Obama’s Favorite African Novels Underwhelm

As President Obama left for visits to Kenya and South Africa, he featured a list of his favorite African novels on Facebook. They include safe picks — i.e., recognized classics — such as Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

Like several commentators, Quartz Africa appeared less than awed by his rather traditional choices. See here for an expanded list that includes several other contemporary titles neglected by the former president.

Want to learn what sort of African fiction is available to Chinese readers nowadays? Visit the bilingual 非洲文学:121 中文译本/African Writing in Chinese Translation.

新近非洲小说中文版:《母狮的忏悔》(米亚·科托 著)

A novel by Mozambique’s Lusophone author Mia Couto, confissão da leoa, has just been  translated into Chinese as《母狮的忏悔》and published by Citic Publishing (June 2018). For up-to-date list of 121 contemporary African literary works in Chinese translation, see 非洲文学: 中文译本 :

 

 

 

China as Self-designated “Curator” of Tibetan Culture: Q & A with Tibetan Historian Tsering Shakya

HIMĀL Southasian, the region’s news and analysis magazine, engages with leading Tibetan historian Tsering Shakya in Beyond Development and Diversity:

Himal Southasian: How do we then look at the impact of the Chinese state’s appropriating, almost curating the scope of, religion and culture in Tibet, with places like Jokhang Temple having been reduced from living cultural spaces to opaque, ornamental museums?

Tsering Shakya: Curating is a good way of putting it. It changes the way in which people think about themselves, the way they think about custom and religion. It’s a way in which you become increasingly estranged from yourself and your culture. Imagine an African American person looking at a museum of African art.

Reeducation Returns to China: Applying Xinjiang Experimental Techniques to Mainstream Chinese

In Will the Repression in Xinjiang Influence Beijing’s Social Credit System?, Adrian Zenz explains (bolding is mine):

Historically, authoritarian regimes have tended to fear their own populations. In China, state trust and distrust of individuals and populations is apparently measured along two axes. Firstly, in ethnocultural terms, it is measured by distance from the core of Han culture, language, and ethnicity. This means that minorities with strongly distinct linguistic and other traits are inherently suspect, explaining for example the obsession of Xinjiang’s reeducation camps with forcing even elderly Uighurs to memorize Chinese characters. In network studies it has been shown that homophily, the love of sameness, is an important predictor of trust.

Secondly, the state measures the trustworthiness of its citizens by their alignment with “core socialist values.” This set of 12 values, first presented at the 18th Party Congress in 2012, has become the new standard for measuring positive behavior and moral character, a standard in direct competition with religion. Notably, the first individual value of this set is patriotism. These values, some of which are similar to Confucian visions  of social harmony under autocratic yet benevolent leadership, are now taught to children starting from kindergarten.

The “People’s War on Terror” in Xinjiang: SOAS Round-table (July 2, 2018)

The “People’s War on Terror” in Xinjiang

Adrian Zenz in conversation with Rachel Harris

Date: 2 July 2018   Time: 5:00 PM

Sponsor: SOAS China Institute

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G3

Admission: Free, no registration, first-come, first-served basis.

New Evidence on the Re-education Camps in Xinjiang

Around a year ago, troubling accounts began to emerge from China’s north-western Muslim frontier region of Xinjiang about large swathes of the Uyghur and Kazakh minority populations disappearing into clandestine political re-education camps. The Chinese government denies that these camps exist, but new research shows substantial official evidence for the existence of a vast re-education network in the region, consisting of heavily secured facilities, some of them large enough to host thousands of detainees.

Round-table Participants

Adrian Zenz is lecturer at the European School of Culture and Theology, Korntal, Germany. His research focus is on China’s ethnic policy and public recruitment in Tibetan regions and Xinjiang. He is author of “Tibetanness under Threat” and co-edited “Mapping Amdo: Dynamics of Change”.

Rachel Harris is Reader in the School of Arts at SOAS, University of London. She has published extensively on religious and expressive culture among the Uyghurs and cultural policy in Xinjiang. She is preparing an edited volume “Ethnographies of Islam in China”, and her monograph “Soundscapes of Uyghur Islam” is forthcoming with Indiana University Press.

“The Embassy’s China Bride”: A Tale of Trysts and Catkins in the Heart of Beijing

Synopsis:

The Embassy’s China Bride

A novel by Jiu Dan

《大使先生》 九丹 著

She’s an aging Chinese female novelist of cult fame banned for her intimate portrayal of women and their men. Her lover De Niro is a wild Italian hell-bent on motorcycles. Her other

“It never occurred to me that I was just one among many,” she confides. “Each night he played the groom anew.”

lover is the ambassador of a certain Spanish-speaking country to China. This is the tale of their trysts and catkins in the heart of Beijing.

“I’m a writer, a novelist. I specialize in the study of pain,” she says.

“Enchanté, novelist,” he replies. “I’m a painter.”

Welcome to a true life inspired account of passions set largely in the luxurious and exclusive confines behind the embassy’s steel gate in Beijing’s Sanlitun district. This is not merely the stark diary of the carnality and spirit of a blacklisted female writer in China. It also delves into the minds of the over-sexed, conflicted European men who populate the booming 21st-century capital, and the dark side of their relations with Chinese women who flock to them like moths to a white-hot light bulb.

