I occasionally post about untranslated works, just to remind people of the ocean of literature out there (and hopefully to goose potential translators a bit), and I’ve just learned about another one:

When it comes to Turkish literature, we are lamentably deprived. The gaping lacuna is what is considered by many to be the greatest 20th-century literary achievement in Turkey: Oğuz Atay’s experimental, linguistically complex novel of ideas Tutunamayanlar (The Disconnected). It has been quite a while since it was put up on the UNESCO site as an important literary work in need of English translation, and, just like Germán Espinosa’s masterpiece The Weaver of Crowns, it still remains unavailable for a host of the prospective readers. Granted, the author’s use of different varieties of Turkish such as the heavily arabicised Ottoman Turkish and the purist, reformed Turkish, the so-called Öztürkçe, renders the job of the translator extremely demanding, but not unfeasible. The conclusive proof of that is the Dutch translation of the novel published four years ago. At the moment it is the only translation of Atay’s book into any other language, so, I guess, we should congratulate the Dutch on having the privilege to read the cult classic.

[…] As one of the Dutch translators of the novel Hanneke van der Heijden writes:

The literary form of Atay’s novel was not exactly what readers were used to either: the unbridled stream of consciousness, all kinds of short texts in different genres, that cut across the story, such as a poem of 600 lines plus commentary, a chapter of 70 pages, written without a single comma or full stop – it may remind us, the readers of today, of James Joyce, of Nabokov, Virginia Woolf and other western modernist writers – writers Atay was very familiar with. But, as the critic Ahmet Oktay once remarked, the number of Turkish readers that in the beginnings of the seventies had read Ulysses, was no more than ten.

[…] Hanneke van der Heijden has her own blog dedicated to Turkish literature. Most of it is in Dutch, but the written version of her talk on the translation of Tutunamayanlar is available in English. It’s the best article about Atay’s novel in English you will find on the Web, and I urge you to check it out.

Thanks, Trevor!


  1. I see A Confederacy of Dunces has been translated into Turkish. I wonder if it, with its dialectal nuances, is comparably “demanding, but not infeasible”.

  2. Christopher S says

    It was also published in German this year as “Die Haltlosen”, translated by Johannes Neuner.

    P.S. Is there any little guide to using code in the comment section here? For example to write titles in italics.

  3. You use html tags. For italics, <i>word</i>; for a link, <a href="url">word</a>. (But don’t put more than one link in a comment, or you’ll get caught in the spamfilter.)

  4. The High Ottoman could surely be translated with something still higher: if Dutch is anything like German, the Renaissance could have provided ample examples of Dutch half-mixed with Latin.

  5. The linked article/talk is a fascinating glimpse into Turkish language and literature through a translation (and description of what is untranslated). Collect a piece like that for each language of the world, and I’ll read the hell out of that.

  6. Hey, it’s not translators who need goosing! I’m sure there are at least dozens of qualified Turkish-to-English literary translators who’d jump at the chance to translate this. It’s Anglophone publishers and readers who need to be goosed in this scenario.

  7. Good point!


  1. […] Hat describes a fascinating-sounding book untranslated into English, “Oğuz Atay’s experimental, […]

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