The National Translation Award Longlists for Poetry and Prose have been released–and Chinese poetry is represented in the form of Jennifer Feeley’s translation of Not Written Words 不是文字, by Hong Kong writer Xi Xi 西西. (For some reason the publisher is listed as New Mexico State University, but actually the book is available from Zephyr / mccmcreations).
Carlos Rojas is also longlisted for his translation of The Explosion Chronicles 炸裂志, by Yan Lianke 阎连科. Other notable nominees are Jeffrey Angles, Ottilie Mulzet, Daniel Borzutsky, George Szirtes, and Esther Allen.
Click the image for the full list.
At Public Books Eric Hayot writes about the presentation of China in literature available to readers of English, by way of a review of Gail Tsukiyama’s A Hundred Flowers, Christopher Buckley’s They Eat Puppies, Don’t They?, Dung Kai-cheung’s 董啟章 Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City (translated by the author with Bonnie McDougall and Anders Hansson), and Lenin’s Kisses by Yan Lianke 阎连科 (translated by Carlos Rojas). Here’s how Hayot frames his discussion:
… these four novels—two satires, one melodrama, and one modernist pseudo-documentary—might all be grasped as part of the contemporary social call to understand China, to see it clearly, to name or frame it, to place it in relation to local or global politics, or to locate it inside recent or universal world history. In the last decade economic historians like Ban Wang and Kenneth Pomeranz have demonstrated that the Chinese economy dominated the planet from about 500 to 1500 CE, creating the world’s first global economic system. The possibility of China’s return to that position of dominance—and here I ask all readers to call up a mental image of a sleeping dragon awakening—is what has folks on both sides of the Pacific trembling, in fear or glee, for the “Chinese century” to succeed the American one. “China” is thus one of the names of the global future as we imagine it.
China is also, therefore, an intellectual and social problem, for everyone. What is China to us today—assuming the “us” includes (and how could it not?) the wide variety of people who think of themselves as “Chinese”? What kind of place is it? What must we know to comprehend its nature (if it has one)? What would it mean to recognize ourselves (again, the first person plural includes the Chinese) as people who want to know what China is, and who are willing to work hard, as authors and as readers, to understand it? How will such an understanding return us, like fiction, to a new vision of the world we have known until now?
Click on any of the images to link to the essay.
In yesterday’s post on the review of Bei Dao’s The Rose of Time: New and Selected Poems (New Directions, edited by Eliot Weinberger), I also mentioned the short collection of Bei Dao’s poetry Endure (Black Widow Press), which I translated with Clayton Eshleman. That collection earned a gracious mention–along with books by Yan Lianke 阎连科, Han Shaogong 韩少功, Yu Hua 余华, and Nobel Prize-winner Mo Yan 莫言–from the editors of Path Light on their Wall St. Journal blog post, “Found in Translation: Five Chinese Books You Should Read.”
Take a look at the full listing!
Over at the NYTimes blog Eric Abrahamsen of Paper Republic has, with characteristic sarcasm, written about the recent edition of One Hundred Writers’ and Artists’ Hand-Copied Commemorative Edition of the “Yan’an Talks.” So what were the “Yan’an Talks” 在延安文艺座谈会上的讲话? Eric describes:
The Yan’an Talks on Literature and Art, delivered in 1942 by Mao Zedong, laid out his plan for the role of art in Chinese society. Seven years before the establishment of the People’s Republic, Mao was essentially telling artists that in a future Communist paradise they could expect to work solely in the service of the political aims of the party.
This year is the 70th anniversary of the talks, and there’s nothing unusual about state-owned publishers bringing out commemorative editions of political texts. This one would include facsimiles of several historical publications of the talks, as well as a new version pieced together from hand-copied passages by one hundred contemporary Chinese writers. And it was likely to go nowhere but warehouse shelves, next to thousands of commemorative books like it.
But the hand-copied feature caught the notice of online commentators. Among the hundred calligraphers were most of China’s best-known and respected authors, including Mo Yan, Su Tong, Jia Pingwa and Han Shaogong.
Interestingly, some of the writers who wanted to have nothing to do with this project–I’m thinking of Yan Lianke 阎连科–are the writers I consider most interested in “serving the people” 为人民服务, though perhaps not in the way everyone wants the people to be served. No word on whether Xi Chuan took part in this commemoration.
Read the whole piece here.
Over at The China Beat (they have my favorite tagline on the web: Blogging How the East Is Read) is Mike Frick’s review of Dream of Ding Village 丁庄梦 by Yan Lianke 阎连科. The novel was translated by Cindy Carter, though you’d never know it from reading Frick’s review. Here’s an excerpt of Frick describing the writing:
Yan’s writing is at once richly metaphoric and attuned to the rhythms of Chinese farming life. He describes needle marks on the underarms of blood sellers as “angry red sesame seeds” and pinched veins as “fat-streaked pork.” Mostly this language is effective, though at its weaker moments the metaphors can feel overwrought, particularly in the dream sequences that mark major turning points in the plot. Dreams haunt the sleep of Qiang’s grandfather and serve as convenient devices for moving the narrative forward, although this sometimes occurs at the expense of good story-telling. Major revelations about Ding Hui’s greed and artifice are revealed through lushly animated dreams that allow Yan to transcend the narrative strictures of time and place. Through these dreams we see Ding Hui ingratiate himself with government officials until they appoint him chairman of the county taskforce on HIV/AIDS. In his first move as chairman, Ding Hui intercepts the free government-issued coffins intended for AIDS patients in Ding Village and sells them to other AIDS-affected villages for a profit. For his efforts, he labels himself a “philanthropist.” Left without coffins, those dying in Ding Village ransack the school for blackboards and desks to build their own. The transformation of the school into a funereal supply yard carries particular poignancy given China’s storied reverence for learning and scholarship.
Elsewhere on the web you can find The Transparent Translator: Cindy Carter on “Dream of Ding Village”, where Cindy is interviewed by Bruce Humes.