Rain in Plural review

Source: EcoTheoReview (1/18/21)
Unwinding Underground: A Review of Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s Rain in Plural
By Hannah VanderHart

Rain in Plural by Fiona Sze-Lorrain. Princeton University Press, 2020. 105 pages. $17.95.

The multiple layers and the angles of Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s fourth collection of poetry, Rain in Plural, offer many doors though which a reader new to Sze-Lorrain’s work might enter: music, philosophy, dance—along with homages and allusions to the work of other writers, other artists. Even before opening Rain in Plural, there is a door within another door: the book’s cover featuring an image of the painting “Déjà vu, Déjà Blue” (2004) by Howard Hodgkin, the title of which references the 1980 power ballad by Dionne Warwick.¹ The painting itself features oversized, multi-layered blues curving in large brush strokes over the carved figure of a square (a visual door). Through this rich visual entrance that reimagines music via a visual art form—a fitting welcome to the poems that follow—the reader meets a speaker immediately in the poem, “More Vulnerable Than Others.” “So what if I break / I will continue to eat mud / unwind underground,” the poem opens. The first lines catch the reader off-guard—if one has assumed “the others” to be other humans, or if one is not prepared for a slide into metaphor. Poems are notoriously sleight of hand this way—their meanings shift underfoot; the ground is not stable, but the net of language itself. To eat mud and “unwind underground” points to growth and thriving that cannot be seen, that is below ground. It opens up, among other things, the idea of not-knowing—how little the reader knows about what is going on even in the natural world around them, the plant world of the yard or the park or even the houseplant, let alone inside another human being. The sheer agency and authority of the speaker is enviable, the poem’s verbs acknowledging the botanical power to break and live on (and even propagate) through breakage, to flourish underground, as well as to

mask banned signs

chew holes in every tall grapevine

breed my roots after a nap

spread fronds as free

clothes free money Continue reading

Remembering and Forgetting the Traumatic Past

My essay, “Remembering and Forgetting the Traumatic Past,” which reviews Lingchei Letty Chen’s The Great Leap Backward: Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years and Margaret Hillenbrand’s Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China, has been published by the MCLC Resource Center. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/kdenton2/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for his editorial interventions.

Kirk Denton, editor

Remembering and Forgetting the Traumatic Past:
A Review Essay

The Great Leap Backward: Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years, by Lingchei Letty Chen
Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China, by Margaret Hillenbrand

Reviewed by Kirk A. Denton
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2021)

Margaret Hillenbrand, Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020. 292 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4780-0800-2 (paper); ISBN: 978-1-4780-0619-0 (cloth)

Lingchei Letty Chen, The Great Leap Backward: Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2020. 304pp. ISBN 9781604979923 (cloth)

In The Fat Years (盛世), a novel by Koonchung Chan 陳冠中, a character named He Dongsheng tries to explain to his captors—it’s too complex to explain here—why the Chinese people have forgotten an entire month: “What I want to tell you is that, definitely, the Central Propaganda organs did do their work, but they were only pushing along a boat that was already on the move. If the Chinese people had not already wanted to forget, we could not have forced them to do so. The Chinese people voluntarily gave themselves a large dose of amnesia medicine.”[1]

Much has been made of efforts by the state in the People’s Republic of China (PRC)—famously referred to by Louisa Lim as the “People’s Republic of Amnesia”[2]—to repress memories that do not fit the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) politically-driven historical narrative, which emphasizes its central and singular role in driving the revolutionary past and modernizing the  present. It propagates this narrative through museums, party historiography, state-sponsored “main melody” films, textbooks, mainstream news media, etc. And it suppresses other forms of history that seek to recover memories of the Anti-Rightist Campaign, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the 1989 Tiananmen protest movement, and the plight of migrant workers in more recent times. Continue reading

Method as Method review

Source: Cha: An Asian Literary Journal no. 46 (1/15/21)
By Liang Luo

Carlos Rojas (special issue editor), Method as Method, V16: N2 of Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature. Duke University Press, 2019.

Twenty years ago, as a graduate student newly arrived in the United States from mainland China, I was propelled to wrestle with issues such as “Chineseness as a theoretical problem”, “the ethnic supplement”, “the logic of the wound”, and “the hegemony of Mandarin”, as discussed by Rey Chow in her introduction to Modern Chinese Literary and Cultural Studies in the Age of Theory. Many of the issues raised in that volume still resonate in the field today, not least in the recent revamping of the Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese (established in 1997) into Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature (inaugurated in 2019). As the second issue and the first special issue of the journal, Method as Method not only actively intervenes in the ongoing debate on theory and modern Chinese literature, but also energises the field with fresh insights, signalling a “methodological turn” in modern Chinese studies.

