Mu Shiying: China's Lost Modernist--New Translations and an Appreciation by Andrew David Field
When the avant-garde writer Mu Shiying 穆時英 was assassinated in 1940, China lost one of its greatest modernist writers while Shanghai lost its most detailed chronicler of the city's Jazz-Age nightlife. Mu's highly original stream-of-consciousness approach to short story writing deserves to be re-examined and re-read. As Andrew Field argues, Mu advanced modern Chinese writing beyond the vernacular expression of May Fourth giants Lu Xun and Lao She to reveal even more starkly the alienation of a city trapped between the forces of civilization and barbarism in the 1930s.
Mu Shiying: China's Lost Modernist includes translations of six short stories, four of which have not appeared before in English. Each story focuses on Mu's key obsessions: the pleasurable yet anxiety-ridden social and sexual relationships in the modern city, and the decadent maelstrom of consumption and leisure epitomized by the dance hall and nightclub. In his introduction, Field situates Mu's work within the transnational and hedonistic environment of inter-war Shanghai, the city's entertainment economy, as well as his place within the wider arena of Jazz-Age literature from Berlin, Paris, Tokyo and New York.
Atwood in Translationland: Margaret Atwood, 2014 Sebald Lecture
The Guardian has this piece on Margaret Atwood's February 18 2014 Sebald Lecture, Atwood in Translationland.
There's also a blurb re said lecture here,on the British Centre for Literary Translation website.
The lecture was recorded and will be available on YouTube at some point.
"...the choices that bedevil the writer bedevil the translator 10 times over. If a writer has a bad day, you can say, 'At least I don't have to do a freaking translation.'"
This post was so popular on the Pathlight Facebook page, we figured we'd put it up here.
We're very grateful to Kendall Tyson for reviewing these ten books by Chinese authors in translation, including Pathlight: New Chinese Writing contributing authors Chen Qiufan, Chi Zijian, Bai Hua, and Mai Jia.
We're also a little disappointed that he failed to mention that the books WERE all masterful translations, and who those translators were. Let us update the list:
THE WASTE TIDE, by Chen Qiufan, translated by Nebula Award-winner Ken Liu;
CAT COUNTRY, by Lao She, translated by William Lyell;
SEARCH FOR THE BURIED BOMBER, by Xu Lei, translated by Gabriel Ascher;
THE MATCHMAKER, THE APPRENTICE, AND THE FOOTBALL FAN, by Zhu Wen, translated by Julia Lovell;
FOR A SONG AND A HUNDRED SONGS, by Liao Yiwu, translated by Huang Wenguang;
WIND SAYS, by Bai Hua, translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain;
THE LAST QUARTER OF THE MOON, by Chi Zijian, translated by Bruce Humes;
TONGWAN CITY, by Gao Jianqun, translated by Eric Mu;
DECODED, by Mai Jia, translated by Olivia Milburne and Christopher Payne;
MR. MA AND SON, by Lao She, translated by William Dolby.
Congratulations to both translators and authors!
By Canaan Morse, February 11 '14, 10:17p.m.
At the end of his new article, “What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun?,” David Graeber, anarchist anthropologist and public intellectual, writes: "Years ago, when I taught at Yale, I would sometimes assign a reading containing a famous Taoist story. I offered an automatic “A” to any student who could tell me why the last line made sense. (None ever succeeded.)" The story as Graeber quotes it:
Zhuangzi and Huizi were strolling on a bridge over the River Hao, when the former observed, “See how the minnows dart between the rocks! Such is the happiness of fishes.”
“You not being a fish,” said Huizi, “how can you possibly know what makes fish happy?”
“And you not being I,” said Zhuangzi, “how can you know that I don’t know what makes fish happy?”
“If I, not being you, cannot know what you know,” replied Huizi, “does it not follow from that very fact that you, not being a fish, cannot know what makes fish happy?”
“Let us go back,” said Zhuangzi, “to your original question. You asked me how I knew what makes fish happy. The very fact you asked shows that you knew I knew—as I did know, from my own feelings on this bridge.”
Graeber admits, in a manner of speaking, that he would have had a hard time earning the “automatic ‘A’” himself. “After thinking about the story for years,” though, he concludes that Zhuangzi shows “himself to be defeated by his logician friend” as a form of play—“arguing about the fish, we are doing exactly what the fish are doing: having fun, doing something we do well for the sheer pleasure of doing it.”
