2009 PEN Translation Grants

By Eric Abrahamsen, published April 22, 2009, 3:28p.m.

Announcements have been made for the 2009 PEN Translation Grants, though the press release has not yet appeared online, we'll link to it when it does. The only Chinese-language grant went to my translation of Wang Xiaobo's collection of essays, My Spiritual Homeland. You can download a PDF translation of "The Silent Majority", one of the essays from this collection, by clicking here. This essay was originally published in the Asia Literary Review.

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# 1.   

I'm so glad to learn that you have translated Wang Xiaobo's essays. In my opinion, they are among the best Chinese essays ever written in the past century. I used to think it a pity that they hadn't been translated into English, but now, thanks to your efforts, there is hope that the world will better appreciate this witty, orginal and thought-provoking writer who died a tragically untimely death. A couple of years ago, I translated four of Wang Xiaobo's essays and posted my translations, along with the originals, on my blog. I did it for practice and fun. It was a pleasant experience to do the translation, partly because they are a far cry from the sentimentalism and logical wolliness that tend to plague modern and contemporary writings in Chinese.

Paul, April 23, 2009, 5:23a.m.

# 2.   

Hi Eric,

I just read your translation of The Silent Majority, and I am thoroughly enjoying it (as a Chinese native). But it seems the original text your translation is based on is "missing" some text, for example, Wang Xiaobo talking about himself eating pencils during the famine.

I am well aware of the fact that there are two versions of this article available because I've owned both of them on two different collections of his essays. I just think it would be even greater if your translation is based on a more "complete" version, so to speak.

Any way, you have done a great job. I am looking forward to your reply and I hope I can buy your translations soon (if it will be available)!

Thanks, Mieu

Mieu, April 5, 2010, 8:31a.m.

# 3.   

Hi there,

Thanks very much for commenting, and I'm glad you liked the essay! At the time I was translating it I was aware that there were two versions out there, but I hadn't yet gotten in touch with Li Yinhe, and didn't know which was considered "authoritative" -- I went with the one in the book I happened to own. A full collection of his essays in English will be coming out (eventually!) and we'll be sure to base the translations on the proper versions of the Chinese.

Thanks again! Eric

 Eric Abrahamsen, April 6, 2010, 3:32a.m.

# 4.   

Very interesting -- the version I read had nothing about the silent composer or spitting in teacups, but did have a quite hilarious introduction that involved bicycles. (Wang asked what you would do if your neighbor left his bike in the corridor outside your door, blocking you from getting out; he compared the speaking option, in which you ask politely for him to move his bike but he curses at you and doesn't change, with the silent option, in which you bust his tires or hide his bike somewhere.)

As for the full collection of essays, I very much look forward to it! Any idea when (or by whom) it might be published?

Alex, January 30, 2011, 4:52a.m.


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