Lack of Translation: Biggest Obstacle for Chinese Writers' Globalization
    2013-03-28 07:31:42         Web Editor: Wang Wei

Mo Yan, last year's winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, attended a press conference in Stockholm, capital of Sweden, on December 6, 2012. [Photo: Xinhua]

Chinese writer Mo Yan awakened the world to Chinese literature last year when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. But foreign readers have met with difficulties when they try to pick up Mo Yan's novels. He Fei has the story.


For the many voracious foreign readers waiting to read the works of Mo Yan the lack of translation of Mo's work is now their biggest obstacle.

Professor Joao Martins is the Portuguese translator of Mo's novel "Big Breasts and Wide Hips."

"The lack of direct translation from Chinese to Portuguese hinders the access of Mo Yan's works into Portugal. I translated only one of his books and this one was translated from English to Portuguese. There are indeed difficulties if you want to translate his works directly from Chinese into Portuguese."

Bi Feiyu, a contemporary Chinese writer, says Chinese writers still remain scarce on international stage despite their good works.

"I know not much about Chinese poets. But for Chinese novelists, there are only 10 to 20 who are known to foreign readers. And even for those several novelists, the translations of their works are mainly in English and French."

Insiders say few other languages are involved in these translations. It's a predicament for Chinese writers and a bottleneck for Chinese literature.

Yi Sha, a poet and professor at Xi'an International Studies University, says native Chinese speaking translators are usually unable to deliver high quality translations.

"I believe a translator must work with his own mother tongue. If a translator is Chinese, then he can only translate from the foreign language into Chinese, not vice versa. Because for him, the foreign language is not what he is really good at. Under this situation, the position of Chinese writers is quite passive because we can only wait for good foreign translators and the opportunities are rare."

Yi Sha was once editor-in-chief of "Chinese Literature," a magazine with both English and French versions. He points out that a further reason why Chinese writers have to wait passively is that the international world of letters has not turned its eyes to Chinese literature yet.

"What we can do is to increase publicity for our works, even through the actions of the government. And we can establish foundations to encourage foreign translators to translate our works."

Writer Bi Feiyu says that the globalization of Chinese literature will involve a long process.

"When it comes to the development of our world, we are always faster in material aspects than in intellectual aspects. You never expect Chinese literature and art to enter the international world faster than what we call "made-in-China" products."

Bi also says promoting the globalization of Chinese literature through government activities would be an effective method.

For CRI, this is He Fei.


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