I was trying to figure out whether or not to use the tag for my questions here about Elif Şafak's novel The Forty Rules of Love, i.e. whether or not the book was originally written in Turkish. This turned out to be a surprisingly hard question to answer. Wikipedia, for example, lists Aşk as the Turkish translation of The Forty Rules of Love, but also says that the Turkish version was published in 2009 and the English version in 2010. Since the author is fluent in both languages, it's possible that she wrote both versions herself nearly simultaneously rather than using a professional translator.

Which came first, the Turkish Aşk or the English The Forty Rules of Love?

The Turkish page for the novel lists its original language as English, and names one Kadir Yiğit Us as the English-Turkish translator. There's no reference for it, but there's this interview (in Turkish) with Elif Şafak and Kadir Yiğit Us, in which they tell the story of how the book was translated.

In particular, the book was translated and edited by Us, but then edited again by Şafak, to the point she calls "rewriting" it.


As a side note, Şafak seems to have written some (most? all?) of her other novels in English, and gotten some flak for it from the Turkish.

  • Thanks. I guess it helps to be able to search for and understand Turkish-language sources :-D I'd be interested to learn more about that "gotten some flak for it from the Turkish", but that's probably a topic for a different question. – Rand al'Thor Sep 19 at 18:51
  • I found another interview and posted an answer of my own. This also sheds some light on your "some (most? all?)". – Rand al'Thor Sep 19 at 19:01
  • @Randal'Thor Good find. I seem to have cornered myself by searching only for Turkish sources – Gallifreyan Sep 24 at 18:23

Kinda both?

To add to Gallifreyan's answer, I found an English-language interview with Elif Şafak for the Turkish newspaper Zaman, which used to be available here (although the newspaper was terminated in 2016) and can still be read here (albeit with the infuriating issue that every Ş is rendered as Þ):

You say, “Both the English and the Turkish versions of this book are original,” in one of your interviews. What do you mean by that?

Well, for the last five years I have been writing fiction in both English and Turkish. Several of my novels were originally written in English, then translated into Turkish. Several others were written in Turkish, then translated into English. So I am a writer who enjoys commuting between languages. In “The Forty Rules of Love” I tried a completely new technique. I wrote the novel in English first. Then it was translated into Turkish by an excellent translator. Then I took the translation and I rewrote it. When the Turkish version was ripe and ready, I went back to the English version and rewrote it with a new spirit. In a way I have built two parallel books in the same span of time. It is a bit insane, I have to admit. It is a crazy amount of work. I do this because language is my passion.

Summarising that: she wrote it in English first, then took someone else's Turkish translation and rewrote it in Turkish, then rewrote it in English based on that. So while it is accurate to say the book was first written in English, that's not the full story: the final English version seems to have been influenced by the Turkish version, and probably some aspects were first written in Turkish.

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