The notorious – nay, infamous – Chinese-English Literary Translation course is coming around for its third incarnation this coming September (2014). For five days, translators and writers will gather in Huangshan to pick each other's brains, watch each other work, and try to teach each other a little something. Be part of the event that has launched so many illustrious translation careers! Or at least, introduced some fairly interesting people to one another.
This time, the course is being run by the Foreign Languages Teaching and Research Press (FLTRP), in partnership with the British Centre for Literary Translation (BCLT), and SAPPRFT.
The course will be held this fall, September 22 to 27. The application deadline is August 10: be sure to send your completed application form and a scan of your passport to email@example.com before then. Attendance free, but you'll have to get yourself there, and also pay for room and board (I had this wrong intially, my apologies!).
The Chinese-to-English writers and workshop leaders are:
- Li Juan, 李娟, led by Andrea Lingenfelter
- Li Pingyi, 李平易, led by Bonnie McDougall
- A Yi, 阿乙, led by Eric Abrahamsen
For more information about the course, you can download the full information sheet.
By Eric Abrahamsen, July 21 '14, 4:30a.m.
Reveiw of Running Through Beijing (Xu / Abrahamsen)
As a prisoner, I am fascinated by others in my predicament, especially by those imprisoned in other countries. Running Through Beijing begins in a Chinese prison, or more accurately, with the words, “I’m out,” spoken by Dunhuang, a former seller of fake I.D.’s. We don’t get a look inside an actual prison until later when he goes to see his friend, and then we only go as far as the visiting room...
Penguin China is hiring an acquisitions editor
Penguin Books is recruiting an acquisitions editor. You will be responsible for building Penguin's award-winning publishing list in the English language, finding books for us to publish, and managing the editing and print process. ... This position will be based in Hong Kong, Beijing, or Shanghai, and applicants should be native-level English speakers. For a full job description, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with a recent resume and cover letter before August 15, 2014.
New project on contemporary Chinese writing at Leeds University
'Writing Chinese: Authors, Authority and Authorship' is a new project based at the White Rose East Asia Centre in the University of Leeds, UK. Bringing together writers, translators, publishers, literary agents and academics working in the field of contemporary Chinese literature, we aim to foster closer links and dialogue, and to help promote contemporary Chinese writers in the UK.
The project is funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council and will involve a series of talks, readings and other activities over the coming academic year, culminating in a symposium at Leeds in summer 2015. We will be holding a translation masterclass and competition, as well as a regular blog on this website, featuring articles on contemporary Chinese fiction and interviews with writers, translators, and others working in the field. And beginning in October, we will also be running a monthly virtual book club, focusing on up-and-coming authors.
56-year-old “Manas” Libretto Surfaces
There are several noteworthy things about this brief report:
The word “Kyrgyz” is not used to describe the cadre, the epic poem or the language used in the manuscript . . .
If you're in London, come and join a lively discussion about the possibility and impossibility of translation, at the FreeWordCentre. Joining Xiaolu Guo for the evening's discussion are her editor-turned-agent Rebecca Carter, and Free Word's former Translator in Residence Nicky Harman. Together, they'll use the novel, I am China as a starting point to explore questions of translation, censorship, Chinese culture, and what it means to call a country your home. Book in advance. It's 21 July 7pm.
By Nicky Harman, July 10 '14, 4:40a.m.
My contact with China-focused academic presses has increased substantially over the past three months or so, and each one of them has come back looking for Chinese to English translators qualified to take on academic projects, usually monographs on topics in the humanities -- Chinese social science, political economy, literary history and theory are just a few examples. Sourcing translators for academic work can be harder than sourcing for trade, for reasons I'll list below, so I thought I would put out an open call here to get everyone's attention.
By Canaan Morse, July 9 '14, 11:38a.m.
English PEN supporting Chinese fiction
The Book of Sins by Chen Xiwo, tr Nicky Harman (Make Do Publishing) -- winner of a 2014 English PEN award for promotion.
A Perfect Crime by A Yi, tr Anna Holmwood (Oneworld Publications) -- winner of a 2014 English PEN grant for translation.
