Ban Yu’s Fiction of Northeast China

MCLC Resource Center Web Publications is pleased to announce publication of “Frozen Waters and Deathly Wells: Ban Yu’s Fiction of Northeast China,” by Qi Wang. The first few paragraphs of the essay appear below. The whole essay can be found here: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/qi-wang/.

Kirk Denton, editor

Frozen Waters and Deathly Wells:
Ban Yu’s Fiction of Northeast China

By Qi Wang


MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September 2019)


Ban Yu

In my wandering around in the cinematic and literary world of East Asia, I have come upon many echoes and parallels among cultural imaginations across national borders. One such example is that of the comparable pulses I find in the films of South Korean maverick director Hong Sang-soo (b. 1960) and the stories of a much younger Chinese writer Ban Yu (班宇, b. 1986), even though their works deal with very different social subjects. Hong made his debut film, The Day a Pig Fell into the Well (1996), when Ban was still an elementary school kid in Shenyang. Hong weaves a cinema out of numerous rounds of wandering and drinking of frustrated Korean artists and intellectuals; Ban crafts a literary world in which laid-off workers in northeast China and their families try and fail to adapt to life in the reform era. Over the years, Hong’s arthouse corpus has continued to spin tales around waiting and wandering, creating thinking time between stops. This rejection of story efficiency and plot mechanism in which every step is not necessarily a preparation for the next step tends to characterize the art of a number of East Asian filmmakers and storytellers, a propensity that is worth pondering in terms of alternative paths for development. Different rhythms of life, usually appearing slower and more contemplative, seem sorely needed in the contemporary world. The young Chinese author Ban Yu (b. 1986), who started his writing career as a music critic, is a recent example of an East Asian cultural imagination that continues and refreshes this particular inclination for narrative realism. This current essay discusses Ban’s first literary collection, Winter Swim (冬泳), and presents the author as a brilliant thinker and stylist.[1] His prose features an alternative rhythm that is made manifest through kinesthetic arrangements such as waiting, wandering, and swimming. The last, in particular, is the author’s unique invention and characterizes the inner life of some Chinese in northeast Asia from the 1980s to the present. Continue reading

Fu Ping review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Elena Martín Enebral’s review of Fu Ping (Columbia UP, 2019), by Wang Anyi and translated by Howard Goldblatt. The review appears below and at its online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/martin-enebral/. My thanks to Michael Berry, MCLC literary translations book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Fu Ping

By Wang Anyi
Translated by Howard Goldblatt


Reviewed by Elena Martín Enebral
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2019)


Wang Anyi, Fu Ping. Tr. Howard Goldblatt. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019. 296 pp. ISBN: 9780231193221 (Hardcover); ISBN: 9780231550208 (E-book)

The novel Fu Ping (富萍) was first published in the literary magazine Harvest (收获) in 2000. Wang Anyi (王安忆, 1954-) described it as reflecting almost a decade of inquiry, the result of which satisfied her as much as her acclaimed novel Song of Everlasting Sorrow (长恨歌, 1995), for which she obtained the supreme Chinese writing award, the Mao Dun Prize, that same year.[1] With good reason, therefore, we can welcome the recent publication in English of this novel, essential as it is to understanding the creative evolution of one of the most emblematic figures of contemporary Chinese literature, and most especially when translated by the renowned Howard Goldblatt.

The English edition opens with a note from the author that reveals some of the sources of inspiration for the novel. A trip to Yangzhou (扬州) reminds Wang Anyi of a beautiful poem by Li Bai (李白) that takes her back in time to her childhood and her nanny, who was originally from that town. Poetry and memory fuse to evoke, before her eyes, the image of a face belonging to the heroine of her novel: Fu Ping, a young woman from a village near Yangzhou. Fu Ping moves to Shanghai in the mid-1960s to meet Nainai (奶奶), the adoptive grandmother of her future husband whom she has only seen on a handful of occasions. Wang Anyi links the fate of her heroine with another personal memory: a tranquil journey along the Suzhou River (苏州河) in one of the motorized scows that workers from Subei (苏北) use to transport waste daily outside the city of Shanghai. Continue reading

Yellow Perils review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Anne Witchard’s review of Yellow Perils: China Narratives in the Contemporary World (Hawaii, 2018), edited by Franck Billé and Sören Urbansky. The review appears below and at its online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/witchard/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Yellow Perils: 
China Narratives in the Contemporary World

Edited by Franck Billé and Sören Urbansky


Reviewed by Anne Witchard
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2019)


Franck Billé and Sören Urbansky, eds., Yellow Perils: China Narratives in the Contemporary World Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2018. Viii + 276. ISBN: 978-0-8248-7579-4 (hardcover).