Graeber’s is a compelling answer, but it’s not quite right.
By Lucas Klein, February 11 '14, 9:22p.m.
“Grassland Fiction”: Mongolian Tales on the Horizon
You may find the term “culture industry” strange to the ear or a throwback to the days of the defunct Soviet Union’s “Command Economy.” But it’s a palpable reality in the People’s Republic, and based on my research over the last year, the budget now devoted to “ethnic minority” publishing and films has skyrocketed.
Among Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongolians, it appears that the latter—perhaps because they are better integrated, more likely to speak Mandarin and rarely accused of “splittism”—is emerging as a major beneficiary of that largesse . . .
The Vermont Studio Center invites applications for its Chinese Poetry & Translation Fellowships Program supported by the Henry Luce Foundation. In 2014, VSC will award 12 outstanding Chinese poets and literary translators with 4-week joint residencies to create new work individually and in collaboration as part of VSC’s diverse creative community.
Applications for the next round of VSC/Luce Foundation Chinese Poetry & Translation Fellowships are available online or in printable form as part of VSC’s April 1, 2014 international fellowships deadline.
2014 VSC/Luce Foundation Chinese Poetry & Translation Fellowships:
- Six awards for outstanding poets living anywhere in the world whose primary language is Chinese. These awards include roundtrip travel and a discretionary stipend.
- Six awards for talented English-language translators working with Chinese poetry. These awards include a discretionary stipend.
These fellowships are available to individual poets and translators, as well as established working pairs, with fellowships awarded (and individuals ultimately paired) by a distinguished selection committee. If an established pair wishes to apply together, each person must submit an application and each must identify his/her preferred working partner. Applicants who wish to be considered as a pair should also select the same preferred residency dates. Due to the joint structure of these residencies, once an applicant (or pair) has been accepted, there may be little to no scheduling flexibility. For all VSC applicants, at least partial fluency of English is advised for participants to gain the greatest value from their residency experience. In addition to rendering exceptional translations on paper, translators should also be conversant enough in the writer’s primary language to help facilitate exchange with their working partner.
By Eric Abrahamsen, February 10 '14, 2:41a.m.
The deadline is May 26 for the Susan Sontag Prize for Translation, a 5,000 USD grant for a literary translation from Mandarin Chinese. Translators under 30 years of age can submit proposals for translations projects (fiction or letters) expected to be completed within a four-month period – July to November, 2014. See the link above for more details.
By Eric Abrahamsen, February 6 '14, 12:06a.m.
I write the following as a tribute to C.T. Hsia, as a student of his
and as a modest contributor to the field he created almost
single-handedly with the publication of A History of Modern Chinese
Fiction. I had been trying to visit Hsia over the course of the fall
semester because I had not seen him for about two years. But my own
difficulties prevented it until late December, when I had the
opportunity to visit him in New York on Dec. 19--as it turns out,
just one short week before he passed away.
I started my PhD studies in Chinese literature at Columbia University
in 1988, three years before C.T. Hsia retired, which means that I
took the full three years of PhD coursework under his direction. I
applied to six graduate schools, and Columbia was one of the two that
made compelling offers to me. My decision to go to Columbia was in
part based on an attraction to New York City, but the real reason was
the opportunity to study with C.T. Hsia; I had read his History and
The Classic Chinese Novel in college and was aware of his preeminent
stature in the field of modern Chinese literary studies. I had no
idea that the timing put me right at the end of his teaching career.
By Charles Laughlin, January 23 '14, 12:38a.m.
Guo Xiaolu on "Overrated" Anglo-American Literature
"If you write in Japanese or Vietnamese or Portuguese you have to wait [...] to be translated, and translated literature never really works immediately as English literature unless it wins the Nobel or some big prize," Guo said. "In a way, the easiest and laziest way is to write in English. What a struggle to write in any language other than English.
I'm saying language is a passport. A dubious, dangerous passport, too."
