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African Literature in Chinese Translation (非洲文学: 中文译本) Latest News (最新信息)

African Literature: On China’s Cultural Radar Yet?

Can Literary Imports Change Chinese Perceptions of Africa? : My piece on AfroLit in Chinese is up now at Sixth Tone:

Since the founding of the modern Chinese state in 1949, there have been three waves of African literary imports. The first, which emerged in the 1980s, was ideologically driven. Empowered by

Nigeria’s Chimamanda Adichie is hot in China: Her “Dear Ijeawele” (亲爱的安吉维拉), is due out in 3Q 2018 — her sixth book to appear in Chinese.

Beijing’s policy of promoting solidarity with the Third World and newly independent nations, state-run imprints like the Foreign Literature Publishing House translated and published a substantial number of African works such as those by the Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka, the Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the Senegalese poet (and former president) Léopold Sédar Senghor, and the Algerian writer Mouloud Mammeri. Anthologies of translated African folktales for children even appeared.

To learn about the 2ndand now the 3rd— most recent wave — click here.

For more about African writing in China, read Feminist: A Dirty Word in Xi Jinping’s China?, or check out my bilingual database of African writing in Chinese translation (非洲文学:中文译本).

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AfroLit4China Newsbriefs (非漂出版专讯)

非漂出版专讯: 2018.1 AfroLit4China Newsbriefs


Q & A with Alain Mabanckou and why he said “Non” to Macron’s francophone project: The French language is varied, plural, diverse, and we don’t need France’s permission to create with it.

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s fifth work to appear in Chinese, has been launched as 美国佬. See updated bilingual list of African Fiction in Chinese Translation/中文译本.

Collection of recent links re: China in Africa from Quartz Africa. Includes articles on Africa-based Confucian Institutes, rising number of young Africans being schooled in the PRC, and China’s role in the downfall of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

How to Cope with the Social Pressures of a “Yoruba” Party in Lagos: You don’t want to arrive too early. By chance you actually have an invitation card (and not the ordainment of word of mouth), if it says 2 pm., arriving at 4 pm. is trying too hard. As we say in Lagos, don’t fall your own hand or, better yet, don’t stain your own white.

From the New York Times : A Wave of New Fiction From Nigeria, as Young Writers Experiment With New Genres

Sarah Ahrens reviews Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses: “Black Moses” interestingly explores Congolese history and literature and the notion of a world literature in French. But, it falls far short of delivering on a plot level, as the female characters are underdeveloped and the novel’s conclusion plays into a contrived and predictable narrative about post-independence African nations and identity. (Mabanckou’s Demain, j’aurai vingt ans was recently launched in Chinese as 明天,我二十岁).

A Letter of Memorandum has been signed to translate Xi Jinping’s The Governance of China (Volumes 1 and 2) into Swahili, according to a press release from China’s embassy in Kenya (翻译出版备忘录).

The New African Magazine has revealed its 100 Most Influential Africans of 2017. Winners in the Arts & Culture category include Imbolo Mbue (Cameroonian author-to-watch), Roye Okupe (writer of the hit graphic novel series E.X.O.), author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (author and feminist), and Bushra al-Fadil (2017 Caine Prize winner).

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Latest News (最新信息)

Feminist: A Dirty Word in Xi Jinping’s China?

Chimamanda Adichie is hot. Not just in her homeland Nigeria, and the US where she spends much of her time nowadays, but in China too.


Witness the fact that four of her works have been translated into Chinese, including her moving portrayal of the Biafran war,  Half of a Yellow Sun  (半轮黄日), The Thing Around Your Neck (绕颈之物), and two just this year, Purple Hibiscus  (紫木槿), and We Should All Be Feminists (女性的权利). African literature is notoriously little translated into Chinese, and four books puts her in the illustrious company of just a handful of oft-translated black African writers such as Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, also Nigerians (see my mini-database of African lit in Chinese).

We Should All Be Feminists, just out this month (June 2017) in Chinese, is a personal essay adapted from the writer’s TEDx talk of the same name. Writes Shelley Diaz (School Library Journal), as cited in the Amazon.com blurb for the English version of the essay:

Drawing on anecdotes from her adolescence and adult life, Adichie attempts to strike down stereotypes and unpack the baggage usually associated with the term [feminism]. She argues that an emphasis on feminism is necessary because to focus only on the general ‘human rights’ is ‘to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded’.

I wonder if Ms. Adichie knows what has become of her essay in the Chinese? I have not read it, but I do know this: The very word “feminist”— and the bold call for all of us, irregardless of our gender,  to be “feminists”— have been removed from the title.  The Chinese title,  女性的权利 (nǚxìng de quánlì), is a rather flat Women’s Rights. No feminist (女权主义者) or feminism (女权主义), no call to take action, just five words, which lack even a verb.

Word has it that the sticking point was the “ism” (the Chinese term for “feminist” is literally “feminism” + “person”). Apparently there’s only one “ism” around today that is considered politically correct; it has “Chinese characteristics,” and it ain’t “feminism.” I don’t know if the decision to tone down the title was made by the higher-ups at People’s Literature Publishing House or someone in the Ministry of Truth, but this is arguably yet another telltale sign of the sensitivity regarding feminist activism that has become increasingly evident since the mid-2015 arrest of “China’s Feminist Five.”

According to The Guardian, the women – Wei Tingting, Li Tingting (Li Maizi), Wu Rongrong, Wang Man and Zheng Churan (Datu) – were detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” (寻衅滋事罪) after planning a multi-city protest aimed at bringing an end to sexual harassment on public transport.

It’s obvious that the marketeers over at People’s Literature Publishing House, censorship or no, fully understand that the original We Should All Be Feminists is much more likely to drive sales. Just look at the cover (top of this article): The lame Chinese title definitely didn’t get top billing.