Classic Epics of Chinese Literature: Search and Destroy

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I've been thinking about taking a giant plunge and working my way through the four or five concensus "classics" of Chinese literature. Wondering if anyone has read any of these or has anything else to suggest. Comments, of course, would be most well received in an awesome fashion.

The books I've in mind are as follows:
The Story of the Stone (aka The Dream of the Red Chamber) by Cao Xueqin, which I have just started
(Romance of the) Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong
Outlaws of the Marsh by Shi Nai-an
Journey to the West by Wu Ch'eng-en
The Scholars by Wu Ching-Tzu

So...what do I need to know?

Girolamo Savonarola, Sunday, 7 September 2003 03:55 (twenty years ago) link

(Romance of the) Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong

really must try and finish this one day...

Ned Raggett (Ned), Sunday, 7 September 2003 03:59 (twenty years ago) link how was it?

Girolamo Savonarola, Sunday, 7 September 2003 04:00 (twenty years ago) link

please don't destroy
any classic chinese epics
you could get busted

Haikunym (Haikunym), Sunday, 7 September 2003 04:07 (twenty years ago) link

Personally, I've not read any of these, but in college, I knew a fair number of people well-versed in the subject. I remember that one of them was not a big fan of The Dream of the Red Chamber, although that was probably owing to her overexposure therein. A few folks spoke well of The Journey to the West, and The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, to a lesser degree. That's about all I can tell you.

JS Williams (js williams), Sunday, 7 September 2003 05:16 (twenty years ago) link

U've read The Art of War right?

Calzer (Calzer), Sunday, 7 September 2003 06:02 (twenty years ago) link

Have read The Art of War, yes. But how relevant is that to the Chinese epic? I mean, I don't read Machiavelli before reading a Western epic.

Girolamo Savonarola, Sunday, 7 September 2003 12:58 (twenty years ago) link

I've read Romance of the Three Kingdoms twice, most recently on my four-month trip through China where I visited several tombs/battlegrounds/temples mentioned in the book. It's sort of an engrossing kind of book where, if you have the patience for Chinese names, you could finish in one long-ass sitting. Although it was much more interesting for me since I had the context of the Nintendo game to place everything into. It's really long.

phil-two (phil-two), Sunday, 7 September 2003 15:15 (twenty years ago) link

It's also the most 'important' one, since everyone in all of East Asia has read it, it seems.

phil-two (phil-two), Sunday, 7 September 2003 15:16 (twenty years ago) link

dream of the red chamber had some of the most lovely prose, thats all i really remember, a sort of floating and elegant beauty.

anthony easton (anthony), Sunday, 7 September 2003 17:34 (twenty years ago) link

whose translation?

make sure if you read these, get good translations. and not the abridged versions

phil-two (phil-two), Sunday, 7 September 2003 18:17 (twenty years ago) link

I'm working on the Hawkes translation of Red Chamber/Story of the Stone.

As for the rest, these are the ones I've heard are the best. All unabridged, for sure.
Three Kingdoms - Moss Roberts
Outlaws of the Marsh - Sidney Shapiro
Journey to the West - Anthony Wu, although I hear that if one must get an abridged version, to go with Monkey, translated by Arthur Waley
The Scholars - Yang Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang

Do these sound up to snuff, or should I be looking elsewhere?

Girolamo Savonarola, Sunday, 7 September 2003 18:59 (twenty years ago) link

oh yeah, i got the moss roberts three kingdoms version. the rest i dont know about. tell me about Journey to the West. I'm curious about that one too.

phil-two (phil-two), Sunday, 7 September 2003 19:12 (twenty years ago) link

then come over and we can play dynasty warriors on the playstation2

phil-two (phil-two), Sunday, 7 September 2003 19:13 (twenty years ago) link

I believe it was this description, though, that got me interested. In fact, read this one first:

Girolamo Savonarola, Sunday, 7 September 2003 19:27 (twenty years ago) link

six years pass...