Author Murong Xuecun summoned by police over Tiananmen Square event
The author had earlier pledged to turn himself in on his return from Australia.
"On the surface the government appears to be stronger than ever … yet it is actually so fragile that its leaders lose sleep when a few scholars meet and talk in a private home," he wrote in the New York Times in May.
"If the situation in China continues to deteriorate, I cannot stand idly by. If I too am arrested, perhaps more Chinese people will awaken to the realities of their situation. My arrest will be my contribution to resisting government efforts to erase the nation's memory."
Save the date.
Booking here: http://www.bl.uk/whatson/events/event162774.html
By Nicky Harman, June 13 '14, 12:49p.m.
I recently made a number of suggestions on concrete steps that could help ensure greater success for the “campaign to take Chinese literature global.” They are detailed in Open Letter to China Literary Exports, Inc..
中华读书报 (China Reading Weekly) interviewed me about my proposal, including the establishment of a Translator-in-Residence program. If you'd like to read the interview (in Chinese), and see the part of the draft text that was deleted just before publication, visit 建议：建立 ‘驻地翻译基金’，积极征募外国翻译家到中国短期居住.
By Bruce Humes, June 12 '14, 11:51p.m.
Master "Manaschi" Jusup Mamay Passes from the Scene
Along with the Tibetan King Gesar and the Oirat's Janggar, the Kyrgyz Manas is one of China's three officially recognized, classic oral epics originating among non-Han peoples.
Jusup Mamay, the last master "manaschi" (玛纳斯奇) capable of performing all 8 parts of the massive trilogy, has just passed away . . .
Capturing Xibe, "Language of Exile," for Posterity
The China Xibe Language and Culture Research Center in Ili, Xinjiang, has announced that it will soon begin systematically recording speakers of this Tungusic tongue that is closely related to Manchu (锡伯语言数字化). This is part of the national “Chinese Language Audio Database Project” (中国语言资源有声数据库工程) inaugurated in 2008 by the State Language Commission, and the center aims to complete the Xibe portion by August 2015 . . .
We're not blocked, are we? 'Course, it's hard to tell these days, they seem to be blocking most everything…
By Eric Abrahamsen, May 24 '14, 4:06a.m.
A DVD Playlist for Running Through Beijing
As you might expect, there’s a lot of cinema in this book. And, interestingly, there’s a lot of Chinese cinema that deals with similar subject-matter to Running through Beijing—young man immigrates from the provinces to the capital, does what he has to in order to survive, meets all sorts of other outsiders along the way.
So what we decided to do was to make a sort of DVD playlist to accompany Running through Beijing. Some of these films are actually in the book, and some of them are great material to watch alongside a reading of the book. Here they are, along with our pithy summaries, and some clips to give you an idea of the action.
Great interview on BBC World Service "Fifth Floor"
From the Beeb: "Chan Koon Chung is a Chinese author who writes about ethnicity, sex, and other provocative issues in China. His latest novel has been banned, although like other writers who delve into taboo subjects he remains free to live and continue writing from within China. The book is called The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver, and to talk about its themes we've bring together Vincent Ni from BBC Chinese and Juliana Liu who is based in Hong Kong."
With @nivincent, @julianaliu on @BBC5thfloor http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01z6f5z.
But please! #namethetranslator
By Nicky Harman, May 23 '14, 8:25a.m.
2014 Translation Database at Three Percent is an inspiring list in lots of languages. Any books not on the list? Contact: email@example.com and he'll add them.
By Nicky Harman, May 21 '14, 11:40a.m.
“Mysterious Realm of Lop Nur”: Xinjiang’s Answer to Tibetan Fiction Fever?
The phenomenal success of He Ma’s The Tibet Code (《藏地密码》, 何马著)—reportedly over 3m volumes sold—has spawned a host of thrillers and mysteries driven by a similar fascination with Tibetan history, religion and relics.
But Tibet is certainly not the only area of the People’s Republic rich in non-Han culture and history with strong potential for such fiction. Two novels by former journalist Jueluo Kanglin, including the newly launched 罗布泊秘境 (literally, The Mysterious Realm of Lop Nur), are bound to raise Xinjiang’s profile among aficionados of the “exploration thriller” genre . . .
