The 2018 Lucien Stryk Prize

DarkeningMirrorFinalCoversThe 2018 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize shortlist has been announced, with Diana Shi and George O’Connell’s Darkening Mirror, translations of Wang Jiaxin 王家新 (Tebot Bach) on the list. Congratulations to Shi and O’Connell!
But a look at the rest of the list: There’s Sonic Peace, by Kiriu Minashita, translated by Eric E. Hyett and Spencer Thurlow
(Phoneme Media), which is poetry. But Junichirō Tanizaki’s Devils in Daylight, translated by J. Keith Vincent, and The Maids, translated by Michael P. Cronin (both New Directions), and Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin 邱妙津, as translated by Bonnie Huie (New York Review Books)? Those are works of fiction.
The Stryk Prize is–or was–a poetry translation prize. The prize’s Wikipedia page still makes that clear:
Eligible works include book-length translations into English of Asian poetry or source texts from Zen Buddhism, book-length translations from Hindi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean into English.
But this year, for the first time, works of prose fiction are on the shortlist.
I think this is a problem.
Seems to me that the Stryk prize was endowed with the mission of promoting a certain kind of work–translation of poetry and Zen texts from Asian languages. I believe in, and I’d bet a lot of translators believe in, the room to interpret those categories broadly. But for the Stryk nominations to be suddenly–and without public consultation–open to works of fiction, the poetry translations in question are bound to be crowded out, not recognized or promoted.
A look at Paper Republic’s wrap-up of translations published in 2017 gives a sense of what I’m talking about, even if it also offers an idea why some might want the prize to be eligible to translated fiction. Something like twenty titles of fiction translated from Chinese, but only five books of poetry. And yet look at that list: Liu Waitong 廖偉棠, one of Hong Kong’s most interesting poets; Narrative Poem 敘事诗, by Yang Lian 杨炼, translated by Brian Holton, and two titles translated by Eleanor Goodman (who won the Stryk in 2015 for her translations of Wang Xiaoni 王小妮), including the anthology Iron Moon, the most reviewed anthology of Chinese poetry to appear in English in decades. I think it’s scandalous that neither Goodman nor Holton are on this year’s Stryk shortlist. Which just goes to show: if poetry is going to compete with fiction, and if the judges are primarily translators of fiction, then poetry translators are not going to get recognized. Are they?
Word is that ALTA didn’t make this change to increase the number of submissions, but rather simply received submissions of fiction from overzealous publishers. They asked the source of the funding about whether prose was eligible, and the source seemed not to have any issues with the eligibility of fiction. So the description of the award was revised.
But this is a problem not only because of crowding out poetry (which indeed already gets the short end of the proverbial stick when it comes to modern Asian literature), but also because this change was not done transparently. If this was really going to be a prize that includes prose, then more presses that published prose translations should have been informed so they could submit their books. Not to mention how this affects the translators–as well as the poets in Asia hoping to gain readership in translation (I don’t know about poets in other countries, but Chinese-language writers are very aware of the Stryk Prize). The more I think about it, the bigger I think this problem is.
Good luck to this year’s shortlisted candidates!

Goodman on The Reciprocal Translation Project

Writing for the LARB China Channel, Eleanor Goodman reviews The Reciprocal Translation Project, edited by James Sherry and Sun Dong 孙冬. And she comes out swinging!

The Reciprocal Translation Project is a messy, fraught endeavor. Here is the back blurb, which is also the first paragraph of the editors’ introduction:

In The Reciprocal Translation Project, six Chinese and six American poets have translated each other’s works. Since few of these poets speak both languages, bilingual specialists have fashioned literal translations including several options for words that have multiple meanings. These literal translations have been given to three poets in the other language to write poetic translations. In this volume, then, the reader will find an original poem, a literal translation, and three poetic translations of each poem as well as explanatory notes and biographies.

One hardly knows where to begin with this tangle. Here we have poets who have “translated” each other’s work, despite largely not knowing each other’s languages. This is done grâce à people mysteriously labeled “bilingual specialists,” who put together something called “literal translations, including several options for words that have multiple meanings.” That is to say: they translate the poems. So why are these “bilingual specialists” not the “translators”? The point, as I take it, is to save that particular appellation for “the poets” involved in the project, an issue which I will return to below.

She comes out swinging, but can she be wrong when she frames Xi Chuan this way?