Taking Lu Xun’s work as its starting point, Carlos Rojas, in his editor’s introduction to the volume, titled “Method as Method”, proposes to denaturalise both theories and objects and attend to their mutual formations by inviting us to focus on methodologies. Here method is presented as a way to enable objects and theories to speak to each other in productive ways. In his essay “Translation as Method”, Rojas tests this promise by reading translation as a method for negotiating not between different languages or dialects but rather between difference voices. This translational approach, he argues, offers a way of examining the possibilities and limits of fictional writing when it attempts to manifest the voices of socially marginalised figures. For Rojas, both Lu Xun and Yan Lianke attempt to grant their readers a voice or a vision they want to convey but they themselves may not share or have access to (232). He further argues that a similar translational framework may be at work when critics attempt to access fiction’s own attempts at rendering these marginalised voices. Continue reading

Photo Poetics review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announced publication of Jiangtao Gu’s review of Photo Poetics: Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture, by Shengqing Wu. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/jiangtao-gu/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Photo Poetics:
Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture

By Shengqing Wu

Reviewed by Jiangtao Gu

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2021)

Shengqing Wu, Photo Poetics: Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture New York: Columbia University Press, 2020. 384 pp. ISBN: 9780231192217 (paper); ISBN: 9780231192200 (cloth); ISBN: 9780231549714 (e-book)

Reading Shengqing Wu’s new book Photo Poetics: Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture, is like looking into a kaleidoscope of texts and images drawn from the late Qing and early Republican periods. The reading experience can be disorientating at times, but ultimately pleasurable and enriching, especially considering our otherwise barren knowledge of photo practices in China during this period.

Distinct from dominant discourses on the topic, which often privilege photography’s relationship with progressive and revolutionary cultures, Wu’s book is uniquely focused on the Chinese literati tradition and its engagement with the then-nascent medium. Counter to many May Fourth intellectuals’ disparagement of the tradition’s obsolescence and decay, Wu insists that the literati practice of lyricism was by no means “an ossified or dead entity” (27). Front-loaded with this argument, the book then asks us to consider the literati’s absorption of photography as evidence of the tradition’s longevity and vitality despite rapidly changing technological and social conditions. Continue reading

Utopian Ruins review

Source: http://www.biblioteca.montepulciano.si.it/node/1155 (1/12/21)

Jie Li, Utopian Ruins, a Memorial Museum of the Mao Era. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020
Reviewed by Silvia Calamandrei

Utopian Ruins but also Ruins of an Utopia are the subject of Jie Li’s work, enquiring how to build  a memorial of the Maoist era, an archive-museum assembling together different pieces and traces of the past: on paper, in films and photographical work , as objects of articraft, as architectural environmental and landscape  signs, so to help new generations to fight against imposed amnesia and old generations to awaken  and remember: in fact historical narrative is  the fruit of intergenerational imbrication and stratification of memories, open to new readings.

A result of the “cultural studies” approach, this study of materials and signs evoking Maoist China memories is a useful tool in the debate on history and research into archives: the open question is how to narrate a controversial past as the Cultural Revolution period,  not flattening it to the reasons of the winners or the losers and reflecting all the contradictory aspects and complexity of past experiences. Continue reading

Detecting Chinese Modernities review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Jeffrey Kinkley’s review of Detecting Chinese Modernities: Rupture and Continuity in Modern Chinese Detective Fiction (1896-1949), by Yan Wei. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/detecting-modernities/. Many thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Detecting Chinese Modernities: Rupture and Continuity in
Modern Chinese Detective Fiction (1896-1949)

By Yan Wei

Reviewed by Jeffrey Kinkley

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright December, 2020)

Yan Wei, Detecting Chinese Modernities: Rupture and Continuity in Modern Chinese Detective Fiction (1896-1949) Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2020. 283 pp. ISBN 978-90-04-43127-0 (hardback), 978-90-04-43128-7 (e-book).

