Last Quarter of the Moon (额尔古纳河右岸)

French Translation of Chi Zijian’s “Last Quarter of the Moon” Underway

Latest rendition of Chi Zijian's novel is the Japanese, which translates as "Right Bank of the Argun"
Latest rendition of Chi Zijian’s novel is the Japanese, which translates as “Right Bank of the Argun”


Le dernier quartier de lune to launch in September


Editions Philippe Picquier has acquired the French rights to Last Quarter of the Moon (额尔古纳河的右岸), and it will be co-translated by Stéphane Lévêque and Yvonne André. To date, Chi Zijian’s novel has been published in English (Last Quarter of the Moon), Spanish (A la orilla derecha del Río Argún ), Italian (Ultimo quarto di Luna) Dutch (Het laatste kwartier van de maan), and Japanese (アルグン川の右岸), and will appear in Turkish later this year.

Most recently, Lévêque rendered the first novel in Fan Wen’s trilogy set along the Yunnan-Tibetan border, Harmonious Land (水乳大地), as Terre de lait et de miel, as well as Han Han’s Son royaume (他的国), which is due out soon. But he and André collaborated previously to translate Shanghai writer Wang Anyi’s Le Chant des regrets éternels (长恨歌). See here for details on Lévêque’s other translations from Chinese into French.

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 mountains 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.

For an academic study of the ideologies behind the government’s official policy of resettling the Evenki — and an in-depth look at the psychological impact of divorcing them from their “reindeer lifeworld” — see Forced Relocation amongst the Reindeer Evenki of Inner Mongolia.

Visit Northern Hunting Culture for marvelous pictures of the Aoluguya Evenki, their lifestyle and handicrafts.

For a fascinating look at the etymology of names for rivers, mountains and forests in their homeland on either side of the Sino-Russian border, see Evenki Place Names behind the Hànzì.

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