Recent research in China and Korea has revealed that the tale of a prince who is turned into a calf originated in China, as early as the late sixth century when it was written up as a jataka tale. The Chinese version that circulated in Korea most likely also was composed in China. While these early versions dropped from circulation in China, the story survived there in several versions, for instance as a precious scroll. The story also continued to circulate there, just as in Korea, as a popular folk tale.
New Book Announcement: “All Mine! Happiness, Ownership, and Naming in Eleventh-Century China” by Stephen Owen
Under the Song Dynasty, China experienced rapid commercial growth and monetization of the economy. In the same period, the austere ethical turn that led to neo-Confucianism was becoming increasingly prevalent in the imperial bureaucracy and literati culture. Tracing the influences of these trends in Chinese intellectual history, All Mine! explores the varied ways in which 11th-century writers worked through the conflicting values of this new world.
Writers did a lot of shouting during the establishment of the Soviet Union. The literary salons being empty, they had to harangue the people, be heard over the crowd, and, as Katerina Clark wryly points out in Eurasia Without Borders, they had to shout because their public could not always understand the language they spoke.
In the annals of Russian and Soviet literature and drama, Sergei Tretyakov is not perhaps the first name on the list. He remains, says Robert Leach, “curiously elusive”. Yet he was “absolutely at the heart of avant-garde modernism”, collaborating closely with Sergei Eisenstein, “one of the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky’s most intimate associates” and an influence on Bertolt Brecht. This new and accessible literary biography brings the man and his work to life, and reinstates him at the center of some of the 20th-century’s most important cultural developments, a dynamic life cut short when in 1937 he, like so many others, fell foul of Josef Stalin.
Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) is perhaps the most famous example of a multicultural writer in the history of British literature. His novels have been translated, serialized, made into movies, and taught at numerous schools and universities throughout the English-speaking world and beyond. His multicultural credentials are impressive: he was born Józef Teodor Nalęcz (Ian Burnet misses this one in his recent study: it was the name of the Polish noble family to which Conrad belonged) Konrad Korzeniowski in Berdychev, Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire and formerly a town in the Kingdom of Poland. His father Apollo was a Polish poet, translator of Shakespeare and a dedicated Polish patriot. Conrad’s first language was Polish, of course, and he learned Latin at school, but he added German, French and finally English to the list. He also knew some Russian but avoided using it for patriotic reasons.
Victorian poets such as Matthew Arnold and Alfred Tennyson are celebrated for having survived the test of time, as literary historians would put it. But it is someone else, an “Oriental” poet from England and a popularizer of Buddhism in the West, in Asia, and even on the Indian subcontinent who has been translated into 13 European and 22 Asian languages.
Lafcadio Hearn, born of an Irish surgeon and a Greek mother, became known later in life as Koizumi Yakumo after marrying in Japan and taking Japanese citizenship to preserve his wife’s inheritance. Hearn or Koizumi was a journalist and an author, and one of the early English writers to introduce Japan to the outside world during the Meiji era. Two recent novels—The Sweetest Fruits by Monique Truong and Black Dragonfly by Jean Pasley—have centered around his life, but in two very different ways.