Swedish Readers to Get First Glance into World of China’s Marginalized Reindeer Herders

With the upcoming launch of Ett brokigt band om renens horn, we have a rare instance of a member of China’s dwindling reindeer-herding Evenki telling her people’s story in a European language. Given the historic

“There are some things that, if I don’t record them, will truly be forgotten. I began collecting and collating our traditional handicrafts and legends. I want to use words to leave a record of everything about us Evenki.”

marginalization of Scandinavia’s own semi-nomadic reindeer-herders, the Sami, it is particularly significant to see that the first translation of the novel will appear in Swedish.

Translator and co-publisher Anna Gustaffsson Chen tells me that the book is being printed right now, and should be available “within a few weeks.” It is translated direct from the novel in Chinese, 驯鹿角上的彩带 (lit., colored ribbon on the reindeer’s horns), authored by Keradam Balajieyi, the daughter of the Evenki’s last Shamaness. See here for more about the novel.

The unique lifestyle and gradual 20th-century demise of the Evenki, particularly the Aoluguya Evenki in the Greater Khingan Mountains on the China side of the Amur, has actually been fairly well documented, but usually by outsiders. One of the first written records was penned by Gu Deqing (顾德清), a Han with an intense interest in the Evenki, who — despite efforts by the authorities to protect the isolated Evenki from contact with the outside world — hunted with them in 80s and wrote (the as yet untranslated) 猎民生活日记 (lit., Diary of a Hunting People’s Life). Gu Tao (顾桃), his son by his Manchu wife, has since gone on to shoot several renowned documentaries about them.  See Gu Tao’s Northern Hunting People for dozens of still photos featuring the Evenki lifestyle, handicrafts and their beloved reindeer.

Nor has the plight of the Evenki been neglected by foreign anthropologists. See Forced Relocation amongst the Reindeer-Evenki of Inner Mongolia, by Richard Fraser.

But perhaps the best known tale of the Aoluguya Evenki is the one told in Chi Zijian’s much-translated novel, 额尔古纳河右岸, now available in Dutch, English (The Last Quarter of the Moon), French, Italian, Japanese, Korean and Spanish. See here for a multilingual list of related links.

In fact, Chinese-to-Swedish translator Chen is also slated to translate The Last Quarter of the Moon from the Chinese, but has apparently chosen to do Ett brokigt band om renens horn first. It will be interesting to compare the two, because Chi Zijian is a monolingual Han writer imagining herself as an Evenki woman in her 90s, while Balajieyi is writing about her own people.

Trilogy Set on Yunnan-Tibetan Border

All three of the novels in Fan Wen’s trilogy set on the Yunnan-Tibetan border in the 19-20th centuries are now available — in one form or another:

My favorite so far was the first novel in the trilogy, Shuǐ rǔ dàdì, which I described thusly in my interview with the author (A Century of Cultural Collisions in Shangri-la):

[Shuǐ rǔ dàdì] . . . tells the tale of a multi-ethnic settlement in Lancangjiang Canyon — Gateway to Tibet — beset by battles between arrogant French Catholic missionaries, incompetent Han officials and their marauding troops, Naxi Dongba Shamanists, and the dominant Tibetans, not all of whom lead pacific, vegetarian lives in the local lamasery.

But the newest of the novels to be published (translated by Shelly Bryant), is Land of Mercy. Marcia Johnson in Shanghai has written to mention that she bought the Kindle version, is enjoying it, and notes that several of the chapters include “Field Notes” by the author about how he — a devout Catholic convert raised in Sichuan — came to “learn about some of the seemingly magical elements he weaves into his tale.”

See here for an interview in French with the translator of Terre de lait et de miel.

Altaic Storytelling: What We’re Reading Now (2017.5)

A few years back I read a longish, semi-autobiographical novel by Guo Xuebo (郭雪波), who was raised in the Horchin Grasslands of Inner Mongolia (科尔沁草原) and is a native speaker of Mongolian. Entitled 《蒙古里亚》— an attempt to replicate the sound of “Mongolia” in Chinese, I assume — it comprises three distinct narratives that are intricately intertwined as the novel progresses: A spiritual journey, in which the narrator/author seeks his Shaman roots; various “scenes” from the journey of a real-life, early 20th-century Scandinavian explorer among the Mongols; and the tribulations of Teelee Yesu (特勒约苏), a modern-day Mongolian herdsman, considered by many to be the village idiot, whose very survival is threatened by desertification and the machinations of a greedy coal mining company. I just finished my draft translation of an excerpt from the novel (The Mongol Would-be Self-immolator), in which Teelee is jailed for threatening to self-immolate (自焚). The excerpt all takes place in jail, as a bevy of reporters, Banner honchos and a mysterious security official alternately congratulate, chide and interrogate him, the latter out of fear that — heaven forbid! — he has been inspired by Tibet’s self-immolating Buddhist monks.

