Paper Republic: Chinese Literature Matters

Grey books and yellow books, Nazis and Trotsky

By Cindy M. Carter, published

Well worth a look is Joel Martinsen's August 14th post on ("How the Nazis brought about the end of the Cultural Revolution"), which examines the political and historical background to Chinese translations of works by Trotsky, William L. Shirer (The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich) and others.

The post includes a full translation of Luo Xuehui's article in China Newsweek. Here is an excerpt from Joel's preface:

The translations belonged to a category known as "grey books" (灰皮书), translations of foreign political and sociological texts not intended for public circulation. Limited-circulation translations of foreign literary works were known as "yellow books" (黄皮书). In the early 1960s, when China was engaged in an ideological battle with the Soviet Union, its party leadership needed to read "revisionist" works in order to understand and combat the arguments of the opposition.

The books and their translators were addressed by two Chinese newsweeklies this summer. In a lengthy New Century Weekly feature on the genesis and influence of yellow and grey books, Zheng Yifan explained how the "grey book" project grew out of a mission to translate the works of Trotsky into Chinese...

Read the full post on Danwei.


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