In 2009, Bekir Ashuba published his poignant book "Üşüyorum" (I'm Cold)" in Turkish. At the young age of 23, Ashuba, along with his friends from Turkey's Abkhazian and Circassian diaspora, journeyed to Abkhazia to volunteer as fighters in the Georgian-Abkhazian war of 1992-1993.
Ashuba's personal narrative unveils the transformation of diasporic identity, the challenges faced during the journey to Abkhazia, and the haunting memories of war. These accounts form a vivid tapestry of lived history, capturing the stories of those who went to fight, those who never returned, the bonds of friendship, and the unwavering solidarity forged by the heart. The book delves into the anatomy of war and the mythic bravery and obstacles faced by a group of friends.
Having been published in both Turkish and Abkhaz languages, Ashuba's book was recently released in French under the title 'Mémoires d'un combattant abkhaze' (Memories of an Abkhaz Warrior). We had the privilege of speaking with Bekir Ashuba about the process of creating the French version and the story behind it.
Can you tell us how this French version came about?
Bekir Ashuba: Certainly. I currently live in Switzerland, and since French is more widely spoken in my region, I decided to publish the book in French, hoping that those who know me would prefer to read it.
How did the translation process go?
In 2012, Ender Gurol, a translator from Turkey, began translating my book. I shared the first few pages of the translation with Frédéric Delorca, the author of "Abkhazie A la découverte d'une "République" de survivants." After the entire book was translated, I showed the draft to my wife and friends. They, along with Frédéric Delorca, recommended a redaction of the translation. Due to this, I decided to postpone the project, and it was left untouched for a long time.
What happened next?
- During the pandemic, Frédéric Delorca contacted me again by email to inquire about the progress of the translation. After hearing the situation, he insisted on helping and we resumed work on the translation. My wife, who is a translator with expertise in German-to-French translations, did the final checks after the translation was completed.
Were you satisfied with how your experiences were translated into French, and did the French version remain faithful to the original content?
- Although I fought for Abkhazia as an Abkhaz and am on my country's side, I narrate the events I experienced entirely as they happened. This was also taken into account in the translation. While the French version tries to stay as faithful to the original as possible, some additional sources were included in relevant places.
How did you find a publisher for the French version?
- I contacted some publishing houses, but none of them gave a positive response. Then, Frédéric Delorca stepped in and recommended the publishing house he had worked with for his own book. The publishing house agreed to publish my book, despite their concerns about marketing.
And finally, why did you decide to change the title for the French version?
- Actually, it was Frédéric Delorca and the publisher's idea to change the title. I wasn't initially in favour of it, but in the end, the book was published under the title "Mémoires d'un combattant abkhaze" (Memories of an Abkhaz Warrior) for the French version.
In conclusion, it's fair to say that the publication of the book was made possible thanks to Frédéric Delorca. I am deeply grateful for the invaluable contributions and support he has provided throughout this journey.
Mémoires d'un combattant abkhaze
Author: Bekir Ashuba
Translator: Ender Gurol
Foreword: Frédéric Delorca
Year: [15 March] 2023
Place of Publication: Switzerland
Published by: Editions Du Cygne
Number of pages: 170
Librairie Martelle | Amazon | Fnac | Bertrand Livreiros
On August 14, 1992, the armed forces of the Georgian government invaded the small region of Abkhazia, which had remained loyal to the Soviet Union until its dissolution and now preferred its independence over Tbilisi's control. Coming from the exiled Circassian communities in Turkey, 23-year-old Bekir Ashuba and his friends of the same age decided to join volunteer militias to defend the freedom of their ancestors' homeland. They soon embarked on an epic adventure, where they experienced the joy of serving their deported ancestors' country, the exhilaration of fraternal commitment, ardor, faith, and hope, as well as mourning and, more than once, disappointment.
The author provides a detailed account of his war memories on the peaks of the Caucasus, without embellishment or adornment. He opens the doors to the barracks where left-wing Turks sing "Bella Ciao" and Chechens engage in Sufi trances; he tells of the long night-time marches along the hillside, the anxious waits in abandoned farms, the swift armed operations, and the final military triumph after a mysterious pilgrimage in an enchanting valley. Everything in this narrative is true, meticulously recorded, and will surprise the Western reader, who is generally not well-informed about the history of this conflict that still heavily impacts the geopolitical balance of the Black Sea region.
Le 14 août 1992 les forces armées du gouvernement géorgien envahissent la petite Abkhazie qui, restée fidèle à l'Union soviétique jusqu'à sa disparition, préférait désormais son indépendance à la tutelle de Tbilissi. Issus des communautés circassiennes en exil en Turquie, Bekir Ashuba, 23 ans, et ses amis du même âge décident alors de s'engager dans des milices de volontaires pour aller défendre la liberté du pays de leurs ancêtres. Les voilà désormais embarqués dans une aventure épique, où ils trouveront la joie de servir le pays de leurs ascendants déportés, l'ivresse de l'engagement fraternel, l'ardeur, la foi, et l'espérance, mais aussi, le deuil et, plus d'une fois, la déception.
L'auteur livre ici très en détail ses souvenirs de guerre sur les cimes du Caucase, sans fard ni fioritures. Il ouvre les portes des chambrées où les Turcs de gauche chantent « Bella Ciao », et les Tchétchènes s'adonnent à des transes soufies ; il raconte les longues marches à flanc de colline dans la nuit, les attentes angoissées dans les fermes abandonnées, les opérations armées fulgurantes, jusqu'au triomphe militaire final, après un pèlerinage mystérieux dans une vallée féerique. Tout dans ce récit est vrai, scrupuleusement consigné, et tout viendra surprendre le regard du lecteur occidental généralement peu informé de l'histoire de ce conflit qui pèse encore lourdement sur l'équilibre géopolitique de la Mer Noire.