“You’re stepping on my shadow, please back off,” she said.

Sun Yisheng / Nicky Harman

Bruce Humes

徐穆实

worldcat / academia

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Native English speaker who hosts Altaic Storytelling and specializes in translating ethnic-themed Chinese fiction into English.

Newly created posts include a translated excerpt from Alat Asem's novel Confessions of a Jade Lord and 非洲文学中文译本.

My published book-length, Chinese-to-English translations: The Last Quarter of the Moon (额尔古纳河右岸,迟子建著), by Chi Zijian; Shanghai Baby (上海宝贝,卫慧著), by Wei Hui; Chinese Dress & Adornment through the Ages (中国历代服饰艺术,高春明著) by Gao Chunming; and two co-translations: The Most Beautiful Chinese Classical Paintings (最美的中国古典绘画); and The China Tea Book (中国茶书).

 

Translations

Novels (2)

Short stories (4)

Excerpts (4)

Posts

Beijing Book Fair: List of Related Forums/Salons, etc?

By Bruce Humes, August 13, '17

Each year there are dozens of literary events timed to coincide with the Beijing International Book Fair (Aug 23-27, 2017). They take place both on the fair grounds and throughout the capital, and sponsors include Paper Republic.

As lists of these events-- in Chinese or English -- become available, please list here so that we can all benefit . . .

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Shanghai Moves to Ensure Independent Bookstores Toe the Line

By Bruce Humes, July 19, '17

Sad to learn that the last Jifeng Bookstore (季风), located at the Shanghai Library metro station, will close its doors in January 2018, according to the South China Morning Post. The original opened at Shanghai’s South Shaanxi Road metro station in 1997, and a string of other branches followed over the next decade.

It was during a break from my busy China speaking tour in 2000 about how importers abroad were using the Internet to source China-made goods, that right there in the South Shaanxi station I happened upon a copy of the very naughty 上海宝贝, the first Chinese novel I was to translate (Shanghai Baby). If it hadn’t been banned by then, it was certainly banned quickly thereafter.

The SCMP makes it clear that Jifeng is closing because the Shanghai authorities continually interfere with its efforts to host seminars and the like, events often referred to as 文化沙龙. This puts the few remaining independent booksellers in a bind: Book sales are increasingly monopolized by online vendors and massive Xinhua Bookstores, yet when independents try to branch out into other types of products and services — à la Eslite in Taiwan (诚品书店) — they are thwarted by the local culture department.

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“I Am Fan Yusu”: Speeding Up Time-to-Market

By Bruce Humes, May 30, '17

It can take several years for a piece of Chinese fiction to reach the English-speaking world. But thanks to publication in Chinese on the Internet — and translators working from it rather than the printed book — it looks like this time-to-foreign-reader can be radically reduced. Hopefully, this will help outsiders more quickly grasp what is going on in the “black box” that is China.

Reports Manya Koetse: “I Am Fan Yusu” went viral on Chinese social media in late April 2017. The author has since gone into hiding and her essay has been removed.

In some ways, the popularity of the essay in China is comparable to the recent hype over Alex Tizon’s essay “My Family’s Slave” on Western social media; this non-fiction story about ‘Lola’ Eudocia Tomas Pulido from the Philippines, who lived as a modern slave with an American family for 56 years, went viral on Twitter and Facebook in May. It gripped its many readers for exposing poignant problems in modern-day society that usually stay behind closed doors.

Fan Yusu’s account, in its own way, also revealed the harsh realities of an ever-changing society. China has an estimated 282 million rural migrant workers. The autobiographical tale focuses on the difficult childhood and adult life of one person . . .

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Chinese Literary Magazine Coming in Arabic

By Bruce Humes, September 2, '16

Ahramonline reports:

An Arabic edition of the magazine Chinese Literature has been launched during the Beijing International Book Fair and will be distributed for free starting October as a periodical magazine issued every three months in partnership with the Egyptian cultural newspaper Al-Kahera.

The magazine, which is already published in 10 languages and comprises fiction, poetry and art, will be published under the name Beacons of the Silk Road, and will introduce contemporary Chinese literature to Arabic readers.

I'm wondering: Is this the newest edition of Pathlight?

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Paper Republic vs. Kubin, the Literaturkritiker Lovers of Chinese Lit Love to Diss

By Bruce Humes, August 9, '16

I'm in shock! For one, the official Beijing Int'l Book Fair has already uploaded at least a partial list of events open to the public, albeit in Chinese only. In the past, that generally happened on the first day of the fair, or later.

But even more eye-popping is the list of speakers for this (no doubt) bilingual forum on translation:

字里行间中国文学翻译家沙龙

时间:827日星期六14:00-15:30

地点书展作家交流中心作家交流区

嘉宾

陈安娜瑞典高产翻译家)(Anna Chen)

顾彬著名汉学家,翻译家,作家)(Wolfgang Kubin)

埃里克·亚布拉罕森中英文学译者、Paper Republic 创始人)(Eric Abrahamsen)

报名链接:http://form.mikecrm.com/iWsUgu (never mind that this link doesn't work . . .)

For a classic Kubin interview re: his views on contemporary Chinese lit, see this one in English published just two days ago: No innovative culture without contact

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Ubiquitous 50 Cent Gang (五毛党): Appearances in Contemporary Chinese Fiction?

