Don Quixote in Turkey


by Dr. Armagan Cengiz Büker

Spanish scholar



The big difference between the East and the West;

The endless tension surged in an eternal philosophic and ecclesiastical incompatibility between Oriental and Occidental people;

The conquest of the same world through two distinct mentalities;

Two different interpretations of the same religion, same God and same life; as far as becoming opposite one to another;

The resignation and tolerance of the whirling dervishes

and the vitality and rebelliousness of the errant knights;

The idealistic obedience of Eastern people to the established order,

in contrast with the feudal knights challenging the realm authority

and the insatiable desire of independency of the West man;

The cynical “shut up and accept” of Diogenes,

and the solid absolutism of the Byzantine Palace in the Asiatic land,

in contrast with the dispersed anarchy of the big and little castles in the medieval Europe;

and the unfinished romantic search for new horizons, in the XV century.



Turkey that is situated in a peninsula called Anatolia, and Spain, in the Iberian Peninsula, resemble very much one to another in various aspects; like, for example: the austere ground, high and impassable mountains, vast plains, abundant rivers, dry steppes, plateaus and meadows, climate, flora and fauna, and the big sea all around…


During the XIII and XIV centuries, two new nations were developing, as a foetus in a matrix, on the two Mediterranean sides. On the East, Islam was replacing the Oriental Christianity; while in the West, Catholicity was substituting the Caliphate with a certain parallelism, really notable. In Spain, the minstrels were telling extraordinary adventures of legendary heroes; like Amadis of Gaul, protagonist of stories read in chivalry books; and other heroes praising the figure of the errant knight that fought on behalf of Jesus Christ love. Meanwhile, in Turkey, the heroic feats of Battal Ghazi were chanted by popular poets, ambulant heroes that dedicated their life to the Muslim credo.


From Prose and contemporary with Cervantes, we have Evliyâ Çelebi. The two writers are very much alike in some aspects; however the book of the second is not a novel, but a travel book.


In the meantime, Spain was growing on the Occidental Roman Empire lands, including in its richness the new Barbarian Culture of the Visigoths; and thus the honourable military discipline of the Roman citizens was remembered and linked to the romantic ideals about their fatherland, their fidelity to the principles of honour, their gladiatorial bravura, and their love for a dreamed woman seen at an Arab jealousy. In another part of the world, in the antique domain of the Oriental Roman Empire (Byzantine), where the perfume of the Hittite, Grecian, Persian, and many other cultures were smelt; and we must include again the influence of the Arab mentality, in a different aspect however; thus making quite a rich mix, synthesised under the control of an absolute rigid order, which is a Middle-Asiatic Turkish tradition in a regime of Ulu Hâkan.


Although the two populations were mainly land cultivators, they had also in common the seamanship customs of Red Beard (in Préveza) and Don Juan of Austria (in Lepanto, where Miguel de Cervantes lost the use of his left hand).


In the Ottoman country, there were no “ventas” (a kind of rough inn in the time of Cervantes) neither “venteros”(owners of such an inn); nevertheless, there were little and big lodging-houses distributed on a perfect system of pathways:  A highly fortified system under the protection of the Great Sultan, to guaranty the trade security on the Silk Route.


Mills? Yes, there were a lot; but they were not windmills…  That is because, in our literature, we have no battle relates about big arms giants fighting with a thin errant knight, a little creasy, that was not sharing his noble ideals with the public, a public believed to be wise; if only!... Instead, I, myself, am sure that Don Quixote was right, that windmills were not windmills,  but satanic giants  created  and sent,  by malicious devils,  to kill self-esteem in the human being.


I have my doubts about a sufficient knowledge of this monumental work in my country. There are not many books published about Don Quixote if we compare with the issues in Spain and other countries. Most of the time this work is considered a book for children or a comic one   - and that is also true for Spain and Mexico -   I would tell more: it is scarcely studied, neither having any critic in newspapers, reviews or cultural literary books, nor in master or doctorate thesis. At the present time, for example, there is almost no notice about the IV anniversary of the Quixote in any publication… At least, I have not seen it.


