Politics and poetry

Two poems by Yi Sha from May 2016. One on poetry, one on history. Generations, family. Chinese originals are here. Below at the end is a poem I wrote last month. Rather flippant. Yi Sha is better. I have better poems too.

Martin Winter <dujuan99@gmail.com>

Yi Sha

you don’t know it exists
it’s there

you forget about it
it’s there

you use it
it’s there

you betray it
it’s there

it exists apart
from you

May 2016
Translated by MW, Feb. 2018 Continue reading

The Stolen Bicycle nominated for Man Booker

Source: Taipei Times (3/14/18)
‘The Stolen Bicycle’ to compete with 12 books for prestigious Man Booker prize
Staff Writer, with CNA

A copy of The Stolen Bicycle by Wu Ming-yi, published in Australia by Text Publishing, is pictured in a publicity photograph. Photo from Grayhawk Agency’s Facebook page

The Stolen Bicycle (單車失竊記), a novel written by Taiwanese author Wu Ming-yi (吳明益) and translated into English by Darryl Sterk, has been selected to contend for the prestigious Man Booker International Prize.

The novel is about a writer who embarks on a quest in search of his missing father’s stolen bicycle.

It was included on a list of 13 novels revealed on Monday by the UK-based Booker Prize Foundation, the organizer of the prize, which rewards the finest work in translated fiction from around the world that is published in the UK and available in English.

This is the first time a work by a Taiwanese writer has been included on the list.

“I’m honored to be listed among them, and the nationality [was listed] as ‘Taiwan,’” Wu said in a Facebook post, expressing his appreciation to the book’s translator, publisher and readers.

The judges considered 108 books this year, the foundation said. Continue reading

USC Eileen Chang digital library collection

New USC Eileen Chang Digital Library Collection

Original article: https://libraries.usc.edu/article/new-usc-digital-library-collection-related-chinese-literary-figure-eileen-chang

The USC Libraries recently digitized a collection of nearly 200 items related to the influential Chinese writer Eileen Chang and made them publicly accessible through the USC Digital Library.

Chang (Ailing Zhang, 1920-95) first gained fame in 1943 in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. She earned a large readership as well as critical acclaim with her novels, novellas, and short stories that explored themes of marriage, family, and love in an urban setting, and today her works are considered among the most important Chinese literature of the 1940s. In 1955 Chang emigrated to Los Angeles and continued her literary career; most of the digitized materials come from this stage of her career, including extensive correspondence between Chang and the literary critic C. T. Hsia.

The digitized materials represent a small portion of the Ailing Zhang papers, which are available for research by appointment at the USC Libraries’ Special Collections. For more information about Chang or the collection, please contact the East Asian Library’s Chinese studies librarian, Tang Li.

Posted by Brian Bernards bernards@usc.edu

‘I Object’

Source: China Heritage (3/5/18)
Objecting (Dog Days IV)

‘I Object’ is a poem that circulated on the Chinese-language Internet following the Lunar New Year. It appeared around the time that Beijing announced a proposed revision of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China that would open the way for the unlimited tenure of state leaders (see The Real Man of the Year of the Dog — Dog Days (III)China Heritage, 2 March 2018). Online expressions of outrage and objection were swiftly quelled.

Due both to the timely appearance as well as to the tenor of ‘I Object’, we are including it in our 2018 series of Dog Days (for more of these, see below). My thanks to Linda Jaivin for suggesting ‘I object’ for wǒ fǎnduì 我反對.

— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
5 March 2018

I Object 我反對
By Anonymous 無名氏
Translated by Geremie R. Barmé

我 : weapons, to kill (Warring States era); later similar in use to the perpendicular pronoun ‘I’ in English, and ‘me’ Continue reading

The Age of Irreverence review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of David Moser’s review of The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China (University of California Press, 2015), by Christopher Rea. The review appears below, but is best read online at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/moser/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC book review editor for literary studies, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

The Age of Irreverence:
A New History of Laughter in China

By Christopher Rea

Reviewed by David Moser
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright March, 2018)

Christopher Rea, The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015. ix-xvi + 335 pp. ISBN: 9780520283848 (Hardcover: $70.00)