Not classical, but...tell me about Lu Xun if you've read him.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 19 June 2010 20:21 (thirteen years ago) link

Search: Journey to the West by Wu Ch'eng-en (aka "Monkey")

This is a wild, epic picaresque story, built around the main character, Monkey, who isn't exactly a monkey, but more of an immortal trickster with superpowers. It has no discernable structure, it just bounces from adventure to adventure, but I found it entertaining. I've never read anything else quite like it.

Aimless, Saturday, 19 June 2010 20:37 (thirteen years ago) link

two years pass...

Wish I'd finished The Water Margins a few years ago.

Anyone read The Scholars in English? As it's less famous than the big four, there's not much in the way of competing translations.

etc, Wednesday, 17 April 2013 08:39 (ten years ago) link

i think i'd rather put jin ping mei/the plum in the golden vase on the list if i had to add a fifth book.

i think i'd rather recommend reading the plum in the golden vase than the scholars.

i also contend that none of these have been suitably translated and even recent translations (like david tod roy's translation of the plum in the golden vase) read like they're straight outta 1935, so clunky and weird, the product of someone that can read a ming vernacular novel and understand the text fully and in important ways but is incapable of writing beautifully in their native language.

dylannn, Wednesday, 17 April 2013 09:13 (ten years ago) link

When Wu Yüeh-niang saw how much snow had accumulated on the T'ai-hu rockery in front of the spirit screen, she got up from her place, told Hsiao-yü to fetch the tea jar, and proceeded in person to sweep up enough snow to brew some Phoenix Tablet Sparrow Tongue tea from Chiang-nan for the company. = google translate with explanatory with footnotes. but i guess the audience for these translations is not meant to be general readers.

dylannn, Wednesday, 17 April 2013 09:14 (ten years ago) link

to be fair, this is how google translate treats it.


The Wu Yue Niang see snow in the Taihu Fenbi even thick. Under seats, to teach Xiaoyu took Chaguan, personally snow, cooking Jiang
Eat the teeth the Nanfeng group Buxus tea with everyone.

dylannn, Wednesday, 17 April 2013 09:19 (ten years ago) link

The Story of the Stone (aka The Dream of the Red Chamber) by Cao Xueqin, which I have just started

i regard this the most highly of all the works on the list. and it's a key piece of literature to understand what came after, even up to the present. it's the keystone of chinese literature. i was forced to read this for the first time while trying to figure out jia pingwa. and no translation can do it justice but david hawkes' attempt comes the closest.

(Romance of the) Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong

i've never read it but i've been forced to google references to it a few hundred times to figure out what people were talking about.

Outlaws of the Marsh by Shi Nai-an

one day, i want to check out the pearl s. buck translation of this, but i've never come across it or made any effort to seek it out. i think all men are brothers is such a great wrong title! i bought a foreign languages press edition of sidney shapiro's translation and that was how i first read it and i fucking loved it. i think it has to be the most referenced on this list, too... but that's a tough call.

Journey to the West by Wu Ch'eng-en

or watch the tv show. i can't believe the arthur waley version is still going around because i find it very dated and sort of lame. i must have read the jenner translation because that's who did the foreign languages press version and those ugly little paperbacks are ubiquitous in the english section of every xinhua store in china. read it and then watch a chinese odyssey, the stephen chow movie because it's a great movie.

The Scholars by Wu Ching-Tzu

i'm not sure if anyone reads this anymore and the only translation i know is the gladys yang one for foreign languages press. i was exposed to it via a michael duke course on satire in chinese literature. i'm not a fan.

dylannn, Wednesday, 17 April 2013 09:44 (ten years ago) link

The Scholars by Wu Ching-Tzu
i'm not sure if anyone reads this anymore and the only translation i know is the gladys yang one for foreign languages press. i was exposed to it via a michael duke course on satire in chinese literature. i'm not a fan.

Ah, cheers - wasn't sure if it'd be, IDK, a Gulliver's Travels/Candide read or a you-had-to-be-there deal - I'm curious about the Imperial examination, but might be better served reading something nonfictional.

