Publication details [#11656]

Paker, Saliha. 2006. Ottoman conception of translation and its practice: the 1897 'classics debate' as a focus for examining change. In Hermans, Theo, ed. Translating others 2. Manchester: St. Jerome. pp. 325–348.
Publication type
Article in jnl/bk
Publication language


The 'classics debate' of 1897 highlights the linguistic and literary-cultural interest in translations from the European languages and their significance for Ottoman society. For the Ottoman literati, it was a moment of collective confrontation, with the problems of translating a 'foreign' literature and culture on the one hand and, on the other, with the problems of generating a comparable literature 'of their own'. The debate forced a comparison between what was 'totally foreign', i.e. French, and what was 'not so foreign', i.e. Arabic and Persian. The European classics, it was generally agreed, should be translated but not imitated. This essay offers a discussion of the 'classics debate' as it was presented by Ramazan Kaplan under the same title in 1998. It also covers Agah Sirri Levend's discussion of the debate in 1972, and draws on Mehmed Fuat Köprülü's research on the late nineteenth century. The central point of the discussion concerns the concepts of imitation (taklid/tanzir) and translation (terceme) as they come up in the debate. The author also addresses late Ottoman perceptions and criticism of the hybrid or tri-lingual nature of the language named Osmanlica (Ottoman Turkish). This topic too has implications for the understanding of Ottoman translation practices and is discussed with reference to questions both of non-translation and of appropriation from Arabic and Persian.
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