Chinese Humor and its Discontents

A generation ago, China scholars were to be forgiven for having the impression that Chinese culture suffered from a puzzling humor deficit. Much was made of the fact that the Chinese word for “humor” youmo 幽默 is borrowed from English (in the same way the loan word luoji 逻辑 “logic” was used as evidence that Chinese philosophy lacked this feature as well). Anthologies of Chinese folk humor were usually just joke collections framed as anthropological data (usually badly translated) rather than case studies of laughter. Early popularizing books on Chinese humor tended to merely highlight nuggets of subtle irony mined from Zhuangzi or Dream of the Red Chamber, or to cherry pick passages from the works of a Lao She or Lu Xun. This paucity of examples left the impression that Chinese culture may have produced a few gems of gentle mockery, but the full, variegated range of what we call “humor”—particularly humor that is irreverent, challenging, and even cathartic—was simply not in the Chinese cultural DNA. Continue reading

Changpian no. 17

长篇 // Changpian // Longform

Welcome to the 17th edition of Changpian, a selection of feature and opinion writing in Chinese. With other resources devoted to the many interesting sound bites from Chinese social media, this newsletter focuses instead on some of the wealth of longer writing that is produced in Chinese, both in traditional news media and on platforms like WeChat.

Changpian includes any nonfiction writing, from stories and investigations to interviews and blog posts, that I found worth my time – and that you might like as well. It aims to be relevant to an understanding of Chinese society today, covering topics in and outside the news cycle.

The selection is put together by me, Tabitha Speelman, a Dutch journalist and researcher currently based in Leiden, The Netherlands. As always, feedback is very welcome (tabitha.speelman@gmail.com or @tabithaspeelman). Back issues can be found here. Continue reading

Reviving realism

Source: China Daily (2/13/18)
Reviving realism: Experts discuss 2017 Chinese literature
By Cheng Yuezhu | chinadaily.com.cn

Realism was a keyword of the 2017 Chinese literary scene. Carrying on the emphasis of “realistic themes” raised in the 19th CPC National Congress, literary experts discussed literary realism in the Dangdai Bimothly Magazine Novel Forum recently in Beijing.

Experts agreed 2017 is a year of prosperity for Chinese literature. According to Bai Ye, researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 2017 was a landmark, as the number of novels published last year exceeded ten thousand.

Yan Jingming, vice-president of the China Writers Association, said: “The trend of mutual development between online literature and print literature as well as online circulation and print circulation is obvious. Recalling the literary creations from 2017, the achievements in novels and realist themes have impressed us deeply.” Continue reading

Poets’ war of words

Source: Sixth Tone (2/8/18)
Two Poets’ War of Words Shows China’s Yawning Generation Gap
An ugly spat between two popular writers shows how Chinese literature is abandoning the collective spirit in favor of the individual.
By Xu Xiao [Xu Xiao is a poet. He is also a journalist currently working at The Paper, Sixth Tone’s sister publication.]

Left: poet Guo Lusheng, or ‘Shizhi’ gives a speech in Beijing, July 10, 2010. VCG; right: poet Yu Xiuhua talks to audience in Beijing, March 26, 2016. Zhan Min/VCG)

When the then-20-year-old poet Guo Lusheng, better known by his nom de plume “Shizhi” or “Index Finger,” completed his “Ocean Trilogy” in 1968, the Cultural Revolution was still in its infancy. Comparing himself to a drop of water in the oceanlike collective, his works marked the start of a period in which he composed some of his most influential poems. Today, Guo is known as a visionary whose work particularly inspired the so-called Misty Poets, a group of writers who, in the late 1970s, challenged the restrictions of the time on artistic freedom. Continue reading

Mai Jia wows foreign audiences

Source: Global Times (1/29/18)
Spy thriller novelist Mai Jia wows foreign audiences

The Chinese edition of Decoded Photo: Courtesy of Thinkingdom Media Group Ltd

If hearty stories about the hardships of rural life form your primary impression of modern Chinese literature then Mai Jia’s spy thrillers might supply a much-needed last-minute antidote.

Decoded (2002), one of the prize-winning writer’s most acclaimed works, has been translated into 33 languages and was recently included by the Daily Telegraph along with 19 other spy bestsellers from the UK, US and Russia for its “best 20 spy novels of all time” list, making it the only Asian representative on the list.

