New Guidelines for China Literary Awards: You Don’t Need a Weatherman

In Art and Literature Awards to Evaluate ‘Social Benefits’ of Works, Nectar Gan reports that in the wake of Xi Jinping’s speech on the arts last week, the Ministry of Culture:

. . . will now develop a set of criteria for the evaluation for arts and literature according to the demands of Xi and party [said Zhu Di, head of the art department of the ministry].

The guidelines will focus on social benefits, artistic standards, aesthetic taste and popular acclaim instead of solely relying on commercial success, critical acclaim and online popularity.

“I Am Malala” and China’s Nobel Prize Complex

Readers in Taiwan were reading I am Malala a year ago — in Chinese (我是马拉拉), if they wished.

So why is it that people living in China still can’t get their hands on a version published in simplified Chinese?

As usual, you aren’t going to find out via the mainstream media in China. Several items have appeared lionizing the Sichuan People’s Press for我是马拉拉 its “timely” purchase of the rights to publish it in China, and its damn near herculean efforts to get it out to consumers by . . . the end of this month (我是马拉拉 “四川造”).

Given that the China version is based on the Taiwan one — same translator, 翁雅如 — translation time was obviously not a major factor in the year-long discrepancy in publication times. The China edition was apparently polished or partially re-translated by 朱浩, but the article suggests that this was mainly to ensure place names, etc., were rendered according to PRC standards.

It could be that joint venture publisher and rights holder Hachette Phoenix was asking for a higher price than Chinese publishers were at first willing to pay.

At any rate, it’s clear that when Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Chinese publishing world could be confident that she’d sell well in China. And so a deal was struck within just a day or two of the Nobel Committee’s announcement.

Kind of sad, really. Surely the story of a fearless young Pakistani who took a bullet in the head as the price for promoting girls’ education would have been of interest to Chinese readers, regardless of a nobel laureate’s halo?

China Censorship Update: GAPP’s Latest Publication Ban and Watch-list

I have learned that works by Yu Ying-shih (余英时, historian), Leung Man-tao (梁文道, social commentator), Xu Zhiyuan (许志远, newspaper columnist), Ye Fu (野夫), Chen Ziming (陈子鸣, democracy activist), Mao Yushi (茅于轼, economist), Zhang Qianfan (张千帆, legal expert at Beijing U) and Xu Xiao (许 徐晓) can no longer be published in China, according to a publishing professional who attended the October 11 meeting where this was announced by GAPP (广电局), which wields the nation’s censorship taser.

It appears one reason behind this is that some of these personalities have come out in support of Hong Kong’s ongoing Occupy Central campaign [Read more...]

Trend: Chinese Fiction Writers Opting to Publish First Outside the Mainland

Death FugueJoining popular contemporary fiction authors such as Feng Tang (不二), Yan Lianke (四书) and Murong Xuecun (various essays), female writer Sheng Keyi has chosen to publish one of her latest works first in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Death Fugue (死亡赋格) has also been translated by Shelly Bryant and published in English in Australia.

In Chinese Writer, Tackling Tiananmen, Aims for Work with “Power to Offend” (Oct 10 NY Times), Jane Perlez reports:

Publishers in China, including Penguin, which released an earlier novel by Ms. Sheng, “Northern Girls” [北妹] about the sexual exploits of young women who migrate to the cities, passed on “Death Fugue.” Chinese editors decided the story line was too controversial. Penguin, she said, failed to give her a response. The novel has appeared in Hong Kong and Taiwan in Chinese, and last month, it made its English-translation debut with a small Australian literary imprint, Giramondo.

“Last Quarter of the Moon” Long-listed for Banff Mountain Book Competition

Banff Mountain FestivalI’ve just learned that Last Quarter of the Moon, my translation of Chi Zijian’s 《额尔古纳河右岸》, has been nominated for the “Mountain Fiction and Poetry Award.” Winners will be announced November 6, 2014 at The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival in Banff, Alberta.

Annoyingly, my name is not listed as translator of the novel, despite the fact that it couldn’t have been nominated if I hadn’t rendered it in English . . .

Narrated in the first person by the aged wife of the last chieftain of an Evenki clan, the Last Quarter of the Moon (or Right Bank of the Argun, as it is dubbed in Chinese)  is a moving tale of the decline of reindeer-herding nomads in the sparsely populated, richly forested Greater Khingan mountains (大兴安岭山脉) that border on Russia.

At the end of the twentieth century an old woman sits among the birch trees and thinks back over her life, her loves, and the joys and tragedies that have befallen her family and her people. She is a member of the Evenki tribe who wander the remote forests of northeastern China with their herds of reindeer, living in close sympathy with nature at its most beautiful and cruel.

Over the last three centuries, three waves of outsiders have encroached upon the Evenki’s isolated way of life: the Russians, whose warring and plundering eventually pushed the Evenki down from Siberia across to the southern (“right”) bank of the Argun River, the tributary of the Amur that defines the Sino-Russian border; the Japanese, who forcibly recruit their men into the ranks of the Manchukuo Army; and the Han Chinese of the People’s Republic, who fell the forests that are crucial to the survival of reindeer, outlaw hunting, and eventually coerce the Evenki to leave the mountains for life in a “civilized” permanent settlement.

If you’re interested in how the Evenki christened the peaks, rivers and settlements among which they lived for centuries, check out Evenki Place Names Behind the HànzìFor dozens of marvelous photos of Evenki handicrafts, and the Evenki in the wild herding their deer, hunting and so forth, see Northern Hunting Culture. In her Afterword to the novel— in English here — author Chi Zijian recounts how she grew up near the Argun River and mountains inhabited by the Oroqen, close relatives of the Evenki.