China has known and loved the “detective story” formula of Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle for more than 120 years. Detecting Chinese Modernities, a thoughtful, instructive, and well-researched monograph by Yan Wei, notes that after the first translation of a Sherlock Holmes story appeared in 1896, “detective fiction immediately became the most novel and popular Western literary genre among Chinese readers” (33). The mystery stories that swamped Chinese publishing in the first decade of the twentieth century were mostly translations, adaptations, and imitations, but soon Chinese authors contributed their own styles to the global fiction phenomenon. “The popularity of native Chinese detective fiction crested during the Republican period, in the 1920s to 1940s—the ‘golden age’ of the genre,” Wei affirms (4). After 1949, native crime and detective fiction fell on hard times, not only in the PRC, where it was banned for political reasons, but throughout the Sinophone world. Meanwhile detective novels flourished in Japan, in quantity and quality. Translations of them are bestsellers in the PRC today. Continue reading

Peach Blossom Paradise review

Source: Ploughshares Blog (11/27/20)
Peach Blossom Paradise, by Ge Fei
NYRB Classics | December 8, 2020
Reviewed by Mandana Chaffa

Peach Blossom Paradise, the first book in a trilogy by Ge Fei, is a coming-of-age story, a captivating blend of history and mythology, and a lyrical study of society and politics during the turn of 20th century China. In the original myth of the Peach Blossom Spring, written during the Jin dynasty, a fisherman accidentally wanders into a pristine and peaceful utopia, unaware of the political unrest outside, and never finds his way out again. It’s an apt allegory for Fei’s book: those in the village of Puji are mostly oblivious to the tumult in the Empire. The novel builds on the Peach Blossom myth, suggesting that the quest for utopias can lead to horrific subjugation, insanity, and more often than not, premature death.

The book begins when fifteen-year-old Xiumi meets Zhang Jiyuan, an intellectual and revolutionary sympathizer, whose alliances and activities plant seeds that will ultimately shift Xiumi’s worldview, even after his abrupt death at the end of the first section. Indeed, much of Xiumi’s journey to womanhood is shaped by external forces: her father goes missing. Her mother is more concerned with her wealth and status than her child. She survives a kidnapping and horrific rapes. All the while, she reads Zhang Jiyuan’s diary, the man wooing her from beyond the grave. Despite her hardships, Xiumi becomes a young woman of strength, courage, and a certain cool ruthlessness, but she still has a kind of naïveté in her idealism and single-mindedness. She continually underestimates the forces around her—including disloyalties in her own household and from purported allies. In Xiumi’s world, true intimacy and trust are less experienced than mourned. Expressed, tangible love between people is as delicate and fleeting as the lotus, chrysanthemums, and impatiens that Xiumi gardens. Continue reading

The Organization of Distance review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Benjamin Ridgway’s review of The Organization of Distance: Poetry, Translation, Chineseness (Brill 2018), by Lucas Klein. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/ridgway/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

The Organization of Distance:
Poetry, Translation, Chineseness

By Lucas Klein

Reviewed by Benjamin Ridgway

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright November, 2020)

Lucas Klein, The Organization of Distance. Leiden: Brill Press, 2018. xi + 298 pgs. ISBN-978-90-04-36868-2 (cloth).

To disuss the contributions of Lucas Klein’s The Organization of Distance, Poetry, Translation, Chineseness, as well as its flaws, one needs to start at the ending. Klein draws on the insight made by Friedrich Schleiermacher in 1813 that translators tend to either leave the writer of a work alone and endeavor to move the reader toward the unfamiliar culture of that work, in an act that Klein terms “foreignization,” or move the work closer to the reader’s horizon of expectations, making it more familiar and palatable, in an act he calls “nativization.” These two terms, informed by his understanding of debates on translation and translingual practice in the study of both modern and premodern Chinese literature, form the critical fulcrum for his interrogation of the “Chinesenss” of poetry written in both modern and classical Chinese. To grasp what Klein means by “Chineseness,” one needs to link points raised in the conclusion of his book back to the introduction. On the one hand, Klein intends to upset the binary between modern and premodern Chinese poetry through a reinterpretation of poetry of the Tang (618-907). His resistance to a static notion of Chineseness is deeply informed by the 1990s debates spurred by Stephen Owen’s article “What Is World Poetry.” In his introduction, Klein discusses the range of reactions to one of Owen’s most controversial claims—that modern Chinese poets wrote under the assumption/anticipation their poetry would be translated into Western languages. Klein notes that in this debate both those critics who, like Owen, disparage modern poets for cutting themselves off from a rich “native” classical poetic tradition and those who praise the radical clashing of the modern with the staid “Chineseness” of this tradition share a common blindness. He keenly observes that “For both of them, upholding premodernity as the seat of Chineseness lost, mournfully or gleefully, to a changing world is afforded by the fact that neither side looks very closely at the cross-cultural and translational elements of premodern Chinese poetry” (pp. 12-13). Continue reading

