Translator's Note by Ayse Kevser Arslan

Hanging Worlds: Turkish Translations of “Drink” and “The Man in 9A”

Translating “Drink” and “The Man in 9A” became an experience for me that held fragments from my personal experiences during the few months I was working on them. While “Drink” intimately meditates on the experience of adapting into another culture, “The Man in 9A” is a reflection on the current state of affairs, putting the reader in the surreal role of a traveler who is next to a foreigner with a mask on his mouth – but not on his nose. The past six months have passed as a combination of these two states of mind for me as an international student in the U.S. during a global pandemic. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to them from the start. These stories underline how crucial language is for making sense of the world, each of them in their own way. As Chidelia Edochie’s “Drink” demonstrates, one word can have various different connotations for two different cultures and that difference is crucial to one’s survival when they cross the boundaries separating them. George Choundas’ “The Man in 9A”, on the other hand, is a story of the tension created by the inability to cross boundaries even though one physically moves from one country to another: One’s inability to express himself/herself through language essentially creates anxiety around that person. I feel like a “hanging world” is an apt term for describing the fragmented and confused state an individual is in when they cannot navigate their surroundings through the linguistic tools at their disposal.

While translating these pieces into Turkish, I was compelled to choose a translation strategy that involved choosing words and sentence structures that are as close as possible to the source text – because I believe the most striking aspect of these pieces are their reflection on language. This decision came with its drawbacks. The biggest hardship I faced is caused by the different sentence structures of English and Turkish. Especially while translating Choundas’ story, I was struck by how hard it is to translate a sentence with multiple clauses into Turkish, because I had to rearrange all of them. This is mostly due to verbs appearing at the end of the sentences in Turkish, as opposed to their places in the beginning of the sentences in English. Replicating English sentence structure was also possible, however, that would have created two texts that are too tiring for the reader. Another issue was choosing how to translate the pronouns in “The Man in 9A”. English text, throughout the story, addresses the reader with the second person singular pronoun “you.” In translating into Turkish, I had to choose between the second person singular “sen” and second person plural “siz” – mostly because in Turkish “siz” is used as a singular pronoun when the speaker wishes to use a formal language. I eventually preferred “sen” because I believe a formal language would have prevented the immediacy Choundas created in the source text through making the reader his protagonist. I rarely added or removed words or split sentences because I wanted to keep the narrative strategies authors used and I do hope that my translations, at least to some degree, re-create the tensions, issues, and contexts reflected upon in their source texts.

About the Translator:

Ayse Kevser Arslan is currently working as an educational adviser at the Turkish Fulbright Commission. Previously, she completed her MA in English at Arizona State University as a Fulbright scholar. During her master’s, she contributed to the Thousand Languages Project as a graduate intern and translated two short stories into Turkish.


"Drink" by Chidelia Edochi (Turkish)

"The Man from 9A" by George Choundas (Turkish)