Paper Republic newsletter 6

Hi all! I’m going to keep the intro short here for the purpose of expediency – I have deadlines – but fear not, the next issue will contain a big, nutritious portion of editorial.

Top of the agenda are imminent events which will be missed if not signed up for ASAP. First to note is this year’s symposium by the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing (happening this weekend!), and second is translator Christina Ng’s online seminar “Translating Multilingual Texts”, which Catapult have kindly offered our readers a 20% discount for, code below. This doesn’t mean the other events are not worth attending, far from it, but I’ll let you peruse the offerings below at your leisure.

New and aspiring translators, please direct your attention to the news that applications for the 2022 ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship Program are open! I am now at the tail end of a mentorship with Jeremy Tiang and it has been, and I say this sincerely, a life-changing program. Get applying!

Beyond that there are shining reviews of new and upcoming books (and a not-so-shining review of Jia Zhangke’s latest documentary), a story from the NEW PATHLIGHT ISSUE, extracts from Chen Qiufan’s forthcoming book and from Chan Yu-Ko’s Whisper, and a whole host of interviews with HK & Taiwan authors and translators. And, naturally, so much more… it’s an exciting world out there isn’t it! Continue reading

Moonlight Rests on My Left Palm review

Source: Washington Post (9/29/21)
Review of Moonlight Rests on My Left Palm by Yu Xiuhua, Trans. Fiona Sze-Lorrain
Poet Yu Xiuhua became a viral sensation. Her first book-length collection in English translation deserves to bring her an even bigger audience.
Reviewed by Chris Littlewood

Moonlight Rests on My Left: Poems and Essays By Yu Xiuhua; Translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain Astra House. 160 pp. $21

Soon after publishing the poem “Crossing Half of China to F— You” on her blog in 2014, Yu Xiuhua rose from obscurity to become one of the most widely read poets of her generation. Discussions of her poetry, and its viral success, were inevitably tied to her life, which made her a singular figure in Chinese poetry: She was born with cerebral palsy, which affected her movement and speech, to a family of farmers who lived in the small village of Hengdian in rural Hubei province, which she had barely left. In China, the shock of her rise was felt like lightning. Now, with the publication of her first book-length collection in English, “Moonlight Rests on My Left Palm,” in a lyrical translation by Fiona Sze-Lorrain, a new audience has a chance to hear the thunderclap.

The book intersperses a selection of Yu’s poems with her essays, arranged in an associative flow that shifts back and forth in time. The ruminative essays, rendered in elegant but somewhat mannered prose, offer context and insight on her life and poetry, but their meanderings can sap the energy of the collection. The poems, which compress her thoughts into daring and disconcerting forms, are another matter. Continue reading

Chinese Poetry and Translation review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Michel Hockx’s review of Chinese Poetry and Translation: Rights and Wrongs, edited by Maghiel van Crevel and Lucas Klein. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC book review editor for literary studies, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Chinese Poetry and Translation:
Rights and Wrongs

Edited by Maghiel van Crevel and Lucas Klein

Reviewed by Michel Hockx

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright October, 2021)

Maghiel van Crevel and Lucas Klein, eds., Chinese Poetry and Translation: Rights and Wrongs. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019. 355 pp. OPEN SOURCE ISBN: 9789462989948 (Hardback).

This is a very rich collection of essays showcasing a range of approaches to the study and practice of Chinese poetry translation. The editors are both leading scholars of Chinese poetry, as well as highly experienced poetry translators in their own right. Their efforts bring together an intellectually diverse yet coherent set of papers by a group of individuals who clearly have engaged actively and productively with one another’s work, despite their sometimes considerable differences in background and approach. Published by Amsterdam University Press, the book is an open access publication, freely downloadable through the OAPEN platform.

