Investigating the “Türkische Bibliothek” (1904–1929):
“Exceptional” Translations and the Experience of Modernity
Processes of translation were central to the cultural experience of modernity in both the German and Turkish contexts, yet little scholarship has focused on the intersections between these literary traditions, or considered the historical importance of translational activity between the two languages.
My project takes one extensive translation initiative as its object of analysis: the Türkische Bibliothek. Between the years of 1904–1929, the Mayer und Müller Verlag in Leipzig produced a diverse volume of 26 translations, including literature by late 19th-century authors and journalists such as Ahmet Mithat and Mehmet Tevfik, folk literature and the oral stories of Turkish Meddahs, as well as scholarly texts on Ottoman history and Islamic mysticism. By reading these translations together with their prefaces and afterwords, I investigate how the paradigms of Orientalistik—and the role Turkology played within it—were shaped by World War I, the establishment of the Weimar Republic, the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, and the founding of the modern Turkish Republic, all of which occurred within the series’ time frame. Central to my research is the question of how translations actively partook in changing conceptions of modernity across this turbulent time period, rather than simply reflecting upon the socio-political and cultural changes at hand.
Kristin Dickinson received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of California Berkeley and is currently Assistant Professor of German Studies at the University of Michigan. Her research interests include questions of world literature, translation theory, cross-linguistic remembrance, linguistic purity, and critical monolingualism. Recent articles have appeared in New German Critique, Türkisch-deutsche Studien Jahrbuch, Transit, and Critical Multilingualism Studies. Her current book project, Translation and the Experience of Modernity: A History of German Turkish Connectivity, traces the development of a German Turkish translational relationship from the early 19th century to the present. The historical framework of this book is informed by the centrality of large-scale translation movements to the cultural experience of modernity and the development of a national literary identity in both the German and Turkish contexts.
Selected Publications: Zafer Şenocak’s “Turkish Turn”: Acts of Crosslinguistic Remembrance in Köşk (The Pavilion), Durham 2018 (forthcoming); “Intervening in the Humanist Legacy: Sabahattin Ali’s Kleist Translations”, Göttingen 2016, pp. 45 – 62; “Where Language Is Ripped Apart: Absence and Illegibility in Bilge Karasu’s The Garden of Departed Cats”, in: Critical Multilingualism Studies, Vol. 2.1, 2014, pp. 106 – 128.
In 1916, at the height of German-Turkish political relations, the journalist, philologist, and literary critic Friedrich Schrader completed the first full length translation of a Turkish novel into German: Halide Edip’s “The New Turan” (1911).