Altaic Storytelling: What We’re Reading Now (2017.5)

A few years back I read a longish, semi-autobiographical novel by Guo Xuebo (郭雪波), who was raised in the Horchin Grasslands of Inner Mongolia (科尔沁草原) and is a native speaker of Mongolian. Entitled 《蒙古里亚》— an attempt to replicate the sound of “Mongolia” in Chinese, I assume — it comprises three distinct narratives that are intricately intertwined as the novel progresses: A spiritual journey, in which the narrator/author seeks his Shaman roots; various “scenes” from the journey of a real-life, early 20th-century Scandinavian explorer among the Mongols; and the tribulations of Teelee Yesu (特勒约苏), a modern-day Mongolian herdsman, considered by many to be the village idiot, whose very survival is threatened by desertification and the machinations of a greedy coal mining company. I just finished my draft translation of an excerpt from the novel, in which Teelee is jailed for threatening to self-immolate (自焚). The excerpt all takes place in jail, as a bevy of reporters, Banner honchos and a mysterious security official alternately congratulate, chide and interrogate him, the latter out of fear that — heaven forbid! — he has been inspired by Tibet’s self-immolating Buddhist monks.

I’ve just started reading Manas Resurrected, a short story by Xi’an’s Hong Ke (《复活的玛纳斯》红柯 著). As far as I know, it has not been translated yet. I’m intrigued for two reasons: The reference to the ancient Kyrgyz epic Manas, and the fact that it is set in the early 60s when the Soviet Union’s Kazakhstan did its best to lure Xinjiang residents (mainly Kazakhs and Uyghurs) across the border. Apparently as many as 60,000+ did actually leave China. I don’t know much about this mass movement or the politics behind it, but it has not been forgotten in the PRC. The exodus came up in a short story (Sidik Golden MobOff) and again in a novel (Zuilian) by the Xinjiang-based Uyghur author Alat Asem, both of which I translated. He repeatedly refers to the attraction a new life in Kazakhstan exercised on many Uyghurs during that period, and at times his protagonists speak of the émigrés with great disdain.

Hundreds of Turkish Journalists in Jail or on the Run

The Hürriyet Daily News English edition reports:

Exiled in Germany: Can Dündar, former editor-in-chief of Cumhurriyet. An arrest warrant in absentia was issued in Turkey for him on 31 October 2016.

Some 123 Turkish journalists are fugitives abroad, while 159 of them were in jail as of the end of April, according to a report by the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC). 


The Freedom of Expression and Press report, which was made possible by the European Union, said 46 new investigations were launched and 20 additional cases were filed against journalists in the first four months of 2017, [Turkish-language] daily Cumhuriyet reported on May 19.

“In the past four months, Turkey continued to be the world leader with the number of journalists in jail,” the report said, adding that in nearly all of the cases regarding journalists, demands for trial without arrest had been rejected.”

 

Extract: Alat Asem’s Xinjiang novel “Zuilian” (时间悄悄的嘴脸)

19

Rechristening a High-rise

In the midst of his hectic days as minor-character-cum-

Uyghur mafiosi: Alat Asem takes us into the colorful world of Xinjiang’s Uyghur jade traders

stagehand, Exet the Mouse’s magnificent new sobriquet — “Suet Exet” — fails to resonate. Those two sheep were indeed sacrificed in vain. Afterwards, he didn’t bother to invite the jade lords out to drink either; he embraced his bad luck. “There’s a history to your nickname,” says Eysa ASAP to console him, “and history cannot be rewritten.”

Eysa sets to work quickly seeking a middle-man to lobby for talks to buy all twelve stories of the high-rise that belongs to Big Stick Obul, who dug his first bucket of gold in a coal mine. In the end, it’s Silver-tongue Salam, endowed with the gift of gab that can entice buyer and seller to the negotiating table, who does the trick.

Salam’s deal-closing skills were first practiced at the Saturday second-hand bike market. As dust danced in the square, he honed his persona and honeyed trap. With help from splendiferous Time, the money in his pocket prospered year after year, and nourished his heart.

After dining on handheld mutton at a scenic riverside venue, Eysa, Mouse, Obul and Salam address the thorny issue of price.

“Ahem,” coughs Salam before he begins.

Deal or no deal, mutual trust shall prevail.

Roasted, stewed or hand-held, mutton remains meat all the same.

Heroes of the world, you have all come today!

The magnificent Monkey King is present today,

And so is our Uyghur Wise Man, Ependim.

It is cool cash that drives human life.

Today’s chop suey is better than tomorrow’s fresh meat;

promises are no good until they are cooked in the pot.

