Interview with Ma Jian

Source: Deutsche Welle (10/18/17)
Chinese author Ma Jian: ‘The Communist Party keeps their people well-fed, but in a cage’
Every five years, China’s Communist Party convenes at a special congress. Can the one taking place now bring about political change? DW spoke with Chinese author and activist Ma Jian, who lives in Berlin.

Chinese author Ma Jian (picture-alliance/U. Baumgarten)

Ma Jian

Ma Jian was born in Qingdao, Shandong Province, East China in 1953. He lived and worked as a writer, photographer and painter in Beijing, then later in Hong Kong, before moving to London in 1999. A political dissident then and an outspoken critic of Communist China ever since, his award-winning literary works of his travels through China and Tibet lent voice to his country’s “lost generation.”

His most famous book, “Beijing Coma,” was published in 2008 and likewise garnered numerous awards. For his book “The Dark Road,” published in 2013, which explores China’s one-child policy, he traveled extensively through the country’s remote interior. Continue reading

US poet laureate in Beijing

Source: Sup China (10/19/17)
U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith on Chinese poetry, language, and the allure of China
By Anthony Tao

Tracy K. Smith reading on October 16 to a packed house at The Bookworm, an independent bookstore in Beijing 

BEIJING – Tracy K. Smith, who began her post as the 22nd poet laureate of the United States in September, has expressed a desire to promote poetry in underserved backwaters and remote corners, to take it outside of leafy campuses such as her own at Princeton, where she is director of the creative writing program. As she said in an interview in June, “I see the poet as someone who has made a commitment not just to self-expression, but to an active and an eager listening to the world and the voices outside of the self.”

Perhaps that explains why we’re in the back of a van in Beijing on a Thursday morning, shuttling from a hotel to a university for a public reading. It was merely a coincidence that China, of all places, would be Smith’s first major destination since officially becoming America’s most visible poet, but it was also somewhat fitting – if one’s committed to taking poetry on the road, why not all the way to the other side of the world? Continue reading

Yu Hua, “How My Books Have Roamed the World”

Source: Specimen (9/21/17)
How My Books Have Roamed the World
Written in Chinese by Yu Hua
Translated into English by Helen Wang

For this presentation, I counted the number of countries and languages, apart from China and Chinese (and China’s ethnic minority languages) that my books have been published in so far, and it came to 38 countries and 35 languages. The reason there are more countries than languages is mainly because English editions are published in North America (US and Canada), the UK, Australia and New Zealand; Portuguese editions are published in Brazil and Portugal; and Arabic editions in Egypt and Kuwait. But sometimes the situation is reversed: my books are published in two languages in Spain (Castilian and Catalan) and in India (Malayam and Tamil).

Looking back on how my books have roamed the world, I see there are three factors: translation, publication and readers. I’ve noticed that in China discussions about Chinese literature in a world context focus on the importance of translation, and of course, translation is important, but if a publisher doesn’t publish, then it doesn’t matter how good a translation is, if it’s going to be locked in a drawer, old-style, or, these days, stored on a hard drive. Then there are the readers. If a publisher publishes a book, and the readers don’t pick up on it, then the publisher will lose money and won’t want to publish any more Chinese literature. So, these three factors – translation, publication and readers – are all essential. Continue reading

Excerpt from Guo Xuebo’s “Mongolia”

List members may be interested in the following:

Source: (9/28/17)

“The Mongol Would-be Self-Immolator”:An excerpt from “Mongolia,” a novel by Guo Xuebo

The reason I mention this is that, to the best of my knowledge, self immolation (自焚) is a largely taboo subject in Chinese fiction today. This text — penned by Guo Xuebo 郭雪波, an ethnic Mongol raised in Inner Mongolia — not only poke funs at the omnipresent “stability maintenance” policy, it actually deals head on with the paranoia surrounding the topic of self-immolation.

Bruce Humes <>

The Moving Target: Translation and Chinese Poetry–cfa

Call for abstracts | The Moving Target: Translation and Chinese Poetry

On 1-2 June 2018, Maghiel van Crevel and Lucas Klein will convene a workshop entitled “The Moving Target: Translation and Chinese Poetry” at Leiden University, toward the publication of an edited volume in 2019.

Participants will arrive on 31 May and depart on 3 June. Hotel accommodation and all meals will be funded by the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) and other local funding bodies.

The workshop aims to conjoin critical engagement with the notion of translation with deep linguistic, literary and cultural knowledge on poetry in Chinese: written in Chinese, translated into Chinese, or translated from Chinese into other languages. Continue reading

New Literary History of Modern China review

Source: LARB China Channel (10/9/17)
Republic of Letters
Eleanor Goodman reviews A New Literary History of Modern China, edited by David Der-Wei Wang
By Eleanor Goodman

One evening this summer as I was waiting for a table at a restaurant, I overheard a well-dressed woman describing a bike trip she was planning to take to Japan. “I’m so excited about it,” she told her companion, “that I just picked up Memoirs of a Geisha.”

