TRANSLATING ASIAN LANGUAGES: PREJUDICES & PRIVILEGES Date: Wednesday 15 April 2020 Time: 8:00-9:30 p.m. (GMT+8) Platform: ZOOM https://bit.ly/2JdMbLs (Meeting ID: 514 122 177) Languages: English Speakers: Lucas Klein, Grace Ting, and Matt Turner Moderator: Tammy Lai-Ming Ho
‘Every translation sparks / another translation.’ In the discussion “Translating Asian Languages: Prejudices and Privileges”, Lucas Klein (Cha‘s Translation Editor), Matt Turner and Grace Ting will talk about the issues pertaining to the translation of Asian literary texts.
They will ponder, among other questions, the following: What are the prejudices, if any, faced by translators of Asian texts? What are the potential privileges some translators may have? Are ‘academic translators’ more privileged? If yes, in what ways? Why are certain Asian languages/writers/texts translated but others are left out? Who make translation decisions? Under what circumstances do we see translators occupying a more visible position than the writers they translate? Is it ever possible to have too many translators translating a particular genre of texts? The three speakers will also read from either their own translations or those of others. There will also be a Q&A session. This discussion will take place via. ZOOM and people from all over the world are welcome to tune in. Moderated by Cha’s co-editor Tammy Ho.
If you would like to participate in a Cha reading, or if there are topics you would like to suggest, please write to us (firstname.lastname@example.org)! Here is the list: https://bit.ly/3dkIFgf
Nick Admussen’s translation of Floral Mutter 花的低语, by Ya Shi 哑石, is now out from Zephyr and Chinese University Presses, and to announce the publication the Cornell Chronicle has published an article under the headline “Translation opens a thriving world of Chinese poetry“, by Kate Blackwood. She writes:
Now, Ya Shi – a pen name meaning “mute stone” – teaches university-level mathematics in his home province, Sichuan, but he is also an award-winning poet. Nick Admussen, associate professor of Asian studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, has translated into English selections of Ya Shi’s poetry in the newly published “Floral Mutter.” Admussen’s research and teaching center around contemporary Chinese literature, and he is also a published poet.
For English readers, the book is an introduction to this unique poetic voice and a glimpse into Sichuan’s vibrant poetry scene.
“The arrangement of Ya Shi’s work in this volume is a tiny fraction of his writing, intended to foreground his intellectual restlessness and independence,” Admussen wrote in the introduction. “I have seen no other contemporary poet think so deeply and patiently about the intellectual uses of wild space in China today.”
The article ends with Admussen quoted as saying:
“If you want to have interesting and exciting poetry, you need to be moving between cultural traditions,” he said. “It’s true in music, it’s true in fiction. It’s true in all the other arts, too.”
Click on the link above to read the article in full.
The United Arab Emirates paper The National, the Middle East’s leading English-language news service, has published an investigation by Yang Lian 楊煉 into Chinese and Arabic poetry, in honor of Syrian poet Adonis.
The philosophical truths of the language and the immovability of verbs has confused many translators of Chinese poetry. But at the same time, don’t you think it provides also a great opportunity to write something more profound than just describing a concrete happening?
Du Fu’s Climbing High was a masterpiece about a poet universally in exile. The poem went far beyond himself. It was in the traditions of Ovid, Dante, Cvitayeva, Adonis, Yang Lian – all poets in exile across space and time.
Who is not in exile now? Therefore, who has in reality not been written about in Du Fu’s Climbing High 1253 years ago? It is the same as my poem written in the year 1989.
It was not wrong for that poem to be translated into the past tense (1989 is past), but if you read carefully the last line “this is no doubt a perfectly ordinary year”, then my point was clear, to challenge the changeless fate and forgetful nature of human beings. Therefore, I have to agree with the translations of Brian Holton in the present tense that contextualise poems in the eternal now. The same pleasant surprise came to me from the Syrian poet Adonis.
He examines the Du Fu 杜甫 poem “Climbing High” 登高, written in 767. Then:
The Hanan Prize for Translation (China and Inner Asia) was established in 2015 and is given biennially to an outstanding English translation of a significant work in any genre originally written in Chinese or an Inner Asian Language, from any time period.
This year’s winner is Eleanor Goodman, for The Roots of Wisdom by Zang Di 臧棣 (Zephyr Press).
The Awards Ceremony was going to be at the upcoming AAS annual conference in Boston, MA on Friday, March 20, but the conference has been canceled.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself, how you came to learn Chinese and start translating?
I attended an arts high school, where I majored in Creative Writing, and we were encouraged to read as many books of poetry as we could get our hands on, so I spent a lot of time in the school library. One day, I stumbled upon Kenneth Rexroth’s One Hundred Poems from the Chinese, which then led me to One Hundred More Poems from the Chinese, and then two volumes he co-translated with Ling Chung: Women Poets of China and Li Ch’ing-chao: Complete Poems. On the same shelf, I also found Rexroth’s One Hundred Poems from the Japanese and One Hundred More Poems from the Japanese, as well as David Young’s Five T’ang Poets. I fell in love with these poems and wanted to be able to read them in their original languages.
As I wish to encourage everyone to read Yip’s Arrivals and Departures, please permit me to end here with this poem. Before I started this review, I knew I could easily persuade you that this is an important book; it is far more important to convince you these are wonderful poems. This is the moment when, on the vast canvas of a Chinese painting of a majestic mountain, you spot the traveller on the winding path or the small house, its chimney spoking—the human figure that makes a mountain a mountain, a painting a painting.
Bei Dao’s memoirs in Blue House are stunning in their modesty, candour and startling clarity. As placid and yet as intense as his poetry, his anecdotes of colleagues, countries, cats, crows and the irrepressibility of expression (artistic and otherwise) mark him as one of the world’s greatest contemporary writers, something that he himself would unassumingly deny.
Writing in the Asian Review of Books, John Butler reviews two new books by David Hinton, Awakened Cosmos: The Mind of Classical Chinese Poetry, David Hinton (Shambhala, 2019) and The Selected Poems of Tu Fu, Expanded and Newly Translated, (New Directions, 2020).
Butler writes that for previous translators, “Tu Fu was important because he was a poet of understandable emotions, not because of any connections with abstruse philosophy,” but this is where “David Hinton and Awakened Cosmos comes in,” since
as a translator he puts a different emphasis on what he believed Tu Fu was doing and had a different agenda. As Hinton writes, “A typical classical Chinese poem appears to be a plain-spoken utterance about a poet’s immediate experience” … Hinton, however, moves beyond the literal meaning of the poems, their “apparent content”, and opens up a universe far beyond their emotional appeal, and that’s why anyone now reading Tu Fu should definitely keep a copy of Awakened Cosmos handy. We will then understand how Tu Fu was able to give us “a biography of the Cosmos awakened to itself in the form of a magisterial poet alive in T’ang Dynasty China.”