Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Egemen thinks I'm wrong (again). He asks me to stress again that the views expressed here do not represent those of the Women's Self-Defense Initiative. Consider it stressed. In particular, he doesn't agree that few Turks alive can read anything written in Turkish before the age of Atatürk. He demonstrated this by reading for me a poem by Yunus Emre (1238-1320). He pointed out that he understands every word. He conceded that the Divan poetry of, for example, Fuzûlî, was difficult for him to understand, but I suppose I can't read Shakespeare without a glossary, either. We argued about this for a few minutes, but I can't win an argument with a Turk about what he can and can't understand in his own native language. So I stand corrected, to an extent. I still maintain that it's a priori obvious that changing the alphabet and throwing out all words of Arabic or Persian origin fundamentally changes a people's relationship to its language and literary history, and profoundly distances them from it, but I agree that I was basically wrong: The effects were not as stark as I portrayed them. He had some interesting thoughts about the real reasons for the comparative under-development of contemporary Turkish literature, but I'll leave them for him to discuss on his own blog, if he's inclined, rather than taking the risk of misrepresenting them.

Some Fuzûlî is simple enough that even I can understand it, mind you:

سلام وردم رشوت دگلدر ديو آلمادىلر
Selâm verdim rüşvet değildir deyü almadılar.
I said hello, but they didn't accept as it wasn't a bribe.

Egemen also thinks I'm wrong about a great many things I write about the martial arts and women's self-defense. As in matters of Turkish literature, he is considerably more expert than I am about these subjects, so if you're wondering who's right, he is.

1 comment:

  1. This is the book you want. Informative, scholarly, and laugh-out-loud funny.

    An incidental note on a couple letters in Fużûlî: You used a gâf for the ğ in değil. In general, they'd use an unmarked kâf (دکل), because apparently drawing that extra line is too much work, but that's no big deal. And also, the "ye" in almadılar usually has the two dots because we're all about the ambiguous letters. (آلمادیلر). But no big deal in either case. Great line.