Running Through Beijing review in the LARB
Xu Zechen’s slim 2008 novel /Running Through Beijing/, recently translated into an English version published by Two Lines Press (2014), transported me back to that city and all its colorful inhabitants. The novel captures the taste and tension of Beijing better than any I’ve ever read. I felt the grit from Beijing’s frequent sandstorms sting my eyes. I savored on my tongue again the spicy mutton of a hotpot joint. Readers will internalize the restlessness and loneliness of young strivers. And Eric Abrahamsen’s translation is so deft, it’s hard to remember that it wasn’t originally written in English. He especially executes slang-filled dialogue with pizzazz.
Not Altogether an Illusion: Translation and Translucence in the Work of Burton Watson
Burton Watson is not the poet-translator largely ignorant of Chinese as Pound or Rexroth were. Since the 1970s, he has lived mostly in Japan; nearing ninety, he still spends hours each morning and evening on translation work. Born in 1925, he was first exposed to Asian languages growing up in New Rochelle, New York, when workers at the laundry his father went to gave him lychee nuts, jasmine tea, and illustrated Chinese magazines; later a high school drop-out in the Navy stationed in the South Pacific, he picked up some Japanese to help him on shore leave. After being discharged, he studied at Columbia University, both as an undergrad and for his PhD (completed in 1956), under L. Carrington Goodrich and Chi-chen Wang, and was later a colleague of C. T. Hsia there.
His translations aim at readers looking for an introduction to Chinese literature rather than at specialists who want to test a fellow academic’s mettle via footnotes and bibliographies. Yet even as the scholar in him acknowledges that he can offer nothing but “one of a variety of tentative interpretations,” the translator in him nevertheless finds ways to make us, in Eliot’s words, “believe that through this translation we really at last get the original.”
“ Dreams are so good. Why do we have to make them a reality? ”
What’s a young Tibetan stud to do for a living nowadays in a tourist hotspot like Lhasa? And what happens when his childhood dream—to hang out in the capital of a country called China—comes true?
In the just-published The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver, author Chan Koonchung takes us on a rocky road from Lhasa to Beijing. Along the way he paints disturbing vignettes. An apartheid-in-the-making. The eerie death wish of a would-be self-immolator. The Kafkaesque “black jails” where provincial petitioners who dare air their grievances to the Beijing Mandarins are brutalized, then sent home.
If they’re lucky, that is.
By Bruce Humes, May 14 '14, 2:16a.m.
Duorina Mongolian Literary Prize Winners Announced
Founded in 2010, the Duorina awards (朵日纳文学奖) aim to promote Mongolian literacy in the wider sense by rewarding those writing in the language, translating into or out of it, or writing about Mongolian literature in Mandarin.
Late in March 2014 the awards were handed out in Beijing, the capital of the Yuan Dynasty ruled by the Mongols, when it was known as Dadu (大都). Some 154 works were submitted for the competition, and among the 109 which were actually judged, 79 were in Mongolian and 30 in Mandarin.
Trends in the "Chinese Literature Globalization Campaign"
China’s culture apparatchiks are getting serious about bringing Chinese-literature-in-translation to the masses near you. Here are 3 trends detailed in an article (作家 “走出去” 新谋略) reprinted from China Publishing and Media Daily . . .
Ai Weiwei and Politically Correct Interpretation
The name and works of Ai Weiwei have been removed from a show in Shanghai, "15 Years Chinese Contemporary Art Award," about the history of Chinese contemporary art because of pressure from government cultural officials.
Mr. Sigg [former Swiss Ambassador to China] said he was angered to learn minutes before the opening of the show that museum workers had removed Mr. Ai’s name from the lists of winners and jury members painted on a wall.
He said he had considered stopping the show, but without any way to negotiate with Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Culture officials and minutes to go before the start, he instead chose to register his complaints in his opening comments. His mention that one artist couldn’t be included was not translated, he said.
