Bruce Humes: New Focus on Altaic Storytelling Traditions

 

As of April 2016, new bilingual blog title:  

Altaic Storytelling:

From the Bosphorus to Lake Baikal  

阿尔泰古今讲故事:

萨满、䢟唱诗人、作家

See here for details

May 8-15: Istanbul Tanpınar Literature Festival

City & Voices/Şehir ve Sesler

Istanbul Tanpınar Literature Festival

Dates: May 8-15, 2016
Istanbul Venues: Beyoğlu Municipality, KargArt, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar Museum Library, Erbulak House, Italian Culture Center, Kuzguncuk Nail Bookstore and Nevmekan.
Authors: List
Program: Schedule
Highlights: Australian children’s author Sussanne Gervay and Barry Loser series author Jim Smith. Mechthild Glaser (The Book Jumper), Syria’s Gulnar Hajo and Romanian author Adina Rosetti. Libris Literature Award Nominee Elvis Peeters, author of De ontelbaren (The Uncountables), a novel concerning the refugee crisis, and Swedish thriller writer Emelie Schepp whose Markta för live (Marked for Life) has been translated into several languages. Session: Contrarian Voices in Turkish Literature: Fantasy, Science Fiction and Underground Literature

April 2016: Altaic Storytelling Newsbriefs

As of May 1, 2016, the controversial, so-called Biànmín Liánxì Kǎ (便民联系卡) will cease to be in use in Xinjiang, according to the authorities (不再使用).  The card (pictured here), which lists contact info for the card-holder’s hometown authorities, was supposedly intended to facilitate a variety of services when the Xinjiang resident was away from his or her official domicile, e.g., as a reliable ID when checking into a hotel. In practice, it took on the functions of something closer to an internal passport; without it, non-Han citizens in particular found it increasingly difficult to travel between cities (there are now frequent checkpoints), and there is anecdotal evidence that businesspeople could not obtain small loans without it. The news item states that the card — issued only with the approval of local authorities, and mocked by some Uyghur as “Good Citizen ID” (良民证) — came into circulation in May 2014.

An Evenki love story that spans the 1900-1950 period will launch at the end of April, according to an item on the China Writers Association web site that I’ve summarized in Reclaiming Evenki Narrative. Entitled 驯鹿角上的色带 (lit., colored ribbon on the reindeer’s horns), the novel is written by a 74-year-old woman named Balajieyi (芭拉杰依) whose mother was the Aoluguya Evenki’s last practicing shaman.

In 满语传承, Qian Lihua profiles two people actively promoting the endangered Manchu language: Singer 阿克善 (Akxan), who began studying Manchu and researching traditional Manchu music over a decade ago and writes lyrics in the language. He is currently on tour with his band performing Manchu songs (通古斯的声音 – – 望祭). The other is 哥特布, founder of 满语部落 (Manchu Tribe) that has produced 90 lessons in the language, and regularly broadcasts them via Chinese WeChat and QQ.

In 回归民间才有活力, Huang Shiyuan reports on the status of various projects in Xinjiang that aim to protect and rejuvenate traditions associated with the Mongolian Jangar Epic (江格尔史诗). They include a week of performances held annually at a sacred “ao’bao” (敖包, a mound-shaped sacrificial alter) in Boertala Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture (新疆博尔塔拉蒙古自治州精河县), and training centers for Mongolian long-song (蒙古长调) that are based at various middle schools in Xinjiang.

Reclaiming the Evenki Narrative: Last Shaman’s Daughter Tells her People’s 20th-century Tale

There are only 30,000 or so Evenki (鄂温克族) on the Chinese side of the Sino-Russian border. But this Tungusic-speaking, reindeer-herding people — particularly the group known as the Aoluguya Evenki — has been the subject of several award-winning documentaries and even a novel that won the Mao Dun Literature Prize in 2008. According to an article on the China Writer’s Association web site (最后一位萨满之女), a new novel featuring the Evenki will launch end April.

During 2007-14, Gu Tao (顾桃) shot five films documenting the twilight of the Evenki way of life, including Yuguo and his Mother (雨果的假期) and The Last Moose of Aoluguya (犴达罕). (For an excellent backgrounder on his works in French, click here) Chi Zijian’s novel, The Last Quarter of the Moon (额尔古纳河右岸), is based loosely on the same tribe’s often reluctant interactions with outsiders, first with the Japanese invaders under “Manchukuo,” and then the rapacious Han loggers and Marxist cadres of post-1949 “New China,” and has been translated into English (my version), Dutch, Italian, Spanish and Japanese, and will soon be available in French.

驯鹿角上的色带But take note: Neither Gu Tao and Chi Zijian are Evenki, though the former’s mother is Manchu (according to BBC’s web site). As far I know, their works have largely been well received in China, but they are not without potential controversy. I have watched several of Gu Tao’s documentaries on a set of CDs (not sure if these are final versions shown at film festivals abroad), and at times they are disturbing, the raw footage of some hard-drinking Evenki in particular. Chi Zijian’s novel is a bold experiment in its own right, as she, a monolingual Han writer, puts herself inside the head of the female Evenki narrator and recounts the entire tale in the first person.

