Penguin Classics and the Canonization of Chinese Literature in English Translation

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1 Penguin Classics and the Canonization of Chinese Literature in English Translation Qian Menghan In March 2014 the English translation of the Chinese novelist Mai Jia s Decoded hit the bookstores in thirty-five countries. All over the Chinese news media it was reported that the novel was the first contemporary Chinese work to have been admitted into the Penguin Classics series, and Mai only the fifth twentieth-century Chinese author on its list. 1 As it turned out later, this is not quite so: the copyright of Decoded was acquired by Penguin Classics, but the book was published merely as a Penguin, not under the Penguin Classics label. 2 In the US, however, Mai is the first Chinese author to have been published by FSG (formerly Farrar, Straus and Giroux), the publishing group boasting twenty-one Nobel Prize winners, which positions him alongside T. S. Eliot, Jack Kerouac, Hermann Hesse, Pablo Neruda, and other giants. Having broken multiple sales records, Decoded became an immediate success overseas, drawing an avalanche of favourable reviews from The New York Times, The Economist, The Guardian, The Independent, and other mainstream Western media outlets. 1 Opinions are split on the dividing line between modern and contemporary Chinese literature. Traditionally, the beginning of modern Chinese literature is marked by the May Fourth Movement in 1919, and that of contemporary literature by the founding of the People s Republic of China. However, this periodization is largely political, and has proved inadequate for many purposes. In 1985 the term twentieth-century Chinese literature was introduced so that modern and contemporary Chinese literature could be seen as forming a whole. 2 Personal communication from Jo Lusby, managing director of Penguin China. Translation and Literature, 26 (2017), DOI: /tal Edinburgh University Press 295

2 Qian Menghan/Chinese Penguin Classics It is interesting to note that Penguin has prioritized Mai over Mo Yan and Yu Hua, Chinese writers who have achieved some measure of success overseas through well-known translations and international prizes. Given the relatively marginal position of this novel within contemporary Chinese literature, 3 questions arise as to what gives the work and its author the imprimatur of one of the world s most distinguished publishers, and why certain translations fare better overseas than others. More questions can be asked concerning the current canon of Chinese literature in English translation: the reasons for, and the implications of, the canonization process. For example, are those works which look prestigious or central to the West also deemed classics by the Chinese literary establishment? What are the forces that define some works but not others as canonical in anglophone culture? What consequences might this have for understanding of Chinese literature and world literature at large? It is in light of these considerations that this paper analyses the processes by which Chinese literature has been canonized in anglophone culture, by exploring the agents of canonization and the specific strategies they have employed. Studies of canonicity and translation carry implications for both the producing and receiving culture. As national literatures have now become globally intertwined, canonization studies provide a chance for both cultures to reflect on their literary-evaluative mechanisms, and sharpen their understanding of the complex nature and dynamics of the world republic of letters. Penguin Classics offers a key point of engagement with the question of canon formation for Chinese literature in translation. Launched in 1946 as an imprint of Penguin Books, Penguin Classics is the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world, and a major force in education. Today the series extends to over 1,300 titles, incorporating growing numbers of non-fiction works and examples of non-western literature in translation, constantly refreshing the idea of what makes a classic. The Penguin Classics list has been regarded by critics as indicating the boundaries of the Western canon. The British author and literary critic David Lodge has remarked that Penguin and classics are words that go together like horse and carriage or Mercedes and Benz. When he was a university teacher, he adds, he always prescribed Penguin editions of classic novels for my courses. 4 3 The marginal position of Decoded in the Chinese literary system is owing to a prejudice against genre fictions, especially in academia. The author himself has observed that compared to the other novels he has written, Decoded is less known and recognized at home. 4 Lodge s quotation appears on multiple Penguin Classics publications, and is also to be found at the official website of Penguin Classics China. 296