Primer: Tibetan Kangba Literature in Mandarin
. . . “Kangba” (康巴) refers to parts of Sichuan, Yunnan, Tibet and Qinghai where the Kangba dialect of Tibetan is widely spoken, as well as to the people and their culture. This region was a “hub” of the ancient Tea Horse Road (茶马古道), and (reputed) birthplace of the King Gesar epic (格萨尔史诗) and Kangding love songs (康定情歌) . . .
China's Ethnic Literature Translation & Archiving Projects Make their Mark
Meanwhile, the editors at China’s very official Nationalities Literature Magazine (民族文学), which appears in Mandarin, Kazakh, Korean, Mongolian, Tibetan and Uyghur, have undertaken an innovative series of intensive “editing training courses” (改稿班) that bring together the magazine’s editors with minority writers and their translators. . .
The following review of Hong Ying's Daughter of the River, by Karen Ma, first ran on the NPR website
Hong Ying's autobiography, Daughter of the River, is doubly astonishing. First, it's an account of the Cultural Revolution that's not written by an intellectual. There's a certain genre of Chinese memoir that looks at upheaval under Mao through an elite lens, and I have to admit, I've been growing tired of those books. But Hong Ying comes from a very different background indeed.
I saw her speak at a literary festival in Jaipur, India in 2011, where she told the audience how she grew up along the Yangtze River in the slums of Chongqing — China's largest and most crowded city — and survived the great famines and Mao's failed political campaigns as a bastard child in abject poverty. I bought her memoir immediately. Her speech had touched me — but her book blew me away.
By Eric Abrahamsen, April 22 '14, 5:47a.m.
The Culture of Mistranslation
Instead of requesting [sic] the work to a translator, Kim suggests the author of the work, if he or she has the ability to write fluently in both languages, translate his or her own work into the second language.
This process called self-translation is not exactly a translation process but a re-writing and re-interpretation of the work into a different language, closer to “dual-writing” which means writing in two languages. This method gives special right to the author to not translate the work literally but create another version of the work with more freedom.
Nobel Committee's Sinologist: Poor Translation of Chinese Lit "should be stopped"
That's why he [Göran Malmqvist] believes sinologists should not only engage in academic research but also in translation; and for himself: "It's to allow people from my country to appreciate the Chinese literature I like."
Unfortunately, he says, there are as many poor translators as there are good writers in China.
"What makes me angry, really angry," he cries, eyes blazing, "is when an excellent piece of Chinese literature is badly translated. It's better not to translate it than have it badly translated. That is an unforgivable offence to any author. It should be stopped.
"Often translations are done by incompetent translators who happen to know English, or German, or French. But a lot of them have no interest and no competence in literature. That is a great pity."
There are notable exceptions such as the late British sinologist David Hawkes' rendition of Cao Xueqin's epic novel The Story of the Stone, which he regards as a rare gem of translated Chinese literature.
Report on LBF's "The Translator as Agent" Forum
“You have to be willing to do things for free at first,” said Tobler. “It’s only after you’ve got the editor’s interest that you might get a contract. If you’re starting out as a literary translator and you can’t be bothered to translate some extracts, well then, you’re not passionate enough! Getting into literary translation, every hour is not going to pay financially. You get into it because you love literary translation and then down the line it all works out.
Chinese literature on BBC Radio 4 today
SUNDAY 13 April, 16.00 - BBC Radio 4 Open Book, featuring contempoary Chinese literature with Nicky Harman, Karen Ma and Eric Abrahamsen (and available as a podcast afterwards)
Yu Hua on the Cultural Revolution: The Good Ol' Days?
The attitude of the Japanese government toward its nation’s history infuriates Chinese people. But the Chinese government also needs to reflect on its own record. We keep warning Japan that it runs the risk of repeating its mistakes if it will not face up to its history of aggression. Surely there is a lesson for us to learn, as well . . .
Monday 23rd- Friday 27th June 2014. Details here
By Nicky Harman, April 4 '14, 3:53p.m.
Beijinger Dave Haysom has uploaded a new story, ‘The Magician on the Footbridge’, by Wu Ming-yi here.
By Nicky Harman, March 30 '14, 5:10a.m.
Asian Review of Books' Peter Gordon has just reviewed Snow and Shadow, short stories by Dorothy Tse, translated by me. Great, thought-provoking review.
