By Bruce Humes, January 23, '16
Tsai Ing-wen’s post-election response on her Facebook page to a barrage of postings criticizing her stand in favor of Taiwan’s independence:
Various media have translated as follows:
The greatness of this country lies in that everyone has the right to be oneself.
The greatness of this country lies in how every single person can exercise their rights.
How would you render?
By Bruce Humes, December 24, '15
Once again, we are reminded that poetry matters in China. And, equally interesting, that translation of poetry matters.
Feng Tang, author of Beijing, Beijing (北京北京 冯唐著), has apparently crossed the lines of decency with his new translation of verse by China's favorite foreign poet, Rabindranath Tagore. Just in case the world didn't know about this travesty, the Party's English mouthpiece, China Daily, has published an essay, Lust in Translation, about the “testosterone-driven” translator's very personal take on the work of this Bengali poet.
By Bruce Humes, November 11, '15
As Sheng Keyi writes in today's New York Times (Still No Dignity):
The Chinese Communist Party leadership announced on Oct. 29 the end of the one-child policy, to be replaced with a law that allows married couples to have two children. But dropping the one-child policy will not end the government’s control of women’s bodies. We still will not have the final say when it comes to our reproductive rights.
Clearly, the battle for those rights won't be won in a day.
In the meantime, let's make a list of Chinese fiction (both untranslated and translated) that touches on various aspects of China's Big Brother Family Planning Program over the decades. Mo Yan's Frog should be on the list, but that's an easy one. I wonder: Are there any novels or short fictional pieces out there about what it's like to live in China if you were a child born sans production permit, and therefore can't get a national ID?
By Bruce Humes, September 18, '15
Over the last few years, the veil has been partially lifted on what has been China’s long-running and most coveted literary set of awards for the novel, the Mao Dun Literature Prize, which is awarded once every four years. You can bone up on the scandals behind this and other awards here if you like.
The Beijing Daily has just published an interesting article (茅奖销售) which details “before and after” sales figures, queries authors on how winning the award has affected their work, and concludes with a brief overview of 1982-2015 winning titles by literary critic Bai Ye (白烨).
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!”
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:
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 . . .
By Bruce Humes, February 9, '15
Speaking recently at the China Development Forum in London, Goran Malmqvist (马悦然), a sinologist and Emeritus Professor at Stockholm University, said that "poor translations and little attention Chinese literature received from Western publishers are the major obstacles for Chinese culture to go global."
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)
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?
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 . . .
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?
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.
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.
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.