Forgive me for being stodgy, but to my mind, a “translation” that changes the mode of address, the timing, the references, the places and the priorities of the original is not a translation at all. It is a new poem that stands on its own, or not.

The “literal translation” of Xi Chuan’s poem “Travel Diary” (出行日记) begins:

I drove the car onto the highway, which was precisely to begin a massacre of butterflies; or the butterflies seeing me speeding toward them, just decided to launch a suicide flight. The smashed to death on the windshield. They stubbornly mashed to death on my windshield.

This is an awkward but not inaccurate rendering of the Chinese. Nada Gordon’s “translation” is:

Wanted to massacre some fucking butterflies so drove my fucking car onto the fucking highway to massacre them. They were kamikaze butterflies, they were going to fucking kill themselves on my windshield. Splat. Fuck those fucking butterflies, stubborn assholes all up on my windshield.

Whatever one thinks of this, it certainly does not represent Xi Chuan’s tone or intention.

And she goes further:

The editors comment in their introduction: “Many modern translators present themselves as poets, not simply facilitators of communication. Revaluing translation in this way brings the translator out of the shadow of the author, leveling their identities.”

But this anthology has precisely the opposite effect. By involving “bilingual specialists” who actually do the grunt work of the translation, and then privileging the non-English-speaking or non-Chinese-speaking poet by labeling him or her the “translator,” the real translators are effectively hidden. There is also an underlying assumption that the act of translating involves grasping the literal meaning of a word (“including several options for words that have multiple meanings” – as though there are words that do not!) and that’s all that is needed. There is no acknowledgement of the structure, form, tone, emotional texture, repetition, surprise, rhythm, rhyme, sound effect, level of diction, intent, etc., etc., of the original.

Click the image above for the full review.

Seattle Review of Books Interview with Eleanor Goodman on Lok Fung

No automatic alt text available.Word on the street is that Days When I Hide My Corpse in a Cardboard Box 自我紙盒藏屍的日子, the selected poems of Lok Fung 洛楓 (Natalia Chan), translated by Eleanor Goodman, is back from the printers.
In honor of the book, then, here is a recent article about Goodman on Lok Fung from the Seattle Review of Books, where Lok Fung was June poet-in-residence. Goodman says of Lok Fung,

“She is not just a poet but also a serious thinker about cultural studies, cultural issues, pop culture, the influence of high literature and also popular literature and music on a population.”

“She’s also very feminist in a very interesting way,” Goodman says. “A lot of her poems are love poems about failed love. She writes about makeup, about getting her hair done, about fashion.” Fung [sic.], she argues, focuses on these “quintessentially girly or feminine or seemingly frivolous sort of things” and uses them to discuss “how women function in society and how women think and feel and reflect on their own lives.”

I would, however, like to register a serious disagreement with Goodman on one point. She says, “the translation of contemporary Chinese poetry really is a field of about seven people who are working very seriously.” I find this very disappointing. The number of people working seriously on the translation of contemporary Chinese poetry certainly reaches into the double digits!
The SRB also includes a handful of Lok Fung’s poems, in Goodman’s translation, here.
Click on the image for the article in full.

Newman Prize Nominees Announced

The nominee list for the 2019 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature has been announced!
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Convened by Jonathan Stalling at the University of Oklahoma, this year’s judges are Nick Admussen, Eleanor Goodman, Tammy Ho Lai-ming, Lucas Klein, Christopher Lupke, Maghiel van Crevel, and Wang Guangming 王光明.
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This year’s finalists are Yu Xiuhua 余秀华, Wang Xiaoni 王小妮, Xi Xi 西西, Xi Chuan 西川, Xiao Kaiyu 萧开愚, Zheng Xiaoqiong 郑小琼, and Bei Dao 北岛.
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The winner will be announced in the spring of 2019.

The Moving Target: Translation and Chinese Poetry at Leiden

On 1–2 June 2018, an international group of scholars will meet at Leiden University to discuss fifteen papers that bring together expert knowledge on poetry in Chinese and critical engagement with the notion of translation. Texts, authors, and issues discussed range from the ancient Book of Songs to 21st-century migrant worker poetry and from Yu Xiuhua in English to Paul Celan in Chinese. The papers highlight the richness of the study of interlingual and cultural translation, with Chinese poetry as a shining example.

The workshop is open to all and you are welcome to attend any or all of the presentations.

