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: 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

Green Mountain: Poems by Yang Jian

Green Mountain
Poems by Yang Jian
Translated and with an Introduction by Fiona Sze-Lorrain
Foreword by Christopher Merrill
Published by MerwinAsia, 2020; Distributed by the University of Hawai‘i Press
154 pages; hardcover and paperback

Click here to order.

Green Mountain compiles a representative selection of lyrical poems by contemporary Chinese poet and painter Yang Jian, also a Buddhist, in Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s elegant translation. Exploring history, faith, memory, nature, and the various transient complexities of human existence, these poems seek a pure form of simplicity in thought and style, reminiscent of meditative beauty and Asian ink-wash painting aesthetics.

Yang Jian is the rarest of contemporary Chinese poets who takes on the excesses of modernization and materialism. In his signature style of economy and imagery, which Fiona Sze-Lorrain has rendered in English with precision, Yang creates a poetic landscape of hermit living which is as enthralling as it is illusory. —Dian Li, Professor of modern Chinese literature at the University of Arizona Continue reading

Interview with Bruce Humes

For his “Chinese Translated Fiction Podcast,” Angus Stewart recently interviewed Bruce Humes, translator of Chi Zijian’s novel, “Last Quarter of the Moon” 《额尔古纳河右岸》, chronicling the tragic twilight of the reindeer-herding Evenki of northeastern China. The tale has since been translated into several languages, including French, Japanese and Swedish.

Bruce Humes

Four poems by Mai Mang

Four of my poems (in Chinese and in English) were recently featured (under my penname Mai Mang) in “Corona Conversations: EAST & WEST,” a special online international edition of CUNY Forum (Asian American/Asian Research Institute, CUNY). See links below. I thought it might also be of interest to some members of the MCLC Community. (“Four Poems” by Mai Mang/Yibing Huang) (special issue introduction)

Yibing Huang
Associate Professor of Chinese
Curator of the Chu-Griffis Asian Art Collection
Connecticut College

Chen Qiufan and Waste Tide podcast

Source: China Channel, LARB (8/25/20)
Chen Qiufan on his cli-fi novel Waste Tide

An episode of the Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast

At the China Channel we’re delighted to be syndicating a short run from a new(ish) podcast we’ve been listened to, the Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast. Hosted by Angus Stewart, the show covers a wide range of Chinese literature, from Sanmao’s Sahara to Wang Shuo’s “hooligan” literature. It first came to our attention with a series on Chinese sci-fi, so we’re kicking things off with the episode on Chen Qiufan’s cli-fi novel Waste Tide (荒潮 huāngcháo), translated by Ken Liu published in English last spring. Chen – whose short story Smog Society was published on this site – joins Angus to explain the context of his environmental dystopia, China’s e-waste crisis, and how he approaches writing science fiction based on an equally strange and distressing reality. (Plus for further listening, the podcast’s sci-fi series also includes an episode on a Fei Dao story translated by Alec Ash, also on the site, here.)

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:

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

Transpacific Literary Project

I’m Esther Kim — a guest-editor at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s Transpacific Literary Project. For our latest folio Monsoon Notebook, we published two translated short stories from Chinese, one author from Hong Kong, and another author from Shanghai, into English. Here are the details:

by Lu Yinyin 陆茵茵, translated by Na Zhong
An ex-couple meet for a holiday in the mountains only to be hemmed in by a typhoon

by A Leng 阿楞, translated by Zhou Sivan
Illustrations by Leopold Adi Surya
Government schemes monetize juveniles’ dreams Kenichi talks to salamanders and turns into water
(short story; translated from Hong Kong Cantonese Chinese)

Esther Kim <>
Asia Literary Editor, The Transpacific Literary Project
Asian American Writers’ Workshop
Pronouns: she/her/hers | @aaww | @aaww_nyc

Chinese Literature Today 9.1

Chinese Literature Today 9 (1) is now available online and can be accessed for free:

Below is the table of contents of this new issue (with hyperlinks):

