By Bruce Humes, January 21, '19
China-based publishers are notorious for a misleading practice: the nationality of the author — not necessarily the language of the source text — is often noted on the spine or copyright page. Thus the reader may well believe she is reading a novel translated direct from the Swahili, when the source text is actually the English rendition of a Swahili original...
If you're interested in reading and/or adding to several comments on this topic, please click:
And see the comments immediately below the article itself.
By Bruce Humes, January 1, '19
Several of Yan Lianke's novels have not been published in China, or were initially published in Taiwan because he couldn't find a publisher in the PRC. Although he teaches at Renmin University of China in Beijing, the authorities seem keen to silence much of what he says, in fiction or otherwise.
Such is the case with a Dec 27, 2018 interview of him by The Beijing News (新京报), which has already been taken off the internet (looks like I'm wrong, see comments!), but saved -- for now anyway -- in a Google cache file.
Entitled 一个伟大文学的时代已经悄然消失, it can be found here in text form, and here with several photos (covers of his novels + a few of him).
I have copied the entire interview below in Chinese (text only).
By Bruce Humes, October 1, '18
The Guardian reports that former secretary of state and Massachusetts senator John Kerry made the following comment on the current rush to vote on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court:
“There’s no reason in the world to be bum-rushing this nomination.”
How to render "bum-rushing" as used here?
By Bruce Humes, March 25, '18
Speaking at length during his recent coronation ceremony, the new emperor mispronounced the name of the Tibetan epic, King Gesar, as "King Sager" (习近平把 “格萨尔王” 说成 ”萨格尔王”).
Unsurprisingly, this news did not appear under the headline "President Hurts the Feelings of Millions of Tibetans" in The People's Daily next day.
It is significant that he mentioned two of the three ancient oral epics in his speech, King Gesar (Tibetan) and Manas (Kyrgyz). Chinese literary apparatchiks increasingly refer to them, including Jangar (Mongolian), as “China's Three Great Epics” (我国三大史诗). This despite the fact that they originated in languages other than Chinese, among non-Han peoples and in lands that were not then part of the Chinese empire.
Alerted about it via a tweet by Shawn Zhang (章闻韶), however, Victor Mair's Language Log did discuss XJP's verbal faux pas that went unreported in China mainstream media.
By Bruce Humes, August 27, '17
Glossing Africa is a fascinating piece on “glossing” — different ways to do it, and what it signifies when it is (or is not) employed. In this piece, glossing refers to practices for clarifying an indigenous term by providing a glossary, footnotes, inserting a brief definition, etc.
Of course, we translators also frequently have to decide whether to gloss or not. In Chi Zijian’s Last Quarter of the Moon, for instance, I counted about 125 Evenki terms, including for proper names, place names and unique aspects of Evenki culture. More recently, Liu Jun and I co-translated Confessions of a Jade Lord by Alat Asem, in which there are many Uyghur and Arabic terms.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the popular Nigerian author now splitting her time between the US and Nigeria (and one of the rare contemporary African authors to have several novels available in Chinese), is definitely not a fan of glossing:
There’s a part of me that just deeply resents the fact that there’re many parts of the world where the fiction that comes from there is read as anthropology rather than as literature. And increasingly that kind of anthropological reading then means that… you’re explaining your world rather than inhabiting your world.
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 . . .
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.
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 . . .
By Bruce Humes, May 19, '17
Buruma knows Chinese and often writes about topics related to China and Japan. See news of the announcement here.
By Bruce Humes, May 18, '17
France’s Macron has named a woman, Françoise Nyssen, to fill the position of Minister of Culture. She has served as CEO of Éditions Actes Sud, which has published French translations of works by writers such as Bi Feiyu, Chi Li, Ma Jian, Mo Yan, Li Ang, Wang Xiaobo, Wuhe, Yu Hua, Zhang Xinxin and Zhaxi Dawa.
By Bruce Humes, January 23, '17
The Donald and his critics have media worldwide talking about two terms:
How would you render them?
By Bruce Humes, October 17, '16
Two events of interest, including one (2nd below) with Paper Republic's very secretive Eric Abrahamsen:
How to Translate Chinese Literature: Challenges in the Translation Process and Perspectives in Practice
New Literary Voices from China
By Bruce Humes, September 2, '16
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?
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:
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
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.
- Is it permissible to write in detail about such government-sponsored propaganda in short stories, novellas or novels?
- How are Chinese fiction writers portraying the impact of the 50c Gang on conversation in shaping public opinion?
- Titles of works of Chinese fiction in which 50c Gang activities or members figure prominently?