Paper Republic: Chinese Literature Matters

Bruce Humes

徐穆实

worldcat / academia

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Native English speaker who has hosted his own blog (https://www.bruce-humes.com/) since 2009 and specializes in translating ethnic-themed Chinese fiction into English.

Newly created posts include translated excerpts from Guo Xuebo's novel Moŋgoliya and Alat Asem's novel Confessions of a Jade Lord, and a bilingual "mini-database" of African literature in Chinese translation 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 (5)

Posts

Apartheid online at Beijing’s Int’l Book Fair?

By Bruce Humes, August 18, '15

Nice to see that the BIBF (Aug 26-29) has fairly attractive Chinese and English sections to its new-look web site, both of which – congrats! – are already up and functioning here.

But as I glanced through it, it reminded me of my first trip to the New China in 1981. When my father and I went for breakfast with our tour group at Shanghai’s Old Jinjiang Hotel, we were immediately forced to choose: Chinese cuisine at this table, Western at the other. Naturally, I dragged him along with me to the Chinese table — after all, it was my first meal in China! But when I tried to order a cup of coffee for my father, the waiter snapped: “If you want coffee, sit at the Western table!”

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The Dao of China Publishing

By Bruce Humes, August 13, '15

I have noticed that many of the promising new books about China's ethnic minorities -- their history, culture, and even award-winning short stories and novels by ethnic authors -- to which I call attention in my blog are just about impossible to track down and purchase. They are publicized in a press release duly carried word-for-word on certain politically correct web sites, and then fall off the radar.

A Manchu grad student in Beijing explained it to me thus:

在中国,有些书出版就不是为了阅读,或者说不是为了买给市场为大家提供阅读的。

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"Unavailing": Learning English via Xinhua News Translations

By Bruce Humes, July 21, '15

As of July 22, at least 238 people have been detained or questioned since the nationwide clampdown on China's attorneys began, according to the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Lawyer Concern Group, reports The Guardian.

That sounds worrisome indeed!

But I'm also interested in the adjective applied to describe the apparently futile efforts of critics of the crackdown as noted below:

China’s state-controlled media have rejected claims Beijing is waging a war against civil society. “Critics should first get the facts right, get to the bottom of the problem before embarrassing themselves in another unavailing episode of finger-pointing,” an editorial by Xinhua, Beijing’s official news agency, argued this week.

My question: What's the Chinese for "unavailing"? I assume the Xinhua news item was translated from the Chinese original.

I get the feeling this term may be appearing more often . . .

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

By Bruce Humes, January 13, '15

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)

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

By Bruce Humes, January 12, '15

In 贾平凹只能是守株待兔, 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?

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New Twist for Campaign to Take Chinese Literature Global?

By Bruce Humes, October 12, '14

In Books in the Turkish Stand in Frankfurt Book Fair, Turkish columnist Doğan Hızlan reports on Finland's neat marketing ploy at the just-finished 2014 Frankfurt Int'l Book Fair:

I also learned that in Finland there are 2.2 million saunas. They have carried this widespread sauna culture to the book fair. Reading sessions are being held in public saunas in Frankfurt. A Finnish author could bust into any sauna . . .

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Chinese Books Go Global: M & A Coming Soon to Your Home Country?

By Bruce Humes, September 14, '14

When you have trouble moving product overseas -- and cash in your pocket -- you can always call on a classic strategy: take control of the distribution channels.

There are four traditional ways to do so: set up your own local firm; invest in a local firm; merge your firm with a local firm; or simply acquire an existing player in that market which owns a respected brand name.

Is China getting ready to do so in the publishing field, as part of its soft power push?

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Winners Announced: China International Translation Contest

By Bruce Humes, August 24, '14

Winners of the "2013 China International Translation Contest," co-hosted by the State Council Information Office, Chinese Writer Association and the China International Publishing Group, have been announced. According to 国际翻译大赛, the organizing committee provided 30 pieces of contemporary Chinese short stories from which to choose, and 1,006 renditions were received from over 30 countries in English, French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic.