Created 39 years ago, the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival showcases films, books and photographs on mountain subjects – climbing, culture, environment and natural history, exploration and adventure, wildlife, and sport – and attracts personalities in mountaineering, adventure filmmaking, and extreme sports as presenters and speakers. More than 80 films will screen during the nine-day festival, and an international jury will award over $50,000 in prizes.

Big Breasts and Wide Hips for the Turks

As reported earlier on my blog (Monopoly), the Turks are working feverishly to bring the works of China’s Nobel Laureate, Mo Yan, to Turkey.Iri Memeler ve Geniş Kalçalar

His latest edition to launch in Turkish: İri Memeler ve Geniş Kalçalar (丰乳肥臀 aka Big Breasts and Wide Hips), translated by Erdem Kurtuldu and published by Can Yayınları. Next to appear will reportedly be Frog (蛙) and Life and Death are Wearing Me Out (生死疲劳). Kızıl Darı Tarlaları (Red Sorghum) hit the shelves in 2013.

See table for details on other Chinese novels available in Turkish.

New Chinese Dictionary: Just Another Reason Why Translators Need Google

20140826165308b3619In What’s In a Wordwe learn that the latest update of The Dictionary of Modern Standard Chinese (现代汉语规范辞典) from the Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press has intentionally excluded the following popular vocabulary:

Not admitted to the new edition were such words as diaosi (屌丝), literally “silk penis” but meaning “loser”; shengnü (剩女), or “leftover woman”; shengnan (剩男), “leftover man”; and baifumei (白富美), meaning “white, rich and beautiful.”

Why so?

Li Xingjian, the chief editor of the dictionary, said a team of about 30 language experts worked for more than three years with help from the state-backed National Languages Committee to select the new terms. They took into account three main considerations: whether the term has entered public discourse, whether circulation of the term has stabilized and whether the term meets a minimum level of tastefulness.

“We considered and discussed a huge list,” Mr. Li said in a telephone interview. “A term like diaosi is not very tasteful, and it’s unlikely to endure for much longer. And shengnü, we just thought it wasn’t that significant. It’s used a lot by young people online, but otherwise people don’t really use it.”

Like just about all the Chinese and Chinese-English dictionaries I’ve seen published in China, this one obviously falls into the “prescriptive” category, i.e., unlike “descriptive” ones which focus on capturing linguistic phenomena — regardless of political correctness — a prescriptive dictionary’s editors perceive their mission as noting only those words which are, well, “fit to print.”

I’ve been back in China from Turkey now for about two weeks, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time ensuring I have a good VPN service that gives me access to Google and other online research tools. The philosophy behind this sort of dictionary is one reason why such access is essential.

Translated Chinese Literature: Rise in Deals with Respected Publishers outside China

In Major Deals with Foreign Publishing Houses and Copyright Agents, we learn that Chinese copyright holders are becoming more aggressive about finding respected publishing partners for fiction outside China — a change from the earlier practice of working with Chinese affiliates or 2nd-rate overseas publishers:

People’s Literature Publishing House has reached a deal with New York Review of Books and French publisher Hachette Publishing to publish English and French versions of Invisible Cloak, which won writer Ge Fei the 2014 Lu Xun Literature Prize for best novella. The Chinese-to-English translator Canaan Morse won the Susan Sontag Prize for his translation of the book.

 

 

2014 Beijing Book Fair: English-language Guide to Literary Events

August 25 Update: Now Complete & Online — Full Official BIBF Schedule of Literary Events in English (Aug 27-31) Or, if you want it in Chinese, click 活动手册

Sino-Russia Literary Forum (9:00 -17:00, Aug 28, 29)

All day event featuring various Russian and Chinese writers making presentations and engaging in round-table discussions. Russian writers: Irina Barmetova, Ivor Volgin,Sergey Esin, Olga Slavnikova, Igor Egorov, Alexander Girgorenko, Alexander Arhangelski, Valeria Putsovaya,Maxin Amelin, Aleksey Varlamov. Chinese writers: He Jianming, Liang Hongying, Zhaomei, Qiu Huadong, Li Er, Qiao Ye, Zhang Qinghua, Qiao Liang Wang Hongjia. [Read more...]

“Daur Epic Narratives”: New Approach Aims to Capture Original Daur Flavor

达斡尔英雄叙事A few years ago, oral epics of non-Han peoples in China — if ever published — tended to be presented in Chinese (translation). To the uninitiated, this implied that these tales existed just in Chinese.

More recently, bilingual versions have occasionally appeared, i.e., with the original language printed in IPA or a script familiar only to scholars, and a fluent translation provided in Chinese.

Daur Epic Narratives (达斡尔英雄叙事) goes a step further by providing the full tale in Daur (written in Latin letters), a word-by-word literal translation in Chinese characters on the facing page, and then a full, fluent translation of the entire text in modern Chinese. This should allow the reader — be s/he Daur or anyone fluent in written Chinese — to get a better feeling of how the original was told, and how Daur idioms differ from Chinese.

Daur is a Mongolic language. According to Wikipedia (Daur), during the Qing Dynasty, it was written with the Manchu alphabet, but currently “There is no written standard in use, although a Pinyin-based orthography has been devised; instead the Daur make use of Mongolian or Chinese, as most speakers know these languages as well.”