In both cases, I can’t help wondering how these works of art would be viewed by indigenous peoples in Australia, Canada or the US, where “reclaiming the narrative” back from one’s colonizers is nowadays considered absolutely imperative. [Read more…]

Altaic Storytelling: What We’re Reading Now (2016.4.12)

Following Xinjiang's Kazakh herders during their winter migration

Following Xinjiang’s Kazakh herders during their winter migration

Just started 冬牧场 (lit, winter pasture) by Li Juan. In 2010, she was commissioned to live with a Kazakh family as they herded their camels, sheep and horses deep into the desert of southern Altay where they traditionally graze during the bitterly cold winter. Her job: To document the little known, semi-nomadic lifestyle of Xinjiang’s Kazakh that features seasonal migrations.

Li Juan (李娟) is a young female Han writer born in Xinjiang. She spent most of her childhood in Sichuan before returning, and by her own admission, speaks only a smattering of Kazakh. See here for an introduction to her writing — all of which revolves around Xinjiang — including links to translations of some of her shorter pieces. To date, within China her best known titles are probably two collections of essays entitled 我的阿勒泰 (lit, my Altay) and 阿勒泰的角落 (lit, corners of Altay).

Promotional copy on douban reads as follows:

2010年冬天,李娟跟随一家哈萨克牧民深入阿勒泰南部的冬季牧场、沙漠,度过了一段鲜为人知的荒野生活。作为第一位描写哈萨克民族冬牧生活的汉族作家,她以饱含深情、灵气飞扬又不失节制的文字,呈现出阿尔泰最后一批 “荒野主人” 冬季转场时的独特生存景观,令人叹为观止。

“阿尔泰古今讲故事” 本周精彩语录: 母语文本的纪录

我国学者数十年来致力于少数民族民间故事、诗歌谣谚、宗教口诵经典等的收集翻译整理,出版了大量翻译作品,取得了举世瞩目的成就,但其中也存在着一些遗憾和失误,这就是忽略了对少数民族民间作品母语文本的记录,有相当多的翻译整理本没有母语原本,没有逐字逐句的直译。这样的直接后果是,丧失了作品多方面的 科学价值,而且由于没有母语的承载,这些文本也难以作为相关民族后代传承文化的文本来使用。此外,由于缺乏语音记录和直译,相关民族特有的文化、社会和宗 教概念难以在汉文文本中全面正确地反映。鉴于此,今后在搜集整理少数民族民间文学作品时,应保留用国际音标记录或用本民族文字书写的严谨客观的母语文本。

(杨福泉,纳西族学者,中国民族报)

Jusup Mamay, Manaschi: A Rehabilitated Rightist and his Turkic Epic

A while back I stumbled upon a short Chinese news item about a newly discovered handwritten manuscript of the Kyrgyz Epic of Manas (玛纳斯史诗). This centuries-old trilogy in verse recounts the exploits of the legendary hero Manas, and his son and grandson in their struggle to resist external enemies and unite the Kyrgyz people. Along with heroic tales such as Dede Korkut and the Epic of Köroğlu, Manas is considered one of the great Turkic epic poems. To get a feeling for how it sounds, listen here to a brief recitation by Manas scholar Elmira Köçümkulkızı.

Mural of Manas in OshAccording to the report (手抄本被发现), a retired cadre named 吾米尔·毛力多 in Xinjiang’s Wuqia County recently donated a 570,000-line, Kyrgyz-language Manas libretto to the local branch of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles.

Based on the notes of a famous Manas storyteller or manaschi named 艾什玛特·玛木别朱素普, the text was painstakingly hand-copied by the cadre in the 1950s. At some point during the Cultural Revolution he learned the original had been seized and burnt, so he wrapped his own copy in several layers of cowhide and buried it in his courtyard for safekeeping.

“Now,” the news report quotes him, “I figure it is time to let this hand-copied manuscript see the light of day.”

Intrigued by the gap in time between the manuscript’s burial and its “re-discovery”— after all, the Cultural Revolution ended almost 40 years ago — I wondered why the text of an ancient Turkic epic like Manas is so politically sensitive. [Read more…]

Announced: Winners of “Nationalities Literature” Magazine Competition

Publishers of the state-sponsored, all-China 民族文学 (Nationalities Literature) monthly magazine have announced the award winners for articles published in 2015 (《民族文学》年度奖揭晓). The magazine appears in 6 languages: Kazakh, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Mongolian, Tibetan and Uyghur.

Publication in one or more of these magazines is much prized for several reasons. Nationalities Literature is run by the influential China Writers Association, so appearing in the magazine represents endorsement by the “literary establishment,” as it were. Generally speaking, publication in one language edition often signifies “multilingual” publication, since many will appear in more than one or all of the editions in a given month, ensuring maximum exposure and the possibility of “cross-germination” among non-Han writers.