Narrated by the love-struck protagonist writer, she confides to her departed Italian beau De Niro while re-living her relationship with the ambassador.

The embassy, diplomat-artiste and novelist-narrator all feature their own “contradictions.”

Exclusive venue for the duo’s frequent trysts, the Embassy arguably acquires a dual personality of its own as we become intimately acquainted with its faceless sentry, grand ceilings and “solemn” conference hall, which contrast with the scandalous pleasures enjoyed in the Ambassador’s painting studio and his nearby love nest.

The diplomat’s principle contradiction lies in his keen desire to lead two lives simultaneously — that of the scrupulously proper public official, and one deep below the surface of an amorous artist who follows his heart. This duality, plus his marriage and philandering, ultimately unspools the novelist-narrator as she floats aimlessly like a catkin willow, hoping that the ambassador will leave his wife and be hers forever. But in her heart she believes that true romance inevitably contains the seeds of pain and mutual hurt.

Fittingly, the no-longer-young female narrator and older ambassador first encounter one another at a painting exhibition, for in the ensuing liaison, the arts are never totally absent. [Read more…]

Nuosuo Poet Aku Wuwu: Striving for a New Language Born of Cultural Fusion

Aku Wuwu (阿库乌雾), a bilingual poet who writes and performs in both Mandarin and Nuoso (a language of the Yi people), advocates a new-fangled form of Chinese that more fully expresses his people’s non-Han culture. This reminds me of the attitude of Uyghur author Alat Asem (阿拉提·阿斯木) and the Turkic-flavor of his Confessions of a Jade Lord (《时间悄悄的嘴脸》). As Aku recently said in an interview at ThePaper.cn:

。。。针对多民族作家,我提出过从“文化混血”到“文学混血”的趋势,这是不可抗拒的时代历史潮流。我还提出“第二汉语”的主张,即不再是原来意义上的汉语,或者说不再是汉文化意义上的汉语,而是一种经过了彝族汉语诗人们全面变构后用以表述和承载彝民族文化发展体系的新的汉语,对建构多民族一体多元的富有中国特色的中国文学理论做出贡献。

For the full interview in Chinese, click here.

Altaic Storytelling Quote of the Week: Ferociously Monolingual America

There is a fluidity to the South Asian language-scape that is wholly lacking in the United States, which is, despite the diverse population, ferociously monolingual. Code-switching, the practice of sliding effortlessly from one language to the next, or mixed idioms, like Hinglish, are practically non-existent in the US, outside of immigrant communities. I find it very hard to switch back and forth mid-stream between Hindi and English.

(Literary translator Daisy Rockwell in interview, Meet the American who translates some of India’s finest Hindi writers into English)

African Literature: On China’s Cultural Radar Yet?

Can Literary Imports Change Chinese Perceptions of Africa?, my piece on AfroLit in Chinese is up now at Sixth Tone:

Since the founding of the modern Chinese state in 1949, there have been three waves of African literary imports. The first, which emerged in the 1980s, was ideologically driven. Empowered by

Nigeria’s Chimamanda Adichie is hot in China: Her “Dear Ijeawele” (亲爱的安吉维拉), is due out in 3Q 2018 — her sixth book to appear in Chinese.

Beijing’s policy of promoting solidarity with the Third World and newly independent nations, state-run imprints like the Foreign Literature Publishing House translated and published a substantial number of African works such as those by the Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka, the Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the Senegalese poet (and former president) Léopold Sédar Senghor, and the Algerian writer Mouloud Mammeri. Anthologies of translated African folktales for children even appeared.

To learn about the 2ndand now the 3rd— most recent wave — click here.

For more about African writing in China, read Feminist: A Dirty Word in Xi Jinping’s China?, or check out my bilingual database of African prose in Chinese translation (非洲文学:中文译本).

The New Xinjiang: Traveling when Uyghur

In Navigating Xinjiang’s Security Checkpoints, Darren Byler, anthropology PhD candidate at the University of Washington, relates his recent experiences in northwest China:

Over the course of a week in cities across Xinjiang, I went through dozens and dozens of checkpoints. I saw young Uighur officers berate elderly Uighurs for not showing their IDs. I saw numerous checkpoints at the sides of roads, where officers appeared to target young Uighur men and women. During my entire trip, I did not see a Han individual produce his or her ID, or even pause for a moment to wonder if they should.

At some checkpoints, officers also asked young Uighurs to give them the passwords to open their smartphones. At these checkpoints, the officers looked at the spyware app Clean Net Guard (Jingwang Weishi) that all Uighurs are now required to install on their phones. The officers matched the registration of the phone to the ID of the person, and they also checked if any alerts had been issued by the app. The app scans the content on the phone and content sent from the phone for any material deemed “extremist” or “separatist.” These types of checkpoints are particularly harrowing for young Uighurs. Evidence from these scans can be used to detain them indefinitely in the reeducation camps.