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.

The Fine Art of Selective News Translation

In Lost in Translation, veteran journalist Nailene Chou Wiest comments on how airbrushing foreign news articles in the name of China boosterism prevents serious discussion of real issues:

Translators in China are not neutral message conveyors but active censor-oriented rewriting hacks. Their job requires the sensitivity of knowing the parameter. Foreign news is not used as a means of national self-reflection, but an adjunct to domestic propaganda. Veteran translators are infuriated by the accusation that they are accomplices to an authoritarian regime. They point out that the core issue is not how to translate, but how to translate and get published. Publish or perish is the rub.

How the translators hew to the adaptation and rewriting is often an indicator of where the publication stands in the Communist Party-condoned ideological spectrum. Reference News (Cankao Xiaoxi) was founded in 1931 as an internal publication to provide the party leadership with an idea of how the world perceived China. When it turned into a mass circulation paper in 1985, translators were given the mandate of selecting passages from world press and adapting a propaganda agenda. Boasting a daily circulation of 3 million, Reference News is influential and profitable. Global Times, a tabloid subsidiary of the People’s Daily, routinely mangles foreign news articles to bolster its nationalistic stance. But when ThePaper.cn was launched this summer, hopes ran high that it would set itself apart to attract weary online readers. There is a sense of betrayal that it commits the same sin of translating only the positive while blocking passages critical of China.

I’ve been following Reference News (参考消息) now for five years or so. To see how it repackages foreign news reports to make China look better — and feel better about itself — please visit China Media.

Extract: “Back Quarters at Number 7” by Manchu Writer Ye Guangqin

Pathlight 2014 SpringIn Back Quarters at Number 7, Ye Guangqin recreates what it was like growing up Manchu in a traditional Beijing hutong during the early years of the New China. Once part of a prince’s stately residence, the Big Courtyard now belongs to the masses and serves as a venue for collective activities such as neighborhood meetings, or rehearsals for the Rice-Planting Dance performed on National Day.

Traditionally, at the very rear of a Qing Dynasty prince’s mansion one finds a two-floor structure that functioned to “enshroud and anchor the entire quadrangular compound.” These “back quarters” — “Number 7” in the cold military parlance of post-liberation Beijing in this tale — housed females. They were private and not easily accessible to men, even those of noble lineage, residing within the compound.

Herself a member of a Manchu family related to the infamous Empress Dowager Cixi, Ye Guangqin peppers this semi-autobiographical story with references to Manchu culture: the mysterious Zhen Gege, whose title “gege” means princess in Manchu (格格); jangkulembi (撞客), a sudden and inauspicious encounter with a spirit that can engender illness or bad fortune; and of course, the traditional art of story-telling among the Manchu that expressed itself during the Qing Dynasty both orally and through literature (Manchu Novelists).

Ironically, the fascination of two children with Grandpa Zhao’s tall tales ends in tragedy when the Cultural Revolution arrives, and Red Guards target class enemies — including remnants of the Qing ruling class.

The full text of the extract below has been published in Spring 2014 Pathlight, a quarterly featuring Chinese literature in translation. The original short story is entitled 后罩楼 and was written by Ye Guangqin (叶广芩).

* * * * *

Back Quarters at Number 7

(Original by Ye Guangqin, translated by Bruce Humes)

 

Grandpa Zhao was a Manchu Bannerman in one of just three elite Banners – there were eight total – personally commanded by the Emperor.

He said one of his ancestors had served in the Emperor’s personal guard at the Hall of Mental Cultivation in the Forbidden City. This relative had seen His Imperial Majesty as He wrote by a window, and watched Him strolling along palace verandas, so he must have been one of His bodyguards. How else could he have witnessed these details in the life of the True Dragon Emperor? [Read more...]

“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.

Crowdsourcing Translation: Disdain Masks Inevitable Trend

In Crowdsourcing Boosts Translation Works, we learn that Yeeyan’s “Project Gutenberg”:

. . . has already translated and published around 200 e-books from different languages [into Chinese], with 300 more titles to go. More than 20 books have also been published in print, and many are scheduled to hit bookstores in the coming months.

Among them are Charles Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle (小猎犬号科学考察纪).

Draft translations are completed by various freelance translators, and then edited for publication by a small team of editors.

But literary translators have their doubts:

“Maybe it works for technical translation,” says Liu Wenfei, a famous translator of Russian books into Chinese. “I will never read literary works translated by multiple translators.”

Whatever. Of course, Liu isn’t exactly your typical target reader, nor is he unbiased.

His opinion obscures two simple points:

  • The quality of current literary translation into Chinese is miserable, so any new approach might find favor with a still rather undiscerning readership;
  • Demand for a wide selection of translated writing from the West, from “pure” literature to management know-how, is so great that well edited, crowdsourced translations is an inevitable trend.

In fact, I’d expect crowdsourced translations from the Chinese to become popular soon — including contemporary literature. Personally, I think the concept of the “lone translator” as the only authentic interpreter of a given work of fiction is overrated . . .

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.

Backgrounder: Modern Ningxia Writers

Collection of short stories by Ningxia's Hui author Ma Jinlian

Collection of short stories by Ningxia’s Hui author Ma Jinlian

Hui author Li Jinxiang (李进祥), born in the 1960s, recently introduced Ningxia writers of fiction and poetry in an article entitled 纯净朴诚的宁夏少数民族文学.  I haven’t read most of these authors and hope to write about them in detail in the future, but for now, I’ll just cite some authors and works for reference.

Major Ningxia-based writers since the 1960s to our day include 马知遥 (Ma Zhiyao), 石舒清 (Shi Shuqing), 查舜 (Cha Shun), 郎伟 (Lang Wei), 金瓯 (Jin Ou), 李进祥 (Li Jinxiang), 白草 (Bai Cao), 单永珍 (Shan Yongzhen), 马占祥 (Ma Zhanxiang), 了一容 (Liao Yirong), 马金莲 (Ma Jinlian), 平原 (Ping Yuan), 阿舍 (A She), 曹海英 (Cao Haiying), and 马悦 (Ma Yue).

Almost all write in Chinese. Ethnicities include Dongxiang, Hui, Manchu, Mongolian, Salar, and Uyhgur. Many are Muslim and religious motifs are common. [Read more...]

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.