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!

Wang Baihua on “Reading Dickinson in Shanghai”

A portrait of Emily Dickinson. Universal History Archive/Getty images/VCGSixth Tone has published a piece by Wang Baihua 王柏华 of Fudan University (as translated by Katherine Tse) on her project to produce new and authoritative translations of Emily Dickinson into Chinese.

“The mission of the translator is to accurately convey the language, aesthetics, poetics, and the social, psychological, political, religious, and philosophical context of the original work to readers who may be wholly unfamiliar with it,” she writes. In this light, it’s interesting how she has gone about managing what she calls the Collaborative Emily Dickinson Translation Project–a project that bears thinking about in light of Eleanor Goodman’s review of The Reciprocal Translation Project–which she describes as “a global undertaking involving close to fifty Chinese and international writers, scholars, and translators”:

With this in mind, in 2014 I worked with two U.S.-based Dickinson scholars — Martha Nell Smith and Cristanne Miller — to bring together nearly 50 experts from China and abroad to collaborate on a Dickinson translation project. We divided ourselves into 21 groups, with each group assigned a set of Dickinson’s poems to research, translate, and analyze. Participants included Chinese poets, translators, and researchers, as well as a group of senior Dickinson scholars from across North America, and the whole program was backed by Fudan University in Shanghai.

This diversity of backgrounds and perspectives led to lively — sometimes heated — discussions about how best to understand and translate Dickinson’s poetry. As the person in charge, it was difficult to get everyone on the same page, but most discussions were ultimately amiable and productive. For instance, the poet Wang Jiaxin [王家新] incorporated observations he had made during a visit to Dickinson’s home into his interpretation of “There’s a certain Slant of light” (F320), while others worked to recreate what they saw as the “avant-garde spirit” of Dickinson’s work.

So, are collaborative poetry translation projects “a messy, fraught endeavor,” as Goodman writes, or the best way to produce “readable, accurate translations of the world’s greatest works,” as Wang states? Or does it come down to the particulars of the relationship between the various participants, and how able they are to listen to and respect each other?

Click the image above for the full piece.

 

Edmond on Being Censored in Chinese

At his blog, Jacob Edmond writes about being censored in a Chinese publication. Edmond reviewed Maghiel van Crevel’s Chinese Poetry in Times of Mind, Mayhem and Money (2008) for The China Quarterly in 2011, and agreed for it to be translated into Chinese for the Journal of Modern Chinese Studies (现代中文学刊). But,

the Chinese version [of van Crevel’s book] lacks the chapter on “Exile,” which includes discussion of poems written by Bei Dao 北岛, Wang Jiaxin 王家新, and Yang Lian 杨炼 after the Chinese government’s violent 4 June 1989 suppression of dissent.

And as a result, Edmond’s review had to be censored as well.

In approving the translation of my review, I faced the same dilemma that Van Crevel and these publishers and editors face in deciding whether to allow their work to be censored: refuse to change anything and so lose the possibility of addressing a Chinese audience, or make the changes and hope that one’s translated words and the mute marks of censored omissions might communicate better than the total silence of refusal. Van Crevel’s is an excellent book on contemporary Chinese poetry: I stand by my review’s description of it as the “definitive sourcebook.” It therefore deserves a wide audience in China, where its insights are most relevant. Cutting one chapter was the price of that audience.

But, as he continues, “The pressures and choices are not, of course, the same in every situation.” He concludes with lessons that are, “like censorship itself, eminently—and frighteningly—translatable.”

Click the image above for his full blog entry.

Chinese Writers at the Iowa International Writing Program

International Writing Program, The University of Iowa--1400 writers from more than 120 countriesWang Jiaxin 王家新, Tong Wei Ger 童偉格, Lee Chi-leung 李智良, and A Lai 阿来 are the Chinese-language writers taking part in this year’s International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction from and about China, Taiwan, Hongkong, and Tibet.

Follow the link for the full list of participants.

