African Writing in Chinese Translation
82 African Authors
214 Translated Works
African Writing in Chinese Translation
82 African Authors
214 Translated Works
For those of you who would like to learn a bit about China’s pre-21st century experience in dealing with epidemics, I’ve woven together three topical items, all of which center around an epidemic that took place in early 1900s China. They include news about the upcoming launch of a French translation of a “plague” novel — 《白雪乌鸦》by a Chinese author — and an English excerpt (in case your French isn’t quite up to par).
According to Iain Meiklejohn at DisasterHistory.org, the Manchurian Plague of 1910-11 was a deadly pneumonic plague that likely originated among tarbagan marmot hunted for their fur in Manchuria (modern-day Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang and northeastern Inner Mongolia). He writes (italics are mine):
Note that Hankou is one of the three cities that merged to create today’s Wuhan.
Just a few days ago, What History Teaches about the Coronavirus Emergency in The Diplomat also looked back at the Manchurian epidemic, and reminds us that some current anti-coronavirus measures — labeled “authoritarian” by some observers — were also employed then (again, italics are mine):
Meanwhile, it just so happens that in early March France’s Éditions Philippe Picquier will be launching a novel, Neige et Courbeaux, in which the Manchurian plague has the starring role. Penned by Chi Zijian (迟子建) and translated from the Chinese by François Sastourné, it is set in 1910 Harbin. The city incorporated the “Chinese Eastern Railway Zone,” a concession from which the Russians operated their portion of the Trans-Manchurian Railway. The Japanese, who inherited the South Manchuria Railway as a result of the Russo-Japanese war (1904-5), were also there in force. The novel dramatically juxtaposes the different anti-plague measures taken by their respective leaders, and the resulting fates of the three peoples.
Here is a disturbing vignette set in the early days of 1910, excerpted from Chapter 3 of Chi Zijian’s timely novel, 《白雪乌鸦》, literally “white snow, black crow(s).”
Fujiadian is a district within Harbin, populated by Chinese, and distinct from the Wharf District, and “New Town,” the latter being administered by the Russians. Xi Sui, now a newspaper hawker, once studied Peking Opera and loves the role of the chou or buffoon, so he is familiar with the lantern titles (riddles, actually) that feature in the opera traditionally performed on the last day of the lunar new year, the Lantern Festival.
The following translation is by me, Bruce Humes:
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(Foreign language rights to the novel, including English, are held by the author Chi Zijian. If you are interested in them, write me here and I will pass your inquiry onto her.)
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My recent work and meanderings in my own words, as presented by travel writer Thomas Bird . . .
My co-translation of Uyghur author Alat Asem’s novel set in Xinjiang has now been published. Here is a brief synopsis of sorts, taken straight off the book’s back cover:
“Tell Eysa that he cannot live by drifting in the wind.
He should return and live in his own skin.
Only then will he be my son.”
To get his greedy hands on nine hefty chunks of priceless creamy white, “mutton-fat” jade, Eysa and his gang administer a merciless beating to Xali, a fellow trader. Fearing arrest, Eysa flees Xinjiang for Shanghai where a plastic surgeon fits him with a state-of-the-art mask that allows him to return home, initially undetected even by his kin. But as his feud with Xali deepens — it emerges Xali was only maimed, not killed — Eysa gradually realizes the futility of attempting to amass a fortune under Time’s mute gaze.
Decades of double-digit growth have spawned a generation of nouveau riche in the booming 21st-century metropolises of Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, spurring desire for fine jade, a traditional badge of wealth, and kick starting a modern-day “jade rush.” But supply is jealously guarded by the Turkic-speaking, Muslim Uyghur whose homeland — Xinjiang in China’s far northwest, a land of oases and massive desert once crisscrossed by camel caravans — remains the ultimate source for milk-white suet jade.
