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Chinese Literature in Translation

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Pathlight Magazine

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A quarterly literary journal featuring translations of the best contemporary Chinese fiction and poetry.

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Wang MengSheng KeyiZhang ZhihaoTurbulenceZhang Chengzhi

Wang Meng

Sheng Keyi

Zhang Zhihao

Turbulence

Zhang Chengzhi

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What does it mean to be a Hongkonger in 2015? Views from the award-winning poet Jennifer Wong.

Francis Beechinor (from SOAS) has asked me to post this event for anyone in London next week: "Having lived in both Hong Kong and the UK, Jennifer Wong, the author of Goldfish and winner of the Hong Kong Young Artist Award, will share her insights on Hong Kong as both an inherently Chinese and international city. Through readings of some of her own poems about Hong Kong, she will share her views on the city's unique culture and identity. Come along to hear about the life of a poet and what it means to be a citizen of Hong Kong today. Feel free to join the Facebook event.

Venue: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Rm 116 Date/time: Tue 17 Feb 2015 - 18:30 - 20:00.

By Nicky Harman, February 9 '15, 6:43a.m.

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Changing the Way We Read: A Review of Hsia Yu's "Salsa," translated by Steven Bradbury

CANAAN MORSE reviews:

Salsa, by Hsia Yu, translated by Steven Bradbury (Zephyr Press, 2014)

The poet and the translator of this collection have successfully created and re-created poetry across a linguistic boundary. This may sound unremarkable, but consider: not all translation, but only good translation can achieve this. These poems, especially the translations, exist both within and outside of their originators’ control, and now that each of the many essential parts has coalesced, it is also necessary to name those parts: a name on the book cover that belongs to one of the most important poets in Taiwan’s literary history; a collection of forty-six poems that has been through ten printings in the Chinese; forty-six English poems that are translations of the forty-six Chinese poems, and are also poems in themselves; the visible hand of the translator, Steven Bradbury, a professor of English literature in Taiwan whose scope as a translator encompasses classical, modern, and contemporary poetry in Chinese; and a vast, burgeoning interpretive space, not a gulf between the two versions but an aura around each that opens up as the reader vivifies the writing.

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By Canaan Morse, January 23 '15, 2p.m.

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China Fiction Book Club hits two milestones

The new Social Media list on the right of the Paper Republic home page lists the China Fiction Book Club. For those of you who haven't come across it before, the CFBC started out as a London-based translation club, meeting every month to translate and discuss contemporary Chinese fiction. After a couple of (very lively and successful) years, work pressures got the better of most of us, and the CFBC went a bit quiet until the day, soon after, when it turned into a Twitter account, @cfbcuk. Amazingly, Helen Wang and I got together over a cup of coffee to set up the account on Twitter the very day that Mo Yan won that prize. Two and a bit years later, the @cfbcuk has hit two milestones: over 1,000 followers and very nearly 5,000 tweets. Follow it if you can!

By Nicky Harman, January 16 '15, 2:22p.m.

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Beijing Jan 17 Event: Sheng Keyi to Launch Novel at her Premier Painting Exhibition

You may recognize the name of Sheng Keyi (盛可以) as the novelist who wrote Northern Girls (北妹) and more recently Death Fugue (死亡赋格), both translated into English. But you might not know that she is a budding artist as well. She took up painting in 2013. Check out her brushwork here.

You are invited to attend the exhibition, comprising 26 tableaux, as well as the launch of her latest novel, Savage Growth (野蛮生长), which also features her own illustrations:

Date/time: 3:00-5:00 pm, January 17
Venue: New Millenium Gallery (北京千年时间画廊)
Curator: Zhang Siyong (张思永)
Academic Support: Feng Tang (冯唐)
Special Guests: Li Jingze (李敬泽), Liu Zhenyun (刘震云), Wu Hongbin (武洪滨), Li Jian (李健), Li Xiuwen (李修文) and A Yi (阿乙)

By Bruce Humes, January 13 '15, 12:51a.m.

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Jia Pingwa: Popularity in China Contrasts with Low Profile in Translation

In 贾平娃只能是守株待兔, we learn that Jia Pingwa’s latest novel 老生 (Lǎo Shēng) topped Sina Online’s 2014 ranking of “ten great books” (新浪年度十大好书).

The report points out that despite his popularity in China, his novels are rarely translated. “Whoever is willing to translate [my books], I welcome to come and negotiate the rights. But if no one does, I don’t know where to go to find translators,” says the author himself, perhaps slightly exasperated at the lack of interest from overseas publishers.