New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry

New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry Edited by Ming Di

 

New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry

The most up-to-date anthology of contemporary Chinese poetry, translated by American poets and edited by the executive editor of the bilingual literary journal Poetry East West. Showcasing the achievement of Chinese poetry in the last twenty years, a time of tremendous literary ferment, this collection focuses on a diversity of exciting poets from the mainland, highlighting Duo Duo (laureate of the 2010 Neustadt International Prize for Literature) and Liao Yiwu (recipient of 2012 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade organization) along with not yet well-known but brilliant poets such as Zang Di and Xiao Kaiyu and younger poets Jiang Tao and Lü Yue. The anthology includes interviews with the poets and a fascinating survey of their opinions on “Ten Favorite Chinese poets” and “Ten Best-Known Western poets in China.”

Featured poets: Duo Duo, Wang Xiaoni, Bai Hua, Zhang Shuguang, Sun Wenbo, Wang Jiaxin, Liao Yiwu, Song Lin, Xiao Kaiyu, Lü De’an, Feng Yan, Yang Xiaobin, Zang Di, Ya Shi, Mai Mang, Lan Lan, Jiang Tao, Jiang Hao, Lü Yue, Hu Xudong, Yi Lai, Jiang Li, Zheng Xiaoqiong, Qiu Qixuan, and Li Shumin.

With translations by Neil Aitken, Katie Farris, Ming Di, Christopher Lupke, Tony Barnstone, Afaa Weaver, Jonathan Stalling, Nick Admussen, Eleanor Goodman, Ao Wang, Dian Li, Kerry Shawn Keys, Jennifer Kronovet, Elizabeth Reitzell, and Cody Reese.

Chinese Names in Push Open the Window

When I first wrote about the Copper Canyon anthology Push Open the Window, I said, “My only quibble with the book so far is that, while everything is printed with Chinese and English en face, for some reason the Chinese characters of none of the poets’ names made it into the book.” Co-translation editor Sylvia Lin has worked to address this, writing in a recent post to the Modern Chinese Literature & Culture email list:

List members may be interested in a new bilingual anthology of contemporary Chinese poetry, Push Open the Window, the third volume in a larger project of bilingual anthologies of contemporary poetry funded by the NEA. The poems were selected by the Chinese editor, Qingping Wang, with Sylvia Li-chun Lin and Howard Goldblatt as translation editors.

Despite our objections, the publisher, Copper Canyon Press, chose not to include the poets’ names in Chinese. We are making them available here; feel free to share the list with other users of the anthology.

Shi Zhi 食指
Mang Ke 芒克
Shu Ting 舒婷
Yu Jian 于坚
Zhai Yongming 翟永明
Wang Xiaoni 王小妮
Sun Wenbo 孙文波
Gu Cheng 顾城
Bai Hua 柏桦
Zhang Shuguang 张曙光
Wang Jiaxin 王家新
Song Lin 宋琳
Xiao Kaiyu 肖开愚
Han Dong 韩东
Chen Dongdong 陈东东
Zhang Zao 张枣
Qing Ping 清平
Sen Zi 森子
Huang Canran 黄灿然
Xi Chuan 西川
Huang Fan 黄梵
Cai Tianxin 蔡天新
Zang Di 臧棣
Hai Zi 海子
Ye Hui 叶辉
Ma Yongbo 马永波
Shu Cai 树才
Yi Sha 伊沙
Yu Nu 余怒
Ge Mai 戈麦
Lan Lan 蓝蓝
Xi Du 西渡
Yang Jian 杨键
Sang Ke 桑克
Chen Xianfa 陈先发
Lin Mu 林木
Zhou Zan 周瓒
Zhu Zhu 朱朱
Jiang Tao 姜涛
Yan Wo 燕窝
Jiang Hao 蒋浩
Ma Hua 马骅
Han Bo 韩博
Leng Shuang 冷霜
Duo Yu 朵渔
Hu Xudong 胡续冬
Qin Xiaoyu 秦晓宇
Shen Muqin 沈木槿*
Wang Ao 王敖

* The book prints this name as Shen Mujin; the character can be pronounced either jǐn or qín.