3 Translation and Literature 26 (2017) The series has also often been seen as standing for democratizing culture. The selection of titles it has published from a given culture usually constructs an image of the literary culture they represent. Andrew Sanders notes that Penguin Classics shaped much of [his] awareness of non-english literature with an excellent selection and sound translations of ancient and modern world literature. 5 It is my contention, however, that the Chinese Penguin Classics are sometimes selected for their sociopolitical interest, to fit Western ideas of human rights, civil society, and democracy, often under the disguise of their universal appeal. That being said, one might still question in what way the canonicity of translated works in Penguin Classics is legitimized. Since the 1980s, literary studies in the West have seen a bogged-down dispute over the problems of literary canon-formation. In the US, the Canon Wars are inevitably entangled with the wider debate about multiculturalism, affirmative action, and curricular reform, with demands that the canon be opened up to under-represented groups so as to embrace literatures of all races and nations. But the burgeoning discourses on the politics of the canon have had significant consequences for the ways in which the concept has come to be regarded. That is to say, in Michael Emmerich s words, that the three-decade history of canonization studies has overwritten the etymology of the term canon representing human recognition of divine, eternal value by giving it a new, specifically literary meaning that allows us to see value as something given rather than recognized. 6 Theoreticians interested in the study of the canon have offered competing approaches. The essentialist or aesthetics-oriented approach tends to regard textual features as the defining characteristics of a classic, maintaining that at the heart of literary canonicity is aesthetic strength 7 or perpetual modernity. 8 This is opposed by constructivists, who contend that the idea of classic is inextricably related to questions of power, authority, and legitimacy. A work s value is seen not as inherent in the text itself, but as the projection of social values, and the status of a work is overdetermined by authoritative 5 Andrew Sanders, Hatching Classics, in Reading Penguin: A Critical Anthology, edited by William Wootten and George Donaldson (Newcastle, 2013), pp (p. 111). Most of the essays in this volume make use of the Penguin Archive held in the University of Bristol Library. This is a resource which preserves a wealth of material on the history of Penguin Books, including Penguin Classics. 6 Michael Emmerich, The Tale of Genji: Translation, Canonization, and World Literature (New York, 2013), p Harold Bloom, The Western Canon (New York, 1994), p Frank Kermode, Forms of Attention (Chicago, 2011), p

4 Qian Menghan/Chinese Penguin Classics figures and institutions which consciously or unconsciously promote certain texts as classics to ensure the continued dominance of their own value system. Canons are only provisional congeries that can vary from different perspectives and in different contexts. In order to avoid misunderstanding, it is necessary to stress that the notion of a classic adopted in the present paper is based on a combination of the essentialist and constructivist stances. Because of the fluidity of its meaning, the term classic or canon is notoriously resistant to definition. There does not exist an absolute or uncontested canon. All ideas of literary classics are tied indissolubly to particular cultural, historical, or social settings, and always follow the ebbs and flows of literary fashion. Many translation theorists have come to endorse this by defining canonization in terms of texts and norms being accepted as legitimate by the dominant circles within a culture, 9 and by arguing that the translator s ideology and the poetics dominant in the receiving literature determine the status of a work of literature in translation, 10 that other factors than purely aesthetic criteria come into play when building a literary canon, 11 and that the reception of a text is less decisively shaped by its intrinsic qualities than by the cultural and social identities of its readers, the varying assumptions and expectations, interests and abilities they bring to their interaction with the text. 12 Therefore, classics of translated literature can be construed less as an established body of works than as an intricate network that is deeply embedded in the international politics of translation, publishing, and literary reception. By the same token, some translated Chinese works are recognized as classics not because they possess certain intrinsic qualities, but because they are designated as such by authoritative canon-forming institutions in the receiving culture. In David Damrosch s three-tiered model of literary canons, they fall into the category of countercanons, which refer to subaltern and contestatory voices of writers in less commonly-taught languages and in minor literatures within great-power languages, whose classic 9 For example Itama Even-Zohar, Polysystem Theory, Poetics Today, 11 (1990), 9 26 (p. 15). 10 André Lefevere, Translation, Rewriting and the Manipulation of Literary Fame (London, 1992), p Susan Bassnett, The Translation Turn in Cultural Studies, in Constructing Cultures: Essays on Literary Translation, edited by Susan Bassnett and André Lefevere (Shanghai, 2001), pp (p. 134). 12 Lawrence Venuti, Translation, Interpretation, Canon Formation, in Translation and the Classic: Identity as Change in the History of Culture, edited by Alexandra Lianeri and Vanda Zajko (New York, 2008), pp (p. 28). 298

