Chinese Literature in Translation

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

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Archives: May 2008 most recent posts

Yan, Afield

The Guardian's Hay festival coverage starts off with a big picture of Yan Lianke, looking like he's pretending he belongs there. The first of their excerpts from Hay-festival attendees comes from Julia Lovell's translation of his novel Serve the People. We're going to see if we can post some comments from Yan himself on the whole Hay experience, once he's back in China.

Edit: That picture seems to have been taken in China. He belongs there after all, guess that’s just his regular expression.

By Eric Abrahamsen, May 23 '08, 6:33p.m.

1 comment, viewed 36 times

Professor Jonathan Spence to give 60th anniversary BBC Radio 4 Reith Lectures

Historian and translator extraordinaire Jonathan Spence will give the prestigious 60th anniversary BBC Radio 4 Reith Lectures.

The series of four lectures, entitled Chinese Vistas, will be broadcast weekly at 9.00am on Radio 4, beginning on 3 June 2008. (Nice date for a lecture series on China, don't you think?)

See this press release for more info and links.

By Cindy M. Carter, May 23 '08, 3a.m.

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Translating Scat

Translating Scat – how do you choose the ‘right’ register in English?

Is a taste for ‘scat’ humour cultural? (Sorry, no pun intended!) Reading Cindy Carter’s recent piece Studies in Scat: Excerpts from Yu Hua, Zhu Wen and Li Er about the Chinese scatological sense of humour started me thinking.

What to do if your editor doesn’t like all this talk of crap? My translation of Han Dong’s 扎根, which will appear in English as Banished!, is at the copy-editing stage. The copy editor has put a lot of careful work into correcting my ‘infelicities’ (lovely word!) of expression for which I am extremely grateful, but we have one major disagreement. It’s – you’ve guessed it – the language used to translate those ‘toilet functions’!


By Nicky Harman, May 9 '08, 1p.m.

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How I learned to stop worrying about my visa and love the 2008 Olympics

Although this may be of limited interest for those of you not resident in China, the recent confusion over visa renewals has caused some consternation in our circles, the little campfires around which yours truly, and her fellow translators-in-arms, are bivouacked.

Here’s a post from related to the great summer 2008 visa kerkuffle: Visa, visa, where are you.

You might ask why, in light of these changes, we translators don’t simply find a related day job or link up with some corporate sponsor willing to support our endeavors. The answer: there is no such thing as a company dedicated to literary translation in China. Ditto for film translation. Translation companies, such as they are, offer rates that fall tragically short of a living wage (particularly for our Chinese colleagues; we Chinese-to-English translators are somewhat better off), and they tend to focus on technical, legal, medical or commercial translation.

Advertising companies pay handsomely, but who wants to spend four or five hours per day convincing the Chinese populace to buy more cars/smoke more cigarettes/consume more meat, imported or domestic? Wages aside, there’s a way to be a person, and a person’s got to sleep. Besides, after a decade or so of studying Chinese, wouldn’t our time be better spent translating authors and filmmakers such as Yan Lianke, Li Er, Wang Xiaobo, Wang Xiaoshuai, Tian Zhuangzhuang or Luo Yan, rather than salvaging cheap ad copy for Audi, Pepsi, Avon, Budweiser or Ford?

A far more common option is to cadge or chivvy a friend or colleague into putting one on the books as a foreign hire, the recipient of a coveted “Z” work visa. In the short-term, it seems an easy solution...but keep in mind the old adage about favors: “The most expensive things in China are free.”

The upshot of this diatribe is that, effective July 7 of 2008, I honestly don’t know where I’ll be.

By Cindy M. Carter, May 8 '08, 9p.m.

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New York Times Book Review 5/4/2008: four Chinese novels

The May 4, 2008 edition of the New York Times Book Review features reviews of four new translations of Chinese novels:

- Mo Yan’s Life and Death are Wearing Me Out, translated by Howard Goldblatt
- Jiang Rong’s Wolf Totem, translated by Howard Goldblatt
- Wang Anyi’s The Song of Everlasting Sorrow, translated by Michael Berry and Susan Chan Egan (includes chapter excerpt)
- Yan Lianke’s Serve the People, translated by Julia Lovell (includes chapter excerpt)

One interesting, and rather humbling, note: the two books translated by Howard Goldblatt total 1067 English language pages. 1067 pages, people. As someone who counts herself lucky, very lucky, to get through 1000 characters of literary translation per day, I can’t imagine how he does it and still manages to find time to sleep.  Damn, I could have/should have/would have asked him that at the Moganshan translation seminar…

(Thanks to fellow-translator Bruce Humes for giving us the heads-up on these reviews.)

By Cindy M. Carter, May 6 '08, 10a.m.

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