Below is a short piece inspired by the Chinese Literature Translation workshop that I attended last March. The whole week was filled with meaty content on translation and its woes, but this dialogue was a highlight. Jiang Rong’s bestseller Wolf Totem, is recently available in an English edition. The book doesn’t necessarily appeal to me. Thanks to Tom Saunders for the photograph.
A few weeks back, Penguin Publishing Group and the Arts Council England hosted the first ever Sino-British Literary Translation Workshop on a hazy bamboo mountainside in the historic resort town of Moganshan, just a few hours north of Shanghai. Translators of various levels and backgrounds convened to discuss the finer points of textual and contextual understanding when moving texts across languages and cultures. The workshop was timed to coincide with the English release of Chinese bestseller and Mainland publishing anomaly Wolf Totem (Lang Tuteng), translated by the uncontested king of modern Chinese literature in translation, Howard Goldblatt. The basic premise of the workshop was that the responsibility of the translator is not simply to convert text from one language to another, but that in the act of translation, he or she becomes a cultural authority in his or her own right.
Wolf Totem, rumored to be one of the most widely circulated books in China since Mao’s “Little Red Book,” is a non-traditional, allegorical novel that examines the character of the wolf through not only narrative, but collected parables and folklore. It grew out of the experiences of the author, Jiang Rong, a pensive, conservative-looking man who sports Jiang Zemin-esque glasses. His time in Inner Mongolia inspired the book, 11 years laboring on a farm during the Cultural Revolution. He eventually finished Wolf Totem after six years of writing; it is purported to be a muffled criticism of the complacency of the Han people, ripe with nationalist undertones. According to publishing insiders, the book sold more than 4 million copies in its legal copyrighted edition since its 2004 release, which likely amounts to less than 40% of the book’s total sales on the mainland (including pirated editions).
the piece continues here . . .
baby, you have a great blog, i love it !
miss you a lot!
I tried to send you an update on our edited volume “Negotiating Difference”, but apparently your email address does not work. Can you send me your current one?
Thanks a lot, greetings from sunny Heidelberg!