What else did you cover in that course on satire - Qian Zhongshu/Yu Hua/etc, or more classical/vernacular plays &c?

(finally have access to an academic library again after never being able to find anything that wasn't e.g. Waley's Monkey (which I'd guessed was a translation equivalent to Burton's Arabian Nights?); I'd picked up a few of those Foreign Language Press boxes when I was in Europe but that had been the extent of my access)

etc, Saturday, 20 April 2013 00:05 (ten years ago) link

Not classical at all, but in a post-Outlaws of the Marsh vibe, have you read much Jin Yong et al, dylannn?

etc, Saturday, 20 April 2013 04:35 (ten years ago) link

one of my chinese lit professors at ubc was christopher rea, who writes a lot about chinese theories of humour and has a new translation of collected qian zhongshu writings out and is really into republican era comic writing and punch-y journals. i'm sure we read yu hua too. it falls well outside of my area of interest but there's lots of contemporary satirical stuff i could recommend.

dylannn, Saturday, 20 April 2013 06:22 (ten years ago) link

read the scholars if you have it around.

one thing i dig about, like, journey to the west and outlaws of the marsh is the humour of them... dumb fun slapstick like lu zhishen tearing up a temple and eating dogs and wukong fucking with demons and bajie trying to get pussy and the deeper historical satire that can be glossed over but is sort of interesting once you see what the point of it was.

dylannn, Saturday, 20 April 2013 06:26 (ten years ago) link

even dream of red mansions's got some laughs.

but i just hate the mode of satire itself, too, so i'm not to be trusted on the scholars. i don't like it, whether it's boring qing-ming stuff or broad gold toilets and spaceships yu hua or lao she going to mars or qian zhongshu or chan koonchung or WHATEVER. i like despair and bitter polemics.

if you want something else from the same time period roughly, you could check out strange stories from a chinese studio, pu songling ghost stories.

dylannn, Saturday, 20 April 2013 06:37 (ten years ago) link

one month passes...

Pu Songling was great in the partial translation I had; Kafka/Borges-length stories are about where my attention span is atm.

Had no idea translator-dudes John Minford & Patrick Hanan were based in NZ for ages, damn.

Need to remind myself to investigate when I have time.

etc, Wednesday, 29 May 2013 00:59 (ten years ago) link

two months pass...

Copypasta from last year's rolling China thread:

peregrine 2 ----- check out the essay on chinese scifi by kun kun at the start, lots about liu cixin etc. and more peregrine, one of v v v v v v v v v few places to read contemporary chinese fiction in translation by the few people that are in the business of translating it. #6 has brendan okane translating my girl sheng keyi is about as good as this kind of stuff gets (this is me saying: it's okay and i'm excited about it but it's still got the problems that chinese-engl translation often has + it all reads like howard goldblatt + it's a bit boring).

― dylannn, Tuesday, 6 March 2012 10:11 (1 year ago)

Ken Liu's gonna translate the first part of Liu Cixin's Three Body Trilogy

Half-assedly reading Qian Zhongshu's Fortress Besieged & Dung Kai-cheung's Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City atm.

etc, Wednesday, 7 August 2013 23:52 (ten years ago) link

i had a professor that loved qian zhongshu and was unable to instill that passion in me
but he just published a translation of a collection of qian zhongshu's essays and stories:

dylannn, Thursday, 8 August 2013 13:16 (ten years ago) link

grabbed an In Our Time on Romance of The Three Kingdoms last night, haven't listened yet but might be of interest here.

woof, Thursday, 8 August 2013 13:27 (ten years ago) link

that was OK, they spent most of the time talking about the printing history of the book, which i'm not particularly interested in. hoped they focused more on the content/cultural aspect of it.

Spectrum, Thursday, 8 August 2013 16:14 (ten years ago) link

Outlaws of the Marsh probably entertained me more than anything else I've ever read.

bentelec, Thursday, 8 August 2013 23:25 (ten years ago) link

one year passes...

