Eileen J. Cheng and I are pleased to announce publication of Jottings under Lamplight, a volume of Lu Xun’s essays in English translation that we coedited. See below for details.–Kirk Denton
Lu Xun (1881–1936) is widely considered the greatest writer of twentieth-century China. Although primarily known for his two slim volumes of short fiction, he was a prolific and inventive essayist. Jottings under Lamplight showcases Lu Xun’s versatility as a master of prose forms and his brilliance as a cultural critic with translations of sixty-two of his essays, twenty of which are translated here for the first time.
While a medical student in Tokyo, Lu Xun viewed a photographic slide that purportedly inspired his literary calling: it showed the decapitation of a Chinese man by a Japanese soldier, as Chinese bystanders watched apathetically. He felt that what his countrymen needed was a cure not for their physical ailments but for their souls. Autobiographical accounts describing this and other formative life experiences are included in Jottings, along with a wide variety of cultural commentaries, from letters, speeches, and memorials to parodies and treatises. Continue reading
MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce S. E. Kile’s review of Idle Talk under the Bean Arbor: A Seventeenth-Century Chinese Story Collection (University of Washington Press, 2017), by Aina the Layman, edited by Robert E. Hegel. The review appears below and at its online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/kile/. My thanks to Michael Berry, MCLC book review editor for translations, for ushering the review to publication.
Kirk A. Denton, editor
By Aina the Layman
Edited by Robert E. Hegel
Reviewed by S. E. Kile
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September, 2017)
Even though some new shoots with tender leaves are growing up the bean arbor that I set up some days ago, the bean vines have not yet entirely covered the arbor, and beams of sunlight still shine through empty places among the leaves. These spaces are like storytellers who break off at some crucial spot in the middle, leaving gaps that make the audience unhappy. But let’s be done with that troublesome talk. (23)
The most elaborate frame-story narrative in traditional Chinese literature is now available in English for the very first time, thanks to the impressive collaborative achievement of editor Robert E. Hegel and nine of his current and former students who did most of the translation work. Idle Talk under the Bean Arbor (豆棚閒話) by Aina jushi 艾衲居士 (Aina the Layman) is a thoroughly enchanting early Qing departure from the conventions of the Ming vernacular short story (huaben 話本). It is such a departure, in fact, that to call the volume a “collection” of “stories” is to disregard many of its most vibrant elements. Continue reading
Bruce Rusk and I are delighted to announce the publication of The Book of Swindles: Selections from a Late Ming Collection (Columbia, 2017). This year happens to be the 400th anniversary of the earliest datable edition, and the theme has some contemporary relevance.
Christopher Rea <email@example.com>
The Book of Swindles: Selections from a Late Ming Collection
By Zhang Yingyu. Translated by Christopher Rea and Bruce Rusk.
Columbia University Press, 2017
This is an age of deception. Con men ply the roadways. Bogus alchemists pretend to turn one piece of silver into three. Devious nuns entice young women into adultery. Sorcerers use charmed talismans for mind control and murder. A pair of dubious monks extorts money from a powerful official and then spends it on whoring. A rich student tries to bribe the chief examiner, only to hand his money to an imposter. A eunuch kidnaps boys and consumes their “essence” in an attempt to regrow his penis. These are just a few of the entertaining and surprising tales to be found in this seventeenth-century work, said to be the earliest Chinese collection of swindle stories. Continue reading
MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Paul E. Festa’s translation “The Yangtze and My Father: A Love Story,” by Yuan Jinmei. The essay appears below and can be read at its permanent home here:
Kirk Denton, editor
By Yuan Jinmei 
Translated by Paul E. Festa
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September 2017)
When I was young, I never knew fish got sick, birds became poisoned, kids died. My father, however, was well aware. He was a biologist. After he died, I learned from his students that fish from the Yangtze River are inedible. Birds fly in the cogon grass of the Yangtze’s riparian zone; they flutter and fly, and plunge and die—it’s lead poisoning. Children raised near the river, young children, contract liver cancer.
Before people knew why, the great Yangtze—the legendary river that for so long flowed from the horizon into eternal poems and paintings—suddenly lost its halcyon aura as the carefree setting for the solitary swan under sunset clouds, suddenly found its expansive bosom heretofore unfailingly open to all and sundry sailing ships now closed. The Yangtze, suddenly, became our enemy. Continue reading
MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Paul E. Festa’s translation “Old Fool: Elegy for a Monkey” (老傻), by Hu Fayun 胡发云. The essay, which mourns the death of a smuggled rare monkey, was widely circulated online. The essay appears below, but is best read at its online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/festa/. Enjoy.
