Extract from Chi Zijian’s New Novel, “Peak among the Mountains” (群山之巅)

The Saber

When livestock catch sight of Xin Qiza, the Butcher of Longzhan Town, they realize that this is their doomsday sun. They take fright, even though that isn’t a butcher knife strapped at his waist — it’s just his beloved pipe.

Winter or summer, as long as it’s sunny, Xin Qiza needn’t light his pipe with a match. In one of his pants pockets is a fist-sized convex lens, and in the other Chi Zijian's On the Summita clump of birch bark. Whenever he feels like a smoke, he pulls out the lens and turns it towards the sun, concentrating its rays downwards as if they were rushing to town on market day. He generates a flash point, then extracts a paper-thin slice of bark, holds it under the lens for it to catch and lights his pipe.

Of course, starting a fire from the sky isn’t always so easy. On a bright summer’s day, the lens can filch fire in an instant, but in the dead of winter, the North Wind howls and the sun is weak, and fire comes slowly. Still, Xin Qiza is patient. Tobacco lit by the sun has a unique fragrance, he says, and is worth the wait. The lens that he keeps on his person is like a hired hand: he can call him whenever he likes and order him to his heart’s content.

His pipe and lens aside, Xin Qiza’s treasures comprise butcher knives of every description — they are the utensils upon which his livelihood depends. He can’t help but adore them. Amongst farm animals, though, his affection engenders hatred!

After several decades as the Butcher of Longzhan, a bloody bouquet hovers tenaciously about him, and for these animals with their acute sense of smell, it’s like a hidden River of Death, something with which they could not be more familiar. So when he appears by the waterway, and the cows, horses and sheep catch sight of him, no matter how luscious the grass where they are grazing, they raise their hooves and gallop off. When he strolls on the streets and in the alleys, if sunbathing pigs spy him, they tremble and crawl on their bellies, and the odd one loses control of its bladder. When a neighbor’s dog encounters the butcher, if it doesn’t retract its head like a turtle and scamper back to its master for refuge, then it approaches ingratiatingly and licks his shoes, as if appealing for a permanent stay of execution. Xin Qiza doesn’t wear leather shoes. If he did, he wouldn’t need to shine them. [end]

(Partial excerpt from Chi Zijian’s new novel, Peak among the Mountains (群山之巅, 迟子建 著). Translated by Bruce Humes. For full excerpt and information on English language rights, contact Ms. Li at likangqin@99read.com . Read more about Chi Zijian here.)

非漂 [Fēi Piāo] January 2017 Newsbriefs

Alibaba: The House that Jack Ma Built is the business book that most inspired Nigeria’sthe-house-that-jack-ma-built
Iyinoluwa ‘E’ Aboyeji — co-founder of Flutterwave and Andela — last year: There are so many parallels between the intrigues of startups in China and our nascent African Startup ecosystem, he says.

Evan Mwangi reviews John Mugane’s The Story of Swahili and Alamin Mazrui’s The Cultural Politics of Translation: East Africa in Global Contexts, and wonders: Is it time for a slave rebellion in Swahili literary studies?

Etisalat Nigeria has announced the shortlist for the 2016 edition of its pan-African literary prize, the Etisalat Prize for Literature: The Seed Thief (Jacqui L’Ange, South Africa); And After Many Days (Jowhor Ile, Nigeria); Mr & Mrs Doctor (Julie Iromuanya, Nigeria).

Pwaangulongii Dauod tells us How to Write about Northern Nigeria: Your main character should be an imam, or a beggar, or farmer, or a herdsman. Or, all of it. But must be an illiterate and a Muslim who is not interested in science and technology.

 
jamal-by-alkibar-jrThe attempt by terrorists to impose Sharia law upon northern Mali resulted in the mass exodus of many musicians who had made the region famous. But music has returned to the north, and this is a review of Jamal, the first album by the new Malian group Alkibar Jr. that hails from Niafunké. Elements of Songhai, Peuhl and Tamasheq rock/blues figure on the disc.