5 Translation and Literature 26 (2017) status is not as safely entrenched as that of the hypercanons. 13 In the same way, the translated Chinese works discussed in the present paper are not canonical or classic in themselves, but classic texts as defined by Penguin, their canonicity validated only within specific geographical, historical, cultural, and social contexts. However, acknowledging that canons are socially and historically constructed does not entail a rejection of the role of aesthetic or formal properties. Rather, it is aesthetic values that contribute to the enduring pre-eminence of a text and enable it to transcend its cultural and historical particularity; otherwise one would not be able to explain why there are certain works whose canonicity has endured through the changing ideologies of different times. The normative and historical sides of classics can thus be reconciled and co-articulated because they have both illuminated different aspects of canon formation. In the case of Penguin Classics, both textual features including those of the original and translated texts and non-literary factors are at work in the canonization mechanism of translated Chinese literature, although every step in the process, starting from the selection of source text to the production of a translation and its circulation in the foreign market, is mediated by the values, beliefs, and ideology of the receiving culture. The present paper takes cognizance both of the aesthetic value of Chinese literary works and the socio-cultural forces involved in installing them as translated classics. The first step in canon formation is the choice of text, and hostculture values are instrumental in determining what source texts are chosen. These values, known as translation policy in Toury s theory of translation norms, 14 by determining which works of foreign literature are selected for translation, either help to confirm a high estimate of certain works/authors, or help to dislodge them from eminent positions, thus rearranging the foreign culture s hierarchies in the receiving context. By May 2017 Penguin Classics had published over thirty translations of Chinese works. 15 The admission of Chinese works to Penguin 13 Damrosch s three-tiered system of canons includes hypercanon (old, major authors who have held their own or even gained ground over the past twenty years), countercanon, and shadow canon (old, minor authors who fade increasingly into the background). See David Damrosch, World Literature in a Postcanonical, Hypercanonical Age, in Comparative Literature in an Age of Globalization, edited by Haun Saussy (Baltimore, MD, 2006), pp Gideon Toury, Descriptive Translation Studies - and Beyond, rev. edn (Amsterdam, 2012), p One should distinguish the works published by Penguin Classics and those by Penguin Books. Some works of Chinese literature, like Mo Yan s Red Sorghum and Jiang Rong s Wolf Totem, have been published by Penguin Books but not within the Penguin Classics series. 299

6 Qian Menghan/Chinese Penguin Classics Classics began when, in the early 1960s, two anthologies of Chinese literature were first introduced: The Golden Casket: Chinese Novellas of Two Millennia, edited by Wolfgang Bauer and Herbert Frank, and the two-volume Anthology of Chinese Literature: From Early Times to the Fourteenth Century, edited by Cyril Birch. The series then started to acquire individual writers and works. By today one might distinguish three categories here. One is made up of ancient Chinese philosophical and cultural texts, including four classics of Confucianism (The Analects, Ta Hsüeh and Chung Yung, Mencius, andthe Most Venerable Book), two Taoist canons (Tao Te Ching and The Book of Chuang Tzu), two texts from other schools (The Book of Master Mo and The Art of War), and a work of Chinese mythology: The Classic of Mountains and Seas. These works represent the most influential texts of China s ancient philosophy, but still constitute only a part of the hundred schools of thought that flourished primarily in the period 551 bc to c.233 bc and laid the basis for the Chinese way of thinking. A second category is composed of ancient Chinese literature, including four novels (The Story of the Stone, Monkey, Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, andsix Records of a Floating Life), five poetry anthologies (Poems by Li Po, Tu Fu, and Wang Wei, New Songs from a Jade Terrace, andthe Songs of the South), and one collection of plays: Six Yuan Plays. Interestingly, only two of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature the four books regarded as most influential by Chinese literary critics and readers alike 16 are incorporated into the series. A third category is modern and contemporary Chinese literature. The first example to arrive on the list was Qian Zhongshu s Fortress Besieged, followed by Eileen Chang s five novel/novella collections: Love in the Fallen City, Half A Lifelong Romance, Traces of Love, Red Rose, White Rose,andLust, Caution. Also admitted are The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China: The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun, and Lao She s Cat Country and Mr Ma and Son. A number of the works of Chinese literature on the list had already been translated by Chinese scholars, 17 but the publisher consistently The roster of Chinese literature provided here is compiled from Penguin Modern Classics: The Complete List (2013), Penguin Classics: A Complete Annotated Listing (2012), and more recent information on the Penguin Classics official websites. Books first written in English by Chinese immigrant authors will not be discussed here. 16 The four great classical novels of Chinese literature are Hong Lou Meng (The Story of the Stone), Xi You Ji (Journey to the West), Shui Hu Zhuan (Water Margins), and Sanguo Yanyi (Romance of the Three Kindoms). The third and fourth are not included in the Penguin Classics list. 17 For example, Xi You Ji had been translated by Anthony Yu as The Journey to the West in 1977; Liaozhai Zhiyi by Zhang Qingnian, Zhang Ciyun, and Yang Yi as Strange Tales from the Liaozhai Studio in 1997; Fusheng Liuji by Lin Yutang as Six Chapters of a Floating Life in 1939; Lu Xun s fictions by Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang as Selected Works of Lu Xun in Yang Xianyi, Zhuo Zhengying, Sun Dayu, and Xu Yuanchong had all published their own translations of Chu Ci, and Eileen Chang had translated several of her own writings. 300

