PRINT May 2015

Jalal Toufic

Jalal Toufic’s How to Read a Text Past a Surpassing Disaster?, translated from English to Ottoman by Selim S. Kuru (Forthcoming Books, 2010).

THE RESURRECTION of Ottoman tradition cannot be a solely Turkish task but requires the collaboration of some, if not all, of the other peoples who contributed to this tradition: Arabs, Armenians, Persians, Kurds, Greeks, etc. In 2010, I asked Selim S. Kuru to translate my book The Withdrawal of Tradition Past a Surpassing Disaster (Forthcoming Books, 2009) into Ottoman; he translated some sections of it. In my book What Were You Thinking? (2011) I asked: “Will such a translation to Ottoman contribute to the resurrection of tradition?” In December 2014, in a Turkey ruled by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party, the National Education Council voted to make Ottoman language classes compulsory at religious vocational high schools and elective for other high schools. The withdrawal of Ottoman language and tradition as a result of one or more surpassing disasters was the actual condition of possibility of the effective implementation of law no. 1353, “On the Adoption and Application of the New Turkish Letters,” which was passed by the Grand National Assembly of the Republic of Turkey on November 1, 1928, replacing the Arabic alphabet by the Latin alphabet for the writing of Turkish; and of the subsequent “purification” of Turkish language of as many Arabic and Persian words as (im)possible. If the renewed teaching of the Ottoman language in Turkey is to prove related to a resurrection of that language and tradition rather than merely a kitschy, nostalgic, and reactionary scrounging off Ottoman culture, then the Ottoman translation of sections of my book The Withdrawal of Tradition Past a Surpassing Disaster will have functioned as a condition of possibility of this resurrection.

Jalal Toufic is an artist and writer based in Beirut