The censorship of the word “Kurdistan” in the Turkish translation of Paulo Coelho’s novel Eleven Minutes, which made headlines in the Guardian in 2019, has been repeated, this time in the translation of the Salman Rushdie novel, The Enchantress of Florence.
Gazete Duvar reported that the censorship was noticed by readers and made public on social media, triggering protests responded to by the owner of the prominent Turkish book publisher, Can Publications.
The following sentence is included in the English language edition of the Rushdie novel:
“After the sack of Tabriz, Selim wanted to stay in the Safavid capital for the winter and conquer the rest of Persia in the spring, but Argalia told him that the army would mutiny if he insisted on this. They had won the victory and annexed much of eastern Anatolia and Kurdistan, almost doubling the size of the Ottoman empire.”
The term Kurdistan was translated by Begüm Kovulmaz as “the lands where the Kurds lived” in the 12th reprint of the Turkish edition, which came out in December 2020.
Can Öz, the publisher’s owner, responded to critics on his Twitter account: “We have no such policy. It appears that the book was first printed in 2005. It’s unbelievable. It will be withdrawn and corrected immediately.”
The word Kurdistan had previously been censored in the Turkish edition of Paulo Coelho’s Eleven Minutes, translated by Saadet Özen.
The following sentence is included in the English language edition: “She went into an internet cafe and discovered that the Kurds came from Kurdistan, a nonexistent country, now divided between Turkey and Iraq.”
It was translated in the Turkish edition as, … that the Kurds lived in the Middle East.”
On 13 July 2019 in response to readers’ reactions, Can Öz made a statement: “I don’t know who is responsible for the discrepancy between the original and translated versions of Paulo Coelho’s Eleven Minutes; I don’t know who the editor is. The first edition is very old. But the publisher does not have the right to act on whim. The readers are right to react. We’ll correct it on the next reprint.”
Sezgin Dinç, a lawyer and general secretary of the Mardin (Mêrdîn) Bar Association, tweeted on 24 July posting a photo of the relevant pages of Eleven Minutes, and responded to Can Öz: “You said that the reader was right and you were going to make corrections after the readers reacted to the 38th reprint of Eleven Minutes. There is still no correction in the 43rd edition. You held the editor and the translator responsible before. Don’t you think it’s time to own up to the responsibility and say ‘this is our editorial policy’?”