Holton’s Yang Lian PEN Translates Award Winner

English PEN has announced its latest list of PEN Translates award winners, and Brian Holton’s translation of Narrative Poem 叙事诗 by Yang Lian 杨炼 (Bloodaxe) is one of the winners!

Chinese is also represented in Nicky Harman’s forthcoming translation of Our Story: A Memoir of Love and Life in China 平如美棠 : 我俩的故事 , by Rao Pingru 饶平如.

Click the image to the right for the full list.

 

 

Yang Lian PBS’s Summer Recommended Translation

The UK’s Poetry Book Society has chosen as its 2017 Summer Recommended Translation Narrative Poem 叙事诗, by Yang Lian 杨炼 and translated by Brian Holton. The PBS writes:

Narrative Poem, Yang Lian’s most personal work to date, is built around a series of family photographs, the first of which was taken on the day when he was born, on 22 February 1955, and the last of which dates from the time he spent undergoing ‘re-education through labour’ – and digging graves – during the mid-1970s.

The poetry ranges backward and forward in time, covering his childhood and youth, his first period of exile in New Zealand, and his subsequent adventures and travels in and around Europe and elsewhere.

In ‘this unseen structure written by a ghost’ Yang Lian weaves together lived experience with meditations on time, consciousness, history, language, memory and desire, in a search for new/old ways of speaking, thinking and living.

Click on the image for more information.

Dundee Review on Holton’s Staunin Ma Lane

holtonXinyi Jiang and Lindsay Macgregor at the Dundee Review of the Arts give their take on Brian Holton’s Staunin Ma Lane, a collection of classical Chinese poetry translated into Scots (with English “glosses”). They write:

The archaisms of the classical Chinese language, the multiple meanings of individual Chinese characters, as well as the very different cultural allusions must surely have made translation a daunting task. But if so, it never shows. There’s a natural ease to Holton’s Scots which belies the compromises which translation necessarily incurs when qualities of sight and sound, meaning and allusion jostle for survival in each line. Holton’s improvisations, translations and cover versions – faithful and playful, confident and experimental – make classical Chinese poetry both highly accessible and hugely enjoyable.

Click the image for the review in full.

Johnston on Holton’s Staunin Ma Lane

Staunin Ma Lane book coverMichael Johnston blogs about Staunin Ma Lane, Brian Holton’s translations of classical Chinese poetry:

Brian Holton’s passions for language and languages, for the poetic and the pawky, his musicianship which adds rhythm, melody, counterpoint and grace notes to his translations are all sweetly evident in the poems in this beautiful book.  It not only reads well; it looks good, such is the care taken in the design.

Brian is working in the tradition of Hugh MacDiarmid whose drunk narrator gazed at a thistle and Lewis Grassic Gibbon whose Scots Quair caught the language and the land fair and square.  A long time ex-pat, my own knowledge of Scots needs this stimulus.  The book and the poems should be on the syllabus of Scottish schools teaching Scots and Chinese.

Click the image for the full write-up.

Scotland’s National on Brian Holton

Polyglot Brian Holton has an international background but loves the Scots languageThe National (“Scotland’s only daily newspaper supporting independence”) has a write-up on Staunin Ma Lane, Brian Holton’s translation into Scots of a selection of classical Chinese poetry.

The originals date back as far as the eighth century and Holton, who says his Scots versions retains the emotional resonance, holds a strong respect for the material, saying: “If you step outside your own culture and start opening doors you never regret it.

“Pre-modern China is so different. There are more books in Chinese than any other culture in the world. It is the oldest continuous culture in the world.

“The book is an introduction to Chinese poetry in my attempt to show it can be funny and daft. It isn’t all sages sitting under trees.”

Born in Galashiels, Holton lived in Nigeria with his socialist parents, a former commando father who could speak French and Swahili and a Border Scots mum.

Holton added: “I’ve been pushing for Scots all my life. It’s an old tongue with a long history and a big range.

“I want to say to the reader, ‘deek whit the mither tongue can dae – gin it can dae this, whit’ll it no can dae?’”

