Dissertation Reviews has posted Kristof Van den Troost’s review of Brian Hu‘s Worldly Desires: Cosmopolitanism and Cinema in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Here’s how it begins:
Much of the growth in the field of Chinese cinema studies over the last two decades has been fuelled by a questioning of the category of Chinese cinema itself. With the national cinema paradigm considered outdated and inadequate, scholars have explored new ways to understand the film industries of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, as well as the many transnational connections forged by Chinese filmmakers in an increasingly globalized world. Despite the wealth of research already produced on this topic, Brian Hu’s dissertation manages to break new ground, and makes an important theoretical intervention in the field. But Hu’s contribution goes further than this. Methodologically, he combines archival research and close readings of films with less explored avenues of research—particularly the study of film music, industrial texts, and audiences. Covering a period of more than sixty years (from the 1950s to the 2000s), Hu consistently looks at film genres, production cycles, and stars that have been relatively ignored, in the process offering a fresh perspective on Hong Kong and Taiwanese film history.
Ou Ning’s 欧宁 literary journal Chutzpah! 天南 is closing, and to commemorate it, Asymptote‘s Lee Yew Leong interviews its English pullout Peregrineeditor Austin Woerner. Austin sez:
What was unique about Chutzpah! was that it didn’t see itself as a journal of Chinese literature per se, but rather as part of a global literary conversation … the magazine’s Chinese editors were very plugged into international literary goings-on, and in addition to translating “hot” Western writers into Chinese—Arundhati Roy, Roberto Bolaño, Jesmyn Ward, and Junot Diaz are a few of the bigger names—we collaborated with n+1 and A Public Space, and published interviews with prominent Western intellectuals. But that’s just one facet of the magazine’s identity. A big part of Ou Ning’s mission was to promote the work of younger Chinese writers and some older ones who hadn’t gotten the attention they deserved, and to create a niche in the Sinophone literary ecosphere for more offbeat, unconventional writing. The issues were themed and carefully curated, and the style was eclectic—we published everything from traditional realism to avant-garde experimentation to scifi, fantasy, and detective fiction—and our Sinophone contributors hailed both from mainland China (including ethnic minorities like Kazakhs, Uyghurs, and Yi), and from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and throughout the Chinese diaspora, from Singapore and Malaysia to the U.S. and the U.K. … As far as the English supplement goes, the notion was to make some of these new Sinophone writers available in English so that their work might eventually find readers outside of China and the exchange might become more bidirectional.
What satisfied me most was to have had a hand in creating a community of Chinese-English literary translators, and to have given a handful of translators, particularly younger ones, a chance to hone their craft and encounter new authors. When I started as English editor, my first priority was to make sure that translating for Chutzpah! was a worthwhile experience for our translators. So even though we often operated on a breakneck schedule, I insisted on having a complete editorial process, giving translators detailed responses and line edits and building in at least a couple days for revision and back and forth. I thought of “Peregrine” as a kind of translation incubator, where Chinese-English translators could cut their teeth on new authors and forms with the benefit of editorial feedback and in a friendly environment.
Jiayang Fan interviews Liao Yiwu 廖亦武, author of For a Song and a Hundred Songs, for the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Interview translated into English by Liz Carter. Here’s an excerpt:
Do you think that you, as a Chinese writer, must take a stance on China’s government? Or do you think, as someone who writes literature, you do not necessarily need to have anything to do with politics?
The difference between myself and the dictatorship is a difference of aesthetics. I am a person who writes stories. The further removed from politics and power I am, the better. Unfortunately, they feel that a person who tells stories is guilty of subversion of state power. Furthermore, I didn’t want to express any political ideas in my writing. Like I just mentioned, political views can show up in a different way. Political correctness, in a book, is like standing on the side of reason, but one of the most basic things about being an intellectual is this: you must have doubt and you must ask questions, even for your own writing, yourself, your weaknesses. You have to keep that skepticism. Many writers, while describing politics or the Chinese Communist Party, stop asking questions of and being skeptical toward themselves. I think this is far removed from that sort of thing.
In the beginning of the book, you wrote that in a talk with Michael Day, a Canadian friend and one of the first foreigners you became close to in China, he really wanted you to participate in the protests at Tiananmen.