Editor’s Note, by Ping Zhu

REIMAGINING HUMANITY: Focus on Science Fiction

Letter to My Daughter,” by Liu Cixin, translated by Jesse Field
The Affair: The First of the Hamlet Trilogy,” by Isaac (Shuntang) Hsu, translated by Tze-lan Deborah Sang and Isaac (Shuntang) Hsu
Floating Life: Beloved Wife, Part 2,” by Dung Kai-cheung, translated by Andrea Lingenfelter


The City as the Protagonist,” by Xu Zechen, translated by Xu Shiyan
Our Ferocious Self-Doubt: An Interview with Xu Zechen,” by Zhang Yanmei, translated by Yingying Huang
I Persist, I Believe, and I Shall Save: On Xu Zechen’s Fiction,” by Fan Yingchun, translated by Yingying Huang
Brothers,” by Xu Zechen, translated by Natascha Bruce Continue reading

Stephen Soong Translation Awards 2019-20

Stephen C. Soong Translation Studies Memorial Awards (2019–2020)
03 July 2020

It is with great pleasure that I hereby announce the results for the 22nd Stephen C. Soong Translation Studies Memorial Awards (2019–2020) set up by Research Centre for Translation, Institute of Chinese Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Stephen C. Soong Translation Studies Memorial Awards (2019–2020) Standard Awards:

JIANG Fan (Graduate Institute of Interpretation and Translation, Shanghai International Studies University)

“透過翻譯現象深化文學關係研究—— 再論亞瑟·韋利和王際真在《紅樓夢》英譯中的“夢境”之爭” [An Intertextual Approach to Literary Relations: Rethinking Arthur Waley and Wang Chi-chen’s “Dream Controversy” in the English Translation and Adaptation of Hongloumeng] (in Chinese), Translation Quarterly 翻譯季刊 91 (March 2019), pp. 27–58. Continue reading

Hao Jingfang’s “Limbo”

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Ursula D. Friedman’s translation of Hao Jingfang’s 郝景芳 novella “Limbo” (生死域). A teaser is found below, but to read the entire story, go to:

Kirk Denton, editor


By Hao Jingfang 郝景芳[1]

Translated by Ursula D. Friedman[2]

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July 2020)


The Lonely Depths, by Hao Jingfang

He ventured cautiously through this strange twilight city. The sky was gray, the city gray. There was a peculiar feel to this city, the air swollen with an impending danger. The skyline was punctuated by a relentless succession of high-rises—the buildings’ rebar skeletons were gray, their glass flanks tinted gray. The gaps between the buildings were inked an impenetrable charcoal-gray. The sky was choked by a dense layer of low-hanging clouds, the skyscrapers’ invisible crowns swallowed by the ashen haze.

As he strode deeper into this city of shadows, he took stock of his surroundings, on constant guard against potential dangers lurking behind hidden street corners. His pace was slow and measured.

He did not know where he was. The last thing he remembered was blowing through a red light along Beijing’s Second Ring Road at two o’clock in the morning. A black Maserati had come flying out of nowhere, striking his vehicle full-on and flattening him into a corner of the driver’s seat. His car slammed into the guardrail, metal and glass debris piercing his flesh like a rain of bullets. . . . Later on, he vaguely recalled the bluish gleam of the lights in the operating room, and the IV bag in the hospital ward . . . and then . . . and then . . . [click here to read the rest]

Shen Haobo poem

Shen Haobo
(Second version)

America holds down America
America oppresses America
America pleads with America
America ignores America
America kills America

America suffocates
America cries for America
America rushes into the streets
America fights against America
America burns America

America’s rocket shoots into the sky
America’s blacks rush into the streets
Remember that time?
We are all people
People massacre people

People fight and resist people
People pursue freedom
People thirst for equality
The battle is not up in the sky
Always has been down in the streets

June 1st, 2020
Translated by Martin Winter, June 2020

First version on my blog, see Continue reading

Headscarf Girl, by Cao Kou

Source: China Channel (6/12/20)
Headscarf Girl
By Cao Kou, translated by Josh Stenberg

“Chinese boatwoman wearing a headscarf, Canton” circa. 1870 (Wellcome Images/Wikicommons)

