Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast: Q & A with Translator of “Last Quarter of the Moon”

Angus Stewart recently interviewed me about translating Chi Zijian’s novel that chronicles the tragic twilight of the reindeer-herding, Tungusic-speaking Evenki of northeastern China. The tale has since been translated into several languages, including French, Japanese and Swedish.

You can find the podcast here:

Episode 42 of the Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast

Ep 61 – Chen Xiwo and The Book of Sins with Nicky Harman The Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast

I loathe reason. Reason is the sort of rubbish you can indulge in when life is sweet, like love and honour. I totally reject it. In the sixty first episode of The Translated Chinese Fiction we are opening The Book of Sins (冒犯书 / Màofàn Shū), by edgelord-with-a-conscience Chen Xiwo. Playing common-sense counterpoint to my doom-laden interpretations of the text is its translator, Nicky Harman. Here’s what we deal with: pain, incest, and the political uses of shock, horror, and offensiveness. Are you sure about this? You can delete this episode now. Do you choose to hit play? – // NEWS ITEMS // The Dark Forest Theory of the Internet by Bogna Konoir – applies Liu Cixin’s logic to cyberspace Sense of Place – new issue of Pathlight Magazine Gei Fei’s Peach Blossom Paradise bags spot in translated literature finalist list for US 2021 National Book Awards TOR announces full contents of The Way Spring Arrives – // WORD OF THE DAY // (痛 – tòng – pain) – // MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE // Nicky’s musical pairing: Stride la Vampa from Il Trovatore Angus’ musical pairing: God’s Away on Business by Tom Waits Chen Xiwo’s speech on literary censorship in the PRC, given at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club in 2010 A Banned Take on Contemporary China: Wall Street Journal review of The Book of Sins Haunted by Chuck Palahnuik Thomas Ligotti, anhedonic pessimist horror writer Lit by Mary Karr, a considerably more functional individual Various edgy Chinese novels: Playing for Thrills … 1988: I Want to Talk with the World … Dancing Through Red Dust … Shanghai Baby … A Perfect Crime – // Handy TrChFic Links // Episode Transcripts Help Support TrChFic The TrChFic Map INSTAGRAM // TWITTER // DISCORD // HOMEPAGE
  1. Ep 61 – Chen Xiwo and The Book of Sins with Nicky Harman
  2. Ep 60 – Chan Ho-kei and Second Sister with Michelle Deeter
  3. Ep 59 – More Than One Child with Shen Yang and Nicky Harman
  4. Ep 58 – A Que and Flower of the Other Shore with Xueting Ni
  5. Ep 57 – Chih-Ying Lay and Home Sickness with Darryl Sterk

如果你正在中国,这链接可能更合适: Episode 42 of the Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast

As it is a fairly long interview, I’ve noted several of the themes and when they occur. No guarantee that you can “pick and choose,” but here they are in case you are able to do so on your smartphone or PC:

0.13: Q & A begins
0:17 Turkic languages
0:19 Overview of Evenki within multi-ethnic China
0:23 Treaty of Nerchinsk
0:27 China’s 56 official “minzu”
0.33 Nomadic lifestyle of reindeer-herding Evenki
0:39 Arrival of the Han & their lumberjacks
0:42 As ecological novel
0:45 Eco-feminism
0:49 Female Shamans
0.53 Magical realism
1:09 Gu Tao’s documentaries
1:12 Disaffection of the new generation of Evenki
1:14 Chi Zijian’s background
1:19 Han author, Evenki first-person narrator
1:21 Narrator’s language
1:25 Soviet crackdown on Shamanism
1:26 End of Shamanistic tradition
1:28 Impact of the China Writers Association
1:32 Irony of party-driven collectivization
1:36. Doomed romance between narrator’s mother and the Shaman
1:39 Cultural taboos
1:44 Various titles of the novel in translation
1:50 Translating Evenki terms
2:00 Multilingual glossaries
2:03 Han, Chinese and “Wolf Totem”
2:10 Word of the day: Urireng
2:14 Chi Zijian’s use of Evenki vocabulary

Related reading:

Author’s Afterword

Northern Hunting Culture

Evenki place names behind the hanzi

In the Arctic, Reindeer Are Sustenance and a Sacred Presence

Various versions of the novel: Chinese; Dutch; English; French; Italian; Japanese; Korean; Spanish; Swedish

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