And then you asked, “Do you think you love China more than me?” That line really stayed with me.
Qiu Xiaolong (裘小龙 ) began writing poems in Chinese in 1978, when he studied under the well-known Chinese poet, Bian Zhilin (卞之琳). After moving to the U.S., Qiu shifted to writing in English, and while he has continued to write and publish poetry, he has become a popular novelist, with eight novels in the internationally best-selling “Inspector Chen” series, whose protagonist is a poet. Qiu has a collection of short stories, and several collections of classic Chinese poetry in translation as well. In this conversation, we talk about his background in modern Chinese poetry, his own ongoing dialog with Classical Chinese and his relationship to his poet-protagonist Inspector Chen. Qiu’s poetry is featured in the current issue of Chinese Literature Today magazine. This recording took place at the Montford Inn in Norman, Oklahoma in 2012.
Over at Montevidayo, Johannes Göransson has posted “Exploded Tranströmer: On Ye Mimi and Translation.” A hyperopticon of connections, it links Taiwanese poet Ye Mimi 葉覓覓 to Nobel lit. prizewinner Tomas Tranströmer via what Swedish poet Aase Berg’s reading:
A few months ago, after she came back from the Hong Kong poetry festival, Aase Berg wrote to me that she had come across an amazing poet: Ye Mimi. (Apparently YM appeared with a very impressive guitar player as well.)
That is funny because when I first read Ye Mimi what came to my mind was a somewhat controversial article Aase wrote in Expressen after Tomas Tranströmer won the Nobel Prize the other year … Ye Mimi’s poems are wonderful in that way: as “banality and surprising intelligence in unexpected union.” In fact they read a little like Tranströmer poems in which the metaphors flip out, go off in tangents. And a Tranströmer poem in which the tenor of the metaphor is not privileged – not over the vehicle, not over the “banal” everyday stuff (pink hoodies, telephone booths etc).
From there, he indicates a critique of Translation Studies as it’s come to be known under the direction of Lawrence Venuti, which he says “quarantines the work in translation: we never have the work in translation.”
His Days Go By the Way Her Years is a collection of Steve Bradbury’s best translations of poetry by Taiwanese poet and filmmaker Ye Mimi 葉覓覓. Mimi’s poetry blends a fascination with dreams with a playful approach to language and sensitivity to sound. In his translations, Bradbury has crafted English poems that sing in their new language and deftly play with its possibilities. This book was a finalist in the Anomalous Press Experimental Translation Chapbook Contest, judged by Christian Hawkey.
Ge Zhaoguang 葛兆光, translated by Michael S. Duke and Josephine Chiu-Duke
In An Intellectual History of China, Professor Ge Zhaoguang presents a history of traditional Chinese knowledge, thought and belief to the late six century CE with a new approach offering a new perspective. It appropriates a wide range of source materials and emphasizes the necessity of understanding ideas and thought in their proper historical contexts. Its analytical narrative focuses on the dialectical interaction between historical background and intellectual thought. While discussing the complex dynamics of interaction among the intellectual thought of elite Chinese scholars, their historical conditions, their canonical texts and the “worlds of general knowledge, thought and belief,” it also illuminates the significance of key issues such as the formation of the Chinese world order and its underlying value system, the origins of Chinese cultural identity and foreign influences.
Beijing Creamhas posted a conversation with poet-translator Eleanor Goodman. Here’s a teaser:
Has translation made you more aware of how you write? Does thinking in two languages help your writing, and if so, in what ways?
EG: Translation has had an enormous influence on my own poetry. Chinese is structurally very different from English, and the norms of Chinese poetry are different too, so I’ve consciously (and surely unconsciously) imported some of that into my own work. In particular, I’ve gotten very interested in the lack of punctuation in a lot of contemporary Chinese poetry. Merwin does that too, but few other American poets write straight-up sentence-based poetry that relies on line break and emphasis instead of punctuation. It opens up a lot of new space, at least for me. It’s cliché now to say this, but I do think that writing, thinking, living in another language brings out a different personality that otherwise doesn’t have a chance to emerge. At least that’s true for me.