Cao Kou’s short fiction often masquerades as the casual recollection or chatty anecdote of a youngish male first-person narrator. People who have lived in Chinese cities will recognize this streetscape, with its gritty locales and paucity of private space. Non-Han Muslims are a visible part of that landscape, especially in eateries like the one where this Han narrator has started taking meals. The protagonist is attracted to the “headscarf girl,” but he combines this with an incuriosity so fundamental that he likely doesn’t know her name; her vanishing at the end earns only a shrug. This brief anti-romantic tale speaks volumes about the realities and anxiety of the intersections of gender, ethnicity and religion in the contemporary Chinese metropolis, and it is likely this unease which had led to it being published here for the first time, rather than in China. – Josh Stenberg

I’m not even exaggerating when I say that I’ve eaten at all the places to eat near where I live. And there’s one or two where I’ve eaten lots of times, so there’s an owner and a waitress, both women, that I’ve gotten to know. I couldn’t tell you about their looks, I mean they’re alright, definitely not ugly, or else why would I get to know them, right? I just remember that one of them was from Tianchang in Anhui province, and one is from Huaiyin which is in Jiangsu but further north from here. One of them’s already married, and her husband was the one cooking up the twice-cooked pork and all that shit; and the other one’s not married, and she keeps a pink OPPO cell phone in her back pocket. Continue reading

Bird Talk and Other Stories by Xu Xu

Bird Talk and Other Stories by Xu Xu: Modern Tales of a Chinese Romantic (Stonebridge, 2020)
Translated by Frederik H. Green

Xu Xu (1908-1980) was one of the most widely read Chinese authors of the 1930s to 1960s. His popular urban gothic tales, his exotic spy fiction, and his quasi-existentialist love stories full of nostalgia and melancholy offer today’s readers an unusual glimpse into China’s turbulent twentieth century.

These translations–spanning a period of some thirty years, from 1937 until 1965–bring to life some of Xu Xu’s most representative short fictions from prewar Shanghai and postwar Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The Afterword illustrates that Xu Xu’s idealistic tendencies in defiance of the politicization of art exemplify his affinity with European romanticism and link his work to a global literary modernity. Continue reading

Translators Speak event

Join Cha Asian Journal & Zephyr Press — for this special (and for us, a 40th anniversary) event!

Four Zephyr Press translators — Nick Admussen, Lucas Klein, Andrea Lingenfelter, and Jami Proctor Xu — will talk about and introduce Chinese poets they translated, the translation process, their views on translating Chinese poetry (versus other genres), and suggestions for other translators, as well as read from the books. Poets to be discussed:
Ya Shi, Mang Ke, Zhai Yongming, and Song Lin, all from Zephyr’s Jintian Series of Contemporary Chinese Poetry. The event, including a Q & A, will take place via Zoom and people from all over the world are welcome to listen in. Moderated by Cha’s co-editor Tammy Lai-Ming Ho. 

“Translators Speak” takes place tonight or Saturday, depending on where you live. Find out what time it will be where you are:

Saturday, June 13, 2020 at 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM HKT
Friday, June 12: Pacific: 8 p.m. / Central: 10 p.m. / East Coast: 11 p.m.

Zoom details at:

Paper Republic launches Sunday Sentence

Paper Republic launches the Sunday Sentence 一周一句

This Sunday 31st May begins a two-month activity of online translation workshopping, which anyone and everyone who knows Chinese and writes English can get involved with. A famously lonely endeavor, translation, when done with others, becomes a rambunctious language game in which all the best nitpicking and head scratching go on. So since face-to-face workshops are called off for the foreseeable future, Paper Republic is launching Sunday Sentence, or in Chinese, 一周一句!

Every Sunday a sentence will be posted here on the website as well as on Twitter and Facebook, and you are invited to have a go translating it! The sentences have been picked by PR team members and other CH-EN translators for being particularly challenging to render in English for some reason or another. Challenging enough, we hope, to produce endless different possible translations and start some discussion around the strategies people employ when translating literary Chinese and the reasons behind their decisions. All translations and discussion should be posted in the comment sections of the Sunday Sentence page when it goes online at

First up is a sentence picked by Anna Holmwood, translator of Jin Yong! So to whet your wuxia appetite, from this Saturday onward, you can listen to Angus Stewart’s conversation with another translator of Jin Yong, Gigi Chang, on the Translated Chinese Fiction podcast at

With thanks and best wishes,

Nicky Harman <>