The Power and Burden of Self-Translation: Representation of “Turkish Identity” in Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of Istanbul

  • Arzu Akbatur
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Translating and Interpreting book series (PTTI)


Elif Shafak has written/self-translated in/to English five of her novels. All of them came out after the publication of their Turkish versions/translations, thus allowing her to make changes in the English originals. Moreover, Shafak also contributed to the translations of these novels into Turkish, to the extent of claiming she has “rewritten” them in Turkish. In this chapter I focus on her novel The Bastard of Istanbul (2007), which presents a particularly interesting case in laying bare the paradoxical relationship between self-translation, power and representation. The controversy that the novel triggered about the Armenian issue eventually led Shafak to be tried for violating an article of the Turkish Penal Code. On the other hand, the comparison of the English and Turkish versions demonstrates that the differences between them seem to have been calibrated by the author herself in view of two different readerships, which has been instrumental in the reception of the novel. Accordingly, this chapter argues that as a self-translator, Shafak plays an “interventionist” and “trans/formative” role in the (re)contextualisation of her work as representing Turkish identity and culture, while she at the same time–quite paradoxically—objects to the “burden of [self-]translation,” which attributes a representative function to a minority writer and her work.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arzu Akbatur
    • 1
  1. 1.Boğaziçi UniversityİstanbulTurkey

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