In my letter to the MCLC list in support of Jonathan Stalling’s complaint that Xiao Jiwei’s LARB review of Mo Yan’s Sandalwood Death didn’t mention translator Howard Goldblatt, I wrote,
the quantity and quality of translations from Chinese to English (by which I mean primarily, but not only, literary translations) cannot be separated from questions of how our societies approach translation in general. And a big part of that is how we treat translators: are translators acknowledged? Do translators get paid well for their work, get their names on the covers of their books, have their work credited when up for promotion or tenure? In short, are there incentives in our society for people to work as translators? And do our conversations about translation reflect a general understanding of the work translation involves, its importance, its difficulty, its shortcomings, its possibilities?
I concluded, “I do not agree that we can address or redress the general indifference to Mo Yan or Chinese literature, or that we can bridge contemporary Chinese literature and the world, without talking about translation … I hope we can combat that, for the benefit not only of Mo Yan or Howard Goldblatt, but for the benefit of our profession and fields of teaching and research.” In light of responses such as Jeffrey Wasserstrom’s, comparing translators to other figures who might get left out of reviews, such as book editors or cinematographers, I thought I’d delve a little deeper into my sense of why discussion of translation is an important part of the program for advocating for more and better translations.
By Lucas Klein, January 22 '14, 5:12a.m.
Exploring the Impact of Manchu on Northeast China’s Place Names and Dialects
In a recent informal and informative interview in Chinese (探寻满语背后的文化圭璧), Shi Lixue chats about idioms and place names that bear a Manchu imprint. He points out that almost one-half of Jilin’s place names—including Changchun (长春), Jilin (吉林), Siping (四平), Liaoyuan (辽源) and Tonghua (通话)—are actually based on Manchu words . . .
Dylan Suher on Tao Lin and Murong Xuecun
A paradox of our times: apparently nobody can sit down and read a whole novel anymore, and yet people are still writing the damn things. A lot of ink and anxiety is expended over the first proposition—considerably more than over the latter, though the latter is far more interesting. Two prominent examples, from nearly opposite points on the globe: Tao Lin, based in New York City, and Murong Xuecun, the handle of Hao Qun, from Beijing.
"Funeral of a Muslim": Tale of Three Generations of a 20th Century Hui Family
If Funeral of a Moslem (穆斯林的葬礼，霍达著) is not well known in the West, neither are the Hui (回族), the “other” officially recognized Muslim people in China who actually number over ten million. Unlike the Turkic-speaking Uyghur of Xinjiang, the Hui are descendants of Silk Road travelers—Arab, Persian and Central Asians—who married Han Chinese and converted to Islam, itself introduced during the Tang Dynasty by Arab traders . . .
Poets! Yes, you. Beijing Cream and Pathlight: New Chinese Writing are excited to present Poetry Night in Beijing at the Bookworm Literary Festival on Sunday, March 16, a curated community event to promote English-language POETRY in this wonderful city of ours. We need your help.
We are seeking four poets enthusiastic about reading their work for a keen audience of peers and poetry lovers. There are no limits on theme, subject, or style, as long as the pieces are original and in English. Poems written with a strong voice that plumb the depths of honesty and emotion while remaining intellectually compelling will be favored.
By Canaan Morse, January 16 '14, 4:07a.m.
"Duobukuer River": Oroqen Painter Finds her Niche in the City
Ever since I completed my translation of Han author Chi Zijian’s Last Quarter of the Moon, set in the Greater Khingan Range (大兴安岭) that divides the Manchurian plain of northeastern China from the Mongolian Plateau of Inner Mongolia, I’ve been wondering: How would one of the indigenous nomadic peoples, an Evenki, Oroqen or Daur for instance, recount the tale of how they lost their mountains, rivers and shamans, only to face modern life in “fixed settlements,” or even as migrants to big cities where the Han dominate?
Xinjiang’s Xibe Authors: Inspired by “Language of Exile” that has Outlived Manchu
Ironically, thanks perhaps to a centuries-old separation from its origins in northeast Asia, the Xibe language (锡伯语)—closely related to Manchu, the language of the Qing Dynasty rulers—remains a living language in modern-day northwest Xinjiang. Most Xibe are concentrated in Qapqal Xibe Autonomous County, descendants of Manchu soldiers first dispatched in 1764 from Shenyang, Liaoning to garrison the frontier . . .
Pathlight: New Chinese Writing is currently looking for a Graphic Design Intern to work alongside its English-language editorial team as they prepare to launch a brand new website and expand other operations over the upcoming months.