NYRB w/a China-related series:

New York Review Books is pleased to announce the debut of Calligrams, a new series of writings from and on China. Calligrams will encompass a wide array of poetic masterpieces, classic fiction, thrilling dramas, travel writing, criticism, and histories written by both Chinese and Western writers from antiquity to modern time. The series, made possible by a publishing partnership with the Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, is edited by Eliot Weinberger.

Two books into the Hawkes/Minford trans of Red Chamber. P.funny! Random 50s Britishisms for class/status-shorthand (or Latinate things for the monks/nuns) take a bit of getting used to.

etc, Wednesday, 21 January 2015 07:22 (nine years ago) link

wow, this looks like a great project. i'd love to read a good translation of the water margin stories.

I dunno. (amateurist), Wednesday, 21 January 2015 08:12 (nine years ago) link

three months pass...

Let me put it the other way around. Novels were not the primary language art in imperial China. Measured by volume, xi, translatable as “drama” or “opera,” would be in first place, and measured by beauty, calligraphy or poetry would be. Should we compare poetry across civilizations? If we do, classical Chinese poetry wins easily.

Love this - do we have any compilations of poetry knocking around anyone would care to recommend?

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 20 May 2015 12:39 (eight years ago) link

two months pass...

"First published anonymously in 1804—its author remains unknown—Mirage is set in Guangzhou (Canton), some decades before the city was overwhelmed by the opium trade and the Opium War. Su Jishi, the adolescent son of the head of the Chinese traders’ association, the men licensed to deal with foreign merchants in the port, is suddenly burdened with responsibility for his powerful family after his father’s unexpected death. More interested in sex than money, Su Jishi learns to navigate between pleasure and commerce as rebellions erupt just outside the city.

At the crossroads of two of the greatest Chinese books—the aristocratic coming-of-age novel The Story of the Stone (The Dream of the Red Chamber) and the military epic Outlaws of the Marsh—Mirage is panorama of libertines and concubines, lecherous monks and celibate soldiers, corrupt officials and drunken scholars. As entertaining as a bestseller, it is a hectic re-creation of vanished mores and customs, and the life of a Chinese city as it was beginning to discover—and deal with—the rest of the world."

etc, Thursday, 30 July 2015 18:45 (eight years ago) link

three weeks pass...

Can't wait for the paperback of Mirage to come out; the hardback at Garden Books in Shanghai is 550RMB.

Mildly curious about the Love Stories and Tragedies from Chinese Classic Operas series, but maybe I'd be better with e.g. NYRB republishing the Chen/Acton/Birch xlation of The Peach-Blossom Fan and reading wiki-style summaries of the rest.

etc, Monday, 24 August 2015 01:50 (eight years ago) link

maybe it's my limited interest in pre-republican literature but i don't think i've ever heard of mirage. i went through a few pages of an online version.... i'd flip through a translation.

dylannn, Monday, 24 August 2015 07:02 (eight years ago) link

an interesting note from wikipedia: 清朝统治者为了稳定政权,控制文化,列出了各种各样的禁书,其中有六大禁书,《蜃楼志》为其中之一。六大禁书为:《载花船》、《蜃楼志》、《品花宝鉴》、《闹花丛》、《株林野史》、《绿野仙踪》。6 books that i've never read / aren't translated?

dylannn, Monday, 24 August 2015 07:14 (eight years ago) link

except 《绿野仙踪》 which is the wizard of oz, right?

in the interests of political and social stability, the rulers of the qing maintained control over the cultural sphere and banned various books. mirage was among the six major banned works, which included: "boat of passion" (? only visible translated title), "mirage," "treasured mirror for the connoiseur of flowers," "noise in the shrubs" (just a literal translation but 花丛 = world of brothels), "a rough history of zhulin" (or, dirty stories from zhulin?), "the wizard of oz" (??).

dylannn, Monday, 24 August 2015 07:16 (eight years ago) link

three months pass...

definitely the modern successor to say dream of red mansions. took almost 25 years but it seems howard goldblatt's translation has been cleared and is going to be published.

dylannn, Thursday, 17 December 2015 06:49 (eight years ago) link

Holy shit. Just picked up the original a month back. Lol at fleshy orchid cover, zzz. More info at

Had been thinking about picking up their Chutzpah! collection.

etc, Thursday, 17 December 2015 07:31 (eight years ago) link

What translations are thought to be the best for Journey To The West and Warriors of The Marshes? I'm semi familiar with the 2 as tv shows I saw 30+ years ago so would like to read the text.

