Trial Continues for Turkish Translator

As reports this evening, a date has now been set for the continuation of the trial against İrfan Sancı and Süha Sertabiboğlu, the publisher and translator of the Turkish edition of William S. Burroughs’s novel The Soft Machine. Both – as I reported yesterday – are accused of publishing pornography, an offense which can carry a prison term of six months to three years. The trial, which opened in Istanbul on July 6 and is expected to last a year, will resume on October 11, 2011. For details of the charges, and some responses, see my earlier report.

The trial is being postponed by so many months in order, ostensibly, to allow both sides to prepare their arguments. But as National Translation Award winner Aron Aji remarks, “Unfortunately,

Sertabiboğlu and Sancı

delays and postponements result in a prolonged state of unease and uncertainty, while charges such as this one contine to enjoy certain currency in the media debate.” By repeatedly harassing the publishers and translators of works that go against the grain of the literary and moral mainstream, the “activist prosecutors” (Aji) responsible for this and similar cases appear to be looking to create an environment in which publishing professionals will be more likely to take the more comfortable route of avoiding all such projects – something the Turkish Professional Organization of Translators deplores as “self-censorship.” The translators organization has been posting regular updates on the case (in Turkish) on its Facebook page.

How sad, and how alarming, to think that agencies of the Turkish government – which is explicitly secular and committed to becoming part of the European mainstream – can still be hijacked by some within it who find value in the suppression of artistic expression.

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