The suitable candidate must be based in Beijing and will be expected to commit for a period of 16 weeks, helping out with a wide range of creative projects, including (but not limited to): overseeing online advertising campaigns, producing promotional materials, designing and updating logos and online avatars, and exploring merchandising avenues.
By Canaan Morse, January 10 '14, 4:23a.m.
C.T. Hsia dies at 92
Dr. Hsia, colorful and contentious, did not back down from critics. He argued that Chinese writers suffered from an “obsession with China” and that they did not embrace universal human concerns that transcend China’s borders.
I (Nicky) was very struck by JS's review of a review in LA Review of Books of Mo Yan's Sandalwood Death. It appeared on the MCLC list. His words immediately reminded me of the endless debates we've had in UK among translators, about how we'd like our translations reviewed, and the struggles to remind even long-established cultural institutions like the BBC that translations of poetry and fiction should be credited when they are broadcast, not treated as if the author had originally written in English. With Jonathan's permission, I have reproduced his letter to the list here. In the event, it sparked off a lively debate, including contributions from the reviewer, Jiwei Xiao, herself. Those interested can join the list to read the whole thread.
I was quite excited to discover that at long last the LARB had published a
review of Mo Yan’s Sandalwood Death. As the editor of the CLT Book Series
that published Howard Goldblatt’s English translation of the novel at the
beginning of 2013, I had all but given up on the LARB reviewing it. By the
time I reached the end of this substantial review, however, I had to face
a rather peculiar and unsettling reality: after nearly 2,400 words, the
reviewer, Jiwei Xiao, never mentions the fact that the book she is
reviewing is Howard Goldblatt’s English translation of Mo Yan’s novel. I
may be a bit more sensitive to this omission given the fact that I, as the
editor and a translator myself, am quite excited by the attention
Goldlatt’s translation is getting from the translation community: the book
has already been nominated for several awards, and, in fact, only a few
months earlier Goldblatt had been interviewed by LARB about his
So while Xiao quotes liberally from the English text (sans citations), she
never mentions even once that the book under review is not《檀香刑》, which
published well over a decade ago, but is instead its English translation.
Of course, any review of translated literature will necessarily focus on
the merits of the original, but at the very least professionalism requires
a reviewer to acknowledge the work of the translator in some form. Most of
the time readers rely on a review to find out whether a book is a good
read in English, so it is important for a reviewer to offer a critical
opinion on this matter so the reader can make an informed decision. In
this review, however, the reader is invited to enter the original text as
if it were still in Chinese, yet miraculously transparent to the English
The reviewer spends a fair amount of time discussing the “dissonant
sounds” upon which “the novel was inspired,” and while Mo Yan’s aural
ingenuity naturally rests at the heart of the reviewer’s commentary, it is
important to note that these aural textures were delicately and boldly
translated into English by Goldblatt. In fact, I would argue that these
challenging moments constitute some of the most formally experimental—and
successful—moments in Goldblatt’s esteemed career. When I first read the
translated manuscript, I marveled at his ability to imbue the English with
a parallel set of aural textures (rhyme, meters, vocables, etc.),
producing often uncanny results.
Yet this is not really what left me feeling so uneasy. Instead, I fear
that there remains a deep and stubborn refusal to take translation (and
translation studies) seriously enough within both Chinese Studies and our
broader public literary culture (after all, the LARB editors must have
first read this piece before publishing it). I am not going to speculate
on the latent ideological (or epistemological) conditions that undergird
moments like these, but I do feel we must take such opportunities to
refocus attention on the collaborative nature of world literature
translated into English. As most people know, literary translators are
incredibly important cultural producers and yet most of them struggle to
make a living wage from their work. In fact, a recent report by the
Conseil Européen des Associations de Traducteurs Littéraires concludes
with the following observation: This survey clearly shows that literary translators cannot survive in the
conditions imposed on them by "the market". This is a serious social
problem on a continent that is meant to be developed, multilingual and
multicultural, but it is also and most importantly a very serious artistic
and cultural problem. Indeed, what does it say about the quality of
literary exchange between our societies if literary translators are forced
to dash off their work just to be able to earn a basic living?
The objectives outlined by UNESCO in its 1976 Nairobi Recommendation are
far from being realised, that is the least one can say. It’s time to act!
