After yesterday’s MCLC post by Dylan King, I asked Howard if he could help provide a little background about the translation of the Fei Du. His reply is below. Again, I will post an official announcement when Ruined City hits the book stands at the end of January.
Jonathan Stalling <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the 1990s Hawaii UP editor Sharon Yamamoto and I received a translation of the novel (I forget what it was called) for inclusion in our series of Chinese fiction. It was not publishable, but we wanted to include it if we could, so we asked the translator, a Texas academic from China who had secured permission from Jia, to bring on a co-translator. He asked a colleague, a German professor, to work on a chapter, which we read and found acceptable, though in need of more editing. He asked for an advance fee for editing/co-translating. Everyone reading this knows that is not how university presses operate. We rejected the translation, which I last saw more than twenty years ago; UHP does not have a copy, I checked.
In March 2008, Jia wrote to ask me to translate Feidu and Qinqiang. In October 2009 I received formal permission to translate both and to find a publisher. For a variety of reasons, I did not start right away and offered to relinquish the permission, but he insisted that I undertake it when I could. In February 2011 he again sent formal permission to translate the two novels. I completed my translation of Feidu in early 2015. Prior to that, I read (on MCLC) that another translation, by a Chinese academic and a British or American living in Shaanxi, was being shopped for publication. I immediately queried Jia and informed him that I would not continue. He assured me in an email dated September 3, 2013 that he had given permission to the two individuals to translate only as an exercise, not for publication. He did not sign a contract with them. Here is his message:
This is not the first time in my experience that something like this has happened. So, wary of possible legal issues, I asked him to add in our agreement that he would accept all formal legal responsibilities; he did so.
Finally, the title. The city 都 in the novel, confirmed by Jia, is neither a capital nor abandoned 废 or defunct. As I was translating, I asked for clarification and the answer he gave was that 废 here is was more like “destroyed,” hence, my title of Ruined City. I ran it by him and he approved.