In the last decade the emergence of China as a global superpower has provoked an array of responses that have prompted comparisons with the early-twentieth century rhetoric of a Yellow Peril. Yellow Perils: China Narratives in the Contemporary World is a timely collection, coming as it does when the might of Beijing indeed poses a significant threat, to Muslims in Xinjiang Province for example, and (at the time of writing) to democracy activists in Hong Kong. It is all too easy to resort to inflammatory responses and indeed hostile and/or prejudicial treatment that fails to distinguish between the actions of China’s current Party State regime and ethnic Chinese in the PRC and across the globe.

Despite the time elapsed from research to print and the astonishing rapidity of change in the current political scene, Yellow Perils’s relevancy may perhaps be greater than might have been predicted by its editors. It is unfortunately all too easy to find statements that reflect Sinophobic predispositions informing some decision-making under the Trump administration. In April 2019, Kiron Skinner, director of policy planning at the State Department said at a security forum in Washington, D.C.: “This is a fight with a really different civilization and a different ideology and the United States hasn’t had that before.” Of course, as any high school student might remind her, the notorious Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) repealed only in 1943, was formulated upon exactly this racialized and divisive narrative. Continue reading

The Translatability of Revolution review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Yi Zheng’s review of The Translatability of Revolution: Guo Moruo and Twentieth-Century Chinese Culture (Harvard University Asia Center), by Pu Wang. The review appears below and at is online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/yizheng2/.

My thanks to MCLC literary studies book review editor, Nicholas Kaldis, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

The Translatability of Revolution:
Guo Moruo and Twentieth-Century Chinese Culture

By Pu Wang


Reviewed by Yi Zheng
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2019)


Pu Wang, The Translatability of Revolution: Guo Moruo and Twentieth-Century Chinese Culture Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2018. xvi + 336 pp. ISBN: 978-0-674-98718-0.

Owing largely to the controversial nature of his political affiliations and intellectual achievements, Guo Moruo has to date not received adequate academic attention in the English-speaking world. There are notable studies of Guo’s historiography, literary theory and practice, and his intellectual and life choices.[1] His early poems and poetics have also received substantial treatment.[2] But as one of twentieth-century China’s most important poets, translators, dramatists, and scholars, his work is understudied and underappreciated. The Translatability of Revolution: Guo Moruo and Twentieth-Century Chinese Culture is ground-breaking in affording Guo his rightful place. Pu Wang’s comprehensive new study of Guo’s life and work is not only a first, but also an intellectual and literary-historical tour-de-force that both demonstrates excellent scholarship and offers remarkable insights into Chinese literature, history, comparative literature, and translation studies. Continue reading

Forging the Golden Urn review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Joseph Lawson’s review of Forging the Golden Urn: The Qing Empire and the Politics of Reincarnation in Tibet (Columbia, 2018), by Max Oidtmann. The review appears below and at its online home here: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/lawson/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Forging the Golden Urn: The Qing Empire
and the Politics of Reincarnation in Tibet

By Max Oidtmann


Reviewed by Joseph Lawson
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2019)


Max Oidtmann, Forging the Golden Urn: The Qing Empire and the Politics of Reincarnation in Tibet New York: Columbia University Press, 2018. Xvii + 330 pp. ISBN: 978-0-231-18406-9 (cloth).

The Geluk church, headed by the Dalai Lama, was the most powerful institution in the Qing Empire not under the control of the Qing court. It is still arguably the largest extra-bureaucratic nongovernmental organization in China, as Max Oidtmann points out in the introduction of his terrific book on relations between the Qing court and the Geluk hierarchy. Neglected relative to Manchu or Mongol archives until recently, the Qing Empire’s Tibetan institutions and sources are the subject of an emerging body of research by Paul Nietupski, Peter Schweiger, Yudru Tsomu, and now Oidtmann with this new book on how the Qing court asserted control over the process for recognizing the reincarnations of powerful lamas. Continue reading

Which Classic?