Confessions of a Jade Lord immerses us in an underworld peopled by gangsters with their penchant for firewater-fueled storytelling and philosophical reverie, appetite for Uyghur delicacies such as laghman hand-pulled noodles and whole roasted lamb, fierce loyalty to family and aghines, and a willingness to unsheathe their daggers when honor, brotherhood or jade require.Alat Asem’s fiction is a Uyghur universe where Han Chinese rarely figure. His hallmarks are serial womanizers — real hanzi who piss standing, not squatting — monikers that belittle, and a hybrid lingo with an odd but appealing Central Asian flavor.Alat Asem is Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing, Writer of the Month (Jan 2019)
Two reviews are also up online now: One that ran in Turkey’s Daily Sabah, and another by a bilingual reviewer who read both the English and Chinese novels. To access the latter, you will need to go here, scroll down and click on the reviewer’s name, Cuilin Sang.
February 17, 2019
Although he writes in Chinese, Guo Xuebo (郭雪波) is fiercely proud of his Mongolian heritage and was raised in Inner Mongolia’s Khorchin Grasslands (Hure Banner). Now 71 and bilingual, he spoke Mongolian at home and school until he was 13. He graduated from Beijing’s prestigious Central
Academy of Drama (Department of Literature and Drama) in 1980, and in the same year, passed the entrance exam to Hohhot’s Institute of Literature under the Inner Mongolia Academy of Social Sciences. Since 1984, he has held the post of Assistant Researcher at this institute, undertaking research in various aspects of Mongolian history, culture and drama.
In 2018, he participated in Symposium – Space to Speak: Non-Han Fiction and Film in China and Beyond, held at the University of Leeds in the UK. In fact, as a popular indigenous author of borderland fiction and scholar of Mongolian culture and history, over the years he has frequently been invited overseas. In 2004, he took part in France’s Salon du Livre as a member of the China Writers Association delegation. He attended the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair when China was the Country of Honor, participated in literary salons in Munich and Düsseldorf, and was interviewed by Deutsche Welle in Bonn. He delivered a speech, The Mongols: Religion, Culture & Nature Worship, at Canada’s University of Waterloo in 2016, and was invited as a visiting scholar by New Zealand’s University of Auckland, where he delivered a lecture on Mongolian folk culture in 2017.
Guo Xuebo is a prolific writer who has published seven novels including Moŋgoliya (《蒙古里亚》2014), over a dozen collections of novellas and short stories, and authored three screenplays for Chinese-language films, including those based on his novel Wolf Child(《大漠狼孩》a best-seller in China) and short story Desert Fox (《沙狼》translated into several languages).
A collection of 4 of his short stories (The Desert Wolf, The Sand Fox, Sand Rites, Sand Burial) has been published in English (The Desert Fox), French (La renarde du désert), Japanese (砂漠の物語) and German (bilingual). Several of his novels are currently in translation, including The Wolf Child (Korean), and Hero of Inner Mongolia, Gada Meiren (《青旗·嘎达梅林》Mongolian). An excerpt from his novel Moŋgoliya, The Mongol Would-be Self-immolator, has been published online by Asia-Pacific Journal.
His writing strongly reflects his upbringing in the grasslands of northern China and his Mongolian roots and culture. Themes include wildlife on the steppe and in the desert, often recounted from an animal’s perspective; animism, and the role of Shaman as both a spiritual mediator and a community leader; and the history of interaction — and sometimes violent friction — between the indigenous Mongolian herders, the ruling Manchu during the Qing dynasty, and the Han who came to exploit the land as miners and sedentary farmers.
Guo Xuebo’s fiction has won significant recognition outside mainland China. His Desert Foxwas chosen for inclusion in a volume of short stories, part of the UNESCO Collection of Representative Works (a translation project, 1948-2005). His novella, The Desert Soul, won Taiwan’s United Daily News 18th Literature Prize, and his novella, Stepfather, was awarded the Religious Literature Prize co-sponsored by Taiwan’s Central Daily News and Ling Jiou Mountain Buddhist Society.
For a one-stop view of Guo Xuebo’s published works in Chinese, visit douban (豆瓣).
Aku Wuwu (阿库乌雾), a bilingual poet who writes and
performs in both Mandarin and Nuoso (a language of the Yi people), advocates a new-fangled form of Chinese that more fully expresses his people’s non-Han culture. This
For the full interview in Chinese, click here.