The Tibetan Genocide (part I)

Source: China Channel, LARB (11/191/20)
The Tibetan Genocide (Part I)
HT on Tibet’s Chinese revolution, 1952-1976

Everybody knows that bad things happened when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) marched into Tibet in 1952, but for a long time it has been hard to say exactly what. 2020 is a good year to ponder the fate of the Land of Snows under Maoism. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is on the march again: the concentration camps in Xinjiang are operating in full swing, dozens are reported dead in clashes along the Sino-Indian border in the Himalaya, and the free enclave of Hong Kong has been brought to heel by China’s security apparatus. Meanwhile, a series of important new memoirs and histories have come out on Tibet, clarifying parts of the story little-understood before today. Below are reviews of two of them, with a further two reviews to follow tomorrow.

The Chinese Revolution on the Tibetan Frontier
Benno Weiner (2020)

Benno Weiner’s study is based on Maoist-period archival documents from a small county on the high-altitude prairie of the northern Tibetan plateau, in what the Tibetans call Amdo and the Chinese call Qinghai province. This in itself is quite a feat – only one other Western historian has ever got access to a Communist-period archive in the Tibetan regions (Melvyn Goldstein, On the Cultural Revolution in Tibet). Given how things are going in the PRC right now, it may be many years before another such book is written. The archive, and Weiner’s book, covers a roughly ten-year period between the first Communist arrival in northern Tibet in 1949, and the final pacification of the Tibetan uprising in 1959.

Weiner’s interest is in the details of state- and nation-building in nomadic Tibet, and particularly in the ideology of the United Front – the organization tasked with persuading influential members of society to ally with the Communist cause. (Today, among other things, the United Front manages religious figures within China, runs the Confucius Institutes abroad, and conducts influence-campaigns among Chinese diaspora communities world-wide.) In Weiner’s telling, before the Communists arrived, the fragmented chiefdoms of the Tibetan plateau had operated under an imperial “hub-and-spoke” political logic, in which non-Chinese elites rendered nominal allegiance to successive Chinese states, in exchange for official recognition and local autonomy. Continue reading

Blockchain Chicken Farm review

Source: NYT (10/15/20)
The Untold Technological Revolution Sweeping Through Rural China
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
By Clive Thompson

“Young, able-bodied workers, especially young men, untethered from car or house ownership, job or family are threats to political stability,” Xiaowei Wang writes. Credit…Ian Pearce

And Other Stories of Tech in China’s Countryside
By Xiaowei Wang

Raising free-range chickens isn’t easy, a Chinese farmer named Jiang tells Xiaowei Wang in a fascinating new book, “Blockchain Chicken Farm.” Why? “Chickens aren’t very smart,” he notes; if you leave lights on, they’ll cluster around “and they overcrowd each other, killing each other. A kind of chicken stampede.” Even if you get the chickens safely grown in their sunny, free-range yards, you have a new problem: You have to convince your finicky customers, in far-off cities, that you’re telling the truth about how the chickens were raised.

So Jiang turned to high-tech chicken surveillance. He outfitted his chickens with wearable legbands that record their movements — “a chicken Fitbit of sorts” — and worked with a tech start-up to record the data on a blockchain. A blockchain is a type of software, most famously used to create Bitcoin, that can make nearly tamper-proof digital records. When customers buy the chicken, they don’t need to take Jiang’s word that his birds strolled around in the sunshine. They can trust the implacable math. Blockchain in this case is a clever tech solution that also happens to have a bleak libertarian philosophy behind it. As Wang notes, some blockchain coders are fond of citing Thomas Hobbes’s dismal view of human nature: Nobody can trust anyone else. Continue reading

Gu Hongming’s Eccentric Chinese Odyssey review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Kristin Stapleton’s review of Gu Hongming’s Eccentric Chinese Odyssey, by Chunmei Du. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/kristin-stapleton/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Gu Hongming’s Eccentric Chinese Odyssey

By Chunmei Du

Reviewed by Kristin Stapleton

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright October, 2020)

Chunmei Du, Gu Hongming’s Eccentric Chinese Odyssey Chunmei Du. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019. 251 pgs. ISBN-9780812251203 (cloth).

