Goodman on Wang Xiaoni on New Books in East Asian Studies

Carla Nappi interviews Eleanor Goodman about her translation of Something Crosses My Mind by Wang Xiaoni 王小妮. From the intro:

Goodman offers a fascinating introduction to the work of this “poet of place.” Wang’s poetry evokes a sense of dislocation and distances traveled, a sense of isolation while being embedded in a community of everyday material and nonhuman beings – corn and pigs, peanuts and windows, potatoes and blades, dust and mountains, farmers and colors. In the course of our conversation we talked about the challenges and opportunities of the translator’s practice, and Goodman was exceptionally generous in reading several of her beautiful translations and guiding us through some of the most powerful and evocative moments therein.

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Notes on the Mosquito on New Books on East Asian Studies

Carla Nappi of New Books in East Asian Studies spoke with me (yes, me!) about my translation of Xi Chuan’s Notes on the Mosquito: Selected Poems. Here’s her flattering write-up:

First things first: this is a book of amazing, beautiful poetry, and you should read it.

In translating Xi Chuan’s Notes on the Mosquito: Selected Poems (New Directions, 2012), Lucas Klein has given readers access to a bilingual journey through more than two decades of Xi Chuan’s evolution as a writer, a person, and a historian. The poems collected and rendered in Notes on the Mosquito range from evocative lyric verse about shepherds and loneliness to historical essays that consider the “New Qing History.” (It is a striking range, and one that was quite unexpected for this reader and historian.) In our conversation, Lucas was generous enough to explain many aspects of his process and approach as a translator, and to read a number of the translated poems collected in the volume. We talked about several aspects of his work, including both practical issues and more conceptual questions about the linking of history and poetry in the writing of a poet and a reader’s approach to the resulting work. It was a pleasure, and I hope you enjoy listening.

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New Books in East Asian Studies: interview with Bruce Rusk

What makes something a poem? What defines “poetry,” and how has that changed over space and time? Critics and Commentators: The ‘Book of Poems’ as Classic and Literature (Harvard University Press, 2012) considers such questions as they chart a path through literary studies in Chinese history. From the comparative poetics of a Han dynasty “critic in the borderlands” to the theories of May Fourth intellectuals, Bruce Rusk’s elegantly written and carefully argued new book traces the changing relationships between secular and canonical poetry over 25 centuries of verse in China. Rusk introduces readers to a cast of fascinating characters in the course of this journey, from a versifying “drive-by” poet to a gifted craftsman of textual forgeries. In the course of an analysis of the changing modes of inscribing relationships between classical studies and other fields in China, we learn about poems on stone and metal, literary time-travel, ploughing emperors, and how to excavate the first drafts of Zhu Xi. This is an exceptionally rich account that ranges from the history of literary anthologies to the circulation of interpretive tropes in poetic commentaries, and in doing so it transcends the disciplinary boundaries of historical and literary studies of China.

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New Books in East Asian Studies: interview with Michael Gibbs Hill

What do “Rip van Winkle,” Oliver Twist, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Aesop’s Fables have in common? All of them were translated into Chinese by Lin Shu (Lin Qinnan, 1852-1924), a major force in the literary culture of late Qing and early Republican China. In Lin Shu, Inc.: Translation and the Making of Modern Chinese Culture (Oxford University Press, 2013), Michael Gibbs Hill charts the rise and precipitous fall of Lin’s career in an exploration of the making of the modern intellectual in China. Completing over 180 translations of Western literary works into classical Chinese while not knowing a single foreign language, Lin built a “factory of writing” dependent on the mental labor of 20 assistants trained in a range of foreign languages. Hill examines the texture of some of the translations produced by this network, offering a model for the close reading of translations both as literary sources and as sources of conflict over competing visions of intellectual, political, and national authority. Lin was ultimately caught in the crosshairs of prominent scholars and activists arguing over the relative roles of classical and vernacular language within a national project, but not before using his writing as a space to work out ideas about the roles of race, slavery, filial piety, and ethics in the transforming society of modern China. It’s a fascinating story about what it has meant in the past, and what it might mean in the future, to render ideas across linguistic realms.

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Cosima Bruno podcast on Translation & the poetry of Yang Lian

On New Books in East Asian Studies, Carla Nappi interviews Cosima Bruno about her new book on translation and the poetry of Yang Lian 杨炼:

Cosima Bruno’s new book asks us to consider a deceptively simple question: what is the relationship between a poem and its translation? In the course of Between the Lines: Yang Lian’s Poetry through Translation (Brill, 2012), Bruno helps us imagine what an answer to that question might look like while guiding us through the sounds and spaces of contemporary Chinese poet Yang Lian. Between the Lines proposes an innovative way to read a poem through and with its translations, using a “triangular comparative analysis” that juxtaposes the original poem with a number of its translations to identify shifts in the lines of the poem that serve as landmarks in the conceptual and textual world of the poet. Bruno uses this translation-focused methodology of reading to reveal fascinating dimensions of time, space, and subjectivity in Yang Lian’s work, and to guide our attention to the performative importance of rhythm, blank space, punctuation, and sound in his verse. Readers who are interested in Chinese poetry will find much to absorb and transport them in these pages, and readers interested in the theory and practice of translation will find a clear articulation of a set of methodological tools that could potentially bear fruit when rendering texts across many different genres and languages. Enjoy!

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