Gabrielle Russo is an MSt student in Comparative Literature & Critical Translation at the University of Oxford. She focuses on Arabic and Turkish literatures and is particularly interested in pre-modern poetry. Her current research examines poetic depictions of everyday life across temporal and contextual boundaries by comparing fifteenth-century Arabic ‘epigrams’ with Nazım Hikmet’s twentieth-century Turkish poetry. She has accepted a PhD offer at the University of Cambridge beginning this autumn where she will research questions of ninth-century elite Turkic identity through Arabic panegyrics.
Resurrecting (and Rewriting?) an Ode: Navigating Insertions in Sezai Karakoç’s Translation of ‘Bānat Suʿād’
In his introduction to İslamın Şiir Anıtlarından: Çeviriler (From Islam’s Poetic Monuments: Translations), contemporary Turkish poet Sezai Karakoç writes, seemingly in contradiction with the book’s title, that his ‘goal in preparing this book is undoubtedly not to translate from Arabic and Farsi’ (emphasis added). Indeed, in his translation of ‘Bānat Suʿād’ by Kaʿb ibn Zuhayr (d. 7th century CE), a conversional ode dedicated to the Prophet Muhammad, Karakoç invents and incorporates several original verses into the poem. Although translation is a productive endeavour, and despite the introduction’s disclaimer, the reader nevertheless faces a discomfort knowing the writer has generated new material and presented it as a translation.
In this paper, I argue that Karakoç’s generation of new linguistic material is central to the regeneration of ‘Bānat Suʿād’’s religious ‘intentional intimacy’. Karakoç is famous for his Diriliş (Resurrection) thesis which holds that ‘the present is morally and spiritually deficient in relation to a past whose spiritual completeness could possibly be revived or restored’ (Andrews 2004). By examining Karakoç’s translation of ‘Bānat Suʿād’ independently and in relation to the Arabic poem, I argue that Karakoç’s statement about the poem and title are not actually in tension; Karakoç’s insertions translate the poem’s religious intent for the ‘spiritually deficient’ modern day. In doing so, I conclude that generation is an inseparable process of regeneration, and creation an integral part of Resurrection.