Click the image above for the full article.

Brian Holton: “Translator / Ghostwriter / Ghost Composer” at CUHK

https://i1.wp.com/www.cuhk.edu.hk/rct/Images/ad/brian.jpg?resize=371%2C525

Renditions Distinguished Lecture Series on Literary Translation

“Translator / Ghostwriter / Ghost Composer”
Speaker: Brian Holton
Date: 16 December 2015 (Wednesday)
Time: 4:30–6:00 p.m. (Tea reception: 4:00–4:30 p.m.)
Venue: LT6, Yasumoto International Academic Park (YIA),
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

A Massively Single Number

Yang Lian - A Massively Single Number - An Anthology

A Massively Single Number 庞大的单数, now out from Shearsman Press, is an anthology showcasing the work of seven prizewinning poets, chosen from entries to the 2013 Artsbj.com International Chinese Poetry Prize, together with critical essays by prominent Chinese poets, and essays by Baz Kwakman and Antonia Byatt. The book was edited by Yang Lian 杨炼, who was involved in the competition from the very beginning, and was translated by Brian Holton.

The poets–Cao Shu 草树, Liao Hui 廖慧, Zang Di 藏棣, Yu Jian 于坚, Qi Ye 七夜, Zhong Shuo 钟硕, and Guo Jinniu  郭金牛–are mostly new to publication in English, and present a wide range of voices, ranging from the serene and other-worldly voice of the Taoist recluse, to the dispossessed voice of the migrant worker; there is wit, elegance, rough-edged anger, much novelty and startling creativity. The anthology is clear proof that Chinese poetry is alive and well, and going from strength to strength.

Click the image above for purchasing information.

The Aurora Borealis Prize

People’s Daily reports:

On the afternoon of August 2nd, during the member’s assembly of the 20th World Conference of the Federation of International Translators (FIT), FIT conferred The “Aurora Borealis” Prize on Xu Yuanchong, a Chinese translator. This international award is hosted every three years. Xu is the first Chinese winner of the award.

As this blog often hosts links to goings-on in Chinese poetry (from any era) as translated into or reported in English, I try to keep things civil–there is a lot of Chinese poetry, and a lot of different tastes, and not much translation, so I want to accommodate and encourage as much breadth as possible. Translation is an expression not of oneself but of another, and I don’t feel the need to parade my opinions on this format. If I don’t want to repeat something, I’ll pass over it in silence, as they say–and maybe you can’t tell whether I’m relegating it to oblivion out of spite or if I just missed it.

But sometimes I can’t resist letting my opinions be known. The People’s Daily article quoted above, about the Aurora Borealis award going to Xu Yuanchong 许渊冲 (sometimes written as Xu Yuanzhong, I think because he likes his initials being X. Y. Z.), is unclear about whether the prize is from FIT or the Norwegian Association of Literary Translators, so my opinions will have to remain untargeted. At any event, they praise him for “facilitating communication between Chinese, English and French,” and though I can’t say anything about his translations into Chinese, I will say that I draw a different conclusion from the article’s note about “how painstakingly Xu applies himself to Shakespeare’s texts” when I read of his “plan to finish the complete works of Shakespeare in five years.”

More importantly, though, I will say this as clearly as I can: Xu Yuanchong is the absolute worst translator of Chinese poetry into English I have ever read.

Nor am I the only one to think so. I defy any reader of English poetry to get through a translation of Xu’s without an eye roll. As Brian Holton has written in “When the Blind Lead the Blind” :

The egregious Xu Yuanzhong, … though he has the impudence to style himself ‘the greatest living Chinese-English translator’ (personal communication 2000), he is the worst possible role model and a pernicious influence on younger scholars and students in China, who are not aware that seniority and self-advertisement do not confer literary skill in English.

I recommend reading Holton’s short piece. I do not recommend reading any of Xu’s translations into English. And I have no idea what the FIT or the Norwegian Association of Literary Translators could have possibly been thinking in giving this guy such an award.