What is true in the European context is even worse in the US (and for
Chinese-English-Chinese translation, the pay scale of which is often
calculated in RMB as a way of lowering the cost). Translators work for
many of the same mysterious reasons writers do—not because it pays well
(though I hope this can be remedied soon), but to contribute to the
cultural work of our time, to participate in the global conversation of
literature itself. If our work as translators is not discussed in reviews
of our work (or even simply acknowledged), when, pray tell, will it be?
It is important for me to note, however, that I believe Professor Xiao
would have gladly incorporated her thoughts on the translated nature of
the text had it been brought up in the editing/review process, or if it
had been listed as a prerequisite on the LARB contributor information
page, or if there existed broader university support of and
academic/prestige capital invested into translation inside the realm of
Chinese Studies. So I do not wish for the instructive moment of this
review to be reduced to a critique of this review alone (for clearly
Professor Xiao has many interesting things to say about this novel), but
as a general reminder to all reviewers (and to those of us who publish
them) to spend a moment engaging with (or better yet, exploring) the
translative nature of world literature, for this is our responsibility,
not to mention one of the great joys of our work.
Chinese Literature Today
By Nicky Harman, January 8 '14, 11:03a.m.
Ethnic Fiction in China: Notable Works by non-Han Writers in 2013
Liu Daxian (刘大先), the holder of a Ph D. in literature and member of the editorial board of Studies in Ethnic Literature (民族文学研究), has just published the equivalent of a fairly comprehensive review of China’s 2013 "mainstream" ethnic fiction scene (2013 少数民族文学综述) . . .
David Der-wei Wang on C.T. Hsia, Chinese Literary Critic
Born in Shanghai in 1921, C.T. Hsia, also known as Hsia Chih-tsing, moved to the United States in 1947, later becoming a professor at Columbia University. Though he adored Western literature, he is best known for introducing Chinese literature to the West amid the information vacuum about China that characterized the Cold War, and establishing a literary canon that lasts to this day, Mr. Wang said.
In the 1950s, there was no field called modern Chinese literature, so the publication of his book in 1961 ["History of Modern Chinese Fiction"], that was a big thing. That was a book that made him famous in the West. As a result, a discipline was established.
One cannot start any new study of Chinese literary modernity without first consulting, challenging, or at least reflecting his opinions.
UK's The Guardian is out with a set of "1000 novels everyone must read: the definitive list"--and this is definitive, people, so if you haven't read a thousand novels in your lifetime, or not these particular thousand novels, then really there's no accounting for you.
The Guardian doesn't let on what's going to happen if you don't read these novels, but let's just say I don't want to be around to find out (fortunately, the list isn't titled "must read before you die," as some are, so that should buy us all a bit more time).
Anyway, as you may recall, I raised a stink about Flavorwire's "50 Works of Fiction in Translation That Every English Speaker Should Read" not including a single work in Chinese. Fortunately, Chinese fiction fares better when it comes to the top thousand in any language: two whole novels! That's 0.2% of the best long fiction written in the history of the world! Chinese fiction isn't in such bad shape, after all!
By Lucas Klein, December 31 '13, 10:11p.m.
"Nationalities Literature Magazine Awards" for 2013 announced in China
On December 28, the 2013 Nationalities Literature Magazine Awards (年度奖) were handed out to 23 works in five categories: novel, short story, poetry, translations into Mandarin from other languages indigenous to China, and translations from Mandarin into English. Only texts published in one of the six editions of the magazine (民族文学)—Mandarin, Kazakh, Korean, Mongolian, Tibetan, and Uyghur—were eligible . . .
Announcing the Ancient Asia issue of Cha
Announcing the Ancient Asia Issue of Cha (December 2013), featuring new translations of Chinese poetry by Xi Chuan, Tao Yuanming 陶淵明, Du Fu 杜甫, He Qifang 何其芳, Xiao Kaiyu 肖开愚, Liu Yong 柳永, the Shijing 詩經, Laozi 老子, Du Mu 杜牧, and Li Shangyin 李商隱, and new work by Eliot Weinberger, Matthew Turner, Eleanor Goodman, Sharmistha Mohanty, and Jonathan Stalling.
Here's this year's list, compiled by Nicky Harman and Helen Wang. Feel free to add any we've missed out:
Ten Loves by Zhang Yueran , translated by Jeremy Tiang , pub. Math Paper Press, Singapore
Island of Silence by Su Wei-chen , translated by Jeremy Tiang , pub. Ethos Books, Singapore
Durians Are Not The Only Fruit by Wong Yoon Wah , translated by Jeremy Tiang , pub. Epigram Books, Singapore
Tongwan City by Gao Jianqun, translated by Eric Mu, pub. CN times Books.
