Poetry and translation in times of censorship

Source: Critical Inquiry Blog (12/13/17)
Poetry and Translation in Times of Censorship; or, What Cambridge University Press and the Chinese Government Have in Common
By Jacob Edmond

What is lost in translation? It’s a perennial concern for someone like me, but it took on a new twist when I was recently asked to approve a Chinese translation of a review of Maghiel van Crevel’s book Chinese Poetry in Times of Mind, Mayhem and Money (2008). My review of the original English version appeared in The China Quarterly back in 2011, but I gave permission for it to be translated and published in China following the release of the Chinese translation of Van Crevel’s book, Jingshen yu jinqian shidai de Zhongguo shige 精神与金钱时代的中国诗歌 (2017). This Chinese version of my review will formally be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Modern Chinese Studies (现代中文学刊), but you can already read it here.

A translation of a review published as a review of the translation: the complexities only begin here. Readers of Chinese will already have noted the title change in the Chinese translation of Van Crevel’s book: “money” (金钱) and “mind” (精神) remain, but “mayhem” has disappeared. That omission also signals a larger one: the Chinese version lacks the chapter on “Exile,” which includes discussion of poems written by Bei Dao 北岛, Wang Jiaxin 王家新, and Yang Lian 杨炼 after the Chinese government’s violent 4 June 1989 suppression of dissent.

No one familiar with working and publishing in China will bat an eyelid at such changes. Yang Lian’s own collected poems were published in China with some works removed and the titles of others changed. “To A Nine-Year-Old Girl Who Died in the Massacre” (给一个大屠杀中死去的九岁女孩) became “To a Nine-Year-Old Girl Who Died Suddenly” (给一个猝死的九岁女孩). Journals and publishers that engage with China—The China Quarterly and its publisher, Cambridge University Press, among them—face a similar pressure to avoid sensitive topics in disseminating their work in the country. Continue reading

Legends of the Condor Heroes translation (1)

Some translations of Louis Cha’s/Jin Yong’s martial arts novels are available:

The Book and the Sword  (Oxford University Press, 2005), translated by Graham Earnshaw, edited by John Minford and Rachel May.

The Deer and the Cauldron (in three volumes; Oxford University Press, 1997), translated by John Minford.

Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain  (Chinese University Press, 1996), translated by Olivia Mok.

Seán Golden <sean.golden@uab.es>

Legends of the Condor Heroes translation

Source: Global Times (11/9/17)
UK publisher working on English edition of Jin Yong’s ‘Legends of the Condor Heroes’
By Huang Tingting

Promotional material for the 2017 TV series Legends of the Condor Heroes Photo: VCG

Six decades after the debut of Jin Yong’s popular Chinese martial arts novel Legends of the Condor Heroes, English speakers will finally have a chance to explore for themselves the exotic world of swords and sabers in ancient China that has fascinated Chinese readers for generations.

The English version of the novel is being divided into four books. Hero Born, the first volume translated by British-Swedish translator Anna Holmwood and priced at 14.99 pounds ($19.60), will be published by the UK’s Maclehose Press in February, 2018. Continue reading

Michigan postdoc

Postdoctoral Fellowship Announcement
Department of Comparative Literature, University of Michigan

critical translation studies

The Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan announces a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship in Critical Translation Studies. The fellowship is funded by the College of Literature, Science and the Arts to provide a candidate with the opportunity to pursue independent scholarship related to translation, gain teaching experience, and engage with interdisciplinary translation initiatives across the university.

We welcome applications from scholars undertaking comparative research in histories, theories, and practices of translation, and engaging critically with current debates in the field. Projects may focus on any language or historical period, including analyses that work across different cultures and regions of the world. We encourage interdisciplinary projects in translation studies that develop innovative methods in dialogue with other fields, such as world literature; digital and visual cultures; film and media studies; postcolonial studies; critical race studies; gender studies; religious studies; philosophy; political theory; law; other core and emerging fields in the humanities (such as public humanities, medical humanities, environmental humanities). Continue reading

What Happens after Nora Walks Out

Source: China Channel, LARB (9/29/17)
What Happens after Nora Walks Out

An exclusive essay by Lu Xun to kick off our monthly story club

Editor’s note: For our opening week at the China Channel, it has been our pleasure to bring you a smorgasbord of delights to celebrate both Lu Xun’s birthday, and our own as a new channel for sinophiles and the sinocurious. Now to close our first week out, we’d like to introduce a new monthly feature: story club. Each month we will publish a Chinese story, fiction or nonfiction, in translation, and invite you, our readers, to write in with your thoughts. Our first offering is an exclusive excerpt from Jottings under Lamplight, the new collection of Lu Xun’s essays in translation, published by Harvard University Press, that Liz Carter reviewed for us.

In this essay, originally a talk to a women’s college in Beijing in 1923, Lu Xun tackles a range of topics, all under the guise of wondering about the fate of one of literature’s most famous figures: Nora, a Norweigen housewife in the late 19th century and protagonist of Henry Ibsen’s celebrated 1879 play A Doll’s House. At the end of the play, belittled by her husband and a constrictive society, Nora walks out on her family, slamming the door behind her as the curtain falls. Lu Xun picks it up from there, and compares Nora’s predicament to that of the fledgling republic of China. 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: Bruce-humes.com (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 <turklit4china@gmail.com>

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

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.

https://banianerguotoukeyihe.com/2017/10/08/light-%e4%bc%8a%e6%b2%99-yi-sha/ 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 http://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/sim/

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: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/09/28/liu-xiaobos-last-text/

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 <denton.2@osu.edu>

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

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: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/kile/. 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