That literature is a window onto a culture – a point of access that can be utilized even from afar, a safe mental space in which one’s own attitudes, prejudices, preconceptions, and expectations can be challenged and even altered – is an idea that is not only true but important. In an era in which globalism is a simple fact and travel to previously remote places is easy and ordinary, while simultaneously xenophobia and racial fear-mongering are on the rise, there is an increasing need for exposure to other cultures in many forms. Then again, reading a book written by a white man about sex workers in the 1930s and 40s does not necessarily offer the most accurate picture of Japan as it exists today. Continue reading

Nobel complex

Three years ago, I was at Vermont Studio Center, translating Yi Sha, also getting attention, experience, and inspiration for my own stuff. Yi Sha still remembers our residence in his poetry. I posted his “National Day” last week, along with links to Liu Xiaobo’s last note on NY Review of Books and to translations of Liu Xia’s poems. What is the connection? When Yi Sha and I were in Vermont, we didn’t talk about Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia, as far as I remember. He was very much interested in who would get the Nobels for literature and for peace, also if any science Nobels would go to Chinese people. Nobody else at VSC was interested in the Nobel announcements. Last year Yi Sha wrote a poem about this experience. I have just translated it, along with two other poems he has written just now, also harking back to VSC. You can read the Nobel one below. The others are on my blog, along with the originals. Continue reading

Chinese Literature Today 6.1

Dear MCLC List members,

I am very happy to announce that Chinese Literature Today vol. 6 no. 1 is now available and can be found on the Routledge website ( I want to thank CLT’s readers for their patience in 2016 as CLT transitioned into a new partnership with Routledge. CLT will now reach exponentially more readers across the globe while delivering the quality of presentation and timeliness that its readers have come to expect. Dr. Zhu Ping, Associate Professor of Chinese Literature at the University of Oklahoma, will become Deputy Editor in Chief, a role that I have held since 2010. Dr. Zhu has long worked as an Associate Editor of CLT and will serve ably as the new Deputy Editor in Chief. I will now direct more of my attention to my  new role as Curator of the Chinese Literature Translation Archive at the University of Oklahoma Libraries and will become CLT’s new Deputy Executive Director. I will work with Dr. Zhu and colleagues at World Literature Today, Beijing Normal University, and Routledge to ensure that CLT readers have access to the best, most compelling literature coming out of China today.


Jonathan Stalling <>

Below is the TOC of #11 for your convenience.


6 Introduction, by Jonathan Stalling
8 Ruined City, by Jia Pingwa
14 Butterfly’s Reincarnation: From Zhuang Zhidie to Lao Sheng, by Zhang Xiaoqin
18 Carrying on “Chinese Fiction” Traditions: An Interview with Jia Pingwa, by Zhang Qinghua24 The Jia Pingwa Project, by Nick Stember
29 Shaanxi Opera, by Jia Pingwa Continue reading

Exile or Pursuit

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Wai-chew Sim’s translation of an excerpt from Exile or Pursuit, by the Singapore writer Chia Joo Ming. The translation is too long to include here in full. The whole translation can be found at

Born in 1959 in Singapore, Chia Joo Ming (谢裕民) won the Singapore Young Artist award in 1993 and participated in the Iowa international writing program in 1995. He was also writer-in-residence in the Chinese program, Nanyang Technological University, in 2014. Chia is a three-time recipient of the Singapore Literature Prize, in 2006, 2010, and 2016. His works include: The Most Boring Nationality (最闷族, 1989),  New Words of Worldly Tales (世说新语, 1994), The Insignificance of Being (一般是非, 1999), Reconstructing Nanyang Images (重构南洋图像, 2005),  M40 (2009), 1644: The Year A Dynasty Was Hanged (甲申说明书, 2012), and Exile or Pursuit (放逐与追逐, 2015). He is currently a senior executive sub-editor in Lianhe Zaobao (联合早报), Singapore main’s Chinese-language newspaper.

Exile or Pursuit (2015) tells the story of Hok Leong (福良), whose family runs a won ton noodle stall in a food centre. It follows his experiences through school, national service (compulsory military service), and early adulthood, detailing in the process a distinct period in the Singapore socio-historical formation and experience.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Exile or Pursuit (an extract)

By Chia Joo Ming [1]
Translated by Wai-chew Sim [2]

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright October 2017)


The year it all started, Hok Leong had just entered secondary two. A new student came into their classroom. Her name is Lin Chiu-yun, the form teacher said. She’s from Indonesia. From now on—everybody—please help her out as much as you can.

Hok Leong’s tentative memories of school life began more or less from that period.

To welcome the new student, the teacher clapped his hands, willing everyone to join in. Hok Leong felt that this was a tad unsophisticated but was prepared to go through the motions. He raised his hands and was about to bring them together when suddenly he heard his name.

“Hok Leong. Your Chinese is pretty good. You should help Chiu-yun.”