Translation Studies is a vibrant, highly interdisciplinary field. It is also still a relatively young field, as evidenced by the fact that publications by translation scholars often tend to sound somewhat defensive of their own enterprise. The case still needs to be made, again and again, that translations are worth studying in their own right; that translators need to be recognized as creative writers; that studying translation is not about finding “mistakes”; and that, in the case of poetry especially, nothing gets “lost” in translation. In their brief introduction to Chinese Poetry and Translation, van Crevel and Klein state their case succinctly and elegantly by offering the metaphor of the triptych: a tripartite structure that invites intellectual movement beyond simple binaries and toward thinking in three terms: China + poetry + translation, or (referencing Walter Benjamin) source language + target language + third language. They add to this a healthy dose of irony, by openly censoring Robert Frost’s infamous quote about poetry translation, and by subtitling their collection Rights and Wrongs, which is only a binary if you believe that these terms are mutually exclusive. Continue reading

Moonlight Rests on My Left Palm

Moonlight Rests on My Left Palm by Yu Xiuhua, Trans. by Fiona Sze-Lorrain. Published by Astra House, 2021

Starting with the viral poem “Crossing Half of China to Fuck You,” Yu Xiuhua’s raw collection in Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s translation chronicles her life as a disabled, divorced, single mother in rural China.

Yu Xiuhua was born with cerebral palsy in Hengdian village in the Hubei Province, in central China. Unable to attend college, travel, or work the land with her parents, Yu remained home where she could help with housework. Eventually she was forced into an arranged marriage that became abusive. She divorced her husband and moved back in with her parents, taking her son with her.

In defiance of the stigma attached to her disability, her status as a divorced single mother, and as a peasant in rural China, Yu found her voice in poetry. Starting in the late 90s, her writing became a vehicle with which to explore and share her reflections on homesickness, family and ancestry, the reality of disability in the context of a body’s urges and desires. Continue reading

Pathlight relaunch

Dear friends of Chinese literature,

Pathlight magazine is thrilled to announce the relaunch of the journal, with a new issue “Sense of Place” available now as an ebook world-wide, and for sale as a print magazine in the US (international shipping coming soon!).

Pathlight magazine was founded in 2010 in Beijing, originally in collaboration with People’s Literature Magazine, to publish Sinophone short stories and poems in translation. Since then, we have been honored to present writing by up-and-coming authors as well as literary luminaries such as Nobel laureate Mo Yan. However, as the magazine was printed and distributed primarily in China, with digital copies only sporadically available, it hasn’t always been easy to get hold of Pathlight. This is about to change. We are delighted to announce that Pathlight’s first international edition, “Sense of Place,” is now available for sale in both print and ebook versions.

Please see the attached press release for more details, or visit the magazine website at

Thanks for reading!

Eric Abrahamsen

‘Words as Grain’ review

Drew Calvert reviews Words as Grain by Duo Duo

Drew Calvert’s review of my translation of Words as Grain: New and Selected Poems of Duo Duo 多多 (The Cecile and Theodore Margellos World Republic of Letters, Yale University Press) has been published on Asymptote.

Lucas Klein <>

Paper Republic 5

Autumn is here, a time of year I actually really like, and there’s certainly a lot to celebrate at the moment! On a personal note, I might be able to travel to the American Literary Translator’s Association conference next month, the virtual leg of which has already started. Then there’s the approaching completion of a big Paper Republic project which a few of the members have been plugging away at for over a year by now, and which has involved contributions from tens of wonderful people at this point. Watch this space.

On top of those, it’s what is, I suppose, an unofficial award season in the world of translated literature, or at least one of them. And there are plenty of congratulations to go around: Sanmao, Mike Fu, Can Xue, Karen Gernant, Chen Zeping, Ge Fei, Canaan Morse, Chiou Charng-Ting, May Huang, Tracy K. Smith, Changtai Bi, David Hinton…

There are also a number of exciting events coming up, one of which involves Nicky Harman, in conversation with Jun Liu, and another which will be led by Jennifer Wong. Booking information can be found via the links below.

Last but not least — although this is a different kind of announcement to the ones above — if you are an author, translator, publisher or organisation with a Chinese-literature related event coming up and you’d like to share some information about it, say a few words, share an idea you have, please do get in touch and we’ll feature you/it in an upcoming newsletter both on the site and in the email version (which you can sign up to here). Continue reading

Peach Blossom Paradise long-listed for National Book Award

Canaan Morse’s translation of Ge Fei’s Peach Blossom Paradise has been long-listed for a National Book Award. Here’s the list of nominated books for the translated literature category. For more information, see this NPR report.