Gu Hongming 辜鴻銘—the notorious Qing loyalist who spoke out for bound feet and against democracy in the midst of the May Fourth movement—was at the center of a set of cross-cultural conversations among Chinese, European, and American intellectuals during and after World War I, Chunmei Du shows in this engaging biography. She notes that he was “the first principal Chinese spokesman of Confucianism to the Western world” (p. 49), promoting it as a universal solution to the global problems of industrialization and endemic conflict. At the same time, though, Gu displayed a most un-Confucian love of shocking and provoking his fellow humans. Du’s goal is to help us understand the influences that produced such a paradoxical character. In the end, as Du acknowledges, Gu Hongming stubbornly defies analysis. Still, her account of his life is fascinating, particularly for what it reveals about global currents of thought in the early twentieth century. Continue reading

The Condition of Music and Anglophone Influences in the Poetry of Shao Xunmei review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Nick Admussen’s review of The Condition of Music and Anglophone Influences in the Poetry of Shao Xunmei, by Tian Jin. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/poetry-of-shao-xunmei/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

The Condition of Music and Anglophone
Influences in the Poetry of Shao Xunmei

By Tian Jin

Reviewed by Nick Admussen

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September, 2020)

Tian Jin, The Condition of Music and Anglophone Influences in the Poetry of Shao Xunmei Wilmington: Vernon Press, 2020. li + 123 pgs. ISBN: 978-1-64889-051-2.

Shao Xunmei (邵洵美, 1906-1968) is a fascinating figure. A poet, translator, critical essayist, and editor, his cosmopolitan, decadent, deeply Shanghainese voice both influenced and, in some ways, epitomized a certain strand of Republican-era literature. Shao also led a famously romantic life, some of which was captured by his literary collaborator, opium-partner, and lover, Emily Hahn, in a series of books and New Yorker articles. But Shao’s legacy has been much colored by leftist disdain for his upper-class background and rightist excoriation of his licentious tastes. Lu Xun said that “Money makes the world go round, maybe even the universe, but it won’t make you a good writer, and the poetry of the poet Shao Xunmei demonstrates this” (xvii). Dismissals like this meant that after 1949, even critical consideration of his writing became difficult, and the Cultural Revolution-era charge that he was engaged in international espionage (for writing a letter to Emily Hahn asking for money) was not vacated until 1985.

Tian Jin’s monograph, The Condition of Music and Anglophone Influences in the Poetry of Shao Xunmei, is therefore an early entry into the field of Shao studies, which is a decade behind the study of other writers from the same period. It is a short dissertation-style book with a healthy 42-page introduction that sets out Shao’s biography and reception history, especially useful since Shao has been left out of most literary histories. The book focuses on the way that tropes of music in Shao’s poetry and criticism are drawn from Anglophone writers, specifically Algernon Charles Swinburne, Edith Sitwell, and George Augustus Moore. As it does so, it uses feminist critique to demonstrate that Shao’s gender politics are affected by, and affect, his poetics. Continue reading

China Imagined review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Sean Macdonald’s review of China Imagined: From European Fantasy to Spectacular Power, by Gregory B. Lee. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/sean-macdonald. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

China Imagined:
From European Fantasy to Spectacular Power

By Gregory B. Lee

Reviewed by Sean Macdonald

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September, 2020)

Elderly people, or honest people, all seem to adhere to the motto “the name is guest of the thing.” But being neither an elderly person, nor wishing to immodestly declare myself an honest person, I have sometimes put more emphasis on “name” than “thing.” I feel that in many everyday experiences, a “name” is anything but ordinary.  Under appropriate conditions, it can increase the value of the “thing” it represents. On the other hand, under inappropriate conditions, no matter how beautiful, elevated, or respected a thing is, a “name” can devalue the “thing” it represents. As for myself, with regard to putting stress on “name,” I have really not understood what it’s for.–Shi Zhecun[1]

There was an obsession with graft among officials. Many regulatory and supervisory methods are outlined, with itemized punishments for specific infractions. In a typical example, punishment is exacted for the discovery of poorly maintained granaries: we learn that when it comes to the Law, three mouseholes are equal to one rathole.–Dean and Massumi[2]

Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing/Through the graves the wind is blowing/Freedom soon will come/Then we’ll come from the shadows.–Leonard Cohen/Hy Zaret, “The Partisan.”

Gregory B. Lee, China Imagined: From European Fantasy to Spectacular Power London: Hurst & Company, 2018. xxi + 231 pgs. ISBN-13: 9781787380165.

French Sinology and American and British colonial history share a date. The Battle of Lundy’s Lane, in the Niagara Falls region now shared by the US and Canada, occurred in 1814, the same year the first “Chair in Chinese and Tartar-Manchurian Languages and Literatures” was established at Collège de France. ​​American Chinese studies emerged from European Sinology, but like the US, Britain only started professionalizing “Orientalist” Chinese studies during WWII.