By Nicky Harman, March 30 '14, 5:07a.m.
Asian Review: "Running through Beijing"
The author Xu Zechen was unknown to me, but he comes with something of a pedigree. He is editor at People’s Literature magazine and was selected for the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program.
And this is a fine novel. One need not know or care more about Beijing to appreciate the humanity of its characters nor to be propelled through the story than one needs to know or care about the St. Petersburg of Dostoevsky. The foreignness of the setting and situation rapidly fades into the subconscious. I suspect, although one never knows, that the translator Eric Abrahamsen is to thank for at least of some of this. Abrahamsen has, through simplicity of language and use of terms like “the rat bastard” managed to retain a slight foreignness of tone, while delivering a fluent English text.
It’s a cliché to say that a novel deserves to be read. But if Running Through Beijing is read, it is likely to be enjoyed.
Words Hit Hard at the Bookworm Translation Slam
TheTranslation Slam (part of the Bookworm Literature Festival and Jue music and art festival) exploits the issues of translation by pitting two translators against each other to decipher a difficult Chinese text and recreate it in English. The event is wonderfully unique, and wholly appropriate for a city like Beijing where countless people are caught between the worlds of Mandarin and English every day.
Mai Jia Decoded
Over a decade after it was first published in China, best-selling author Mai Jia's maiden work Decoded finally hit Europe and the US on Monday. After winning him numerous awards in China and setting up sales for his follow up novel In the Dark, this novel is now winning him acclaim on an international level.
Approaches to Teaching The Story of the Stone (Dream of the Red Chamber)
The Story of the Stone (or Dream of the Red Chamber), a Chinese novel by Cao Xueqin and continued by Gao E, tells of an amazing garden, of a young man’s choice between two beautiful women, of his journey toward enlightenment, and of the moral and financial decline of a powerful family. Published in 1792, it depicts virtually every facet of life in eighteenth-century China—and has influenced culture in China ever since.
Part 1 of this volume, “Materials,” provides information and resources that will help teachers and students begin and pursue their study of Stone. The essays that constitute part 2, “Approaches,” introduce major topics to be covered in the classroom: Chinese religion, medicine, history, traditions of poetry, material culture, sexual mores, servants, Stone in film and on television, and the formidable challenges of translation into English that were faced by David Hawkes and then by John Minford.
Only Ten Percent of Ma Wing-shing’s Epic Chinese Manhua _Chinese Hero_ Has Been Translated
I recently found out that one of the first and only manhua to be translated into English and published in North America was edited to remove anti-Caucasian racism. In the first issue of the original version of Chinese Hero 中 華英雄, created by Ma Wing-shing (馬榮成) which was published in the early 1980s in 《金報》 [Golden Daily?] , the protagonist’s parents are killed by ‘foreign devils‘ 洋鬼子...
Literary Criticism in China: Abstract Potemkin Villages
What about literary critiquing in China? Is there any?
Abrahamsen: Yes, but not that anyone takes it very seriously. It’s like a lot of aspects of Chinese society, where there’s this whole thing in place that looks like it’s supposed to be the thing it is, but isn’t. There are book fairs, review sections in newspapers and magazines and there are people writing reviews, and there’s this whole, critical thing out there, but it’s hollow. Most of it’s paid advertisement by the publishers. No reader takes that stuff seriously, it doesn’t sell books, it’s not information.
Morse: Think of it as abstract Potemkin villages.
(Top: Peter Behr, Stephen Nashef, Edward Ragg. Bottom: Emily Stranger, Yuan Yang.)
Last month we made an open call for poets to participate in a curated community event at the Bookworm Literary Festival, and the response was exceptional. Please consider this our official thank you to all who answered. The curators of Poetry Night in Beijing -- Canaan Morse, Helen Wing and Eleanor Goodman -- read nearly 200 poems before finally (painstakingly) choosing five writers whose works resonated with them in style and substance.
Please keep in mind that the process of evaluating art is imperfect and the final decisions are always subjective. Nonetheless, we'd like to congratulate our featured poets who will be reading this Sunday at 8 pm at the Bookworm:
By Canaan Morse, March 14 '14, 5:34a.m.