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Greek poets reach shores of Turkey

Greek poets reach shores of Turkey
Saturday, February 2, 2008
Turkish Daily News

Turkish poetry lovers have encountered the works of Nobel laureate
Giorgos Seferis, Constantine P. Cavafy and Yannis Ritsos, three of the
most distinguished Greek poets of the 20th century, thanks to prominent
Turkish poet Özdemir İnce’s translations

VERCİHAN ZİFLİOĞLU
ISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News


Many steps toward friendliness and peace between Turkey and Greece
have been taken thanks to Özdemir İnce's translations of fabulous verses
by Greek poets into Turkish.

 Thanks to İnce, Turkish readers on the other side of the Aegean Sea
have been able to meet with works by Nobel laureate Giorgos Seferis,
Constantine P. Cavafy and Yannis Ritsos, each a grand figure in Greek
poetry.

İnce, a Turkish poet who studied literature at the Sorbonne
University in Paris in 1965, made his first translation of Ritsos upon a
request by poet Kemal Özer. After this first translation, İnce met with
Hercules Millas, professor of International Relations at the University
of Athens, and Ioanna Kuçuradi, professor of Philosophy. Kuçuradi and
Millas were both born and raised in Turkey and therefore were masters of
the Turkish language. İnce focused on Ritsos' poetry during his early
years of translating and he received great support from Kuçuradi and
Millas. İnce's second translation of Ritsos won the Turkish Language
Institute's (TDK) Translation Prize. After winning that prize, İnce
deepened his studies of Greek literature and translated poems by Seferis
and Cavafy into Turkish, introducing these two esteemed figures of Greek
poetry to Turkish readers.

Thanks to İnce's translations of selected works of French poetry into
Turkish, the French government awarded him the Insignia of Officer in
1990. It is impossible to make a comparison between Greek and Turkish
poetry because they are completely different both in terms of content
and structure, İnce said, speaking to the Turkish Daily News in an
exclusive interview. “Greek poetry has been molded by history and
mythology through the ages and it is not as formal as Turkish poetry,”
he said, pointing to the strong emphasis on form in Turkish poetry. İnce
had an intimate relationship with Ritsos, and when Ritsos passed away
İnce was very sad and became submerged in a deep feeling of
loneliness, he said.

Some Greeks used to call İnce “Özdemiros İncedis” because of his
translations from Greek, said İnce, who is also a columnist at the daily
Hürriyet. “I made translations for poetic reasons, not political
reasons,” he said. Greek poetry has two Nobel laureate poets, İnce
said, emphasizing that the greatest poets of the 20th century include 10
major Greek poets. One of those is Seferis, who was born in the Urla
district of the ancient city of İzmir (Smyrna) in Turkey, and the other
is Odysseas Elytis, one of the most important figures of romantic
modernism in poetry worldwide. İnce also cited other major Greek poets,
namely Ritsos, Cavafy, Zoe Karelli, Angelos Sikelianos, and Takis
Sinopoulos.



A message of peace

Translation serves as a bridge in terms of dialogue between different
civilizations, İnce said, drawing attention to the importance of
literary translations from different cultures. Other Turkish
translators, in addition to İnce, translate from Greek literary works.
“Each work translated from Greek into Turkish is a message of peace
and friendliness from Turkey to Greece and its people,” İnce said. A
considerable number of Turkish versions of Greek literary works are
available in Turkey, İnce said, adding: “Even a Greek visiting Turkey
for the first time and with preconceptions about Turks would lose these
preconceptions after seeing the number of meticulously translated works
of Greek literature in Turkish bookstores.” Although there are
significant similarities between Greek and Turkish novels, this is not
the case for the two nations' poetry, said İnce. Turkish poems do not
have the intensive dramatic tone of Ritsos' poems that makes them so
very special, said İnce. Only Ritsos and Nazım Hikmet, a Turk and one of
the world's greatest poets, have similar political stances and social
perspectives, he said.