Kirk Denton, editor
By Hu Fayun 
Translated by Paul E. Festa
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August 2017)
Old Fool is a tiny monkey. He’s not a kind of monkey we commonly see, but one that’s on the verge of extinction.
Early last winter, my wife returned from the wet market and reported seeing a peddler selling two tiny monkeys; they were caged in a wire rattrap, curled up pitifully into little balls and huddled together to escape the cold. Each time my wife returned from the wet market she brought back a few of these heartrending stories: about a wounded muntjac deer with melancholy eyes; about a few small hedgehogs fighting fruitlessly to break free from a nylon net bag; about a row of brilliantly plumaged golden pheasant corpses; about a small squirrel struggling in the scorching sun for its final dying breath; about a clowder of cats crushed together and yowling piteously in chorus. There were also small squawking quail bouncing frenziedly in a basket, bare and bloody from being plucked featherless while alive. There were frogs, tortoises, soft-shelled turtles, and snakes—all of which, as recipes prescribe, had been skinned alive. There were also those docile and adorable pigeons, rabbits, and lambs. For these small creatures, every wet market is their Auschwitz concentration camp. Continue reading
Great to see Michael Berry’s translation of Remains of Life finally published. Some list members may be interested in re-reading my review of the French translation, published a while back:
and now un-paywalled.
Sebastian Veg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Once again we have a case of a reviewer failing to mention the name of the translator, or even seeing the book under review as a translation. By the way, the translator is Michael Berry.–Kirk
Source: SCMP (6/7/17)
James Joyce-like novel about Japanese genocide of Taiwan tribes is a tough read, but worth the effort
Award-winning Remains of Life, written without chapters or paragraphs, is a technically daunting account of a terrible event from Taiwan’s occupation that has taken 18 years to publish in English, and it’s not hard to see why
The cover of Wu He’s Remains Of Life. Columbia University Press
It’s taken 18 years for Wu He’s critically lauded Remains of Life to appear in English translation, and a glance at the text readily explains this delay.
This is an avowedly experimental novel that revolves around one dreadful event. On October 27, 1930, at a sports meeting at Musha Elementary School, on an aboriginal reservation in the mountains of Taiwan, a bloody uprising took place against the Japanese. By noon, the headhunting ritual had left 134 of the occupiers decapitated. The colonial power’s response was to mobilise a 3,000-strong militia, roll out the heavy artillery, put planes in the air and deploy poisonous gas in a ferocious act of genocide that saw the near extermination of the Seediq tribes.
The Musha Incident, as it came to be known, had been forgotten by many Taiwanese, but the book led to a resurgence in interest, and a new evaluation of its significance. Continue reading
The Reading Chinese Book Review Network
Interested in Chinese fiction in translation? Want to read and review recent works by contemporary Chinese authors and to see your reviews published online? Then apply to join the Reading Chinese Book Review Network!
We are looking for enthusiastic volunteer reviewers to join our book review network, launched in collaboration with Balestier Press and Penguin China. Reviewers who join the network will be sent a copy of selected titles and asked to submit a review within a specified timeframe. Their review will then be published on our website, creating a valuable resource for teachers and students of Chinese, as well as for members of the public looking for a good place to start with Chinese fiction in translation. Continue reading
I recall a discussion in this list about translated books—books of literature, even—being reviewed without any mention of the translator.
Well, this is a little different. I was getting my usual dose of enjoyment and enlightenment from a great book review by Perry Link in the New York Review of Books—in this case, a review of Yunte Huang’s The Big Red Book of Modern China Literature (along with a new book of Mao poems). It was from April 7, 2016. I’m a little behind in my reading… The Huang book has a generous assortment of authors and works, so out of curiosity I brought up the table of contents on Amazon. I confess I am drawn to mentions of Shen Congwen—I’ll leave it to your imagination to guess how often I do Kinkley searches. The anthology has excerpts from Border Town! Wow, I thought, so there’s a fifth translation of that great work, so soon after mine? Nope, Jeffrey Kinkley is acknowledged as the translator at the end. Who knew? Not me! (W. W. Norton was the publisher of both books.) Well, I was listed as the translator, so I guess I should be grateful for small favors.