 

African Theatre 15: China, India & the Eastern World: Newly available volume focuses on China, and features topics such as: How the PRC is  using “soft power” in its extensive engagement with South Africa, and, through its support for theatre festivals, with Lusophone countries in Africa; Construction of theatres, opera houses and cultural facilities as part of its foreign aid programs in Algeria, Cameroon, Mauritius, Ghana and Senegal; and what China is “importing” culturally from Africa.

奇玛曼达·恩戈兹·阿迪契小说 《紫木槿》 出版了:Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the high-profile female Nigerian novelist who is spending much of紫木槿 her time in the US, now has at least three of her works out in Chinese. The
latest, published in January 2017, is her novel, Purple Hibiscus. The other two are The Thing Around Your Neck (绕颈之物) and Half a Yellow Sun (半轮黄日).

Ece Temelkuran: Novels by Provocative Turkish Writer Coming Soon to China

专访|土耳其作家伊切:伊斯坦布尔是帝国,安卡拉是共和国

In a welcome move to break the near-monopoly of fiction sourced from a familiar pool of American, European and Japanese writers, a batch of new Turkish works will be appearing in bookstores throughout China in 2017. And they won’t be limited to further releases by Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, whose name is virtually synonymous with Istanbul among Chinese readers, or Turkey’s most popular female novelist Elif Şafak (The Bastard of Istanbul).

One of the fresh faces coming to China is Ece Temelkuran’s. Notably, she will have not one but three books — including two novels — out in Chinese within

Ece Temelkuran: Turkish novelist, political commentator and investigative journalist

Ece Temelkuran: Turkish novelist, political commentator and investigative journalist

2017. The first of these, 香蕉的低语 (Banana Sounds), set in war-torn Beirut, launched in October 2016. Now under translation are a novel about four women motoring across North Africa, 《下诅咒的女人》(暂译)(Why Have a Revolution if I Can’t Dance), and a book-length exploration of “Turkishness,” intriguingly entitled 我的祖国:土耳其的疯狂与忧愁 (Turkey: The Insane and the Melancholy).

At long last, Turkey’s most classic novel of the 20th century, The Time Regulation Institute, was published in Chinese earlier this year (时间调校研究所). Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar’s satirical look at the effects of a social engineering project gone awry — in which the Turkish authorities urge the public to jettison its Ottoman culture and ape the West no matter how bizarre the result — has been rendered by a German-based Chinese translator, Tan Lin (谭琳). Regrettably, the Chinese is based upon the German translation of Tanpınar’s original; indeed, there is a dearth of well-trained Turkish-Chinese literary translators, though several of Pamuk’s novels have been translated from the Turkish for Horizon Books.

%e9%a6%99%e8%95%89%e7%9a%84%e4%bd%8e%e8%af%adThe Time Regulation Institute joins a series of five Chinese renditions of contemporary Turkish novels already published by Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing (土耳其当代文学丛书). They include novels by some of Turkey’s best known living writers, such as Oya Baydar and Mario Levi. An additional four Turkish novels will join the series in 2017. They are: The Dervish Gate by Ahmet Ümit (托钵僧之门); Hakan Günday’s The Few (黑暗边缘); Hakan Bıçakçı’s Dark Room (黑屋), and Secrets Dreamed in Istanbul (伊斯坦布尔寻梦记,暂译) by Nermin Yıldırım. [Read more…]

“Hiraeth,” Speaking in Tongues, and Penang’s Georgetown Literary Festival (Nov 25-27)

georgetown-literary-festivalI will be one of four translators taking part in Speaking in Tongues: The Art and Craft of Translation on Saturday November 26 at the “Georgetown Literary Festival” in Penang. Our panel will be moderated by Gareth Richards, and fellow translators will be Pauline Fan, Jérome Bouchard and Muhammad Haji Salleh.

You can check out the full festival program here.

Intriguingly, the theme for this year’s festival is hiraeth, a Welsh term that Wikipedia defines as:

Homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed . . . a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness . . . for the Wales of the past. 

We can assume that the Wales part of the formula won’t be the focal point, since nostalgia for British colonial rule is not a mainstream sentiment here. At least, I don’t think so.

I was pleased to find an essay by Malaysian feminist Zainah Anwar in the first few pages of the handbook, suggesting that this festival is not intended as an ivory tower event for the local intellectual elite. Trump and the Red Shirts of Malaysia both got a mention, for one. Have a read: [Read more…]

African Themes at Frankfurt Book Fair 2016 (Oct 19-23)

Topic: From Africa to Europe: Refugees at the border in Melilla 

Date/venue: 15:00-16:00, Oct 20, Weltempfang Stage (Hall 3.1 L 25), Frankfurt Book Fair

Language: German/English

That the EU is watching its external borders is made clear by the border fence at Melilla, the Spanish city bordering on Morocco. Björn Kuhligk’s poem Die Sprache von Gibraltar (“The Language of Gibraltar”) examines the migration of people fleeing Africa. Kuhligk has done his research on the ground. He joins Flemish-Moroccan author Rachida Lamrabet, and Moroccan essayist Rachid Boutayeb to take a closer look at this bottleneck.

* * * * * *

Topic: How do artists, creative cultural professionals and academics from Africa view the future?

Date/venue: 12:00-13:00, Oct 23, Weltempfang Stage (Hall 3.1 L 25), Frankfurt Book Fair

Language:  German/English

Panel: Moderated by Sean O’Toole (art critic, co-publisher African Futures) with Lauren Beukes (South African writer), Smangele Mathebula (South African literary activist) and Angela Wachuka (head of Kwani Trust, curator of African Futures in Kenya)

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.

Vladivostok, Ancestral Manchu Territory: Home to Russia’s Pacific Fleet — For Now

In Vladivostok Lures Chinese Tourists (Many Think It’s Theirs), the NYT’s Andrew Higgins reminds us that the city was ceded by the Qing Dynasty to Russia in 1860 in one of those infamous “unequal treaties”:

Cui Rongwei, a businessman from northeastern China, could not afford a trip to Paris, so he settled for an exotic taste of Europe right on China’s doorstep. He liked Vladivostok so much that he has made three trips there to savor a city so strikingly different from his own hometown just a few score miles away.

Yet, like nearly all Chinese who visit a city whose Russian name means “master of the East,” Mr. Cui is absolutely certain about one thing: The place should really be called Haishenwai [海參崴], the name it had back when China was master in these parts.

A native of the Chinese province of Jilin in Manchuria, Mr. Cui said it was a “historical fact” that the home of Russia’s Pacific Fleet and the showcase of President Vladimir V. Putin’s ambitions to project his country as an Asian power is in reality Chinese territory.

Or at least it was, until the Treaty of Beijing, signed in 1860 after China’s defeat by Britain in the Second Opium War, placed Vladivostok and other territory to the northeast of what is now North Korea firmly in Russian hands.

Sakharov Prize for Uyghur Intellectual Ilham Tohti?

In an open letter entitled Donnons le prix Sakharov à un intellectuel ouïghour published in the French newspaper Libération on July 14, 2016, three prominent French citizens propose awarding the Sakharov Prize to Ilham Tohti:

Il est temps que l’opinion publique francophone s’empare de son cas : à force d’évoquer les méfaits de Daech, d’Isis ou de Boko Haram, on en vient à oublier que certains citoyens de religion musulmane pourraient faire la différence et ramener la paix dans un monde déchiré par la haine et le rejet de l’autre. Ilham Tohti fait certainement partie de ceux-là. Sa place n’est pas dans le Centre de détention numéro 1 d’Urumqi au Xinjiang, et le prix Sakharov serait à la fois un hommage et un message d’espoir envoyé à une victime innocente de la dictature implacable du président chinois Xi Jinping. Aux députés européens de se mobiliser en sa faveur ! 

Full text in English: Give the Sakharov Prize to an Uighur Intellectual.

May 2016: Altaic Storytelling Newsbriefs

走进中国少数民族丛书·蒙古族  (lit., Up Close with the Mongols) the latest volume in a series of 走进中国少数民族丛书·蒙古族Chinese-language books that will eventually profile each of China’s 55 officially designated minority ethnicities, has been launched. It is published by Liaoning Ethnic Publishing House. To date, 8 books featuring peoples of northeast China are out: Daur, Evenki, Hezhen, Korean (Chaoxian), Manchu, Mongols, Oroqen, and Xibe.

An exhibition showcasing the lifestyle of the Oroqen (鄂伦春) has opened at the new Huma Museum (呼玛博物馆) in Heilongjiang’s Greater Khingan Mountains (大兴安岭). The Oroqen are a Tungusic-speaking people closely related to the reindeer-herding Evenki (鄂温克) who figure in Chi Zijian’s Last Quarter of the Moon. Displays feature the Oroqen’s mobile housing, known to the Han as 撮罗子 (similar to teepee of native North Americans), hunting, dancing and Shamanism.

1944, a ballad sung by Jamala evoking the deportation of Crimean Tatars by Josef Stalin, has won the 2016 Eurovision song contest for Ukraine (Politically Charged). Inevitably, the song’s lyrics are interpreted as a criticism of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 via Putin’s “Little Green Men.” The Crimean Tatars emerged as a nation at the time of the Crimean Khanate, an Ottoman vassal state, during the 15th to 18th centuries. Tatar is a Turkic language, classified as a member of the West Kipchak branch.

Madonna in a Fur Coat (Kürk Mantolu Madonna) by the 20th-century Turkish author Sabahattin Ali has just been published in English by Penguin. Translated by Maureen Freely, the novel centers on a post-World War I love affair between Turkish student Raif Efendi and a German singer, Maria Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 10.35.02Puder, in Berlin. The Turkish edition has sold 750,000 copies “in the last three years alone,” according to one article (Glorious Comeback). It appears that the Chinese edition (I think this is the same novel) appeared way before Penguin got around to it, however, as 穿皮大衣的玛利亚 was out back in 1984. At any rate, the Turkish have a curious way of showing appreciation for their authors — the article also notes that the “left-wing poet, writer and journalist was a fierce critic of the government during the early years of the Turkish Republic. He was imprisoned at least twice and was killed in 1948 by an unknown assailant in a murder widely attributed to Turkey’s secret service.”

Altaic Storytelling: What We’re Reading Now (2016.4.12)

Following Xinjiang's Kazakh herders during their winter migration

Following Xinjiang’s Kazakh herders during their winter migration

Just started 冬牧场 (lit, winter pasture) by Li Juan. In 2010, she was commissioned to live with a Kazakh family as they herded their camels, sheep and horses deep into the desert of southern Altay where they traditionally graze during the bitterly cold winter. Her job: To document the little known, semi-nomadic lifestyle of Xinjiang’s Kazakh that features seasonal migrations.

Li Juan (李娟) is a young female Han writer born in Xinjiang. She spent most of her childhood in Sichuan before returning, and by her own admission, speaks only a smattering of Kazakh. See here for an introduction to her writing — all of which revolves around Xinjiang — including links to translations of some of her shorter pieces. To date, within China her best known titles are probably two collections of essays entitled 我的阿勒泰 (lit, my Altay) and 阿勒泰的角落 (lit, corners of Altay).

Promotional copy on douban reads as follows:

2010年冬天,李娟跟随一家哈萨克牧民深入阿勒泰南部的冬季牧场、沙漠,度过了一段鲜为人知的荒野生活。作为第一位描写哈萨克民族冬牧生活的汉族作家,她以饱含深情、灵气飞扬又不失节制的文字,呈现出阿尔泰最后一批 “荒野主人” 冬季转场时的独特生存景观,令人叹为观止。