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

Available now in e-book form at Kobo.com

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An excerpt from the newly published Xinjiang-based novel by Alat Asem,

Confessions of a Jade Lord

《时间悄悄的嘴脸》

Chapter 19

Rechristening a High-rise

In the midst of his hectic days as minor-character-cum-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 keep his promise 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 turns 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,

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 the buyer 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.]

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)

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.