Ritsos' death deeply saddened İnce

Because of his translation work, İnce has visited Greece twice a year
since 1978. In Athens he met with Professor Millas, who was born in
Turkey and speaks Turkish very well, according to İnce. Millas made the
first translation of Seferis' works into Turkish in the 1970s, and after
İnce and Millas met they began to work collaboratively on translations
of Seferis' works, followed by the works of Cavafy. The poetry
translations he and Millas have completed together are quite successful,
İnce said, emphasizing that translating poems is more difficult than
translating novels. “Cavafy's and Seferis' poems that Millas and I
collectively translated into Turkish are so perfect and excellent; they
are the best poetry translations in the world so far,” İnce said.

He met Ritsos during one of his visits to Greece. His relationship
with Ritsos was similar to that between a father and a son, İnce said,
describing this meeting as a turning point in his life. Ritsos' death in
1990 so deeply affected İnce that he could not visit Greece for a long
time. “I felt as lonely as if I was the only person on earth. I did
not go to Greece because I just wanted to believe he was still living
there, somewhere in Greece,” he said.

İnce also translated the poetry of three major French poets, Aloysius
Bertrand, the Comte de Lautréamont and Arthur Rimbaud, into Turkish
between 1965 and 1980. These were the works for which he was awarded
France's Insignia of Officer in 1990. As for translated works of Turkish
literature into Greek, only İnce's works and those of Nazım Hikmet,
Ataol Behramoğlu, Yaşar Kemal and Aziz Nesin – all crucial figures in
Turkish literature – were translated into Greek and published in
Greece before the early 1990s. However, works of other major Turkish
writers such as Orhan Pamuk, Duygu Asena and Latife Tekin have been
introduced to Greek readers since the later 1990s, said İnce.



Özdemir İnce

Özdemir İnce was born in Mersin. He completed his studies of French
Language and Literature at Ankara University in 1960 and taught French
in various Turkish provinces between 1960 and 1968. He lived in France
for one year and received certificates in French language teaching and
phonetics at the University of Paris. After working in many positions,
including a post as translator at Turkey's state owned broadcasting
company TRT, he retired in 1982 and started work as an editor for
various publication companies. İnce is a member of the PEN writers
association, the Paris-based Académie Mallarmé and the Brussels-based
Centre International d'Etudes Poétiques. He is also one of the founding
members of the Réseau Universitare Euro-Méditeranéen Pour la Poésie in
Strasbourg. Also a columnist at the daily Hürriyet, İnce has several
published works as well as a number of national and international awards
including the French Insignia of Officer in 1990.



What do publishers in Turkey think

Ragıp Zarakolu, owner of Belge Publications: Even though I do not
agree with İnce's nationalist views, I do appreciate him as a poet and
translator. He has made fruitful contributions in these two areas. Belge
Publications started publishing the Morenostrum Series after first
publishing the Turkish version of Greek author Dido Sotiriou's book
“Farewell Anatolia” in 1982. The Morenostrum Series also includes
Turkish translations of major works of Armenian and Greek literature.
Our primary aim in introducing Greek literature to Turkish readers with
translations of these texts is to contribute to the development of
peaceful and friendly relations between Greek and Turkish people, since
political tensions mean they do not know each other well. We have shared
the same geography for ages. Getting to know Greeks means truly getting
to know ourselves. Turkish readers have a great interest in Greek
literature.

Halil Beytaş, editor of Doğan Kitap Publishing Company: Özdemir
İnce's translations of prominent works of Greek literature are very
important. Doğan Kitap's World Literature series includes works of Greek
literature. Turkish readers have a great interest in Greek literary
works. Our main goal in compiling our world literature series is to
publish the best works possible. Unfortunately, we do not have enough
professional translators able to translate from Greek into Turkish.
İnce's valuable translations have therefore contributed a lot to our
project.

 

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