I can almost see the clouds of dust, poems by Yu Xiang, translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain, pub. Zephyr Press and Chinese University Press of Hong Kong (bilingual)
Canyon in the body, poems by Lan Lan, translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain, pub. Zephyr Press and Chinese University Press of Hong Kong (bilingual)
Wind says, poems by Bai Hua, translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain, pub. Zephyr Press and Chinese University Press of Hong Kong (bilingual)
Other Cities, Other Lives by Chew Kok Chang , translated by Shelly Bryant , pub. Epigram Books, Singapore
Mr Ma and Son by Lao She , translated by William Dolby , pub. Penguin Modern Classics
Cat Country by Lao She , translated by William A Lyell , pub. Penguin Modern Classics
Irina’s Hat: New Short Stories From China by Authors and translators various , translated by ed. Josh Stenberg , pub. Merwin Asia
Last Quarter of the Moon by Chi Zijian , translated by Bruce Humes , pub. Harvill Secker
The Song of King Gesar
by Alai , translated by Howard Goldblatt
, pub. Canongate Books Ltd
Black Flame by Gerelchimeg Blackcrane , translated by Anna Holmwood , pub. Groundwood Books of Toronto, Canada (in association with Anansi Books)
For a Song and a Hundred Songs: A Poet’s Journey Through a Chinese Prison by Liao Yiwu , translated by Wenguang Huang , pub. New Harvest Books
The Matchmaker, The Apprentice and The Football Fan by Zhu Wen , translated by Julia Lovell , pub. Columbia University Press
The Earnest Mask by Xi Ni Er , translated by Howard Goldblatt & Sylvia Li-chun Lin , pub. Epigram Books, Singapore
The Man With The Compound Eyes, by Wu Ming-Yi, tr Darryl Sterk, pub. Harvill Secker
Every Rock a Universe: The Yellow Mountains and Chinese Travel Writing, writings by 17th century poet and artist Wang Hongdu, translated by Jonathan Chaves (Floating World Editions). Review forthcoming in Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews.
Search for the Buried Bomber, by Xu Lei, tr. Gabriel Ascher, pub. AmazonCrossing
By Nicky Harman, December 13 '13, 1:28a.m.
Yi Love Story: First-ever Film Shot in Yi Language Premieres in Chengdu
Yes, language is political. So it’s refreshing to see that the unspoken ban on non-Han languages in Chinese cinema has clearly ended. In Taiwan, Seediq Bale—shot entirely in Seediq—was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2012 Oscars. On the mainland, Pema Tseden’s Old Dog in Tibetan has also won international acclaim.
Now it’s the turn of the Yi (彝), who number eight million and live primarily in rural and mountainous areas of Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi . . .
Stage adaptation of short story by Yu Hua
Joy Child: Two brothers, their wives, and their young sons share a small flat with their dying mother. When tragedy strikes, the after-effects take an unusual form. Joy Child, a stage adaptation of a short story by Chinese author Yu Hua, explores the nature of revenge and the promise of ‘the future’.
-- The short story is 《现实一种》 One Kind of Reality
The Istanbul Book Fair, Xinjiang Connections and Wang Gang's "English"
When Chinese author Wang Gang brought a smile to the faces of his Turkish listeners as he recounted how a musician back in Xinjiang had sung him a tune dubbed “Istanbul” just a few days ago, it’s unlikely few in the audience recognized the irony.
After all, the theme of China’s presence at the 2013 Istanbul Book Fair is Ipak Yolu—Yeni Sayfa (The Silk Road—A New Page). One major traditional Silk Road route began in Chang’an, today’s Xi’an, and ended in Constantinople, today’s Istanbul, skirting Xinjiang's deadly Taklamakan Desert along the way.
Plum in the Golden Vase: More Topical than Ever?
When the first volume of The Plum in the Golden Vase [金瓶梅] came out in 1994 the Roy translation was received with rapturous applause. Over the following 19 years, the novel has become more topical by the year. In that time, erotic fiction has come to inhabit a position of near-total dominance in the publishing industry, basically paying for all the rest of fiction, and the rise of China has made everybody who reads the newspapers familiar with figures of corruption in Imperial — excuse me, Communist Party — circles.