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Call for China-based "Translator-in-Residence" Program

By Bruce Humes, June 12, '14

I recently made a number of suggestions on concrete steps that could help ensure greater success for the “campaign to take Chinese literature global.” They are detailed in Open Letter to China Literary Exports, Inc..

中华读书报 (China Reading Weekly) interviewed me about my proposal, including the establishment of a Translator-in-Residence program. If you'd like to read the interview (in Chinese), and see the part of the draft text that was deleted just before publication, visit 建议建立驻地翻译基金,积极征募外国翻译家到中国短期居住.

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“Champa the Driver”: Tibetan Dreamer in an Alien Land

By Bruce Humes, May 14, '14

     
        “ Dreams are so good. Why do we have to make them a reality? ”

What’s a young Tibetan stud to do for a living nowadays in a tourist hotspot like Lhasa? And what happens when his childhood dream—to hang out in the capital of a country called China—comes true?

In the just-published The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver, author Chan Koonchung takes us on a rocky road from Lhasa to Beijing. Along the way he paints disturbing vignettes. An apartheid-in-the-making. The eerie death wish of a would-be self-immolator. The Kafkaesque “black jails” where provincial petitioners who dare air their grievances to the Beijing Mandarins are brutalized, then sent home.

If they’re lucky, that is.

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Straits Times: Nobel Win Stimulates Interest in Chinese Fiction

By Bruce Humes, October 2, '13

In Nobel Win, Ho Ai Li of Singapore’s Straits Times notes that Mo Yan’s Nobel Prize—regardless of how his own writing is perceived abroad—is helping to spark interest in translated Chinese fiction. Since most of us won’t be able to get beyond the pay wall, I’ve selected three choice quotes from the article below. But pls resist the temptation to re-tweet Eric’s words on your Weibo account, as we’d hate to see his visa renewal application denied next time round . . .

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21st Century Little Red Book: Due out in November

By Bruce Humes, September 28, '13

To help the nation recover the revolutionary spirit, a new – lightly edited for political correctness, or annotated perhaps? – version of Mao's Little Red Book will reportedly hit the shelves soon (Revamp):

The new version is due for release in November, just before the 120th anniversary of Mao's birth. Its chief editor, Chen Yu – a senior colonel at the Academy of Military Science – describes it as a voluntary initiative. "We just want to edit the book, as other scholars work on the Analects of Confucius… We don't have a complicated political purpose," said Chen.

Sounds innocent enough . . .

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The Translator's Brand & Branding the Translator

By Bruce Humes, March 21, '13

Murakami Haruki’s latest novel, his first major release since the 1Q84 trilogy in April 2010, goes on sale in Japan April 12. I haven’t found any hint of its name in English, but according to a report by Shi Chenlu at Chinanews.com (村上春树新长篇) , its (temporary) Chinese title is <没有色彩的多崎造和他的巡礼之年>.

Intriguingly, now the hunt is on for the Chinese translator. You may recall that the monopoly of long-time Murakami translator Lin Shaohua (林少华) ended abruptly when the contract for rendering What I Talk about When I Talk about Running was handed over to Shi Xiaowei (当我谈跑步时我谈些什么,施小炜译).

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"The Storyteller": Mo Yan's Nobel Acceptance Speech

By Bruce Humes, December 8, '12

It's true that the Western media, and not a few China hands, would like nothing better than for Mo Yan to have delivered a Nobel acceptance speech that criticizes China's censorship practices.

One could argue that this is a selfish if not downright childish desire.

His speech is now up in Chinese (讲故事的人), so we know that his speech contained nothing of the sort. He basically said that:

*** He perceives himself as a "storyteller" who was deeply inspired by the lives of those around him as he grew up in a small Shandong town

*** Recent criticisms leveled at him in fact have nothing to do with Mo Yan the writer

*** A writer should be judged by what he writes, not what he says -- or doesn't say -- about what he writes

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