In 1995, an Atlantic story on the first Chinese translation of Ulysses
closed with the offhand remark that "no one in China is offering to translate Finnegans Wake." Today on the (day after the) 131st anniversary of his birth, James Joyce's famously difficult work is a bestseller in China
"This is a novel born out of the intersection of two eras.
The first is a story of the Cultural Revolution, a time of fanaticism, repressed instincts, and tragic fates, similar to the European Middle Ages. The second is a story of today, a time of subverted ethics, fickle sensuality, and every kind of phenomena, even more like the Europe of today. A westerner would have to live four hundred years to experience the vast differences of the two eras, but a Chinese would only need forty years for the experience." Yu Hua's Brothers
, a sprawling, foul-mouthed, comic-historical epic, and the best-selling novel in China's history, is available in English. [more inside]
[Ezra Pound] worked on and for poetry as others might work on a major scientific discovery or a drawn-out military mission. Thus, as Sieburth reminds us in his introduction to The Pisan Cantos, when, on May 3, 1945, Pound was arrested at his home in the hills above Rapallo, he immediately put a small Chinese dictionary and a copy of the Confucian classics in his pocket. Working as he then was on his Confucian translations, he knew that, wherever the military police were taking him, he would need these books.
From Pound Ascendant
by Marjorie Perloff. Ezra Pound's ability as a translator of Chinese poetry has long been disparaged by sinologists, such as George A. Kennedy in Fenollosa, Pound and the Chinese Character
. Other academics have sought to defend him. Two examples are Zhaoming Qian's Ezra Pound's encounter with Wang Wei: toward the "ideogrammic method" of the Cantos
and Stephen Tapscott's In Praise of Bad Translations: Ezra Pound and the Cultural Work of Translation (pdf)
. Eric Hayot draws the contours of this long-running debate and explores its significance in Critical Dreams: Orientalism, Modernism, and the Meaning of Pound's China
. Pound's Cathay
in full and a public domain audiobook version (iTunes link)
Twenty-nine Tao te Chings, a line at a time.
For Sunday evening, a spare, meditative post. The Tao-te-Ching
in 29 translations, line by line and side by side. I'll leave you to investigate the writings on your own; here alone are just the words to consider. Suggested: Mitchell. [more inside]
is a simple, no frills site with over 200 classical Chinese poems, mostly from the Tang period. The poems are presented in traditional and simplified chinese characters, pinyin and English translation, both literal and literary. Here's Du Mu's Drinking Alone
Outside the window, wind and snow blow straight,
I clutch the stove and open a flask of wine.
Just like a fishing boat in the rain,
Sail down, asleep on the autumn river.
Among other poets featured are Li Bai
(a.k.a. Li Po), Du Fu
and Wang Wei
. As a bonus, here's the entire text of Ezra Pound's Cathay
, most of whom are from Li Bai originals.
The Tao Te Ching
in dozens of languages and translations, with a lovely side-by-side comparison