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China's Ethnic-themed Fiction in Translation (中国民族题材文学的外译)

Quick Guide to China’s Contemporary Ethnic-themed Literature in Translation

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Alat Asem's "Confessions of a Jade Lord" (时间悄悄的嘴脸) Altaic Peoples & Tales (阿尔泰各民族及其故事)

July 2014: Update on Uyghur Writers and Writing as Crackdown Gains Momentum

In the wake of two high-profile and deadly attacks reportedly carried out by Uyghurs outside of their traditional homeland, the Chinese

Signatures of writers and translators on "Open Letter to our Uyghur Compatriots"
Signatures of writers and translators on “Open Letter to our Uyghur Compatriots”

authorities have launched a multi-faceted campaign to crush what they see as a terrorist movement that aims at founding an independent state in the Xinjiang autonomous region covering one-sixth of Chinese territory.

I am referring here to the Beijing “2013 Tian’anmen Square Attack” in which a 4 x 4 crashed into a crowd and burst into flames near Mao’s famous portrait, killing the passengers and two tourists, while injuring 38. And on March 1 this year, eight knife-wielding attackers appeared at the Kunming train station in Yunnan Province, and reportedly slashed 29 people to death while injuring 140 others.

As we enter Ramadan (June 28-July 27), when pious Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, Radio Free Asia (Anti-Terrorism Measures) reports that the authorities in Ürümqi are taking the strictest measures ever to ensure that there are no “incidents” during this, the most important month in the Muslim calendar. They include: newly installed surveillance cameras in mosques; preparation for “sudden-strike” searches of Uyghur households to break up unauthorized gatherings; requiring halal restaurants to remain open during the hours of the fast; and Muslim students at university will attend “patriotic study” classes and eat in the school canteen during the day so that they cannot practice fasting.

It should be noted, however, that some of RFA’s information about the crackdown comes from a spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress, an organization of exiled Uyghur groups that is based outside China.

Alat Asem, Bilingual Uyghur author
Alat Asem, Bilingual Uyghur author

Meanwhile, how is the crackdown impacting the “official” literary scene? Here are a few May-June factoids for your reference:

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Non-Han Languages in China (中国少数民族语言) Talking Translation (翻译话题)

June Training Sessions: Authors of Five Major non-Han Languages Meet their Translators

During June 5-9, Nationalities Literature Magazine (民族文学) organized an intensive “editing/rewriting training course” (改稿班) that brought together the magazine’s editors with twenty-plus Kazakh writers and their translators. Mandarin and Kazakh aside, the magazine appears in Mongolian, Korean, Tibetan and Uyghur, and training sessions for writers and translators of the latter four languages are also scheduled to take place within June, according to the article (改稿班).

We can expect that this will—eventually—lead to fiction written by non-Han authors in their own tongues being published in English. The first step is to get their writing into Mandarin, possibly via Nationalities Literature Magazine, or People’s Literature (人民文学). It will then stand a good chance of appearing in Pathlight, a magazine dedicated to Chinese literature in English translation that is jointly produced by People’s Literature and Paper Republic.

In fact, the Spring 2014 edition of Pathlight will feature writing solely by ethnic writers: fiction by Alat Asem (阿拉提·阿斯木, Uyghur), Ayonga (阿云嘎, Mongolian), Jin Renshun (金仁顺, Korean), Guan Renshan (关仁山, Manchu), Li Jinxiang (李进祥, Hui), Memtimem Hoshur (买买提明·吾守尔, Uyghur),Ye Guangqin (叶广芩, Manchu) and Yerkex Hurmanbek (叶尔克西·胡尔曼别克, Kazakh);  poetry by Artai (Mongolian,阿尔泰), Aydos Amantay (艾多斯·阿曼泰, Kazakh), Jidi Majia (吉狄马加, Yi-Nuosu), Luruodiji (鲁若迪基, Pumi), Ma Huan (马桓, Hui) and Nie Le (聂勒, Wa); and non-fiction by Patigul (帕蒂古丽, Uyghur), Ye Fu (野夫, Tujia), Ye Mei (叶梅, Tujia) and Tenzin (丹增, Tibetan). The full contents aren’t up online yet, but the cover, contents page and link to purchase should be here soon.

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Altaic Peoples & Tales (阿尔泰各民族及其故事)

Uyghur Authors in China

In 2013, it’s not easy to locate what I’d consider a good overview of Uyghur writing on the Chinese Internet.

Home to perhaps 10 million Uyghurs, the 1.6 million square kilometer Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region accounts for almost one-sixth of China’s territory and borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.  The Chinese government is hyper-sensitive about most anything “Uyghur,” particularly their religion (Islam), and the language, which has Turkic roots unrelated to Han Chinese.

Even so, I’ve found two articles in Chinese which are fairly informative. One by 祖姆拉提 · 克尤木 that focuses strictly on Uyghur literature in Xinjiang during 1949-2005 (新疆维吾尔文学),   and another by 阿扎提·蘇勒坦 that looks at a broader topic, ethnic literature in Xijiang (新疆民族文学五十年) since the founding of the autonomous region in 1955.

Here are some factoids cited from the latter essay—all based on the 1955-2005 period—that offer a glimpse of published literary “output” of the various non-Han peoples in Xinjiang:

 

Uyghur Kazakh Kyrgyz Mongol Xibe
Novels

150 (includes 60 “historical novels”)

60

7

6

4

Poetry

Collections

(no figure)

300

85

80

12

Short stories & novellas

(no figure)

200

40

35

18

See below for my table listing a selection of Uyghur authors and their works.