later ran into some troubles of his own, and I am not sure of the current situation of the French branch but there is a potential heir in Spain, a very distant relative descended from the Spanish branch of los Borbones, themselves descended from a younger son of Louis XIV and his queen, who was a Spanish princess. The Comte de Paris I remember was himself married to Isabelle d’Orléans-Bragance, another Bourbon descendant (Orléans being the title attributed to the reigning Bourbon’s brother, and Bragance ‘Braganza’ a title in the Spanish branch).

  22. is the mark on the ή a stress marker, or what?

    Yes, it’s a stress marker; Greek has a strong word stress.

  23. John Cowan says:

    Marie-Lucie:

    What surprises me in the name Herkül is the H: what is it doing there? The Turkish pronunciation is /herkyl/, whereas the French is /erkyl/ and the Greek is /eraˈklis/, both /h/-less. What is more, Turkish syllables take the form (C)V(C), so Erkül would be just as well-formed, at least to my only semi-instructed eye.

    The /y/ is not necessarily a sign of French influence: Turkish vowol harmono requires a front vowel in the second syllable after /e/ in the first. Note that in Modern Greek η, ι, υ, ει, οι, and υι all represent /i/, so Μήλλας and Millas are both /millas/.

  24. The H- is there in the Turkish name of the god, so presumably from Latin. Turkish Wikipedia: “Yunan mitolojisinde Herakles, Roma Mitolojisi’nde Herkül.”

  25. John Cowan says:

    Un roi, pourquoi pas?

    This reminds me of John Steinbeck’s satirical novella The Short Reign of Pippin IV. In order to break a political deadlock, the various French political parties of the day[1] resolve to restore the monarchy, leaving it to the various royalist parties[2] to decide which monarchy to restore. They are equally deadlocked, and finally the leader of the Merovingian party puts forward the name of Pippin Arnulf Héristal, an amateur astronomer and legitimate descendant of Pippin II (the father of Charles Martel), who then takes the throne as Pippin IV. Unfortunately for the politicians, he takes the job seriously…. The book is a delightful satire on the French, the English, and especially the Americans, and thus should warm the heart of any Canadian, native born or adopted.

    [1] The Conservative Radicals, the Radical Conservatives, the Royalists, the Right Centrists, the Left Centrists, the Christian Atheists, the Christian Christians, the Christian Communists, the Proto-Communists, the Neo-Communists, the Socialists, and the Communists (these last divided into the Stalinists, Trotskyists, Khrushchevniks, and Bulganinians).

    [2] Vercingetorians, Merovingians, Capetians, Burgundians, Orléanists, Bourbons, Bonapartists, Angevins, and Caesarians.

  26. John Cowan says:

    The terms heir presumptive and heir apparent are ordinary terms of English succession law, and are not restricted to the monarchy. At common law my daughter would be my heir-presumptive, as I might still have a son who would supersede her. In New York, fortunately, as in most monarchies (Sweden being the first in 1980), the barbaric preference for sons over daughters has been abolished. In particular, the U.K. has abolished it, but has suspended the operation of the law until the 15 other monarchies in personal union have done the same.

    I can find no French analogue of heir apparent either, but in Spain such a person is an heredero forzoso, as opposed to an heredero presunto. This refers to the civil-law notion of a hereditas necessarium, an inheritance which the heir must accept, even if it consists solely of debts (at common law an heir is not responsible for the decedent’s debts beyond the extent of the estate).

  27. John Cowan says:

    Ethnologue gives a much higher figure of 300,000 Pontic-speakers in Greece (as of 2009), and 1.2 million worldwide. I wonder if the Wikipedia figure excludes Pontic-speaking Muslims of Greek origin? The population exchanges (aka ethnic cleansing) of 1922 were theoretically about sending Greeks to Greece and Turks to Turkey, but in practice were along religious lines, so Greek-speaking and Greek-descended Muslims resident in Turkey mostly remained in place.

    Pontic, by the way, is not mutually intelligible with Contemporary Standard Modern Greek, though it’s often called a Greek dialect. We should now be speaking of the Hellenic language family, whose living representatives are CSMG, Pontic, Cappadocian, and Tsakonian.

  28. Where the hell is Nick Nicholas when we need him?

  29. We should now be speaking of the Hellenic language family, whose living representatives are CSMG, Pontic, Cappadocian, and Tsakonian.

    Wiki says that “Griko and Standard Modern Greek are mutually intelligible to some extent.”

    Yevanic, apparently only a dialect, is, alas, pretty much gone.

  30. J. W. Brewer says:

    There may be something I’m missing but I think John C does not have to worry about the apparent/presumptive distinction. We don’t have hereditary titles in the U.S. New York (like the other U.S. states) abolished primogeniture and the fee tail in the wake of the Revolution, and various remaining semi-feudal institutions in land tenure in the Hudson Valley (as to which I’m not sure whether the apparent/presumptive distinction was relevant) did not survive the reforming impulse of the 1840′s. Put another way, we no longer have “heirs” in the classic sense the apparent/presumptive distinction applies to, because we no longer have types of property which the current owner cannot (by and large) direct the disposition of by will and which by their nature must be passed on post mortem to a single future owner rather than potentially be divvied up amongst multiple distributees.