Professor of Chinese at Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3 and Director of Institut d’études transtextuelles et transculturelles (IETT), Gregory B. Lee has been writing and teaching in Chinese studies since the 1980s. In 2011, Lee was elected a Fellow of the Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities. His work ranges from critical studies and translations of modern and contemporary literature, popular music and media, to recent autobiographical stories around his grandfather, an early twentieth century immigrant to Liverpool, as well as a dystopic fictional narrative of China in 2030. Lee’s writing could be described as a critique of state cultural policies in China and the West. In an earlier book, Chinas Unlimited, Lee shows the way racism created two separate British policies towards opium, one banning opium for English citizens, and one promoting the sale of opium to Chinese people.[3] Continue reading

Wuhan Diary review

MCLC Resource Center is please to announce publication of Howard Y. F. Choy’s review of Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City, by Fang Fang and translated by Michael Berry. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/choy-wuhan/.

Kirk Denton, editor

Wuhan Diary:
Dispatches from a Quarantined City

By Fang Fang
Translated by Michael Berry

Reviewed by Howard Y. F. Choy
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2020)

Fang Fang. Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City Trans. Michael Berry. New York: HarperVia, 2020. E-book version: ISBN 9780063052659, 0063052652.

The COVID-19 outbreak from Wuhan has impacted not only China but the entire globe, with the highest numbers of infections and deaths in the United States reaching around 5,380,000 and 170,000, respectively, as of August 15, 2020.[1] In a time of pandemic, what is the role of literature, particularly the form of online diary—the daily-based documentary genre that first appears on social media and is then translated into foreign languages and published in print abroad? Must the translator bear the burden of xenophobia from the nation of the source language? How much courage does one need to translate a testament to COVID-19 from China? Such was the situation that Michael Berry faced in April of this year, when he was translating the last entries of Fang Fang’s 方方 Wuhan Diary (武漢日記) and received more than six hundred hateful comments and threats against him and his family on his Weibo 微博 account. [2] In his “Translator’s Afterword,” Berry makes it clear that he did not intend to “weaponize” the book as a tool to criticize China and that his translation has nothing to do with the CIA; instead, he “felt the pressing need for the United States, and the world for that matter, to learn from Fang Fang” (368) from her epidemic experience, compassion, conscience, bravery and “audacity to refuse to be silenced,” and to “speak truth to power” (373). Continue reading

New China books, history, art, literature

Source: China Channel, LARB (8/5/20)
2020 China Books (Part 4): History, Art, Literature
A fourth list of new China books – compiled by Brian Spivey

We have arrived at the fourth and final part of our 2020 China Books series (also read parts onetwo, and three), showcasing books about China’s past that came out, or are coming out, in 2020 – and giving their authors, who wrote the blurbs below, an opportunity to suggest why readers might be interested in their book in this current historic moment. Art and culture in various forms features prominently in this list: from the literature of Yan Lianke to the global spread of Chinese antiquities; Chinese cinema to Maoism’s influence on modern and contemporary art; before ending with historical fiction on Ming courtesans, and literary nonfiction on China’s youth.  – Brian Spivey

Three Brothers
Yan Lianke, trans. Carlos Rojas
Grove Atlantic, March 2020

As with most large-scale natural disasters, in the current pandemic there exists a large gap between the official and actual death rates. Although many pandemic-related deaths are carefully tabulated and mourned in real time, the actual number of deaths is almost certainly significantly higher. Due to testing limitations, imperfect record-keeping, and general chaos at a time when health care systems are stretched to capacity, many deaths may not be linked to the disaster until long after the fact. Yan Lianke’s memoir Three Brothers emerges out of a similar interregnum between death and mourning. Near the beginning of the work, Yan describes how, after his father passed away in 1984, Yan resolved to express his filiality “by writing something about him, narrating his life and love of life – even if it was a short piece only about three hundred or five hundred characters long.” Yan concedes that for years afterwards he never even remembered to observe the anniversary of his father’s death, much less fulfill his promise to write an account of his father’s life. In fact, it was over a quarter of a century later, with the Chinese release of Three Brothers in 2009, that Yan was finally able to complete and publish the memorial he had promised to write. The result is not only a moving celebration of Yan Lianke’s memory of his father and three uncles, it is also an anguished meditation on the inherent difficulty of mourning.  – Carlos Rojas Continue reading