Reading in Two Different Languages Complicates Things – Ask George Eliot

I don’t know about you but I read books in English as well as in Turkish. It has its advantages: I love reading Orhan Pamuk in Turkish —the language his books are originally written in. It’s a privilege. I wouldn’t even dream of reading translated versions of his books. Well, in my case, that would be English because I don’t speak any other foreign language. There are certain things you can do with one language —some call it verbal gymnastics —and translation takes it all away, makes it dull and in some cases; weird. By the same token, I LOVE reading Paul Auster in English although everything he has ever published is translated and published in Turkish, I still prefer his books in English. Don’t tell anybody but I’d kill to be able to read Marquez or Allende in their original language. Sadly, I don’t speak Spanish.

I have been working diligently on my book journal for a few weeks now. Now, my book journal is not a one piece entity: I have it as a blog, there is one version of it on Goodreads (up until last week, I even had it on Shelfari), another version of it is on Scrivener and I have the whole thing backed up on my computer including the cover photos divided into years. They all have the same thing except for Goodreads; I’m still working on it.

Here’s how it works: Every time I finish reading a book, I take notes (especially if the book is a non-fiction one), save the highlights and quotations I like, certain words I need to look up (learning English is an ongoing exercise, Peoples) and lots of information about things I’m interested in. However, I have recently found some duplicates. I’m telling you, they are weird duplicates until you figure out that they are the product of reading in two different languages.

Here’s an example: My book journal tells me that I finished reading Kıyıdaki Değirmen in 2011 which is The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot in Turkish, by the way. It’s an old hardcover book (cover photo below) which I inherited from my father. It has that typical old book smell which I love. On the title page it has our surname, date of purchase (February 1, 1971) and the name of the town where my parents worked as teachers at the time.

kıyıdaki degirmen

Kıyıdaki Değirmen by George Eliot

However, I have another entry of the same book in my book journal. This time in English with another finishing date (February 3, 2012). Now, I sometimes read the same book both in English and Turkish. I happened before: I read The Alchemist in Turkish first and years later, I read it in English too. I certainly don’t remember doing the same thing with this book though.

“What to do?” like Coomi, my Indian neighbour in Melbourne, used to say. Well, I decided to combine the two in 2011 and added my favourite bits and pieces from both in whichever language they are written in. Here they are…

Kıyıdaki Değirmen -George Eliot
“Gördüğünüz gibi Mrs Tulliver kocasının üzerinde etkisi olmayan bir kadın sayılmazdı. Hiç bir kadının kocasını etkilemediği söylenemez zaten. Bir kadın kocasına istediğini ya da bunun tamamıyla aksini yaptırabilir. Mr. Tulliver’i hızla dava açamaya sürükleyen bir sürü etken arasında muhakkak ki Mrs Tulliver’in bu tekdüze yalvarışlarının da rolü olacaktı. Hatta bu bardağı taşıran damla olarak da nitelendirilebilirdi. Fakat duruma tarafsızca bakıldığı zaman asıl kabahatin bardağı o kadar doldurmuş olan suda olduğu anlaşılır.”

The Mill on the Floss – George Eliot
This will be the first book that I started reading in Turkish but probably finish reading in English.

The promise was void, like so many other sweet, illusory promises of our childhood; void as promises made in Eden before the seasons were divided, and when the starry blossoms grew side by side with the ripening peach, -impossible to be fulfilled when the golden gates had been passed.

People who live at a distance are naturally less faulty than those immediately under our own eyes; and it seems superfluous, when we consider the remote geographical position of the Ethiopians, and how very little the Greeks had to do with them, to inquire further why Homer calls the “blameless”.

Their religion was of a simple, semi-pagan kind, but there was no heresy in it, -if heresy properly means choice- for they didn’t know there was any other religion, except that of chapel-goers, which appeared to run in families, like asthma. How should they know?

“Because you are a man, Tom, and have the power, and can do something in the world.”
“Then, if you can do nothing, submit to those that can.”

“If you like to swallow him for his sister’s sake, you may; but I’ve no sauce that will make him go down.”

Her brother was the human being of whom she had been most afraid from her childhood upward; afraid with that fear which springs in us when we love one who is inexorable, unbending, unmodifiable, with a mind that we can never mould ourselves upon, and yet that we cannot endure to alienate from us.

In their death they were not divided.