Translated Literature

  • Maryse Condé, Waiting for the Waters to Risetranslated from the French by Richard Philcox
  • Elisa Shua Dusapin, Winter in Sokcho, translated from the French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins
  • Ge Fei, Peach Blossom Paradise, translated from the Chinese by Canaan Morse
  • Nona Fernández, The Twilight Zone, translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer
  • Bo-Young Kim, On the Origin of Species and Other Stories, translated from the Korean by Joungmin Lee Comfort and Sora Kim-Russell
  • Benjamín Labatut, When We Cease to Understand the World, translated from the Spanish by Adrian Nathan West
  • Elvira Navarro, Rabbit Island: Stories, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney
  • Judith Schalansky, An Inventory of Losses,translated from the German by Jackie Smith

Mo Yan Speaks

Mo Yan Speaks: Lectures and Speeches by the Nobel Laureate from China by Mo Yan, translated and edited by Shiyan Xu (Cambria Press) has just been published.

Nobel Laureate Mo Yan, whose name literally means “don’t speak,” is renowned for his fiction, which the Nobel Prize Foundation notes “merges folk tales, history and the contemporary” “with hallucinatory realism.” His works include The Garlic BalladsRed SorghumShifu, You’ll Do Anything for a LaughLife and Death Are Wearing Me OutThe Republic of Wine; and Big Breasts and Wide Hips (all translated into English by Professor Howard Goldblatt). Mo Yan’s fiction has captivated a global audience for years, and his speeches are just as riveting. They provide rare insights into the complex thought processes of one of the most influential writers in the world. Mo Yan’s passion for this work comes across clearly in his lectures and speeches, reinforcing the strong emotions his works evoke in his readers. Many of these speeches have been translated into Japanese and Korean, and they are now finally available in English. From the writers who have influenced him to the relationship between his life and his works, these speeches offer an extraordinary window in Mo Yan’s world and will help us appreciate his works even more.

Read an excerpt (“I used to be so scared of ghosts and monsters, but I have never encountered any… and now it’s human beings that really strike fear in me.”—Mo Yan ) from chapter 15, “Fear and Hope” here. Continue reading

Strange Bedfellows

Strange Bedfellows by Liu Zhenyun (Cambria Press) has just been published.
Paperback (ISBN: 9781621967026)  $29.99 • 268pp. • E-book editions start at $8.99—Order from Cambria Press.

Strange Bedfellows, a novel by Liu Zhenyun, China’s most renowned writer of satire, and translated by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Lin, is a farcical tale of sibling devotion, sexual exploitation, and official corruption, all played out more or less in bed. Though a critique of new mercenary values, scam artists, and the common folks’ vulnerability to scam artists, the novel is also an oblique compliment to the resourcefulness of these folks in a changing China.

The strange bedfellows from various parts of China include Niu Xiaoli, a country girl who borrows money from a hometown loan shark to find a new wife for her brother, whose first wife ran off with another man. When the second wife runs off with the money for the arrangement, Xiaoli goes on a search for her, only to end up prey to a high-class madam, who teaches her to become a “fake-virgin” prostitute. Xiaoli begins a life of fleecing the wealthy and powerful.

One of Xiaoli’s clients is Li Anbang, the governor of a certain province, who faces arrest and possible execution for bribe-taking. A practitioner of black magic recommends that Li sleeps with a virgin to solve his problems. And thereon the twists and turns continue.

Liu’s trenchant criticism and fast-paced, humorous narrative is a delight to read. The irony that those exploiting the people end up being exploited themselves will not be lost on readers. Continue reading

On Yan Lianke’s ‘Hard Like Water’

Source: LA Review of Books (8/31/21)
Idiom as Instrument: On Yan Lianke’s “Hard Like Water”
By Thomas Chen

PROLIFIC AND PROVOCATIVE, the Chinese author Yan Lianke is known in the Anglophone world as a rebel. His first two books available in English — Serve the People!, translated by Julia Lovell, in which a couple is erotically aroused by the desecration of Maoist objects, and Dream of Ding Village, translated by Cindy Carter, about the rural spread of AIDS — were both banned in China. Since then, a steady stream of English translations has appeared, owing single-handedly to the prodigious efforts of Carlos Rojas. The latest is Hard Like Water.