MCLC Resource Center is pleased announce publication of Yichun Xu and Frederick Bowman’s translation of the first chapter of Which Classic? (何典), by Zhang Nanzhuang 張南莊.

Which Classic? is a ten-chapter comic novella written in the traditional linked-chapter form. Circulated in manuscript form for several decades, it was first published by Shenbao Guan in 1878 and remained an obscure book until it was rediscovered by May Fourth scholars, such as Liu Bannong 劉半農, Lu Xun 魯迅, and Wu Zhihui 吳稚暉, who recognized it as one of the earliest extant novels to make extensive use of Wu-dialect vocabulary. Which Classic? is composed in a peculiar hybrid language that makes use of Wu vernacular vocabulary, classical Chinese, and plain Chinese (白話文). Its heterogeneous language is the source of much of the novella’s humor. Frequently a given phrase will have one meaning when read as plain Chinese but another when read in Wu vernacular. This implied second reading is often silly or obscene and serves to add to the irreverent and tongue-in-cheek tone of the work as a whole. In this translation of the first chapter of Which Classic?, the translators have attempted to convey these multiple linguistic levels as often as possible, but such plays on words are, of course, a particular challenge to the translator. The translators are working on a rendering of the entire novella.

The translation can be accessed here: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/which-classic/

Enjoy,

Kirk Denton, editor

Experimental Chinese Literature review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Jacob Edmond’s review of Experimental Chinese Literature: Translation, Technology, Poetics (Brill 2018), by Tong King Lee. The review appears below and at its online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/edmond/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Experimental Chinese Literature:
Translation, Technology, Poetics

By Tong King Lee


Reviewed by Jacob Edmond
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2019)


Tong King Lee, Experimental Chinese Literature: Translation, Technology, Poetics. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2018. viii + 182 pp. ISBN: 978-90-04-29337-3.

“In translating a work, I mistake it for my own,” writes Taiwanese poet Chen Li 陳黎. More and more writers today are making their texts from other texts through translation, cultural borrowing, and, increasingly, through the affordances of new media technologies. Around the world, their readers are likewise searching for new ways of understanding and reading this literature of repetition, translation, and remediation.

Tong King Lee 李忠慶 takes up this challenge in his book Experimental Chinese LiteratureTranslation, Technology, Poetics. Lee cites Chen Li’s statement in making the case for the inextricable relationship between poetic creation and translation in contemporary Chinese experimental literature (80). Lee defines experimental literature as “works that tap into various technologies in foregrounding their materiality.” For Lee, “experimental literature is . . . characterized by the interplay between the corporeality of the sign . . . and the travel of the text across languages and media” (166). Lee’s concern is thus primarily with works of poetry and contemporary art that highlight their own material qualities—the texture of the page, the shape that writing makes on a flickering screen, or in the space of a park in an open-air exhibition—and that explore textual translations not just between languages but also, importantly, between media. Continue reading

Imperfect Understanding review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Li Guo’s review of Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities (Cambria 2018), by Wen Yuan-ning, edited by Christopher Rea. The review appears below and at its online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/li-guo2/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Imperfect Understanding:
Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities

By Wen Yuan-ning and others
Edited by Christopher Rea


Reviewed by Li Guo
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2019)


Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities by Wen Yuan-ning and others Edited by Christopher Rea. Amherst: Cambria Press, 2018. 315 pp. ISBN: 978-1-60497-943-5.

Part of the Cambria Sinophone World Series, edited by Victor H. Mair, Christopher Rea’s edited collection Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities by Wen Yuan-ning and others presents in their entirety the essays in the column “Unedited Biographies,” which ran from 1934 to 1935 in the prominent Republican English-language journal The China Critic 中國評論週報. As Rea points out, “The China Critic, for which Wen [Yuan-ning] served as a contributing editor, is emblematic of the robustness of foreign-language publishing in 1930s China” (4). Having appeared weekly for a dozen years before the war, the journal was one of the many general or specialist foreign-language periodicals that published in English, French, Japanese, German, Russian, and other languages in Republican China. From January through December of 1934, the journal published a series of fifty-one succinct “Unedited Biographies” of contemporary celebrities in China. Midway through the year, the column was retitled “Intimate Portraits.” In 1935, seventeen of these popular essays, all authored by Wen Yuan-ning 溫源寧 (1900-1984), were republished as the book Imperfect Understanding. As Rea insightfully states, the essays “testify to the vitality of Anglophone literary cosmopolitan culture in 1930s China, with flashes of wit, erudition, and panache” (2). For today’s readers, these biographical essays on key cultural figures draw scholarly attention to the scene of Republican multilingual print media and their representation of socio-political topics and discussions of culture and entertainment. Continue reading