As usual, this is a bit of an exaggeration. Several of his books have been translated into French, including the once-banned La capitale déchue (废都). But only one of his novels, Turbulence (浮躁, tr. Howard Goldblatt), appears on Amazon in English. So this is probably more about his failure to gain more prominence in the English-speaking world.

Thus the question: Given his reputation in China, why haven’t most of Jia Pingwa’s novels been translated into European languages?

By Bruce Humes, January 12 '15, 10:11p.m.

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Bronze Age Chinese Translations in 2014

What is Chinese Literature?

As noted earlier, 2014 produced a "bumper crop" of Chinese literature translations in English, but almost all the titles listed are of contemporary fiction and poetry by living or recently deceased writers (and at least one of those titles won't be released until sometime in 2015).*

Yet 2014 also saw the publication of some very significant bronze age works. While China may not have the five thousand-year history the cultural nationalists claim for it, its written history does extend about three thousand years, with texts from that era serving as reference for intellectuals and underpinning longstanding habits of belief. Three of those texts are now available in major new English translations:

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By Lucas Klein, December 29 '14, 10:38p.m.

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London Book Fair's International Literary Translation Initiative Award 2015 - nominations wanted!

London Book Fair is offering an International Literary Translation Initiative Award. This is a new prize, set up last year, one of a dozen the LBF is awarding annually. It recognises the contribution of "organisations that have succeeded in raising the profile of literature in translation, promoting literary translators, and encouraging new translators and translated works." Qualified for nomination are: "Any company or organisation operating outside the UK, whose scope of achievement is outside the UK." Last year, the Best Translated Book Award (USA) won it.

So: a prize, a literary magazine, a summer school, a website...all would qualify, and anyone can nominate their favourite "initiative".

The deadline for nominations is 16 January 2015 (webpage currently says 9th, but this will be altered), and all the nominators have to do is fill in a fairly simple form, stating in 300 words why the organisation they're nominating deserves to win. Here's the link to the info and to the nomination form

By Nicky Harman, December 14 '14, 12:47a.m.

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Creating a Literary Space to Debate the Mao Era: The fictionalisation of the Great Leap Forward in Yan Lianke’s Four Books

There's an interesting article by Sebastian Veg in China Perspectives that unpacks Yan Lianke's novel Four Books and examines the role of contemporary Chinese fiction in promoting a broader political and historical dialogue. Well worth a read.

Abstract:

Since the scar literature of the early 1980s, fiction and fictionalised autobiography have played an important role in bringing to light the mass violence of the Cultural Revolution. However, these texts remained within a well-defined framework in which the political system itself was not questioned. Over the last decade, by contrast, the Chinese literary field has focused more specifically on the 1950s, with works such as Yang Xianhui’s Chronicles of Jiabiangou (Tianjin, 2002), and Yang Jisheng’s Tombstone (Hong Kong, 2008). This paper focuses on Yan Lianke’s Four Books (Hong Kong, 2010), a full-fledged fictionalisation in a fantastic mode of the famine of the Great Leap Forward in a village on the Yellow River. Considering literature in the context of theories of the public sphere, it suggests that Yan’s book aims to broaden decisively the discussion on certain previously out-of-bounds aspects of the Mao era, an aim only partially thwarted by its failure to be published within mainland China. Four Books, like Yang Jisheng and Yang Xianhui’s works, thus represents an attempt to call into question the original legitimacy of the PRC polity and to create debate within the Chinese-speaking public sphere on the foundations of the current regime.

By Cindy M. Carter, December 3 '14, 3:12a.m.

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Book Expo America, 2015

Book Expo America, the largest US book fair, is schedule for late May 2015, and a certain ancient civilization is going to be the Guest of Honor. That means BEA is going to get the Frankfurt-2009/London-2012 treatment, with a small army of Chinese writers and publishers and "other" descending on New York for a few weeks.

Right about now is when the list of lucky writers is being compiled, and we'll have some small say in the compilation. They'll take into account which writers have recently published books in English (thanks again to Nicky Harman and Helen Wang for their timely compilation. Now I'm going to the peanut gallery with two additional questions:

  1. Who among you (translators or publishers) have English-language translations coming out next year, ideally (but not necessarily) in the US, and ideally (but not necessarily) in the first half of the year?
  2. Publications aside, who do you think should go? Who would make an interesting addition to the delegation?

Please comment here, or email me directly. Thanks!

By Eric Abrahamsen, November 18 '14, 9:40p.m.

4 comments, viewed 66 times