The boys in the class started to hoot. Hok Leong felt embarrassed and put his arms down. Continue reading

Liu Xiaobo’s last note and Liu Xia’s poetry

The NY Review of Books has a translation of Liu Xiaobo’s last written words:

The text is for and about Liu Xia. Two poems are linked, and more are mentioned, especially Liu Xia’s “One Bird and Another Bird”. I have translated it into German recently, along with two others. You can read two of them on my blog:


The FAZ will print another one from 1989 soon. Continue reading

LARB China Channel launches

The Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel has launched, and and the theme of its first week is Lu Xun. Kicking things off is a review of Jottings under Lamplight.–Kirk Denton <>

Source: LARB China Channel (9/25/17)
Lighting Up the Past
Liz Carter reviews Jottings under Lamplight, Lu Xun’s essays
By Liz Carter

Lu Xun, Jottings under Lamplight, edited by Eileen J. Cheng and Kirk A. Denton (Harvard University Press, September 2017)

Lu Xun is considered the father of modern Chinese literature, but until recently his essays, the format in which he was most prolific, were not widely available in English translation, with most other translations focusing on his short stories. Jottings Under Lamplight, a new collection from Harvard University Press, brings 62 of his essays, grouped thematically, to English readers, aiming to “provide lucid and accurate translations for specialists and allow a more general readership access to Lu Xun’s works.”

The only other widely available collection of Lu Xun’s essays in English is Simon & Schuster’s Selected Essays of Master Lu Xunpublished in 2014In contrast to Jottings under LamplightSelected Essays is a slimmer volume of 38 works, apparently grouped in chronological order, though no explanation is given, at least in the ebook version. Essentially, it is an international distribution of the translations by the husband-and-wife team of Gladys Yang and Yang Xianyi, completed between about 1950 and 1980 for China’s Foreign Languages Press, without noticeable editing. Continue reading

An Excess Male

Source: The Verge (9/12/17)
Maggie Shen King’s novel paints a picture of future China that’s not far away
Men must share wives as a result of the one-child policy
By Shannon Liao

Photo by Andrew Liptak / The Verge

For three decades, China has been running what amounts to a huge social experiment: a one-child policy that limits each family to have only one offspring. The policy has led to a greater gender imbalance than the global average. In 2015, Beijing relaxed this policy to allow two children per family. But in Maggie Shen King’s debut novel, An Excess Male, China continues to face this real-world dystopian scenario.

In an alternate timeline set in the near future, the one-child policy has continued for several decades, radically changing the social structure. In this world, a woman can take up to three husbands, depending on how “patriotic” a family decides to be and how desperately in need of cash they are. Continue reading

Jottings under Lamplight

Eileen J. Cheng and I are pleased to announce publication of Jottings under Lamplight, a volume of Lu Xun’s essays in English translation that we coedited. See below for details.–Kirk Denton

Lu Xun (1881–1936) is widely considered the greatest writer of twentieth-century China. Although primarily known for his two slim volumes of short fiction, he was a prolific and inventive essayist. Jottings under Lamplight showcases Lu Xun’s versatility as a master of prose forms and his brilliance as a cultural critic with translations of sixty-two of his essays, twenty of which are translated here for the first time.

While a medical student in Tokyo, Lu Xun viewed a photographic slide that purportedly inspired his literary calling: it showed the decapitation of a Chinese man by a Japanese soldier, as Chinese bystanders watched apathetically. He felt that what his countrymen needed was a cure not for their physical ailments but for their souls. Autobiographical accounts describing this and other formative life experiences are included in Jottings, along with a wide variety of cultural commentaries, from letters, speeches, and memorials to parodies and treatises. Continue reading

Idle Talk under the Bean Arbor

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce S. E. Kile’s review of Idle Talk under the Bean Arbor: A Seventeenth-Century Chinese Story Collection (University of Washington Press, 2017), by Aina the Layman, edited by Robert E. Hegel. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Michael Berry, MCLC book review editor for translations, for ushering the review to publication.


Kirk A. Denton, editor

Idle Talk under the Bean Arbor:
A Seventeenth-Century Chinese Story Collection

By Aina the Layman
Edited by Robert E. Hegel

Reviewed by S. E. Kile
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September, 2017)

Even though some new shoots with tender leaves are growing up the bean arbor that I set up some days ago, the bean vines have not yet entirely covered the arbor, and beams of sunlight still shine through empty places among the leaves. These spaces are like storytellers who break off at some crucial spot in the middle, leaving gaps that make the audience unhappy. But let’s be done with that troublesome talk. (23)

Aina the Layman, Idle Talk under the Bean Arbor: A Seventeenth-Century Chinese Story Collection Ed. Robert E. Hegel. Seattle: Washington University Press, 2017. 288 pp. ISBN: 978-0-295-99997-5.

The most elaborate frame-story narrative in traditional Chinese literature is now available in English for the very first time, thanks to the impressive collaborative achievement of editor Robert E. Hegel and nine of his current and former students who did most of the translation work.[1] Idle Talk under the Bean Arbor (豆棚閒話) by Aina jushi 艾衲居士 (Aina the Layman) is a thoroughly enchanting early Qing departure from the conventions of the Ming vernacular short story (huaben 話本). It is such a departure, in fact, that to call the volume a “collection” of “stories” is to disregard many of its most vibrant elements. Continue reading