Today’s victory is today’s Paradise!

The big item on today’s agenda is a high-rise built to last. The seller is a person, not a lord, and so is the buyer, who is no one’s servant. My mouth is neither friend nor enemy. It speaks for your mutual interests. Had I ever harbored selfish intentions or betrayed bias toward either party, my tongue could not have secured me this bowl of arbitrator’s rice over the last two decades. The truth behind this, I’m sure you all understand.

The building is new, constructed just five years ago. Buyer and seller both have things itching at their hearts. Each of you knows this. My mouth is a hand that can scratch that itch for you. I do not know the depth of the water, but my sincere hope is that both duck and goose may cross safely. I care not wherefrom my camel guests hail, but obtaining some of the peppercorns, black pepper and ginger root is my goal. ‘Feed your master’s donkeys well and receive a good tip’ is my motto.

Blessed is Eysa Xojayin, and so is our Big Stick Obul, a hero who wrestled his way out of a dark coal pit. Coal Mine Mogul, please quote a price.

The mine owner states his asking price, and the figure is fairly close to the one that Eysa has guessed beforehand. This gives him confidence in the eventual outcome.

Obul is keen to offload his high-rise. It’s a matter of money-laundering, actually. The proceeds from the mines don’t have eyes but they have lips, and he worries that sooner or later that lucre will land him in hot water. Once the building is sold, his mind would be at peace, his tongue confident, and henceforth he could hang out at his leisure.

In the six hours that ensue, Salam’s mouth binds the two wicked hearts ever tighter. Eventually the high-rise’s surname changes, and a sizable lot of moolah finds its way into Big Stick Obul’s bank card — an eight-digit sum, in fact. In the ATM card, the dancing digits sigh long and hard; in the freezing underground vault, the bills reminisce over their tainted but exhilarating past. [Translated by Bruce Humes and Jun Liu. For more information about Alat Asem, click here.]

Quote of the Week: Lumières de Pointe-Noire

Quand tu grandiras, quelle que soit la brousse dans laquelle tu entreras, dis-toi que les esprits y logent, et respecte aussi bien la faune que la flore, y compris les objets qui te paraissent sans intérêt comme un champignon ou un pauvre petit ver de terre qui tente de regagner le bord d’un rivière. Chez nous on ne chasse que les écureuils et les pangolins, c’est ce que nos ancêtres nous donnent comme gibier parce que les autres animaux, sauf si nous recevons message contraire à travers nos rêves, sont les membres de la famile qui sont partis de ce monde mais qui vivent dans l’autre. Mangerais-tu ton père, ta mère ou ton frère? Je pense que non. Je sais ce que c’est des choses bizarres pour toi que es un enfant élevé dans la ville, ce sont pourtant ces réalités qui ont fait de nous ce que nous sommes. Quant à toi, abstiens-toi de manger la viande de biche et de cerf car, même si tu n’en mourras pas, il y aura quelque chose de toi qui disparaîtra, et ce quelque chose s’appelle la chance, ou plutot la bénédiction . . .

(Excerpt from Lumières de Pointe-Noire by Alain Mabanckou)

Uyghur Author Alat Asem: Backgrounder in French

Brigitte Duzan at chinese-shortstories.com has just posted a detailed introduction to Alat Asem (阿拉提·阿斯木), a bilingual Uyghur writer based in Xinjiang. Here is her translation of the editor’s Afterword to his collection of short stories, 蝴蝶时代 (The Butterfly Era):

Dans le paysage éditorial de la littérature contemporaine chinoise, la littérature du Xinjiang dégage un charme spécifique et n’est assimilable à aucune autre, de quelque autre région. Les écrivains d’ethnies minoritaires du Xinjiang utilisent largement leur langue maternelle, et continuent d’écrire dans cette langue ; néanmoins, elle représente un obstacle à une large diffusion de ces œuvres dans le lectorat chinois. Tout en écrivant dans sa langue maternelle, Alat Asem écrit aussi bien en chinois, et les récits de ce recueil sont écrits dans cette langue, mais dans un style qui traduit une esthétique et un sens spécifique de la langue induisant chez le lecteur une impression de nouveauté. Ses romans ont été bien accueillis par les lecteurs, mais ont également attiré l’attention des critiques et cercles littéraires. La publication de ce livre offre une nouvelle facette de la création littéraire des minorités ethniques du Xinjiang…

For the full text, click here.

Quote of the Week: Qui a peur du wolof?

