Last week Words Without Borders was reporting on location from the London Book Fair, and their report from Day 3 is full of excitement about Chinese poetry in English and the newly published Jade Ladder: Contemporary Chinese Poetry, which includes my translations of some of Xi Chuan’s work. Here’s the beginning of their writeup:
The highlight of the third and final day at the Literary Translation Center was a conversation among poets, editors, and translators about an exciting new book of contemporary Chinese poetry. The book is called Jade Ladder—and the panelists discussing it, and related subjects, sounded like just the playful, dissenting and sensitive voices you’d hope to find in such company.
As I posted before, Xi Chuan was one of the panelists at the event, but for some reason WWB didn’t mention him by name; nor did they mention him as part of the Chinese poetry panel with Han Dong 韩东 and Nicky Harman, either, which he also participated in. Ah well.
The London Book Fair opens today, with China as the Guest of Honor. My friend the translator Bruce Humes compiled a list of China-related events, but his blog is down, so I’m re-posting here:
Modern Chinese Masters: The launch of two new books in translation by Annie Baobei and Li Er, together with their translators and publisher Harvey Thomlinson.
Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012: Shortlist Spotlight: Chinese novelist and film maker Xiaolu Guo and Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival Nick Barley as they reflect on judging the scores of books in translation submitted for this year’s award. They will be sharing their insights into literary translation with Literary Editor of The Independent Boyd Tonkin, a long-serving judge of the Prize.
Editing China and Japan: This session will explore the joys and challenges of editing translations from Chinese and Japanese, languages and literary cultures that are unfamiliar to many editors and readers. How can editors make decisions about translation from languages they don’t know; what are the peculiarities and specificities of languages such as Chinese and Japanese; and what is the role of the translator in this process? We will hear from Harvill Secker’s publishing director Elizabeth Foley, Penguin China’s Managing Director Jo Lusby and translators Eric Abrahamsen and Michael Emmerich.
Bi Feiyu Interviewed by Rosie Goldsmith: Bi Feiyu’s novel The Moon Opera (青衣), translated by Howard Goldblatt was longlisted for the 2008 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize while Three Sisters (玉米 ，玉秀，玉秧), also translated by Goldblatt, won the 2010 Man Asian Literary Prize. In China, his awards include twice winning the Lu Xun Literary Prize, and the 2011 Mao Dun Prize, the highest national literary award, for Massage.
Ancient Myths in Contemporary Fiction: Alai and Tsering Norbu explore why ancient myths fascinate us until today and how these timeless stories can be brought into the 21st century.
New Perspectives in Chinese and British Literature: Four Chinese writers, Tie Ning, Mo Yan, Alai and Liu Zhenyun as well as their four British counterparts will share ideas on topics such as “maintaining national characteristics in a global context”, “active and diverse literature creation in China (UK), “literature and contemporary life, “literature and social progress and development”, etc.
Chinese Children’s Literature: British readers are all too aware of the British superstars in children’s literature, such as J.K. Rowling, Michael Morpurgo or Julia Donaldson. In an attempt to find out more about the world of Chinese children’s literature, two of China’s most popular authors in this genre—Yang Hongying and Zheng Yuanjie—join us to discuss their writing.
Contemporary Chinese Poetry: Contemporary Chinese poetry is constantly evolving, drawing both on the ancient and rich poetic tradition in China as well as on influences from around the world. Xi Chuan and Han Dong, two of China’s most celebrated contemporary poets, read from their work with fellow poet Pascale Petit and reflect on this evocative and though-provoking genre.
Bringing Chinese Poetry to the UK: Chinese poetry has a long and honourable history in English translation – it is nearly 100 years since Arthur Waley’s 170 Chinese Poems was first published. Both the Chinese classics and contemporary poetry, which has flourished in the last three decades, provide rich opportunities for Western publishers. In the last twelve months alone, several new volumes – both anthologies and single-poet volumes have been published in the UK and the USA. Nevertheless there are huge challenges: • Few poetry publishers will have in-depth knowledge of the contemporary Chinese poetry scene. Which poets will be represented? In the West, the label ‘dissident’ sells books, but what does it mean in the Chinese poetry context? • Who will do the translations? The panel will look at collaborative translating (translators + poets) as a practical and creative solution. • Promoting the unfamiliarand finding new audiences. How much contextualization is needed when introducing new poetry (whether classical or contemporary) to readers? How important are promotional events or readings, if at all? Panelists Nicky Harman, Bill Herbert, Brian Holton and Yang Lian, will discuss all this and more with chair David Constantine.
Contemporary China on the Page: Chinese society has been undergoing monumental changes and is constantly evolving under the influence of China’s changing status in the world. Chi Zijian, Feng Tang and fellow author Xinran discuss how contemporary literature is reflecting these transformations and the effect they have on the life of Chinese people today.
Rural China: Amidst rapid urbanization, the rural setting in contemporary fiction has acquired new meaning in China. Authors Mo Yan and Li Er debate with literature expert Lu Jiande the role of life outside the city in contemporary fiction, forming the background to explorations of tradition and change.
The Spring 2012 issue of Cerise Press is now online, with new work by Cole Swensen, interviews with Chinese translator Nicky Harman and Tibetan-Chinese writer Woeser ཚེ་རིང་འོད་ཟེར་ / 唯色, and an essay by Chloe Garcia Roberts on her translations of the poetry of late Tang poet Li Shangyin 李商隱.
Also see my feature “Xi Chuan: Poetry of the Anti-lyric” from an earlier issue, with translations of “Power Outage” 停电, “Re-reading Borges’s Poetry” 重读博尔赫斯诗歌, and “Three Chapters on Dusk” 黄昏三章. (And my earlier co-translations of poems by Bei Dao 北岛 with Clayton Eshleman).