Turkish publisher recalls Coelho novel after losing ‘Kurdistan’ translation

Kurdistan, the country that is mentioned in the Portuguese original of the novel ‘Eleven Minutes’ was changed to ‘Middle East’ in Turkish.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) — An Istanbul-based Turkish publishing house has decided to pull a translation of the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho's ‘Eleven Minutes’ off the shelves after some readers realized that the translated version omitted the word ‘Kurdistan’ and changed it to ‘Middle East.’

The publisher's owner, Can Oz, said on Twitter that readers who were outraged by the censorship were right. “We will correct in the next edition,” he said, adding he would recall the last edition from Monday on.

“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 wrote in self-criticism.

The novel’s censored Turkish version by Can has been printed 38 times since 2004.

The book’s translator Saadet Ozen defended herself, saying she had no idea and could not prove otherwise as to how the word ‘Kurdistan’ got lost in translation in 2004 when the book was first published in Turkish.

Ozen gave examples from her other translations which included the word ‘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 her personal social media page.

She went on to argue that there was no way she would change Kurdistan to ‘Middle East’ although she could not find her draft from 16 years ago but insisted she did not censor Kurdistan.

The English version of Coelho’s Portuguese novel correctly includes ‘Kurdistan’ whereas the Turkish version omits it. (Picture: Twitter/Klcjehat1)
The English version of Coelho’s Portuguese novel correctly includes ‘Kurdistan’ whereas the Turkish version omits it. (Picture: Twitter/Klcjehat1)

In the original Portuguese, Coelho uses the word Kurdistan in the following context about his protagonist’s inquiry of where the Kurds come from: "Entrou em um cybercafé e descobriu na internet que as curdos vinham do Curdistão, um país inexistentex hoje dividado entre a Turquia e o Iraque."

HarperCollins, the book’s English language publisher, translates the sentence as follows: “She went into an Internet cafe and discovered that the Kurds came from Kurdistan, a non-existent country, now divided between Turkey and Iraq.”

The censored Turkish version changes the second part of the sentence to “it was written on the Internet that the Kurds lived in the Middle East.”

There has been no reaction yet from the book’s world-renowned author.

Jehat Kilic, a reader who had both the English and Turkish versions first noticed the difference as he called out the Turkish publisher on social media. Reactions accusing Can, a publishing house known for its progressive and leftist agenda, of racism and siding with state fascism poured in.

Eleven Minutes follows a Brazilian young village girl’s struggles with love and her dreams of finding fame and fortune in Europe, according to HarperCollins.

Editing by Nadia Riva