I’ve been reading about Hsi-Men Ch’ing for years. His name has been Zhang Shugang and Jiang Jiemin and Bo Xilai. Just today it was revealed that one of the major causes of the condo boom in Beijing is the need to house so many mistresses — a fact that could have come straight from the Chin Ping Mei. The book is 400 years old, but its moment is right now.
Yu Hua on China's Not-so-Laughable Anti-Pollution Policies
Hebei Province, which surrounds Beijing, is China’s top steel-producing province. Steel plants play a big role in air and water pollution, but the city of Cangzhou’s answer to the problem is an anti-smoking campaign.
A Hebei official newspaper, Yanzhao Dushi Bao, reported in July that local officials in Cangzhou held a public meeting pledging their commitment to the anti-smoking cause. With smoke billowing from the chimneys of factories in the distance, officials promoted the slogan: “Curbing air pollution starts with me!”
Simon & Schuster to Launch Series of Translated Chinese Fiction
. . . Simon and Schuster’s trade imprint acquired from Yilin [Press] the world English rights to a select group of books, made up of nonfiction titles about Chinese culture and history as well as popular and critically acclaimed fiction, including such authors as Shen Congwen, Lu Xun, Bing Xin, Ye Zhaoyan, and Su Tong, some of whom have never been translated into English. Simon & Schuster will publish the first list of eight titles in Spring of 2014.
Censored on the Way to China
Qiu Xiaolong, a St. Louis-based novelist whose mystery thrillers are set in Shanghai, said Chinese publishers who bought the first three books in his Inspector Chen series altered the identity of pivotal characters and rewrote plot lines they deemed unflattering to the Communist Party. Most egregiously, he said, publishers insisted on removing any references to Shanghai, replacing it with an imaginary Chinese metropolis called H city because they thought an association with violent crime, albeit fictional, might tarnish the city’s image.
Review: "The Man with Compound Eyes"
What do you expect when you pick up a novel – very probably your first – from Taiwan? A spiky assertion of independence, perhaps, or wistful, Japanese-inspired fables? The literary landscape of mainland China has begun to take shape for western readers, but that of Taiwan remains a blank – despite the island's sophisticated and long-established publishing industry. The English translation of Wu Ming-Yi's intriguing fourth work of fiction simultaneously plunges the reader into the melting pot of contemporary Taiwanese fiction and refuses any attempt to define it.
Murong Xuecun: Busting China's Bloggers
BEIJING — A frequent topic of conversation among my friends here has been: Who will be arrested next?
Some of us met recently for dinner and started a list of potential candidates. We included outspoken scholars, writers and lawyers who have discussed democracy and freedom, criticized the government and spoken out for the disadvantaged.
Four Poems by Gu Cheng Tr. by Aaron Crippen
don’t go to sleep, don’t
Dear, the road is long yet
don’t go too near
the forest’s enticements, don’t lose hope
write the address
in snowmelt on your hand
or lean on my shoulder
as we pass the hazy morning
China and the Nobel Prize: Four Essays on Classic Chinese Authors
¤ Monkeying Around with the Nobel Prize: Wu Cheng'en's Journey to the West by Julia Lovell
¤ A Monument to What Might Have Been: Qian Zhongshu's Fortress Besieged by Brendan O'Kane
¤ Getting The Good Earth’s Author Right: On Pearl S. Buck by Charles W. Hayford
¤ Untidy Endings: Lao She by Paul French
Books on contemporary China welcomed by foreign publishers
Back in 2000, Chinese titles included in the event totalled just 2400. But by 2009 that number had increased to 6398. In 2000, China signed contracts on 953 items of copyright trade; twelve years later in 2012, the number climbed to 2682. [...] 160 Chinese exhibitors have attended this year’s fair. Exhibitors say instead of relying on promotional activities sponsored by the Chinese government, now Chinese books are attracting attention on their own. In addition, previously it was just the big publishing houses who attended, but now more small scale, less known publishers have a presence. Moreover, foreign publishers are seeking to promote their books to Chinese publishers and distributors at the fair, hoping to take a share of the promising Chinese book market.