  31. John C, unhappily for his peace of mind, does not worry only about things of relevance to the current situation in these United States.

  32. marie-lucie says:

    Heirs : Property can be divided, but titles cannot. You cannot have multiple kings or queens at the same time in the same country. During feudal times when European nobles held lands, the title that went with a territory could not be divided, and normally neither was the territory, otherwise noble territories would have become smaller and smaller. So the eldest son inherited both the title and the land that went with it, and unless or until he had a son, his brother, or the nearest male relative, was considered his potential heir. This was the general idea; different countries made different adjustments according to their own customs.

  33. John Cowan says:

    Where the hell is Nick Nicholas when we need him?

    Technical resources:

    “History and Diatopy of Greek” (from his thesis)

    Annotated bibilography of Tsakonian resources

    “Tsakonian documentary” (description, links)

    “Pontic in Cyrillic Orthography”

    “Greek in Turkish Orthography” (really Pontic too)

    “Tsakonian Orthographic Reform”

    “Pontic Locatives”

    Swiss German WP article on Tsakonian (linked by Nick)

    “Rumi and Sultan Wallad, linguistic notes” (very early Cappadocian, before it got hit up by Turkish, plus a followup)

    “Mariupolitan Transcribed through Russian ears”

    “Soviet Orthography of Greek”

    Not so technical resources:

    “Language Minorities of Bithynia” (shows map of Tsakonian, Bulgarian, and CSMG-speaking villages in Turkey in the 19C)

    “How to Teach Historical Linguistics” (with Greek/Tsakonian examples)

    “Demotic in the Soviet Union”

    “Tsakonian on YouTube”

    “Tsakonian Song Online” (in four versions: Tsakonian, Tsakonian with sound-changes from CSMG undone, CSMG, English)

    “Michael Deffner, Scoundrel” (cooking the Tsakonian books)

    “Where Are the Tsakonian Villages in Turkey?”

    “The Pontic infinitive, real and imagined” (more cooking the books)

    “News in Tsakonia, 1895″ (with bits by me about Aristophanes in translation and L. Sprague de Camp’s fictionalized translation in the comments)

    “Those Who Have Bowed Down” (Nick on Greek Muslims and other assimilating minorities)

    “Hyphenated And Less-Hyphenated Greeks” (Nick on Greek-Americans and Greek-Canadians, with a Pontic song)

    “Salonica: Coffee with Galerius” (contains a brief description of Mariupolitan dialect, which is Russian-accented Pontic-flavored Northern CSMG)

    Lagniappe (< Louisiana Creole French, probably < American Spanish la ñapa ‘the gift’ < Quechua yapa ‘gift’) for Etienne, Marie-Lucie, and anyone who made it to the end of this list:

    “Frenchville, PA: a distinct dialect of North American French”

  34. Alon Lischinsky says:

    American Spanish la ñapa ‘the gift’

    I’ve never heard ñapa, and CORDE shows it to be mostly a Caribbean form. South of Colombia, the usual term is yapa, a straight-out borrowing from Quechua. Ana Baldoceda had something to say about that in a nice article she published a while ago on the mistreatment of Quechua and Aimara borrowings in the RAE’s Dictionary.

  35. John Cowan says:

    “Mistreatment”? You make it sound like words have feelings. You want mistreatment, see the etymology of English syllabus (from Etymonline):

    1650s, ‘table of contents of a series of lectures, etc.,’ from Late Latin syllabus ‘list,’ a misreading of Greek sittybos (plural of sittyba ‘parchment label, table of contents,’ of unknown origin) in a 1470s edition of Cicero’s “Ad Atticum” iv.5 and 8. The proper plural would be syllabi.

  36. Alon Lischinsky says:

    @John Cowan:

    You make it sound like words have feelings

    Blame it on my being an L2 speaker :-/ (Then again, although the most frequent complements in the mistreatment of a N frame are all human and animate, phrases like “mistreatment of a doll” crop up occassionally.)

    Although this wasn’t my original intent, I think it’s fair to observe that, while words don’t have feelings, people do. Baldoceda’s observation is that the Academy tends to give correct if succinct etymological treatment to terms of Romance or, more broadly, Old World origin, including the numerous Arabic admixtures from Andalusian times. Should you search their dictionary for, e.g., alcázar or guerra, the Arabic and Germanic etyma are presented. Go for llama instead, and you will find only the uninformative ‘Voz quechua’. Amerindian etyma are often omitted, mistranscribed, or even attributed to the wrong language.

    The syllabus example seems to be just one more case of a random corrupt reading, and no worse than the extraneous h in anthem. The deficiencies in the coverage of Amerindian etyma seem too numerous and systematic for randomness

  37. John Cowan says:

    The deficiencies in the coverage of Amerindian etyma seem too numerous and systematic for randomness.

    Yes, more likely a manifestation of ignorance in the dictionary author. And you’d have a hard time convincing my grandson that dolls aren’t animate and human.

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