Si tout écrivain entretient des rapports orageux avec les mots, dans le cas de l’auteur africain, c’est sa langue d’écriture qui est tout entière problématique. On m’a ainsi demandé d’abord: 《Pourquoi ecrivez-vous en français?》, puis après la parution de mon roman Doomi Golo: 《Pourquoi écrivez-vous en wolof?》  

(Senegalese author Boubacar Boris Diop in Le dilemme des écrivains africains: Qui a peur du wolof? (Le Monde Diplomatique, March 2017)

Ahmet Ümit Translation Forum: No Chinese Presence?

A one-day symposium titled “Translating Ahmet Ümit into Foreign Languages” will be held on

Reportedly now working on a thriller set around the Syrian refugee crisis

Reportedly now working on a thriller set around the Syrian refugee crisis

April 7 in Istanbul at Okan University’s Beyoğlu campus. The symposium will be attended by 11 translators from various countries, according to a report in Hurriyet Daily News.

For a Turkish writer of fiction, Ümit (阿赫梅特·乌米特) has been fairly widely translated into Chinese. His novels now available in Chinese include 《伊斯坦堡死亡纪事》(A Memento for Istanbul) and《隐没与谎言》 (Patasana), and translation of The Dervish Gate  《托钵僧之门》is underway at Shanghai Art & Literature Publishing (上海文艺出版社).

According to Hurriyet, among the translators who will join the event are “Rafael Carpintero Ortega (Spanish), Rakesh Jobanputra (English), Sabine Adatepe (German), Barbara La Rosa (Italian), Aneta Matovska (Macedonian), Elen Ivanova (Bulgarian), Nina Rajkovic (Croatian), Thanos Zarangalis (Greek) and Vesna Gazdic (Serbian).”

Based on this report, it appears that none of his Chinese translators will be present.

For insight into which overseas readerships are targeted by the Turkish government, see Soft Power Strategy: Where Does China Figure in Turkey’s Literary Translation Program?

Boubacar Boris Diop and His Wolof Publication Initiative

Boubacar Boris Diop, Senegalese author of Doomi Golo which he wrote in Wolof (and later translated into French), has launched the “Céytu” initiative to publish major works of francophone literature in Wolof. The language is spoken by about 11m people in Sénégal,Mariama Bâ Bataaxal bu gudde nii Mauritania and the Gambia. In this interview with Anne Bocandé of africultures.com, he explains the three works he has begun with:

Une si longue lettre [好长的一封信] de Mariama Bâ s’imposait par sa valeur propre mais aussi par l’exceptionnelle traduction, qui existait déjà, de Mame Younousse Dieng et Arame Fal ; L’Africain de Jean-Marie Le Clézio, est un tour de force en ce sens qu’il reste une confession à la fois intime et d’une ahurissante précision documentaire ; la pièce de Césaire sur l’assassinat de Lumumba a beau dater des années 70, elle reste actuelle quand on pense, par exemple, au destin tragique d’un Thomas Sankara, aux événements du Burkina et même au rôle plus que douteux de l’ONU dans des événements allant du génocide des Tutsi du Rwanda à la Syrie ou la Libye. J’avais une folle envie de traduire Une saison au Congo et maintenant, je souhaite faire jouer la pièce dans les grandes villes du Sénégal.

To read the full interview, click here.

To visit Céytu: Littérature en Wolof, click here.

非漂 [Fēi Piāo] April 2017 Newsbriefs

Chimamanda Ngozi, the Afropolitan: . . . because she has walked so confidently into the realm of non-fiction, and has agreed on multiple occasions, to take up the mantle of “spokesperson,” there is an increasing expectation that she is up to the task; that she can in fact authentically speak on behalf of the fans who adore her. Over time those fans have included young women enthralled by her popularization of existing mainstream feminist ideas and LGBTI communities across the diaspora and in urban European, American and African contexts. 

April 8 Marseilles event: Paroles et danses sacrées ! Poésies Poesis et chants vaudouet Chants vaudou with Hyacinthe Kougniazondé (griot né au Bénin); PéPé Oleka (musicienne Nigérienne); Sùnnù Wedo (“urban griot”); Mona Georgelin (professeure de danse gwoka); Médard Sossa (chorégraphe, danseur, percussionniste et chanteur).

Congo’s Francophone author Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses (translated from his novel, Petit Piment) has been longlisted for the prestigious translated literature award, Man Booker Int’l Prize 2017. Amazingly, none of his works have been published yet in Chinese. 刚果法语作家阿兰‧马邦库: 为何没有中文译本?

