‘The world is yours, as well as ours, but in the last analysis, it is yours. You young people, full of vigor and vitality, are in the bloom of life, like the sun at eight or nine in the morning. Our hope is placed on you. The world belongs to you. China’s future belongs to you.’
Paper Republic’s definitive guide to contemporary Chinese literature in translation features detailed biographical entries covering almost 100 of the most important writers working in the Chinese language today, from Anni Baby to Zhang Yueran, by way of Nobel Prize-winner Mo Yan.
Many cultures under, or in the shadow of, an empire sometimes make use of that empire’s language to express themselves. Latin was used throughout Europe, while for a couple of centuries after the Norman conquest, the dominant written language in England was French. China exerted a similar cultural pull over its neighbors: Japanese poets would write kanshi and Koreans hansi, both terms being probably derived from the word Han, referring to the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) in China. For both, using written Chinese was to make a cultural statement, indicating that these writings were for an elite class of people. Furthermore, despite the invention of hangul, an optimized Korean script, by king Sejong in the 15th century, classical Chinese—both the language and the script—remained the preference of Korean literati for several centuries. Hangul did not in fact hit its stride until well into the 19th century; and, given their acute sense of class-consciousness, Koreans may simply have felt more comfortable reading their stories in classical Chinese.
Riding to join the army in Armenia, Russia’s greatest poet Alexander Sergeievich Pushkin met a ox-cart heading in the opposite direction, carrying a plain box made of planks. “What are you carrying?” the poet asked the carters. “Griboedov”, came the answer. That was Pushkin’s last encounter with his friend, namesake, fellow playwright, diplomat, and now terrorist victim, Alexander Sergeievich Griboedov. Yuri Tynyanov’s 1929 biographical novel describes the last year of the hero’s life and his death, offering a portrait of Russia’s Golden Age of literature as well as a veiled critique of Stalin’s Soviet Union.
The texts that are examined in this study move in and out of different languages or are multilingual in their origins. Texts and authors do not move randomly; rather, they follow routes shaped by the history of contact between different nations of the transpacific.
Haruki Murakami is a big Raymond Carver fan. He translated Carver’s works into Japanese with great enthusiasm during the early 1980s, and in 1984 Murakami and his wife Yoko made the journey to meet Carver at his house on the Strait Juan de Fuca, just round the coast from Seattle. Though this West Coast rendezvous was their only meeting, Carver has influenced Murakami’s career on multiple occasions. When the time came to find an American agent, Murakami was drawn to Carver’s former rep, Binky Urban, precisely due to her connection with the American novelist.
The classic debate of whether our lives are determined by self-will or fate is given a provocative twist in the latest novel from Indian author Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay.