Klein on Nappi’s Translating Early Modern China: Illegible Cities

Last month MCLC published my review of Translating Early Modern China: Illegible Cities (Oxford UP) by Carla Nappi, a study of translation and multilingualism in late imperial China.

I write:

Illegible Cities is an important work of history, arguing against the temptation in Sinology to reduce pre-twentieth-century China to what occurred in one language alone (“Sinology means the study of Chinese civilization as a coherent whole,” wrote Frederick Mote in 1964, and “language study is the only pass leading through the Great Wall and into the chung-yuan” [中原]); more than that, it is an experimental joy of a read, a fun, challenging, exciting, only occasionally frustrating, book that not only makes a point, but constructs it. Illegible Cities “attempts to use translation,” Nappi writes, “as a way to reconsider what language is, what languages are, and to begin to historically contextualize what we think of constituting a ‘language.’ Languages, here, are forms of practice that are constantly being invented and enacted.” And so is this book: a form of practice in constant process of being invented and enacted.

Click on the image to read the review in full.