Who Is the Translator: The Transmitter or the Creator?


The Department of English Language and Literature hosted Turkish translator and poet Assistant Professor Nazmi Ağıl on Thursday, October 20. A varied audience, which included social scientists, scholars, engineers and students, all of whom shared an interest in literature and translation, filled the room to listen to Dr. Ağıl's talk, "Gelse Otursa Meclise Bir İngiliz Ozan."

Nazmi Ağıl is the translator of many literary works, from classics such as Geoffrey Chaucer's “Canterbury Tales,” Alexander Pope's “The Rape of the Lock” and William Wordsworth's “Prelude,” to more modern writings, including Aharon Appelfeld's “Iron Tracks” and “Badenheim 1939” and Theodore Roethke's “Open House.” In his talk, he concentrated on his experience in translating Chaucer, Pope and Wordsworth, all British authors who produced masterworks, but of very different character and in entirely different periods.

Dr. Ağıl emphasized the point that histranslation style changesaccording to whichever literary work he is translating. For instance, whentranslating Chaucer's “Canterbury Tales,” he chose to translatefreely rather than follow the original text slavishly. In fact, he confessed, by the time he finished translating “Canterbury Tales,” he had "become" Chaucer. However, while translating Pope's “Rape of the Lock” and Wordworth's “Prelude,” he was strictly loyal to the text, since these works do not allow the translator as much freedom.

Another theme Dr. Ağıl discussed was the richness of Turkish, mentioning the place of idioms and proverbs as cornerstones of the Turkish language. He stated that he benefits from the linguistic wealth of Turkish in his translations, and adds sentences of his own or deletes bits of the original text to provide rhyme and rhythm and to make the text more "Turkish." He also gave some general advice regarding the translation process, noting that a thorough knowledge of both languages is essential for a "perfect" translation of English works into Turkish.