Liao Yiwu: The Prison Notebooks
A quip from another era, usually attributed to Aldous Huxley, defined an intellectual as someone—presumably a man—who discovers there are more interesting things in life than women. Reading the exiled Chinese poet and writer Liao Yiwu suggests a less sexist corollary to this badly dated notion: the best writers are artists who have learnt that other people are more interesting than themselves.
China's most beautiful bookshop ... in a car park
No glamorous chandeliers, no extravagant façade -- to find the most beautiful bookshop in China, travelers just have to follow the yellow-striped road to an underground car park.
Before Librairie Avant-Garde owner Qian Xiaohua, 50, obtained the 4,000-square-meter underground space beneath Wutaishan Stadium in Nanjing in 1999, it was a government car park and, earlier, a bomb shelter.
Two new French editions of Wang Xiaobo
I'll admit that, as a non-French-speaker, it's a little hard to figure out what's going on here, but more publications of Wang Xiaobo has to be a good thing!
*All of Chinese Literature Condensed*, premiere 10-13 Oct
Theatre UCF graduate student Whit Emerson will present a new full-length play in the UCF Performing Arts Center on Oct. 10-13. The comedy, titled All of Chinese Literature Condensed covers 10 major works of literature that contribute to modern day Chinese culture.
The play is written in a style reminiscent of the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s series of plays (The Bible Abridged, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged) in that it comically distills a huge body of work into short, comprehensible scenes.
In Nobel Win, Ho Ai Li of Singapore’s Straits Times notes that Mo Yan’s Nobel Prize—regardless of how his own writing is perceived abroad—is helping to spark interest in translated Chinese fiction. Since most of us won’t be able to get beyond the pay wall, I’ve selected three choice quotes from the article below. But pls resist the temptation to re-tweet Eric’s words on your Weibo account, as we’d hate to see his visa renewal application denied next time round . . .
By Bruce Humes, October 2 '13, 3:01a.m.
Three Percent interview with Can Xue
A good question. I also think that the Chinese know much more about America and the West than you know about China. In China, in the early eighties, a group of young writers studied western literature quite deeply, and these western classics opened their field of vision. They produced quite a number of good works. Can Xue was one among them. The group are all born in fifties or sixties—a very idealistic group. That was a literary era full of hope. But since the nineties, almost everybody in this group has changed their mind. They felt that they had had enough the West, and now want to return to their own tradition, which is much greater than the Western tradition. So their works, except a very few writers, have become more and more traditional, more and more readable. People welcomed this great regression. But I think this returning is the death of a language and a soul. Because our own cultural tradition has not got enough strength to support a new writing, the only way to develop it is by blood transfusion. I think as a Chinese writer, I should criticize my culture severely, only having done so, I get the possibility to develop it.
As for my own writing, the readers in China think that I’m very difficult but unique among Chinese writers. I dare say, no fiction writers in China has studied the Western literature and Western philosophy so exhaustively like Can Xue.
Wang Anyi: Chevalier
French ambassador to China Sylvie Bermann presented the knights badge of the Order of Arts and Letters to Wang Anyi, a renowned Chinese author, in Shanghai, east China, September 26, 2013.
Chinese Literature as Seen from India
“THE CHINESE THINK, act, and feel almost exactly like us; and we soon find that we are perfectly like them, except that all they do is more clear, pure, and decorous, than with us,” Goethe is reported to have enthusiastically declared after reading a Chinese novel.
Is it possible to have a different view on China from India? Might we read Chinese literature neither out of eagerness for an exotic difference nor to come away amazed at a common humanity, but rather with the awareness of certain cultural, historical and social affinities and a curiosity about how their writers and ours interpret them in fiction? Given these affinities, could we approach Chinese literature more organically and not, following the Western model, as one more instance of ‘otherness’ to be annexed to the compendium of world literature?
To help the nation recover the revolutionary spirit, a new – lightly edited for political correctness, or annotated perhaps? – version of Mao's Little Red Book will reportedly hit the shelves soon (Revamp):
The new version is due for release in November, just before the 120th anniversary of Mao's birth. Its chief editor, Chen Yu – a senior colonel at the Academy of Military Science – describes it as a voluntary initiative. "We just want to edit the book, as other scholars work on the Analects of Confucius… We don't have a complicated political purpose," said Chen.
Sounds innocent enough . . .
By Bruce Humes, September 28 '13, 12:16a.m.