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.

Extract: Alat Asem’s Novel “Confessions of a Jade Lord” (时间悄悄的嘴脸)

An excerpt from the soon-to-be-published novel by Alat Asem,

Confessions of a Jade Lord

《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 handheld, 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 silver tongue 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 account — an eight-digit sum, in fact. On the ATM card, the dancing digits sigh long and hard; in the freezing underground vault, the bills reminisce over their tainted but exhilarating past.[终]

[Translated by Bruce Humes and Jun Liu. For more information about Alat Asem, click here.]

Alat Asem’s 《时间悄悄的嘴脸》: Guide to Related Links

 Alat Asem’s

Confessions of a Jade Lord

《时间悄悄的嘴脸》阿拉提·阿斯木 著

Author’s Background

阿拉提·阿斯木_百度百科

Literary Bio

Présentation: Alat Asem (en français)

Academic Papers

翟晓甜 张治安:阿拉提·阿斯木的超越与创新——读《时间悄悄的嘴脸》 

Renditions of the Novel

Chinese original: 《时间悄悄的嘴脸》 

Excerpt: Rechristening a High-rise (Chapter 19)

The Translation Process 

Co-translating a Chinese Novel: An Attempt at Meaningful Cultural Dialogue by Jun Liu

English translation underway by Bruce Humes and Jun Liu (publication date: 4Q 2017)

Other Translations of Fiction by

Uyghur Author Alat Asem (غەيرەت ئاسىم)

Sidik Golden MobOff (斯迪克金子关机) 

The Only Real Man (最后的男人)

Interviews

Uyghur Writer Explores New Boundaries

阿拉提·阿斯木专访:地域化、全球化和双语写作

Speech

《时间悄悄的嘴脸》获颁第十一届 “骏马奖” 感言

Junma Literary Prize: Winners of National Award for Writing by non-Han Authors

Uyghur mafiosa: Alat Asem takes us into the colorful world of Xinjiang's Uyghur jade traders

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

The winners of the Junma Literary Awards for Ethnic Minority Writers (骏马奖)  — handed out every three years since 1981 — have just been announced. The competition is designed to promote writing by authors who belong to one of China’s non-Han peoples. Entries are permitted in all indigenous languages. Eight of the 24 winners were written in a minority language, and three were translated into Mandarin, one each from Mongolian, Tibetan and Uyghur.

Of particular interest — to me — is the award to Uyghur author Alat Asem for his novel, 《时间悄悄的嘴脸》(Zuilian). I am currently co-translating this book from the Chinese with Jun Liu.

 

 

第十一届(2012—2015)全国少数民族文学创作 “骏马奖” 获奖名单

长篇小说奖

 

《白虎寨》 李传锋(土家族)
《破荒》 袁仁琮(侗族)
《时间悄悄的嘴脸》 阿拉提·阿斯木(维吾尔族)
《信仰树》(蒙古文) 乌·宝音乌力吉(蒙古族)
《昨天的部落》(藏文) 旦巴亚尔杰(藏族)

 

For full list that includes award-winning novels, short stories, reportage, poetry, essays, and translation, see 骏马奖.

July 2014: Update on Uyghur Writers and Writing as Crackdown Gains Momentum

In the wake of two high-profile and deadly attacks reportedly carried out by Uyghurs outside of their traditional homeland, the Chinese

Signatures of writers and translators on "Open Letter to our Uyghur Compatriots"

Signatures of writers and translators on “Open Letter to our Uyghur Compatriots”

authorities have launched a multi-faceted campaign to crush what they see as a terrorist movement that aims at founding an independent state in the Xinjiang autonomous region covering one-sixth of Chinese territory.

I am referring here to the Beijing “2013 Tian’anmen Square Attack” in which a 4 x 4 crashed into a crowd and burst into flames near Mao’s famous portrait, killing the passengers and two tourists, while injuring 38. And on March 1 this year, eight knife-wielding attackers appeared at the Kunming train station in Yunnan Province, and reportedly slashed 29 people to death while injuring 140 others.

As we enter Ramadan (June 28-July 27), when pious Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, Radio Free Asia (Anti-Terrorism Measures) reports that the authorities in Ürümqi are taking the strictest measures ever to ensure that there are no “incidents” during this, the most important month in the Muslim calendar. They include: newly installed surveillance cameras in mosques; preparation for “sudden-strike” searches of Uyghur households to break up unauthorized gatherings; requiring halal restaurants to remain open during the hours of the fast; and Muslim students at university will attend “patriotic study” classes and eat in the school canteen during the day so that they cannot practice fasting.