I’ve just started reading Manas Resurrected, a short story by Xi’an’s Hong Ke (《复活的玛纳斯》红柯 著). As far as I know, it has not been translated yet. I’m intrigued for two reasons: The reference to the ancient Kyrgyz epic Manas, and the fact that it is set in the early 60s when the Soviet Union’s Kazakhstan did its best to lure Xinjiang residents (mainly Kazakhs and Uyghurs) across the border. Apparently as many as 60,000+ did actually leave China. I don’t know much about this mass movement or the politics behind it, but it has not been forgotten in the PRC. The exodus came up in a short story (Sidik Golden MobOff) and again in a novel (Zuilian) by the Xinjiang-based Uyghur author Alat Asem, both of which I translated. He repeatedly refers to the attraction a new life in Kazakhstan exercised on many Uyghurs during that period, and at times his protagonists speak of the émigrés with great disdain.

Hundreds of Turkish Journalists in Jail or on the Run

The Hürriyet Daily News English edition reports:

Exiled in Germany: Can Dündar, former editor-in-chief of Cumhurriyet. An arrest warrant in absentia was issued in Turkey for him on 31 October 2016.

Some 123 Turkish journalists are fugitives abroad, while 159 of them were in jail as of the end of April, according to a report by the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC). 


The Freedom of Expression and Press report, which was made possible by the European Union, said 46 new investigations were launched and 20 additional cases were filed against journalists in the first four months of 2017, [Turkish-language] daily Cumhuriyet reported on May 19.

“In the past four months, Turkey continued to be the world leader with the number of journalists in jail,” the report said, adding that in nearly all of the cases regarding journalists, demands for trial without arrest had been rejected.”

 

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.

Ahmet Ümit Translation Forum: No Chinese Presence?

A one-day symposium titled “Translating Ahmet Ümit into Foreign Languages” will be held on

Reportedly now working on a thriller set around the Syrian refugee crisis

Reportedly now working on a thriller set around the Syrian refugee crisis

April 7 in Istanbul at Okan University’s Beyoğlu campus. The symposium will be attended by 11 translators from various countries, according to a report in Hurriyet Daily News.

For a Turkish writer of fiction, Ümit (阿赫梅特·乌米特) has been fairly widely translated into Chinese. His novels now available in Chinese include 《伊斯坦堡死亡纪事》(A Memento for Istanbul) and《隐没与谎言》 (Patasana), and translation of The Dervish Gate  《托钵僧之门》is underway at Shanghai Art & Literature Publishing (上海文艺出版社).

According to Hurriyet, among the translators who will join the event are “Rafael Carpintero Ortega (Spanish), Rakesh Jobanputra (English), Sabine Adatepe (German), Barbara La Rosa (Italian), Aneta Matovska (Macedonian), Elen Ivanova (Bulgarian), Nina Rajkovic (Croatian), Thanos Zarangalis (Greek) and Vesna Gazdic (Serbian).”

Based on this report, it appears that none of his Chinese translators will be present.

For insight into which overseas readerships are targeted by the Turkish government, see Soft Power Strategy: Where Does China Figure in Turkey’s Literary Translation Program?

Boubacar Boris Diop and His Wolof Publication Initiative

Boubacar Boris Diop, Senegalese author of Doomi Golo which he wrote in Wolof (and later translated into French), has launched the “Céytu” initiative to publish major works of francophone literature in Wolof. The language is spoken by about 11m people in Sénégal,Mariama Bâ Bataaxal bu gudde nii Mauritania and the Gambia. In this interview with Anne Bocandé of africultures.com, he explains the three works he has begun with:

Une si longue lettre [好长的一封信] de Mariama Bâ s’imposait par sa valeur propre mais aussi par l’exceptionnelle traduction, qui existait déjà, de Mame Younousse Dieng et Arame Fal ; L’Africain de Jean-Marie Le Clézio, est un tour de force en ce sens qu’il reste une confession à la fois intime et d’une ahurissante précision documentaire ; la pièce de Césaire sur l’assassinat de Lumumba a beau dater des années 70, elle reste actuelle quand on pense, par exemple, au destin tragique d’un Thomas Sankara, aux événements du Burkina et même au rôle plus que douteux de l’ONU dans des événements allant du génocide des Tutsi du Rwanda à la Syrie ou la Libye. J’avais une folle envie de traduire Une saison au Congo et maintenant, je souhaite faire jouer la pièce dans les grandes villes du Sénégal.