By Bruce Humes, May 20, '16

One out of 178 social media posts in China's cybersphere are authored and posted by a government employee — totaling 488 million annual posts — according to a new report written by professors at Harvard, Stanford, and the University of California.

It is based partly on analysis of leaked e-mails (43,000!) from an Internet Propaganda Office in Jiangxi. It appears that most are intended to distract the public from bad news. You can read about the report here and here, or download the 34-page PDF here.

So much for quantitative research. I'm more interested in how the 50c Party (五毛党) plays out in contemporary Chinese fiction. I recall the way author Stephen Koonchung recreated one of China's first real social-media-driven “mass incidents” (trucks carrying hundreds of dogs to slaughter in Beijing were blocked by activists thanks to real-time messaging) in his Kafkaesque Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver. Such scenes in a novel can be quite effective in sensitizing readers to the phenomenon, perhaps more than any single statistics-studded report.

My questions:

  1. Is it permissible to write in detail about such government-sponsored propaganda in short stories, novellas or novels?
  2. How are Chinese fiction writers portraying the impact of the 50c Gang on conversation in shaping public opinion?
  3. Titles of works of Chinese fiction in which 50c Gang activities or members figure prominently?

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Author Yan Lianke: The Reign of "温暖的文学"

By Bruce Humes, May 1, '16

Speaking recently at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Chinese author Yan Lianke (閻連科) spoke about the ominous rise of a "warm and fuzzy" kind of Chinese literature (温暖的文学) that the government, readers and critics all find acceptable. Here is an excerpt from notes taken at the talk (thus they may not be his exact words) which appear in an article 中國文學的唱衰者 at the newly launched (and interesting) Chinese-language web site, theinitiam.com:

中國文學進入新的冷凍期,但絕對不會回到80年代清除精神污染時期,那是要排除所有西方文化對我們的影響。今天的中國讀者非常了解世界文學的現狀。

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China's Thinkingdom Media Invests in Editions Philippe Picquier

By Bruce Humes, April 30, '16

According to a 2016-04-28 report (战略投资) in The Paper (澎湃讯), Thinkingdom Media Group Ltd (新经典文化) has made a “strategic investment” in France’s Editions Philippe Picquier. The report does not specify the $ amount or portion of the French publisher that is now in Chinese hands. Picquier is already a major French-language publisher of Chinese fiction writing including titles by Yu Hua, Wang Anyi, Alai, Su Tong, Han Shaogong, Bi feiyu, Chi Zijian, Ge Fei, Liang Hong and Li Er.

Some 15,000 copies of Wang Anyi’s 《长恨歌》(Le Chant des regrets éternels) have sold in French, according to the news item. Picquier's first venture into the world of translated Chinese popular fiction publishing was apparently Wei Hui's naughty Shanghai Baby, back in the early 2000s.

It will be interesting to see if and how Thinkingdom uses Picquier as a platform for the campaign to bring more contemporary Chinese literature in translation to the Francophone world.

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"White Deer Plain" Author Chen Zhongshi Dies

By Bruce Humes, April 29, '16

Chen Zhongshi, Shaanxi-based author of the 20th-century classic, White Deer Plain (白鹿原, 陈忠实著), has died.

Three thoughts:

1) White Deer Plain has been published in French, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese. Anyone working on the English, and if not, why not?

2) The novel was published in 1993. Any insights into why he wrote relatively little thereafter?

3) How to render the first line of White Deer Plain --- especially ---:

白嘉轩后来引以豪壮的是一生里娶过七房女人。

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New Ban on Homosexuality: Will it Extend to Published Chinese Fiction?

By Bruce Humes, March 4, '16

"Depictions of homosexuality, extramarital affairs, underage love and the supernatural are no longer allowed in television dramas under new regulations in mainland China," according to a report at Hong Kong Free Press (New Rules).

These rules are apparently already coming into affect. According to WSJ's China RealTime, " 'Heroin' (also known as “Addiction” in Chinese), a 15-episode Web drama about romance among teenage boys, was earlier this week taken down from major Chinese video streaming sites." This suggests that the ban applies not just to TV.

Will this ban on the portrayal of homosexuality, and "other abnormal sexual relationships and behavior," be extended to published writing as our man on the ground in Nanhai, XJP, exerts his Victorian values? Hard to say. For now, it would be neat to have a list of Chinese fiction --- particularly translated fiction or Chinese fiction you'd like to see translated --- touching on LGBT romance, lifestyles and issues. Please add to the list via the comments section.

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2016 Update: Guide to China’s Contemporary Ethnic-themed Literature in Translation

By Bruce Humes, February 3, '16

I've just updated my guide.

This 民族题材文学 category includes writing — regardless of the author’s ethnicity — in which non-Han culture, motifs or characters play an important role. But the great majority of the works listed were penned by a member of one of China’s minority ethnic groups. There are entries for fiction (and a bit of poetry) touching on the Bai, Evenki, Hui, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Manchu, Miao, Mongolian, Lahu, Lisu, Oirat, Seediq, Tibetan, Uyghur, Xiongnu and Yi peoples. Taiwan fiction is included, and the Tibetan section now features 25 entries. Unless noted, the original is in Chinese and the translation is in English. But I’ve also included a handful of renditions into French, Spanish and Japanese.

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