Below, a list of books presently shown in Ankara and Istambul libraries:


1 – Translations:


Don Kişot, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, translated by Ali Aydoğan in a book-format for children, 93 pages, Arkadaş Yayınları[1], Istanbul – 2005

Don Kişot, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, translated by Reşat Nuri Güntekin, from French, abbreviated, 270 pages, illustrated by Gustave Doré, Yapı

Kredi Yayınları, Istanbul – 2005 (First Published in 1812)

Don Kişot, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, translated by Mete Aydoğan, abbreviated, 333 pages, Mavi Yelken Yayınları, Istanbul – 2003

Don Kişot, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Altın Yayınları, translater unknown, abbreviated, format for children, Istanbul -

Don Kişot, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, İnkılap Yayınları, translator unknown, abbreviated,  format for children, Istanbul

Don Kişot I – II, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Engin Yayınları, translator unknown, 1020 pages, Istanbul – 1998

Don Kişot, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Alfa Yayınları, translated by İsmail Yergüz, 877 pages, Istanbul

Don Kişot, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Oda Yayınları, translated by Hacer Güneyligil, 848 pages, Istanbul – 2003

Don Kişot, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, two volumes, Sosyal Yayınları, translator unknown, Istanbul

Don Kişot, two volumes, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Yapı Kredi Yayınları, translated by Jale Parla, 906 pages, Istanbul -



2 – About …


Özgürlüğüne Kavuşturulan Don Kişot (Don Quixote freed - theatre), Anatoli Lunaçarsky, 96 pages, Can Yayınları, Istanbul

Don Kişot: Çılgın Şövalye (Extravagant knight), written by Serpil Ural and Cervantes Saavedra, book for children, 96 pages, Kök Yayınları, Istanbul –

Don Kişot’tan Bugüne Roman (The novel from Don Quixote until now), Jale Parla, literary study, İletişim Yayınları, 389 pages, Istanbul – 2000

Herkes Biraz Don Kişot’tur (All people have something from Don Quixote), essay, Nihat Demirkol, Beyaz Yayınları, 213 pages, Istanbul – 2004

Kadından Donkişot Olmaz (A woman cannot become Don Quixote), novel,  Neslihan Acu, Epsilon Yayınları, 219 pages, Istanbul – 2004



When the Turkish Literature was westernized, in the XIX century, the intellectual Ottomans began to know the European culture through France and French language; that is why  Don Quixote and other protagonists of the book are known, here, with French pronunciation. It was translated several times into Turk, much of them in an abbreviate form. Nevertheless, we have now the complete work and I am afraid it is not read enough.


In my childhood, when I was reading for the first time Don Quixote in my text book, at school  - scarcely a tiny part of the big novel -, I felt great admiration, thinking the world was developing always in the same way, as described in the books:  with rules and order,  and peace; with   ideals   and   romanticism ;    with  the  “venteros” occupying their time arming errant knights, in a true castle, in a true story with thousand of adventures; where knights were always brave, nice and handsome, always in love and faithful to their fatherland, to their lover and to the justice. But, no!... We can see now that all has changed in all parts; that the good priest, the barber and the beautiful Dorothea existed no more. Instead, our Don Quixote is not altered, remaining always the same: proud of his knight-errantry, respectable, and polite as ever and for ever.


And now, in the actual Spain and in the modern Turkey, two noble nationalities are fighting to know and link themselves better, in order to obtain a more decent and happy living, to collaborate in great works of imagination, like the Quixote one; to move into a new age of high ideals creating a gentlemanly and chivalrous essence of progress… Because, in an era where astute Frestons with their enchantments; and infamous enemies, like Alifanfarón de la Trapobana, are augmenting; and increasing their vileness in a much more horrifying and menacing manner than before… …


Author: Dr. Armagan Cengiz Bük, Spanish Scholar


Translated into English by: Mariette Cirerol



Note of the translator

Freston is the enchanter believed by Don Quixote to have burnt his books. (First book, chapter VII)

Alifanfarón de la Trapobana is another character mentioned in Don Quixote. (First book, chapter XVIII)





Don Quixote and Sancho, by sir J. Gilbert, 1840, Museum Victoria and Alberto, London




[1] “Yayınları” quiere decir “editorial”