Dubbing Decoded as “riddling, dreamlike and digressive, in the manner of classical Chinese fiction,” the list also includes world spy classics such as Ian Fleming’s From Russia, with Love (1957), John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) and Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity (1980) that were later adapted into hit movies. Continue reading

SAPPRFT issues “recommended” online lit

Source: Global Times (1/26/18)
Chinese online literature blossoms with more diverse themes

Chinese online literature is shifting from a focus on pure fantasy to a kaleidoscope of themes, as suggested by a recently released official recommendation list.

A total of 24 pieces of online literature, including “The Road To Rejuvenation,” “Fighter of Destiny,” “Stay-at-home Mothers Go Forward” and “Candy Marriage” were featured in the list of recommendations jointly released by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) and China Writers Association (CWA), which have released similar lists for three consecutive years.

“We saw a significant increase in realistic subjects reflecting people’ s everyday lives in online literature this year,” said Chen Qirong, director of the CWA’s online literature committee. Continue reading

Walk on the wild side (1)

too big, too perfect altogether, too much like a song, a poem, and one big translation effort to add anything. a colloquial poem. complete with footnotes, index. of course with characters. all about characters. characters and books. writing, performing.

poetry is a very good way to take part. in life in china. elsewhere. not knowing beforehand.

yi sha looms importantly. i have been taking part in his circles every day for five years. so of course i’m happy. every day means looking up today’s poem. yi sha has presented one poem per day since 2011. almost 900 people, 2500 poems. yi sha said in december my latest chinese poem was #2500. but that seems to have been a mistake. anyway, 8 poems of mine in there until now.

so of course i have to add this. at a reading, when yi sha places an order, it’s for the daily npc, new poetry canon, abbreviated from new century poetry canon, 新世纪诗典. books, yes. my stuff is in there, too. there is npc self-censorship. almost every poem from the daily series on Weibo and WeChat gets printed. but not everything that appears online and is a good poem can appear officially in npc. and it’s all subject to one person’s decisions. to yi sha’s mind, mood, memory. Continue reading

Elegy of a River Shaman review

Source: Writing China (1/26/18)
The Last Human Tiger: Review of Fang Qi’s Elegy of a River Shaman
By Astrid Møller-Olsen


In a fantastic blend of folk song, ecocriticism and historical fiction, the novel Elegy of a River Shaman chronicles four generations of the Tribe of the Tiger and their Tima (shaman) in the Three Gorges (san xia 三峡) region along the Yangzi River. It opens with the clan patriarch Li Diezhu’s decision to build a pioneer settlement in the fertile Lihaku ridge and moves on to relate how macro-historical events, such as the Japanese invasion of 1937 and the civil war between communists and nationalists, affected the lives and traditions of this local community.

After trailing the fates and misfortunes of the dwindling tribe, the novel ends on a hopeful note, with Diezhu’s ageing widow assuring their great-grandson of the continued survival of his people and their totem animal: “when a tiger turns five hundred years old, its fur turn white. They can live a thousand years” (467). Continue reading

Jia Pingwa on ‘The Plight of Writing’

Source: LA Review of Books, China Channel (1/24/18)
The Plight of Writing
By Jia Pingwa

Illustration from a painting by Jia Pingwa, titled “The Cowpen.”

An undelivered speech Jia Pingwa

Considered one of the most original and influential novelists in contemporary China, Jia Pingwa has nonetheless been under-translated for a long time. A recent surge in translations of his novels has given us the hope that we might be finally seeing this important author’s “arrival”in the international world of literature. In light of this, the Modern and Contemporary Chinese Forum of the Modern Language Association organized two events: an interview with Jia, to be co-hosted by myself and the literary translator-scholar Michael Berry; and a roundtable on “The ‘Arrival’ of Jia Pingwa in World Literature: Translation and Interpretation” for this year’s annual conference, held in New York City Jan 4 -7. In placing the word ‘arrival’ in quotation marks, I was alluding to Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi film, which features a linguist whose correct interpretation of a mysterious alien message eventually saves the world from war and destruction. Jia’s literary arrival would not cause an apocalyptic encounter of course. But I knew it could not be easy. Still, never did I expect that Jia’s physical arrival at the MLA conference would prove to be so difficult and, in the end, impossible. Continue reading