–Jeffrey Kinkley <email@example.com
MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Yurou Zhong’s translation of “On Listening to Enemy Radio,” by Ah Cheng. The translation appears below, but is best read at its online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/zhongyurou/.
Kirk Denton, editor
By Ah Cheng
Translated by Yurou Zhong
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July 2017)
Ah Cheng as an educated youth in Yunnan, circa 1970.
June 4, 1989 marked the end of the 1980s, concluding the decade one year early. The year 1976 had ended the 1970s, bringing that decade to a close four years early. However, adding the last four years of the 1970s to the next nine-year decade, it could be said the 1980s lasted for thirteen years. As for the decade of the 1970s, it really started from the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. From 1966 to 1976, that was ten whole years. To use “decade” to measure time is neither accurate nor appropriate. Life is not like pork and cannot be measured one slice at a time. For me, the 1970s was long. Every day stretched out like a year.
One day, when I was laboring away in the mountains, I realized that all the history books I had read since I was little concerned big events and the people involved in them. But there were only a handful of big events in those people’s lives. How did they live out the rest of their eventless and mundane lives? Did they also experience the same feeling I did of their days stretching on and on without end? The 1970s was the best time for me, with my endless energy and quick reactions, so quick that I could hardly keep up with myself. I had to constantly tell myself: Slow down and slow down a bit more; you have nothing but time. Continue reading
I have just translated a recent essay by Li Ling 李零. Toward the end of the essay, Li cites a poem by Gong Zizhen 龚自珍 entitled “Yong shi” 咏史 (Intoning history). I’m wondering if there is an English translation of this poem that I can adopt or consult for my translation of Li Ling’s essay. Please send any responses to me directly at the email below.
Source: Whats On Weibo (5/10/17)
“I Am Fan Yusu” (我是范雨素) (Full Translation)
In late April of 2017, Fan Yusu became an overnight literary sensation in China when her essay “I am Fan Yusu” was published on online platform Noonstory.com and soon went viral. Here is a full translation of the original Chinese essay. Translation provided by What’s on Weibo.
“I Am Fan Yusu,” by Fan Yusu
My life is like a book that’s dreadful to read – fate has made its bookbinding very messy. I am from Xiangyang in Hubei, and started to do private teaching at the local village school when I was twelve. If I wouldn’t have left, I would have continued to teach and would have become a proper teacher. But I couldn’t bear to stay in the countryside and view the sky from the bottom of the well, so I came to Beijing. I wanted to see the world. I was twenty years old at the time. Continue reading
Another review of Iron Moon.–Kirk
Source: Lit Hub (5/1/17)
The Chinese Factory Workers Who Write Poems on Their Phones
“An Unprecedented opportunity in the History of Working Class Literature.”
By Megan Walsh
It’s hard to think of anywhere in the world where becoming a poet is a canny career move, but this is especially true for the poorest and most disadvantaged trying to get a foothold in China’s frenzied special economic zones.
In recent years there have been a flurry of documentaries highlighting the hardships of China’s migrant workers, but the 2015 film Iron Moon drew attention to a very specific figure: the migrant worker poet. It follows several young writers battling economic and cultural prejudice in their attempts to sublimate 14-hour shifts on assembly lines into lines of poetry. We watch the young, tender-minded Wu Niaoniao (whose name means Blackbird) wandering from stand to stand in Guangzhou’s vast strip-lit Southern China Job Market, enquiring about editorial positions on internal factory newspapers. With a knowing mix of fatalism and hope that permeates the poetry of China’s migrant workers, he reads a poem and awaits their responses with a sheepish smile. Continue reading
The NYT has finally published an obituary for Burton Watson.–Kirk
Source: NYT (5/3/17)
Burton Watson, 91, Influential Translator of Classical Asian Literature, Dies
By WILLIAM GRIMES
Burton Watson, whose spare, limpid translations, with erudite introductions, opened up the world of classical Japanese and Chinese literature to generations of English-speaking readers, died on April 1 in Kamagaya, Japan. He was 91.
His death was confirmed by his nephew William Dundon.
For nearly six decades, Mr. Watson was a one-man translation factory, producing indispensable English versions of Chinese and Japanese literary, historical and philosophical texts, dozens of them still in print. Generations of students and teachers relied on collections like “Early Chinese Literature” (1962), “Chinese Lyricism: Shih Poetry From the Second to the Twelfth Century” (1971), “From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry” (1981) and “The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the 13th Century” (1984). Continue reading