Translating Europe: The case of Ahmed Midhat as an Ottoman agent of translation

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This paper examines the concept of agency by focusing retrospectively on the diverse translation practice of Ahmed Midhat (1844–1913), who was an important Ottoman novelist, translator, publisher, journalist and the owner of the newspaper <i>Tercüman-&#305; Hakikat </i>[Interpreter of Truth]. Ahmed Midhat’s writings provide an exemplary framework for rethinking agency in terms of multiple translation-related practices in a period of Ottoman contact with European culture in the late 19th century. Through the examination of his translation activity and discourse on translation, this paper will emphasize that Ahmed Midhat was a good example of provocative agency, (i) which generated significant dynamism in Ottoman writing, publishing and journalism, (ii) and which functioned as a “mediator” in conveying Western culture to Ottoman society by performing different forms of translation practices. He was also the major provocative figure in the so-called “classics debate” of 1897 which was on translating neo-European classical works into Ottoman Turkish. Thus, in his dialogue with Europe, Ahmed Midhat appears as an agent of translation in the private sphere who made a great contribution to the shaping and modernization of Ottoman culture and literature in the late 19th century.


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