Stevolende, Thursday, 17 December 2015 08:17 (eight years ago) link

how many translations are there even? like, still available. i read the wjf jenner translation of journey to the west and i remember the abridged the monkey and the monk anthony c yu version from undergrad introduction to chinese lit class. and i read the sidney shapiro translation of outlaws of the marsh.

dylannn, Thursday, 17 December 2015 08:44 (eight years ago) link

i have issues with goldblatt as a translator and the one and the only jia pingwa novel in translation was done by goldblatt and is a disappointment. these issues might be irrational and at the very least he's pushed lots of worthy chinese language books into english translation and won mo yan a nobel prize.

selling feidu as pornographic or something after so long, or... playing up that element of it.... if it helps sell books, but the sex stuff is pretty mild and usually played for laughs. the genius of the book is harder to convey and i'm curious to see how the translation will be received.

dylannn, Thursday, 17 December 2015 08:50 (eight years ago) link

feidu chapter 1 part 1 part 2

dylannn, Thursday, 17 December 2015 08:52 (eight years ago) link

oh also. back in 2008 nicky harman translated an excerpt from gaoxing and there were rumors that a translation would be released by penguin. it's a much more accessible book, based on a real acquaintance of jpw a translation never arrived but a new translation is coming and it might beat howard goldblatt's feidu to publication.

dylannn, Thursday, 17 December 2015 09:04 (eight years ago) link

Complete Du Fu in English, facing-page texts, online for free. Hmmmn. + NYRB's republishing David Hawkes' A Little Primer Of Tu Fu in June.

Finally dug a bunch of stuff out of storage; was leafing through some 80s Edinburgh Reviews (from an Alasdair Gray phase) and was startled to see excerpts from a translation of 《水浒传》 into Scots as Men o the Mossflow by Brian Holton. Huh.

Also, on recent-ish-ly discovered/restored pre-Qin texts:

etc, Tuesday, 19 April 2016 01:48 (seven years ago) link

i'd heard mention of the pre qin texts but never paid attention, thought that they were more fragments. the story is fascinating. i'd like to know more about how/where they were found. interesting stuff.

dylannn, Tuesday, 19 April 2016 06:25 (seven years ago) link

two months pass...



etc, Saturday, 25 June 2016 05:50 (seven years ago) link

i better get started on it, huh

dylannn, Saturday, 25 June 2016 06:17 (seven years ago) link

exciting news despite my minor role in it. stember has put in countless hours of work on this.

dylannn, Saturday, 25 June 2016 06:20 (seven years ago) link

two months pass...

Xue Yiwei's Shenzheners, translated by Darryl Sterk:

's nice that Hao Jingfang won a Hugo, and AFAIK Chen Qiufan's The Waste Tide is getting translated?

etc, Sunday, 28 August 2016 01:50 (seven years ago) link

the xue yiwei story is interesting because i've honestly never heard of him? and he lives in montreal. i will be picking up the translation.

dylannn, Thursday, 1 September 2016 15:46 (seven years ago) link

have a random Chinese writer-y friend living on Waiheke Island (which y'know) that I've been sporadically WeChatting w/; they were a fan of some of the stories from online mags but were surprised I'd heard of him.

hope the Stember project is ticking over. lmk if there's a Kickstarter or something, heh.

etc, Wednesday, 7 September 2016 03:46 (seven years ago) link

yes something should be appearing soon! the funding is from 贾平凹文化艺术研究院--a nonprofit but must be some chinese government funding, right? i'm excited to see what everyone else comes up with because these are astonishingly dense and complex novels.