Arguably the most important of Yan’s earlier novels, Hard Like Water, was published — and not banned — in 2001. On the surface, it bears a resemblance to Serve the People! Both are set in the early years of the Cultural Revolution (1966–’76), with a plot driven by a torrid affair. What separates the two, however, is that in Serve the People! the protagonists are turned on by profaning the sacred, while in Hard Like Water they are turned on by the sacred itself. Not sacrilege but the ardor of the revolution serves as the aphrodisiac. Continue reading

Translating Hong Kong–cfp

CFP: Translating Hong Kong

The topic of the 2021 edition of Backreading Hong Kong: An Annual Symposium is “Translating Hong Kong” 翻譯香港. We are interested in the research that considers translation as a metaphor that attempts to freshen the studies of Hong Kong culture, literature, and languages. We invite presentations that ask inspiring and contentious questions about the translation among various forms of cultural expression about Hong Kong. Does translating Hong Kong imply an open or closed circulation of her culture? How has translation, broadly defined, bettered a global understanding of Hong Kong culture? Does translating Hong Kong only serve to reiterate the colonial dominance of English? What can we say about translating into Hong Kong English or other kinds of English? And what can we say about translating between Cantonese and English? Does translating Hong Kong creative output legitimise it? We also welcome discussions of discoveries and new developments in any facets of translation and Hong Kong, both literary and non-literary. In particular, we would like to explore novel ways of viewing translation in the Hong Kong context.

The 2021 Backreading Hong Kong Symposium, co-organised by the Department of English Language and Literature at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU), the Department of Language Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC), and the literary journal Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, will take place online on 10-11 December 2021. Continue reading

Paper Republic no. 4

Here at the Ides of August (well, close enough), we bring you portentous news: there’s been a changing of the guard at Paper Republic! Our esteemed colleague Yvette Zhu is stepping down from management team duties, owing to the time pressures of her actual job, that pays her an actual salary. She’s has served admirably during this time. In fact her greatest contributions have yet to see the light of day – but more about that soon! We are sorry to see her go, and secretly hope she’ll be back soon.

In the meantime, this sad news is balanced out by the addition of three new members to Paper Republic’s management team: please welcome Jennifer Wong, Megan Copeland, and Danny Parrot to the dugout! Each has their own quite distinct background, and brings their own strengths to the team. We really look forward to expanding our roster of projects with their help.

What’s happening, otherwise? It’s Women in Translation month, that’s what! Worlds Without Borders has a list of 11 translated books by Asian women writers, and you can also check out US PEN, Lithub, the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses and many other locales for relevant reading lists. We also note that there’s currently no way to search the Paper Republic database for works by female writers, translated by female translators, and we resolve to add that capability. Continue reading

Paper Republic 3

Hello again! You must have been champing at the bit to receive this next issue of our newsletter. Well you need wait no longer. It’s been a busy time for the PR management team, what with the delights that were the Aberdeen Festival of Chinese Translation and Bristol Translates as well as our working toward some big announcements we can make soon. Watch this space. Then there’s the small matters of the welcome distraction, the Olympics, followed eagerly by Nicky and Emily, upcoming camping trips for Jack and Eric, and big work projects and exams for Yvette and Lirong.

Anyway, first for a little housekeeping. Remember back to May 2020? (I don’t know about you, but I can’t tell if it feels like yesterday or ten years ago with the past year and a bit the world has had.) So whether you do remember or not, a reminder: Paper Republic collaborated with Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing to run Give-it-a-go, bringing together 124 translators plus ourselves to have a go at translating Deng Anqing’s “Forty Days: Growing Closer to My Parents during Quarantine” (read the joint translation here). Since then, this piece and others from the Epidemic Series have been translated into Spanish, hereherehere and here, plus, I believe, into Slovenian, somewhere. The new good news is that, more recently, Deng’s account of lockdown at home is now available in Danish, in DanmarkKina magazine #115. It feels good for PR to have played a role in giving these stories a broader, more international readership. Continue reading