Attending the workshop will be Joseph Allen, Lucas Klein, Nicholas Morrow Williams, Zhou Min, Tara Coleman, Chris Song, Christopher Lupke, Jenn Marie Nunes, Liansu Meng, Joanna Krenz, Jacob Edmond, Eleanor Goodman, Nick Admussen, Rui Kunze, Maghiel van Crevel, and Wilt Idema.

Click the image for further information, including a full schedule with paper titles.

Return of Pratik features Contemporary Chinese Poetry

After a decade-long hiatus, Pratik, the English-language Nepali literary journal, is resuming publication–and with a feature of contemporary Chinese poetry including Xi Chuan, Duo Duo 多多, Jidi Majia 吉狄马加, Chen Si’an 陈思安, Zheng Xiaoqiong 郑小琼, Yuan Yongping 袁永苹, Li Yawei 李亚伟, and Shen Wei 沈苇.
Translations of Xi Chuan & Duo Duo by Lucas Klein; other translations by Jami Proctor Xu, Eleanor Goodman, Zhou Xiaojing, Tim Hathaway, and Yuyutsu Sharma with Hao Lin.
Pratik is edited by Yuyutsu Sharma.
Click for the report by The Kathmandu Tribune. For the Pratik blog, click the image.

Klein’s Duo Duo in Asian Cha

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The new issue of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal is now live, and with it my translations of two new poems by Duo Duo 多多, “A Fine Breeze Comes” 好风来 and “Light Coming from Before, Sing: Leave” 从前来的光,唱:离去.

tomorrow’s already past
already offered
the past is still unknown
already spokenthe limit belongs to you
nobody can have that name

明天已经过去
已经给予
过去仍是未知的
已经说出 止境属于你
无人能有那名

Also in the issue are Bonnie McDougall’s translations of poems by Ng Mei-kwan 吳美筠, Jennifer Feeley’s translation of fiction by Xi Xi 西西, fiction by Eileen Chang 張愛玲 translated by Jane Weizhen Pan & Martin Merz, and Matt Turner reviewing Paul French and Kaitlin Solimine and Eleanor Goodman reviewing Richard Berengarten.
Click the image above to get to the issue.

Cha Reading Series: Nine Dragon Island–Eleanor Goodman & Lucas Klein

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Nine Dragon Island: Eleanor Goodman and Lucas Klein 
Date: Wednesday 28 March 2018
Time: 7:30 – 8:45 p.m.
Venue: Kubrick Bookshop & Café
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Shop H2, Cinema Block, Prosperous Garden, 3 Public square street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon 3號駿發花園 H2地舖)

FREE ADMISSION | ALL ARE WELCOME

In this Cha Reading Series event, contributors Eleanor Goodman and Lucas Klein will discuss poetry, translation, and the writing of China—alongside readings from their recent and forthcoming books, including Goodman’s Nine Dragon Island (Enclave/Zephyr, 2016) and Iron Moon: Chinese Worker Poetry (White Pine, 2017), and Klein’s October Dedications: The Selected Poetry of Mang Ke (Zephyr, 2018) and translations of Li Shangyin (NYRB, 2018). Moderated by Cha co-editor Tammy Ho Lai-Ming.

Click the image above for the Facebook registration page.

NYU Shanghai Conversation on the State of the Art of Chinese Poetry Translation

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Panel Discussion

Chinese Poetry in Translation: A Conversation on the State of the Art

Join a panel of leading translators, scholars of contemporary Chinese poetry, and translation theorists for a conversation about the state of the art in 2018. Discussion will highlight Chinese poets whose work challenges conceptions of a literary “mainstream,” in particular with respect to gender, class, and economic inequality.

Panelists Huiyi Bao 包慧怡 (Fudan), Eleanor Goodman (Harvard Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies), Lucas Klein (University of Hong Kong) and Kyoo Lee (City University of New York) will share and discuss their work in translation and in critical scholarship, ranging from the work of a pioneer of contemporary Chinese poetry like Mang Ke 芒克, co-founder of the legendary journal Jintian 今天 (1978-1980); to the workers poetry written and shared by migrant laborers across China today; to the vital writing by women in a cultural field often dominated by male poets and critics.

  • Room 101, 1555 Century Avenue
  • Wednesday, March 14, 2018 16:3018:00

Click the image above for registration & more information.