April 3, 2014

A box of Turkish delight

THE UPS MAN left a box on my front step a few days ago. Inside were three large hardcover books that looked strangely familiar and eerily strange at the same time. Each bore on its cover the title Pratik Teknecilik Ansiklopedisi and my name. It turned out that they were Turkish translations of my magnum opus, The Practical Encyclopedia of Boating, published under the auspices of what I believe to be the Amateur Boating Federation of Turkey.
I was, to say the least, astonished. In the first place I had no idea my book was being translated. Nobody in the publishing business seems to care about keeping authors informed these days. In the second place, of all the people in the world who might be interested in buying that book, I would have placed the Turks very near the bottom of the list.

Flipping through the pages was a strange experience, too. If the book had been in German or Dutch, French or Spanish, or even Portuguese, I would have been able to recognize the odd word here and there that would have enabled me to glean a faint idea of what was going on. But written Turkish is exceedingly foreign. Although it uses almost the same Latin alphabet that we do, the words are so totally different that they might as well have been in Japanese or Chinese characters for all the help they were to me. The thought kept striking me: “You wrote this stuff, you must know what it’s about.” But no, Turkish offers no clues to the English-speaker.

Of course, I have to admit that my knowledge of Turkey, and the amount of boating they might do over there, is shamefully limited. I know more or less where the country is, and that it somehow was named after a large, awkward-looking, flightless fowl, a sort of cross between a chicken and an ostrich. However, apart from that, and the fact that Constantinople became Istanbul in a popular song, I confess enormous ignorance.

According to Wikipedia, Turkey was somehow mixed up with the old Ottoman Empire, which had nothing to do with selling living-room furniture, as I had imagined. As you can tell, I never was much good at history. I also thought the Ottomans rampaged all over Asia, led by Othello the Hun, but I no longer think that’s correct.

In any case, I don’t know how much yachting took place in the Ottoman Empire, but I do know it had a fleet of warships that was destroyed by an Allied Fleet of British, French, and Russian ships at the Battle of Navarino in 1827.

At that time, the Europeans saw the Russian empire’s aggressive, long-running expansion into the Black Sea region as a major threat. They feared the establishment of Russian hegemony in the Balkans and the Near East. Does that sound familiar to anyone?

But never mind that. I expect Mr. Putin will sort it out eventually. Meanwhile, I don’t expect miracles, but I hope that whoever translated my book will be rewarded with good sales in Turkey. And if anybody finds any mistakes, please don’t blame me. Contact the translator. It’s all his fault. Or hers. I can’t tell. The name’s Turkish, you know.

Today’s Thought
Let foreign nations of their language boast,
What fine variety each tongue affords;
I like our language, as our men and coast;
Who cannot dress it well, want wit, not words.
— George Herbert, The Sun    

Mary had a little car,
She drove as best she might,
But every time she signaled left
The stupid car turned right.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

1 comment:

Jack said...

Turkish....It's all Greek to me.