Showing posts with label Chinese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chinese. Show all posts

Monday, 5 July 2021

The China Mission by Daniel Kurtz-Phelan - Chinese History at a Crossroads

The question of “Who Lost China to the Communists?” became a political flashpoint in American politics. It gave rise to the McCarthy Era and in some aspects, it still lingers in Western discourse to this day. How and why China descended into full-scale civil war is what The China Mission by Daniel Kurtz-Phelan sets out to answer.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

The Bitter Peace by Philip S. Jowett - Conflict in China 1928-1937


Chinese history has long been ignored in the West, but a few spotlights do shine out from time to time on certain events, even if only to provide superficial understanding. These usually point to the Opium Wars, the Boxer Rebellion, and, recently, the Sino-Japanese War. However, there is a small window of time in Chinese history that contained multiple smaller wars, which has almost been completely ignored by Western scholars. This brief era is what The Bitter Peace – Conflict in China 1928-37 by Philip S. Jowett illuminates.


Wednesday, 27 May 2020

How Paper Republic ended up leading what is possibly the world’s biggest collaborative translation

Nicky Harman writes about translating Chinese authors' reflections on Covid19, post-lockdown.

At the risk of blowing my (or at least, our Paper Republic's) trumpet a little, I’m going to start with the back-story: Brigitte Duzan, of Chinese-shortstories.com pointed out to me that a very well-known Chinese writer, Yan Geling, had written a piece blasting the authorities for mishandling the Covid19 crisis, which Duzan herself had translated into French. Why didn’t I do the same and post it on Paper-Republic? I did both, and a single post grew into the Read Paper Republic: Epidemic mini-series of essays and poems, exploring how some impressive Chinese writers (Yan Geling, Han Dong, A Yi, Lin Bai, and Wu Ang) have been personally affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Then the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing, with whom Paper Republic has partnered on many projects, had a new idea. I quote, ‘What better way to spend lockdown than having a shot at literary translation? You know you always wanted to try it, so why not have a go now?’ The deal was that anyone, anywhere in the world, could have a go at translating a blog post by Deng Anqing (庆) on how he got shut in with his parents as the surrounding cities locked down, and how it affected his relationship with them. We were offering this opportunity to first-time or emerging translators, so after they had all submitted their work, there would be online feedback sessions by members of the Paper Republic team, including myself and Eric Abrahamsen. The final revised and agreed-on translation was to be published as the grand finale to the Read Paper Republic: Epidemic series. We called the project Give-it-a-Go Translation. We put out the call, and we waited.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

In Homage to the first Buddhist translators, and Martha Cheung

Nicky Harman onBuddhism a wonderful exhibition in London’s British Library displaying Buddhist art and literature from all over East Asia.

 All pictures are my own from the exhibition, 
unless otherwise captioned
As a translator, I have what you could call a professional interest in Buddhist texts translated into Chinese. This may sound odd, because I can’t understand their meaning, let alone critique them as translations. But I am always moved when I see the crystal-clear calligraphy of the sutras, first written down in Chinese fifteen hundred years ago or more, and yet completely familiar today. So I visited the exhibition hoping to find out more about some of my favourite translators. 

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Prizes and parties...

Some end-of-year thoughts from Nicky Harman



In my more pessimistic moments, I feel Chinese novels translated into English are a hard sell and I’m not sure when or if they will ever become part of the literary ‘mainstream’ in the West. My friend the poet and novelist Han Dong concurs: he reckons that Chinese fiction in foreign languages will never sell like western fiction translated into Chinese. You may or may not agree with his reasoning: Chinese readers are exposed from childhood to life in the west, through classic and new translations, books, films and TV series. But that familiarity doesn’t work the other way around. So Chinese literature doesn’t capture readers’ imagination.

I thought about this argument and wondered: so then do we only read fiction that describes worlds we are familiar with? Well no… not exactly. Just look at the winner of the 2019 Man Booker International prize, Jokha Alharti. Her novel, ‘Celestial Bodies’, is about Omani tribal society, hardly a place most of us have lived in or are familiar with. But it is a beautiful, captivating read.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

The History of a Place in a Single Object, with Multiple Variations

Nicky Harman looks at translating tools, and it's more fascinating than you'd think.