To read the full interview, click here.

To visit Céytu: Littérature en Wolof, click here.

非漂 [Fēi Piāo] April 2017 Newsbriefs

Chimamanda Ngozi, the Afropolitan: . . . because she has walked so confidently into the realm of non-fiction, and has agreed on multiple occasions, to take up the mantle of “spokesperson,” there is an increasing expectation that she is up to the task; that she can in fact authentically speak on behalf of the fans who adore her. Over time those fans have included young women enthralled by her popularization of existing mainstream feminist ideas and LGBTI communities across the diaspora and in urban European, American and African contexts. 

April 8 Marseilles event: Paroles et danses sacrées ! Poésies Poesis et chants vaudouet Chants vaudou with Hyacinthe Kougniazondé (griot né au Bénin); PéPé Oleka (musicienne Nigérienne); Sùnnù Wedo (“urban griot”); Mona Georgelin (professeure de danse gwoka); Médard Sossa (chorégraphe, danseur, percussionniste et chanteur).

Congo’s Francophone author Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses (translated from his novel, Petit Piment) has been longlisted for the prestigious translated literature award, Man Booker Int’l Prize 2017. Amazingly, none of his works have been published yet in Chinese. 刚果法语作家阿兰‧马邦库: 为何没有中文译本?

Fox 2000 has reportedly acquired the movie rights for 23-year-old Nigerian-American author Tomi Adeyemi’s debut young adult West African fantasy novel, Children of Blood and Bone, which is the first in what will be a trilogy. This despite the fact that the book has yet to arrive in a bookstore. Henry Holt Books for Young Readers will publish under Macmillan Publishers. Adeyemi joins the likes of Chimamanda Adichie and Chinua Achebe who have had their novels Half of a Yellow Sun (半轮黄日) and Things Fall Apart (这个世界土崩瓦解了) adapted for the silver screen. And watch the trailor for Adichie’s more recent Americannah here.

Among Three Percent’s candidates for its 2017 Best Translated Book Prize are several works whose originals were penned by African writers. On the 25-Doomi Golo by Boobacar Boris Diopstrong fiction list are Senegalese author Boubacar Baris Diop’s novel Doomi Golo: The Hidden Notebooks and Egyptian author Basma Abdel Aziz’s novel The Queue, and on the 10-strong poetry list is Moroccan author Abdellatif Laabi’s collection In Praise of Defeat. You can read background info about these three here. Doomi Golo is reportedly the first novel ever to be translated from the Wolof into English. But perhaps more interesting is Diop’s story about how he rendered it himself in French, although this act of auto-traduction took him five years. When it came out in Wolof, a friend commented: « Tout à fait entre nous, tu t’es bien fait plaisir en écrivant dans ta langue maternelle, c’est très bien, bravo, mais mets-toi à présent au travail et donne-nous le même roman dans une vraie langue. Ne penses-tu pas que ce sera plus simple pour tout le monde ?» For a fascinating explanation of the process, see Écrire entre deux langues. De Doomi Golo aux Petits de la Guenon.

Factoids re: Africa-based Confucius Institutes (孔子院), according to the official Hanban web site: There are 46 institutes now up and running (mainly within a university), with at least one located in 36 of Africa’s 54 countries, including 8 in South Africa, 5 each in Ethiopia and Kenya, and 3 in Tanzania.

非漂 [Fēi Piāo] March 2017 Newsbriefs

Call for Papers

Workshop on Strategies for the Promotion of African Language Literature. To be held at the University of Vienna May 2-4. Deadline for abstracts: March 15, 2017.

 

Topics

J.O.J. Nwachukwu-Agbada’s Nigerian Written Literature Since 1914: . . . to write a piece of African literature without the injection of African traditional materials is like preparing a soup without thinking of salt. African oral materials found even in snippets confer authenticity on the modern African literary heritage. Thus Achebe, Soyinka, Okigbo, Okara, Aluko, Clark, Ike, Amadi, etc. are today remembered among other reasons for what they have made of orature which they inherited from their different cultures . . . recent writers are even more aggressively adept at appropriating folk materials: Osofisan, Okri, Osundare, Fatoba, Sowande, Ofeimun, Enekwe, Nwabueze, Ezenwa-Ohaeto . . .

Full text of speech by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o in Pretoria in early March, Decolonize the Mind, Secure the Base: The entire African language speaking majorities are taxed directly or indirectly so that 90 percent of the resources available for language education can go to English accents. In some countries African language have been unceremoniously axed out of the curriculum or made into electives. Some advocates of English dominance not only want it so but would actually like to see the literary disappearance of native languages altogether. 

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.)