Fox 2000 has reportedly acquired the movie rights for 23-year-old Nigerian-American author Tomi Adeyemi’s debut young adult West African fantasy novel, Children of Blood and Bone, which is the first in what will be a trilogy. This despite the fact that the book has yet to arrive in a bookstore. Henry Holt Books for Young Readers will publish under Macmillan Publishers. Adeyemi joins the likes of Chimamanda Adichie and Chinua Achebe who have had their novels Half of a Yellow Sun (半轮黄日) and Things Fall Apart (这个世界土崩瓦解了) adapted for the silver screen. And watch the trailor for Adichie’s more recent Americannah here.

Among Three Percent’s candidates for its 2017 Best Translated Book Prize are several works whose originals were penned by African writers. On the 25-Doomi Golo by Boobacar Boris Diopstrong fiction list are Senegalese author Boubacar Baris Diop’s novel Doomi Golo: The Hidden Notebooks and Egyptian author Basma Abdel Aziz’s novel The Queue, and on the 10-strong poetry list is Moroccan author Abdellatif Laabi’s collection In Praise of Defeat. You can read background info about these three here. Doomi Golo is reportedly the first novel ever to be translated from the Wolof into English. But perhaps more interesting is Diop’s story about how he rendered it himself in French, although this act of auto-traduction took him five years. When it came out in Wolof, a friend commented: « Tout à fait entre nous, tu t’es bien fait plaisir en écrivant dans ta langue maternelle, c’est très bien, bravo, mais mets-toi à présent au travail et donne-nous le même roman dans une vraie langue. Ne penses-tu pas que ce sera plus simple pour tout le monde ?» For a fascinating explanation of the process, see Écrire entre deux langues. De Doomi Golo aux Petits de la Guenon.

Factoids re: Africa-based Confucius Institutes (孔子院), according to the official Hanban web site: There are 46 institutes now up and running (mainly within a university), with at least one located in 36 of Africa’s 54 countries, including 8 in South Africa, 5 each in Ethiopia and Kenya, and 3 in Tanzania.

刚果法语作家 Alain Mabanckou (阿兰‧马邦库): 为何没有中文译本?

 

阿兰‧马邦库的 Black Moses (法文原书名: Petit Piment) 2017 年入围 Man Booker International Prize 的 Longlist

阿兰‧马邦库的 Black Moses (法文原书名: Petit Piment) 2017 年入围 Man Booker International Prize 的 long list

刚从台南来到婆罗洲的古晋。路过台北,去了趟信鸽法国书店,也拜访了出版 “非洲系列” 的南方家园出版社。

信鸽供应 Alain Mabanckou (阿兰‧马邦库)几本法文小说,我已经开始阅读 Lumières de Pointe-Noire。这本属于自传性的,是描写他离开家乡 Pointe-Noire 23 年之后头次回去的感受。他的母亲已去世了,为了某些神秘的原因  ——  我还没读到那部分 —— 当时没能回家参与其葬礼。这点明显给他留下不少痛苦的痕迹。

Mabanckou 在刚果共和国土生土长的,在法国读完法律系,发表几本小说之后,搬到美国,目前在加州大学洛杉矶分校教法文文学。他得了一系列的高级文学奖,几本小说与涉及政治话题的文章都被译成英文,并按照 Wikipedia 被认为:

He is among the best known and most successful writers in the French and one of the best known African writers in France.

刚得知,两周前,他的 Black Moses (法文原书名: Petit Piment) 入围曼布克国际奖 (Man Booker International Prize 2017 ) 年的 “长单” (long list),即有可能是 13 本译本当中得第一名。4 月 20 日将宣布 “短单”(short list),即 6 本,然后 6 月 14 日将宣布第一名。13 本中也有中国作家阎连科的 The Explosion Chronicles (原书名: 炸裂志)。

英、法文学界颇受欢迎的当代刚果作家 Mabanckou (阿兰‧马邦库): 为何没有中文译本?

英、法文学界颇受欢迎的当代刚果作家 Mabanckou (阿兰‧马邦库): 为何被中文出版界忽略?

但莫名其妙,至少据我了解, 至今 Mabanckou 没有一本小说被翻译成中文。这很遗憾,因为他确实写的很好,而且他是一个很风趣的人。 YouTube 上面有他的采访,也有他得奖的演讲,值得一听。许多定居非洲与移民海外的非洲人对他颇有看法,因为他发表的文章里说的很清楚:不该把今天非洲落后的全部责任强加于殖民时代和殖民者的头上,而应该承认自己的份儿。同时,他的作品也经常围绕着非洲人在法国当 “侨民” 的状态。

他用法文写作,但他主要的著作被译成英文,除 Black Moses 也有:African Psycho, Broken Glass (打碎的玻璃杯), Memoirs of a Porcupine (豪豬回憶錄) 以及 Black Bazaar。(这些中文书名是直译,不是真书名)