It’s not often that I, as a translator, get to do research on the place where a particular author’s novels are set. In fact my recent visit, with Dylan King, to Shaanxi province to Jia Pingwa to look at where his novels Shaanxi Opera (AmazonCrossing, forthcoming) and Broken Wings (ACA, 2019) were set, was a first. We arrived with a list of questions of the ‘What does that tool do?’ and ‘What kind of a gate entrance is that?’ variety. We were primarily motivated by wanting to get the words right in translation. But it led Dylan and me into discussing the wonderful BBC/British Museum radio series, the History of the World in a Hundred Objects, and what follows is (with apologies to Neal MacGregor) a small meditation on what a particular tool can tell us about a place and how people live there.

The tool: a stone object in two parts that grinds up grain and spices, and produces soybean milk from the raw beans. There are two variations:  nian3pan2, also known as碌碡liu4zhou, consisting of a base stone and a cylindrical roller; and 石磨shi2mo4 or mo4pan2, made up of磨扇mo4shan1two circular stones, one atop the other, the bedstone (下扇) which stays stilland the upper stone (上扇) which moves around. In both versions, the top part is pushed around by a human or a beast. At least that’s what used to happen.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Nicky Harman interviews Jeremy Tiang, Singaporean writer, translator and playwright


Photo credit: Edward Hill

Nicky: When you were growing up, what were the first Chinese-language stories you came across, and what drew you to them?

Jeremy: Growing up in a former British colony can be a destabilizing experience. Singapore's official languages are English, Chinese (meaning Mandarin), Malay and Tamil, and there were always several languages swirling around me ― some of which I felt I was being encouraged to know (the English in the Enid Blyton books my parents bought us, the Mandarin they sent me to a neighbour to learn) as well as others I had less access to (the Cantonese they sometimes used with each other, the Tamil my dad occasionally spoke on the phone).  I encountered Chinese stories in all kinds of ways, on TV and in my school textbooks, but often freighted with cultural baggage: there was a weight of obligation on us, as English-educated people, to hang on to our Chinese heritage. It wasn't until I got some distance from Singapore, by moving to the UK for university, that I was able to enjoy Chinese-language literature on its own terms. While I came to appreciate the grounding I had received in Singapore, particularly in secondary school, I don't think I read a Chinese novel for pleasure till I was in my twenties. Once I was able to do that, I quickly developed a taste for it. And being a writer of English and a lover of Chinese fiction, it was a logical progression to literary translation ― the best way I could think of to get right inside these books.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

A New Kid on the Block for Literary Nonprofits






Paper Republic is proud to announce that it is now a UK-registered charity no. 1182259. Paper Republic was set up by Eric Abrahamsen in 2008 as a blog site where we translators of Chinese literature could share our thoughts, our joys and our frustrations. Since then we have developed a variety of other activities and gained a gratifying degree of recognition: "If you need to know something about Chinese literature you start here," said one of the judges at the 2016 London Book Fair Literary Excellence Award, where we were runners-up. "Paper Republic demonstrates superb collaborative working across a number of platforms including their growing networks, their redesigned website and innovative live activities.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

My chance to talk for an hour about Chinese literature -- with an excellent interviewer



I had slightly mixed feelings when Georgia de Chamberet and I began our podcast for Bookblast. On the one hand, it was a great opportunity to talk both about the literary translation website I work on, Paper Republic, and the range of novels that feature on our 2018 roll call of Chinese translations into English. On the other hand, Georgia’s questions required some serious thought and I felt I was in danger of making wild generalizations (perhaps inevitable when you’re talking about a country and a literature as big as China). What follows is an excerpt from our Q+A. I hope you’ll find it thought-provoking enough to listen to the full podcast.

Friday, 8 February 2019

米兔. 米兔 / rice rabbit Chinese word of the year

Following on from last week's post about the Oxford Dictionaries Hindi word of 2018, Paper Republic have nominated their Chinese word of the year for the Year of the Dog, just closed.

The Paper Republic translators collective promotes Chinese literature in English translation. It  concentrates on new writing from contemporary Chinese writers.

Paper Republic's word of the  Year of the Dog,  is (#)米兔. 米兔.

米兔. 米兔 means "rice rabbit", but it's pronounced mi-tu, so it represents the hashtag #MeToo.