Nicholas Glastonbury, 2016 ALTA Travel Fellow (Turkish)
Nicholas Glastonbury is a translator and writer based in Brooklyn. He is a PhD student in cultural anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He received his BA from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University.
Following a serendipitous trip to Turkey during his freshman year at NYU, he began learning the Turkish language concurrent to his coursework in creative writing. Turkish was thus formative to Nicholas’ creative work from very early on. In the subsequent years, Nicholas spent a significant amount of time in Turkey: in addition to the time he spent in the Department of Turkish Language and Literature at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, he received a Critical Language Scholarship in Advanced Turkish to study in Izmir, worked as a literary archivist’s assistant, and became involved in social and political movements and advocacy. He began working in earnest as a translator in 2012, during his time as a researcher for the Center for Truth, Justice, and Memory (Hafıza Merkezi) in Istanbul, and never turned back.
After several years working as a (primarily academic) translator, Nicholas began graduate studies in comparative literature with a focus on nationalism, gender, political ecology, and translations of Kurdish literature into Turkish. This work parlayed into his current doctoral work in the field of anthropology, which focuses on radio broadcasting, environmental struggles, intellectual production, and women’s political praxis within the Kurdish movement in Turkey.
Nicholas previously attended the ALTA annual conference in 2014, where he organized a panel titled “Engineering Intention: Translating Turkish Literature” and presented a paper on the work of writer Yusuf Atılgan and his experimentation with the structural limits and possibilities of the Turkish language. Thanks to connections made at the conference, he recently became involved as a translator and editor for a new initiative called KurdîLit, a Turkey-based project funded by Literary Live Europe that intends to promote Kurdish literature to international audiences.
Currently, Nicholas is working on a translation of the novel A Place upon Your Face (Yüzünde Bir Yer) by Sema Kaygusuz. Narrated in the second person, the novel tells the story of a granddaughter’s reckoning with the suppressed and traumatic memories of her grandmother, who survived a genocidal massacre in the Dersim region of southeast Turkey in 1938. Based on Kaygusuz’s relationship to her own grandmother, the novel embeds the turmoil of contemporary mass violence within mythic and deep historical timescapes, cracking open the modern history of Turkey to ask greater questions about good and evil, about exile and survival, about resilience in an age of everyday horror. The work, described by the author herself as an ecofeminist undertaking, stands at the juncture of Nicholas’ academic, creative, and translation work to date.
Apart from his doctoral studies and his translation and writing work, Nicholas is also a co-editor of and contributor to the Turkey Page of the e-zine Jadaliyya, which publishes critical perspectives and analyses of historical and contemporary issues across the Middle East.