Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 13 December 2019

Turkish translation of Paulo Coelho novel pulled over removal of reference to 'Kurdistan'

The translator has denied censoring Coelho's 2003 novel 'Eleven Minutes'

Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. AP
Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. AP

A Turkish publishing house has pulled a translation of Paulo Coelho’s 2003 novel Eleven Minutes after readers noticed that a reference to Kurdistan had been removed.

In the English translation from the original Portuguese, Coelho, who has sold more than 350 million books worldwide, writes: “She went into an internet cafe and discovered that the Kurds came from Kurdistan, a non-existent country, now divided between Turkey and Iraq.”

However, in the Turkish translation, the second part of the sentence has been altered and reads: “it was written on the internet that the Kurds lived in the Middle East”.

Can Oz, the owner of the publishing house, responded to this discovery, stating: “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 […] We will correct in the next edition.”

The Turkish translator Saadet Ozen, who translated the novel in 2004, claimed she did not know how this error had occurred and denied responsibility.

“I have been trying to remember if I thought differently back then, but no,” she wrote on Twitter. “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.”

Oz supported Ozen’s claim. “This intervention was done at the editorial stage, no doubt,” he said. The Turkish version of Eleven Minutes has been re-printed 38 times since 2004. Coelho has not yet commented.

The quest for Kurdish autonomy has long been challenged by the Turkish government. Although the US has armed and supported the Kurdish YPG in northern Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan views them as a terrorist organisation, and has threatened military incursions into Kurdish heartlands.

Two years ago, Mr Erdogan’s ruling AKP passed a resolution preventing legislators from using the word "Kurdistan" in parliament.

Updated: July 18, 2019 01:58 PM