dylannn, Wednesday, 7 September 2016 17:33 (seven years ago) link

i'm working on a book for clt/uoklahoma press-- different author-- at the same time and flying thru it compared to the sentence by sentence battle that translating jia has become.

dylannn, Wednesday, 7 September 2016 17:33 (seven years ago) link

any recommendations on legit online magazines for contemporary fiction?

dylannn, Wednesday, 7 September 2016 17:35 (seven years ago) link

is the consensus that the goldblatt translation of abandoned capital/ruined city isn't all that good? it's kind of affectless and lightly twee but idk how much that reflects the original

adam, Wednesday, 7 September 2016 18:06 (seven years ago) link

dylannn, Wednesday, 7 September 2016 18:08 (seven years ago) link

he had the hardest job in modern translation (all previous attempts that floated around were unimaginably bad) + supposedly wasn't that into it/wasn't impressed with his own work.

dylannn, Wednesday, 7 September 2016 18:13 (seven years ago) link

as someone about to hopefully publish a jia pingwa translation + knowing the challenges and how much he was paid/work involved, i'm not going to last into it but it wasn't very good, no.

dylannn, Wednesday, 7 September 2016 18:18 (seven years ago) link

lay into it

dylannn, Wednesday, 7 September 2016 18:19 (seven years ago) link

what makes jia so difficult to translate? i am hopelessly monolingual so all of this is alien to me

adam, Wednesday, 7 September 2016 18:20 (seven years ago) link

combination of low language-- dialect/levity/local references -- + high -- classical references, admissions to poetry/opera etc. hard to get the tone right. sexuality/earthiness feels hard to bring into english.

dylannn, Thursday, 8 September 2016 09:18 (seven years ago) link

long books.
really require extensive footnotes top really get a lot of the layers/references. narrative mode (?) more similar to i dunno a 19th century epic or work of late ming/qing vernacular-- dissimilar from modern western novel in many ways.

dylannn, Thursday, 8 September 2016 09:20 (seven years ago) link

thanks, that's very interesting. i would welcome extensive footnotes but i suspect these are not exactly big-budget blockbuster productions.

adam, Thursday, 8 September 2016 12:02 (seven years ago) link

i typed "profanity" not "levity."

footnotes nearly always discouraged by editors.

dylannn, Thursday, 8 September 2016 12:41 (seven years ago) link

four months pass...

dylannn, Wednesday, 1 February 2017 17:35 (seven years ago) link

two weeks pass...

sweet! had blanked on this revive but y1y4n just fwded me nick's email about the website + talking about an mla conference in ny early 2018 - you going?

cashed in a bunch of book vouchers to order in the gei fei & mirage on nyrb + shenzheners; friend home for xmas from chengdu gave some 90s diary-ish pop lit to read in the original but been a bit lazy w/it.

etc, Sunday, 19 February 2017 22:45 (seven years ago) link

maybe. any thoughts on the sample? it's tough to grind jpw into english.

i'm reading/translating dong xi right now, another bestseller unknown outside china-- decent writer, often hacky sometimes brilliant.

dylannn, Monday, 27 February 2017 05:08 (six years ago) link

one year passes...

Half-way through this profile on chinese novelist Yan Lianke. What I love is the way the writer relates most episodes in this encounter to some aspect of Yan's satires of modern day China.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 29 November 2018 22:54 (five years ago) link

it's a hell of a piece. i love scene with the former party secretary in the old town.
i think we discussed it on the rolling china thread. yan lianke occupies a weird position in the literary bureaucracy inside china but most view his overseas acclaim with jealousy.

XxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxXxxxx (dylannn), Saturday, 1 December 2018 15:47 (five years ago) link

I really want to read some of his books next year.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 1 December 2018 16:45 (five years ago) link

one month passes...

has to be among the least read threads on old ilx, but i always see it at the top with its bookmark.

my translation of jia pingwa's shaanxi opera is coming out probably late this year... the fifth jpw book in like three years, all different translators, crappy publishers printing a hundred copies to get the chinese government subsidy, no reviews or readers, a real mess, but that's how things go sometimes, and this'll be on amazon's translation imprint and flogged hard.

XxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxXxxxx (dylannn), Monday, 14 January 2019 08:44 (five years ago) link

i'll be back in beijing and xi'an from the end of march to mid-april, if anybody's around, too.

XxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxXxxxx (dylannn), Monday, 14 January 2019 08:46 (five years ago) link

in AmazonCrossing? Cool! I will be getting that.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Monday, 14 January 2019 22:33 (five years ago) link

you got it.

amazon is a wicked force but they pay
translators well and promote books.

XxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxXxxxx (dylannn), Tuesday, 15 January 2019 09:47 (five years ago) link

global capital, it's a mixed blessing

moaty, boaty, big and bloaty (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 15 January 2019 10:15 (five years ago) link

They publish so much translated literature. More than anyone else, i think?

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Tuesday, 15 January 2019 11:45 (five years ago) link

at least in english. in other languages they're mostly cranking out genre fiction and it makes sense i guess. in chinese it's been a book of short stories from shaanxi, lu nei's young babylon, jia pingwa, maybe I GUESS because some prc bureaucrats help choose what amazon gets the rights to. apparently the rates are bad for translators from french or german but global capital, it's a mixed blessing.

XxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxXxxxx (dylannn), Tuesday, 15 January 2019 15:53 (five years ago) link

What does the translator application entail? Can anyone sign up?

lbi's life of limitless european glamour (Le Bateau Ivre), Tuesday, 15 January 2019 16:04 (five years ago) link

i think it's invitation only but you can submit a title i'm not sure to what extent this supposed marketplace/bid process actually exists because the only title i see up for "bid" is a dutch title (jij zegt het) listed at an opening price of 13k flat fee and 2% royalties. (that rate is much lower than what they're paying for translations from chinese and, based on what the association of literary translators in france's <a href="";>open letter</a> says, not very good at all.)

for me, i queried them with something through that submission thing that they were vaguely interested in but were put off by the rights situation (never clear in china), then, introduced by a a translator that previously worked with them, they made me an offer for something they'd gotten the rights to and negotiated a contract in the usual way.

XxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxXxxxx (dylannn), Tuesday, 15 January 2019 16:36 (five years ago) link

constantly forget to convert html to bbcode.

it would appear that for languages other than german, french, dutch that the rates they pay are good enough.

maybe originally or eventually, it was or will be part of a scheme to get all those self-published kindle books translated? like, you self-publish a kindle and some guy bids 100 bucks and 50% of royalties to translate your novel into dutch? i really don't know what they're up to.

XxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxXxxxx (dylannn), Tuesday, 15 January 2019 16:42 (five years ago) link

Chuck Tjingle

moaty, boaty, big and bloaty (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 15 January 2019 16:43 (five years ago) link

Pounded in Das Boot

moaty, boaty, big and bloaty (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 15 January 2019 16:44 (five years ago) link

(jij zegt het figures I guess as it's about Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, though I wonder how this works w/ her publisher.

Thanks for the info though, appreciate it.

lbi's life of limitless european glamour (Le Bateau Ivre), Tuesday, 15 January 2019 17:02 (five years ago) link

five months pass...

thank god we have a chinese literature thread. i wrote something about a jia pingwa novel: ‘Broken Wings’: Jia Pingwa’s Controversial Novel Explores Human Trafficking And Rural China

XxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxXxxxx (dylannn), Thursday, 11 July 2019 14:47 (four years ago) link

I'd like to read that, but there seems to be no link in that link?

Nice! Thank you.


xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 16 July 2019 17:34 (four years ago) link

hey thanks. i also want to recommend the jiayang fan liu cixin piece here if anyone missed it. i've mostly sat out liu cixin fever and this didn't encourage me to pick up the books.

XxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxXxxxx (dylannn), Tuesday, 16 July 2019 18:25 (four years ago) link

Yeah that's excellent I've just got "Ruined City" what would you recommend next?

jou're much too jung, girl (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 16 July 2019 19:06 (four years ago) link

short answer: broken wings. happy dreams which you can get on amazon since they published it but nowhere else, more fun, trash pickers in xi'an. turbulence which grove put out in 2013, same translator, but hard to find. also earthen gate, part of a ruined city and white nights xi'an trilogy, great novel, translation lacking, but necessary if you want more ruined city vibes.

long answer: for 25 years while jia pingwa was at his most productive, nothing was translated. the author wasn't interested in moving the rights and there wasn't much interested in purchasing the rights. after ruined city came out, he was mostly cut off from the rest of the world and was basically blacklisted, and then after that, there was minimal interest from publishers in the west, so... you had turbulence in 1991, reissued by grove in 2003. it's an early novel, before ruined city, very different vibe. right after ruined city, five jia pingwa books suddenly make it into translation. jia was pushed by his people to make a go of it in english. most of the books are not very good. by next year, there will be eight jia pingwa novels in translation, since 2016, with seven different translators, through four different publishers, and there's been no real attempt at either quality control or promotion. jia is the most important chinese novelist of the last fifty years, read by hundreds of millions, but will probably never find much of a readership in english (french, swedish, spanish, much more hopeful).

so, after ruined city, there was carlos rojas' translation of the lantern bearer, which is a later novel, about a plucky female civil servant out in the countryside, but it's not very good, translated by an academic, riddled with strange errors (not like, quibbling about a translation errors, but errors in the english-language text), typos, and other problems. it was put out by a publisher called cn times, whose other books include mainly books about xi jinping, "china renaissance," "great power strategy," and also a book by a tampa cigar aficionado with recipes for cocktails that appear in pulp novels. then happy dreams released by amazoncrossing, which we discussed further up this thread. fun book! good translation! when the original came out in chinese in 2007, it was his most accessible and least dense book and reintroduced him to a new readership. it's about trash pickers in xi'an. definitely look this one up, if you can. after that, there was the broken wings translation, which i do think is very good. the cover design is shocking. (i hate the title, too. it was originally titled 极花 or "the pole flower" and translated as la flora extrema in spanish by its mexican publisher.)

there's also a translation of a much earlier book, put out this year, earthen gate, which is part of a trilogy of sorts with ruined city and white nights (untranslated). unfortunately, it came out on a small press who did no marketing. i tried to ask for a review copy, got turned down, offered to buy one, and they told me, "why bother reviewing it at all? we're not even selling it." it was done by two chinese translators, who did a surprisingly good job. although it's clearly the work of someone not a native speaker of english, it's idiosyncratic language is kind of a plus, if you can get into it. this follows ruined city pretty well, same setting, same concerns, about a village on the outskirts of xi'an (or xijing) which is being swallowed up by the city, local residents' attempts to have the village protected as "cultural heritage," basically turned into a museum, while other residents abandon ship and rush to make a living in urban xi'an. this is one of jia's best novels, not one of his best in translation, but i think it's worth checking out, if you want that ruined city vibe.

next year, there is a translation of jia's 2005 later period masterwork qinqiang coming, also through amazoncrossing, which should be okay! a thicc epic, clocking in at around half a million words, setting is a village in the late-1990s, slowly losing its vitality and identity, the city drawing away its young people... also master of songs another late rural novel is coming, too, often considered one of jia's most political novels, sweeping history of modern china-type novel. and possibly jia's cultural revolution novel ancient kiln.

XxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxXxxxx (dylannn), Tuesday, 16 July 2019 21:25 (four years ago) link

I was wondering about the different translators, that explains a lot

jou're much too jung, girl (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 17 July 2019 08:44 (four years ago) link

four years pass...

This is a Chinese literature podcast. They have just wound it down at the 100th EP. The guy who ran it is doing a twitter thread on the EPs.

To mark the ending of the Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast, I thought I'd make a thread covering all 100 episodes. So here we go...

— Angus 「安安」 (@AngusLikesWords) February 10, 2024

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 10 February 2024 22:37 (one week ago) link

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