If you’re a poet outside the Anglophone world, and you manage to win the Nobel Prize, two things are likely to happen. First, your ascendancy will be questioned by fiction critics in a major English-language news publication. Second, there will be a fair amount of pushing and shoving among your translators (if you have any), as publishers attempt to capitalize on your 15 minutes of free media attention.
So begins David Orr‘s essay “Versions,” about the translations of last year’s Nobel laureate for literature Tomas Tranströmer. Maybe one day in the future Xi Chuan will win the Nobel prize, and we’ll be able to test this hypothesis (or test it with the last two Nobel Prize-winning poets from outside English, Wisława Szymborska  and Octavio Paz ); at any event, the article gives an interesting take on a worthwhile debate. I’ll come down on the side of Robin Fulton in this debate–not just that we share a publisher, but that I believe New Directions to have picked the right translator for the task.
[Fulton has also published a book of translations of the Norwegian poet Olav Hauge, whom Xi Chuan has also co-translated into Chinese; for a discussion of Xi Chuan’s translations, click here.]
My country is capable of launching a satellite into space but not of building a safe bridge across a river. My country is capable of building palatial government offices yet condemns children to substandard schoolhouses. My country provides millions of luxury cars to government official yet few safe school buses for children.