Waste Tide review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Cara Healey’s review of Waste Tide, by Chen Qiufan and translated by Ken Liu. The review appears below and at its online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/healey/. My thanks to Michael Berry, our translations book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Waste Tide

By Chen Qiufan
Translated by Ken Liu


Reviewed by Cara Healey
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2019)


Chen Qiufan, The Waste Tide Tr. by Ken Liu. New York: Tor Books, 2019. 352 pp. ISBN-10: 0765389312; ISBN-13: 978-0765389312

Chen Qiufan’s 陈楸帆 novel Waste Tide (荒潮), expertly translated by Ken Liu, is a significant contribution to the growing genre of Chinese science fiction. The genre has earned acclaim both for its imaginative nature and as a lens into contemporary China; Waste Tide succeeds on both fronts. Many of Chinese science fiction’s recent milestones have centered around Liu Cixin 刘慈欣. Liu’s The Three-Body Problem (三体) (also translated by Ken Liu) won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2015. Frant Gwo’s 郭帆 2019 film adaptation of Liu Cixin’s The Wandering Earth (流浪地球) earned $700 million at the box office, becoming the second-highest grossing Chinese film of all time, and was recently released on Netflix. Waste Tide follows in the footsteps of these achievements while also demonstrating that that there is more to Chinese science fiction than Liu Cixin. Continue reading

Fact in Fiction review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Johanna Ransmeier’s review of Fact in Fiction: 1920s China and Ba Jin’s Family, by Kristin Stapleton. The review appears below and at its online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/ransmeier/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the book to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Fact in Fiction: 1920s China and Ba Jin’s Family

By Kristin Stapleton


Reviewed by Johanna S. Ransmeier
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June, 2019)


Kristin Stapleton, Fact in Fiction: 1920s China and Ba Jin’s Family. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016. Iv-ix + 280. ISBN: 978-1-5036-0106-2.

For Kristin Stapleton, Ba Jin’s 巴金 most famous novel, Family (家), offers more than a lens on the collision between traditional Confucian values and Republican China’s revolutionary May Fourth era. From its publication as a serial between 1931 and 1932 to the present, early twentieth century activists and later scholars have employed the novel as convenient shorthand for the weaknesses of traditional China. The Gao household came to epitomize the unreasonable and backward demands of traditional family life in a modernizing world. In Fact in Fiction, Stapleton deftly expands on the novel, using its characters, Ba Jin’s life, and his own family, to launch her own finely wrought exploration of the author’s rapidly changing world.

In her introduction, Stapleton observes that critics at the time observed how Ba Jin’s novels failed to sufficiently capture the city in which their events are set. Instead, they contributed to the creation of “a stereotypical ‘traditional’ China that could be attacked by political and social activists of the 1930s and 1940s” (5). Yet, even given its universal critique of Chinese patriarchy, Stapleton demonstrates how Family, along with subsequent books in the Turbulent Stream (激流三部曲) trilogy, are deeply rooted in the particular culture of Chengdu in the 1920s. Continue reading

Vol. 31, no. 1 of MCLC

MCLC is pleased to announce the imminent publication of vol. 31, number 1 (Spring 2019). Find the table of contents, with links to abstracts, below. If you subscribe to MCLC, you should be receiving your copy in the next few weeks. For those of you who don’t subscribe, isn’t it time? Keep in mind that back issues of the journal are available through JStor, but with a two-year lag. If you would like to subscribe or order a single copy of this issue, please contact Mario De Grandis (mclc@osu.edu).

Kirk Denton, editor

Articles

Liu Na’ou’s “Scenery”

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Liu Na’ou’s “Scenery,” translated by Travis Telzrow. The translation appears below and at its online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/scenery/.

