The intention had been to bring you another episode of the Men Who Explain Miracles podcast today, but first Plan A failed, then Plan B failed, and the need for a Plan C was unanticipated. And so let us return to the self-published world with a dead butler in a locked room…
To begin, it’s worth acknowledging that this is to the best of my memory the first Turkish fiction — hell, the first Turkish anything — I’ve read. Self-publishing has enabled vast numbers of people to get their narrative efforts out to an audience, and it’s great to see it also enabling people to cross language barriers with the help of willing translators and (in this case) proof-readers. The difficulty with translated works, however, is that unless you have a Lucia Graves, a John Pugmire, a Ho-Ling Wong, or any of the other excellent translators out there in your corner the willingness of your translator can sometimes come in inverse proportion to their suitability.
Which is to say, this translation is terrible. Don’t misunderstand, I acknowledge that Orgün Sarıtaş’s English is infinitely superior to my Turkish, but the whole of this novella is written in a tense-jumbled off-kilter phraseology that makes reading it possible only because one’s brain must wrangle with a mere 15,000 words rather than anything longer:
Robertson was a man in his late 50s; he always dressed in a stylish way and he was like those people who always have their temperament under control and act calmly. But when it’s needed he could be so agile. I myself witnessed with my own eyes to his agility, like he was 30 years old. Today, he didn’t seem any different. He was standing there calm as usual with his elegant choice of clothes. I was standing front of the table when he started to speak with same tranquility and determined voice.
I have no desire to come across as mocking or facetious, but when the whole story is this distractingly parsed it obviously makes the events themselves difficult to lose yourself in. And it’s a double hindrance in a narrative when the description of physical things might well be particularly important to the plot and yet the reader can make neither head nor tail of what is being described:
After finishing my work at the study room, I glanced around one more time and decided to check the door lock. There wasn’t anything unusual. It was so heavy that it was impossible for it to stand upright when I lift it. Just that moment I felt slight protuberance with my hand. Normally it was almost invisible, but if you look carefully you could see the pinhole at the point of the hook bolt of the door stand up.