It should be noted, however, that some of RFA’s information about the crackdown comes from a spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress, an organization of exiled Uyghur groups that is based outside China.

Alat Asem, Bilingual Uyghur author

Alat Asem, Bilingual Uyghur author

Meanwhile, how is the crackdown impacting the “official” literary scene? Here are a few May-June factoids for your reference: [Read more…]

China’s Bilingual Writers: Narrative with a Difference

It began back in 2008 with Penguin investing heavily—$100,000 is the rumored price—to purchase Jiang Rong’s tale based in Inner Mongolia, Wolf Totem. In 2013 two newly translated novels joined China’s “borderland fiction” category: Fan Wen’s Une terre de lait et de miel, located in the gateway to Tibet straddling Yunnan and Sichuan, and Chi Zijian’s Last Quarter of the Moon, which features the reindeer-herding Evenki whose lives revolve around the Argun River that demarcates the Sino-Russian border.

Penned in Chinese, these novels are the creations of Han authors who have consciously chosen to set their tales amongNeige by Pema Tseden non-Han peoples who have historically resided at the fringes of the Middle Kingdom. Ran Ping’s Legend of Mongolia (蒙古往事), a fictionalized biography of Genghis Khan that was short-listed for the Mao Dun Literary Prize in 2008, also falls into this category, but it has not been translated into any European language.

Of course, there are popular novelists of various ethnicities who choose to write about their people using Chinese. Part-Tibetan Alai, author of The Song of Gesar (格萨尔王) and Red Poppies (尘埃落定), comes to mind, for instance.

But what about ethnic writers who not only speak two languages native to China, but write in both? Two have recently come to my attention, one who writes in Tibetan and Chinese, and another who uses both Uyghur and Chinese. [Read more…]

Excerpt: Uyghur Writer Alat Asem’s “Sidik Golden MobOff”

Here’s an excerpt from my translation of Sidik Golden MobOff (《斯迪克金子关机》) by the bilingual Uyghur author, Alat Asem (阿拉提 · 阿斯木), that is published in full in Issue 14 of Chutzpah!:

IN A WORLD of snow and ice, buses began to budge and Muslims began to discuss Sidik Golden MobOff in hushed tones.

20130612160730_2447

One comment reached my ears from a bus seat behind me. “In summary, this deceased mate of ours was a rather odd fellow, and the words at my disposal are insufficient to dissect his temperament.”

An old gentleman seated in front of me, sporting a modest, not fully white beard with intermingled deposits of grey (like the striped skin of a Xinjiang cantaloupe), had an amiable look about him. He sighed at length, and pronounced: “Folk good and bad both die, but the bad all die in wintertime.”

I didn’t speak out immediately, because the people in this place live according to long- standing custom. If someone has a beard, you bite your tongue and offer up a smile, even if you are the one endowed with heavenly wisdom.

I once remarked to Sidik Golden MobOff that this is the kind of place where bearded men aren’t friendly, and friendly men don’t wear beards. He said that beards represent time, and friendliness is greed, and it’s all one and the same.

But at the time I couldn’t help myself. “Esteemed Elder Brother,” I said, “pardon me, for I’m young and unbearded. But hearing what was just said, the heart itches and the mouth is hot, and I also want to say a word or two.

“As young as I am, I count not a few friends among Elder Brothers, and know truckfuls of knowledgeable Gentlemen and lesser types, and I’ve chewed on my share of ancient books and works by current authors, but I’ve yet to hear this adage: ‘The bad all die in the wintertime.’ Pray tell, Elder Brother, are you a university genius, or an Immortal from a seat of learning in the Heavens?”

Elder Brother turned around and looked me straight in the eye. “Whom do you take yourself for?”

“A person complete with a nose, ears and eyes.”

“You’re still young,” said Elder Brother. “When you’ve lived to my age, come look for me again.” [Read more…]

Chutzpah!: Latest Issue Devoted to Writers of non-Han Descent

Good news from the bimonthly Chinese literary magazine Chutzpah! (天南): the latest edition (Issue 14) is devoted entirely to writing by authors of non-Han descent. Several languages are involved here—most are published in Chinese, but some were written in other tongues and then translated into Chinese, while one has been rendered in English.

The latter deserves a special mention because . . . I translated it. It’s a marvelous short story by Uyghur writer Alat Asem (阿拉提·阿斯木), entitled Sidik Golden MobOff (《斯迪克金子关机》). If you want to read it in full, you’ll have to purchase the magazine in hard copy form, but here’s an excerpt. But for more information on the author, see China’s Bilingual Writers: Narrative with a Difference.  And if you can read Chinese, check out this very informative interview with the author, 地域化、全球化和双语写作. [Read more…]