Enjoy,

Kirk Denton, editor

Scenery

By Liu Na’ou 劉吶鷗[1]

Translated by Travis Telzrow


MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June 2019)


Cover of the original edition of Scenes from the Metropolis.

People were sitting on speed. Fields flew by. Streams flew by. Thatched cottages, stone bridges, willow trees; every piece of scenery existed in the eyes for just a split-second before vanishing. But here in Ranqing’s hands was a newspaper smelling of fresh oil, its pages covered with typed letters aligned like soldiers in the Roman legion that bounced along with the train’s easy back-and-forth rocking as the morning sun shone on them through the car’s window. Ranqing was hoping to obtain some information about a very important conference being held in Xindu on Monday, so he was being whisked away from that dimly-lit editorial office, which reeked of oil and paper, on this early morning express train. Continue reading

I Love XXX and Other Plays review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of John B. Weinstein’s review of I Love XXX and Other Plays, by Meng Jinghui, edited by Claire Conceison. The review appears below and at its online home http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/john-weinstein/. My thanks to Michael Berry, MCLC book review editor for translations, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

I Love XXX and Other Plays

By Meng Jinghui
Edited by Claire Conceison


Reviewed by John B. Weinstein
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright February, 2019)


Meng Jinghui, I Love XXX and Other Plays Ed. Claire Conceison. New York: Seagull Books, 2017. Viii+355 pp.+DVD. $45.00 ISBN 9780857423849

I nearly encountered Meng Jinghui’s 孟京辉 play Longing for Worldly Pleasures (思凡) in 1998, when I arrived in Beijing for a few weeks of research for my dissertation on the development of modern comic drama in China. When I met with a theater official in Beijing, I asked what I should see while there; although I cannot recall what he did ultimately suggest I see, I do recall him showing me a program or poster or some such artifact for a production called Longing for Worldly Pleasures.  That, he noted, was what I should have seen, but its run was already over. Had I only planned the trip better.

What I did not yet know, and maybe no one truly knew, though perhaps this official surmised it, was that Meng Jinghui would become THE big thing in Chinese drama in the coming years, and his work, though by no means strictly comedy—and by no means strictly any one thing—might have formed the ending of my research project. To this date, while I have been fortunate enough to see the English-language adaptation of Head without Tailreferenced in the volume’s introduction, and even more fortunate to spend an evening hanging out with Meng himself in his hotel room in Boston, I have never seen a production of Meng’s work within China itself. Can a volume of English translations of Meng Jinghui’s work compensate? Continue reading

Boy’s Love, Cosplay, and Androgynous Idols review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Shana Ye’s review of Boy’s Love, Cosplay, and Androgynous Idols: Fan Cultures in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan (HK University Press, 2017), edited by Maud Lavin, Ling Yang, and Jing Jamie Zhao. The review appears below and can be read online at:  http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/shana-ye/. My thanks to Jason McGrath, MCLC media studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Boy’s Love, Cosplay, and Androgynous Idols: Queer
Fan Cultures in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan

Edited by Maud Lavin, Ling Yang, and Jing Jamie Zhao


Reviewed by Shana Ye
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright April, 2019)


Maud Lavin, Ling Yang, and Jing Jamie Zhao, eds. Boys’ Love, Cosplay, and Androgynous Idols: Queer Fan Cultures in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2017. 292 pp. ISBN 978-9888390809 (hardback $60).

Many students in my Gender and East Asian Culture class are amazed by the almost omnipresent representation of androgynous pop idols, sexually ambiguous celebrities, and gender-bending TV shows in both Chinese mainstream media and fan communities. These cultural proliferations seem to contradict what they have in mind of what China is like from the perspective of their everyday North American lives. Some of the students, especially those with a feminist background who are concerned with the relationships between new forms of queer desire and transnational digital capitalism ironically reinscribe queer transgression into stereotypes of “Asian gender/sexual transitions.” For those who themselves are practitioners of boy’s love, cosplay, and queer cultural production, different media industries and grassroots fandom culture provide new windows through which to reflect on questions of nationality, belonging, cosmopolitan identity, and heteropatriarchy. Yet, a large number of the students still have trouble distinguishing China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea from one another. Continue reading