I’ve been watching these awards over the years, and not a few of the writers have gone on to win other prizes, and perhaps more importantly, to gain a nationwide readership as their work is more likely to be translated into Chinese and appear in 人民文学 (People’s Literature) and eventually, the latter’s sister magazine in English, Pathlight.

You’d think that Nationalities Literature — as a multilingual medium — would release the titles of the winning pieces in their original language, since many of these works have never appeared in Chinese. But no, they haven’t, at least on their site . . .

Kazakh-language Edition 

Originals in Kazakh

《雪霜绣花》by 马达提别克·巴拉别克(Kazakh)(Verse, 2015.4)

《艾草寄语》by 拜山艾力·买提哈力 (Kazakh)(Verse, 2015.4)

Translations into Kazakh

《魔术师》translated by 叶尔兰·马赞(Kazakh)(Novel, 2015.1)

《急救室》translated by 阿布都哈孜•扎汉(Kazakh)(Essay, 2015.3)

 

Korean-language Edition 

Originals in Korean

《辣椒婆婆》by 刘正男(Korean)(Novel, 2015.4)

《窗外的远景》by 崔国哲(Korean)(Novel, 2015.6) [Read more…]

Soft Power Strategy: Where Does China Figure in Turkey’s Literary Translation Program?

Turkey's funding for literary translation into other tongues: Bulgarian editions outnumber Chinese 10:1

Turkey’s funding for literary translation into other tongues: Bulgarian editions outnumber Chinese 10:1

Over the last 11 years, Turkey has spent US$4.4m to fund translation and publication of fiction by Turkish authors via its TEDA grant program, according to Turkish Books, an article that appeared in the Hürriyet Daily on February 24, 2016. TEDA’s own chart shows that just 24 titles appeared in Chinese as a result, compared to 258 in German, 147 in Arabic, 100 in Persian, 103 in English, and 65 in French.

Oh, yes, and 251 in . . . Bulgarian, a language with an estimated number of less than 10 million native speakers. Granted, Bulgaria was ruled by the Ottomans, so nostalgia may be a factor here. But still, one has to wonder: Who determines how TEDA’s funds are spent, and what is their soft power strategy?

Chinese readers can be forgiven if the only Turkish author they’ve ever heard of is 奥尔罕·帕慕克 (Orhan Pamuk) as rendered我脑袋里的怪东西 by translator 陈竹冰 (Chen Zhubing). Pamuk’s latest novel, Kafamda Bir Tuhaflı (A Strangeness in My Mind) has just been launched in Chinese by Shanghai People’s Publishing House (我脑袋里的怪东西). After all, at least 10 of his novels have appeared in Chinese and he is very popular in the PRC.

The number of Turkish authors available in Chinese is rather short (see here for a partial list), but the good news is that Turkey’s most famous 20th century work of fiction, Tanpınar’s Saatleri Ayarlama Enstitüsü (The Time Regulation Institute) is being translated and may — according to Istanbul’s Kalem Agency — appear in Chinese within 2017. Elif Şafak is also fairly well known, but her novels normally appear first in Taiwan.

Uyghur Author Alat Asem’s Novella Tapped for Translation into English

Novella from Alat Asem, who writes in both Chinese and Uyghur

Novella by Alat Asem, who writes in both Chinese and Uyghur

Alat Asem’s fictional Xinjiang will likely become available to English readers later this year or early next. His Uyghur universe is one in which Han just don’t figure, and his hallmarks are womanizers, insulting monikers and a hybrid Chinese with an odd but appealing Turkic flavor.

Chinese Translation & Publishing (中译出版社) has put out a call seeking a translator to render his novella, 时间悄悄的嘴脸, in English. Exactly when it will be launched and under what imprint I don’t know; but since the “Contemporary Chinese Ethnic Literature Translation Project” (中国当代少数民族文学作品对外翻译工程) initiative commenced, translations of many fictional works by non-Han writers — into languages such as Italian, German, Arabic and Kazakh — have been generously funded, including several volumes by Yerkex Hurmanbek (叶尔克西·胡尔曼别克), a Xinjiang-based writer. Naturally, Xinjiang writing also stands to benefit from funding for the “Silk Road Fragrant Books Project” (丝路书香工程), the cultural component of China’s far-reaching One Belt, One Road campaign (一带一路), an initiative that seeks to foster connectivity between China and countries along the ancient Silk Road.

I read and enjoyed his soon-to-be-translated novella when I was in Istanbul, which is fitting, since Turkish and Uyghur are both Turkic tongues. Mistakenly convinced he has killed a man in a fight, the protagonist flees Xinjiang for Shanghai where he undergoes a life-changing facelift. Protected by his new identity, he cannot resist returning and testing his friends, lover and kin for their loyalty. He gradually reveals himself to them and his fierce rival in the cut-throat jade business — the one he crippled, and who subsequently tries to do him in too. [Read more…]