7 Translation and Literature 26 (2017) opted for renderings by non-chinese translators. The only exceptions are Liu Jung-En, who translated Six Yuan Plays, and Eva Hung, who translated Traces of Love. Chiang Su-Hui and Nathan K. Mao helped polish the translations of Six Records of a Floating Life and Fortress Besieged which had been completed by their foreign collaborators. The Chinese works admitted as Penguin Classics to date overlap with, but in some respects diverge from, what are understood to be classics in China. For instance, New Songs from a Jade Terrace and Six Records of a Floating Life have never come into prominence in China. Modern authors like Qian Zhongshu and Eileen Chang were recognized by Chinese critics only after their canonization by eminent Western critics. This demonstrates a certain discrepancy between Chinese and Western literary traditions as well as ideas of canonicity. But it also suggests that these works canonical status is conditioned by the values of a specific time, place, and culture. Thus it remains to be seen whether these works, especially the more recently admitted modern and contemporary ones, will remain classics by standing the test of time. Identifying the common characteristics of these selected works should enable us to identify the basis of Penguin Classics choice of Chinese works and thus the reasons for their inclusion. For these purposes the works can be classed into four types: (1) Works which have secured their canonicity at home and experienced re-canonization in English culture. The classic novels, such as The Story of the Stone and Monkey, as well as the philosophical texts of various schools, fall into this category. (2) Works conforming to the Western literary tradition in its elevation of individual expression. As Leonard Pratt, translator of Six Records of a Floating Life, proclaims: Official literature of the Imperial period tells us little of the daily life of the more ordinary Chinese people... The Six Records does tell us in great detail. 18 Works like New Songs from a Jade Terrace, Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, and The Story of the Stone all rest heavily on artistic or imaginative portraits of private life. As for twentieth-century literature, this is corroborated by Karen Kinsbury, translator of Half a Lifelong Romance, and Julia Lovell, who wrote an afterword for Lust, Caution. Together they point out Eileen Chang s strategy of relegating to the background any major historical events or massive forms of public upheaval, in order to keep [the] emphasis on the personal, the psychological and the sensory, 19 and her writing of trivial things between men and women, 18 Leonard Pratt, Introduction, in Six Records of a Floating Life, translated by Leonard Pratt and Chiang Su-Hui (London, 1983), p Karen Kingsbury, Introduction, in Half a Lifelong Romance, translated by Karen Kinsbury (London, 2014), p. x. 301

8 Qian Menghan/Chinese Penguin Classics of the thoughts and feelings of ordinary, imperfect people struggling through... day-to-day dislocations. 20 Such works are centred, then, on the personal, individual, and psychological, chiming with the Western literary tradition s emphasis on individual imaginative exploration and the valorization of personal growth and development. Under (3) come works demonstrating essential qualities of Western literary canons, such as their humanistic spirit and aesthetic sophistication. This has to a certain extent brought out differences between Chinese and Western critics with regard to the evaluation of Chinese works and authors. For instance, in spite of its literary accomplishments, Six Records of a Floating Life has been far less recognized as a classic at home than such novels as Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Water Margin, which have not become Penguin Classics. In anglophone literary criticism, however, the novel is highly esteemed for its treatment of the daring topic of matrimonial bliss, has been translated three times in the twentieth century, and has been used in many a classroom. Similarly, both Qian Zhongshu and Eileen Chang were rejected by Chinese ideology in the 1960s. But around the same time, C. T. Hsia and other Western scholars started to highlight the importance of these authors, celebrating their works rich imagery, range of sensibilities, and attentiveness to concrete detail. 21 Although political considerations are at work, the effort by Western scholars to discover these neglected authors has shown they have valued artistic distinction in assessing Chinese literature, and tried to appreciate them as self-sufficient aesthetic entities. A final class (4) is made up of works that combine the Chinese experience with genres and other elements not traditionally associated with China, such as the passion of love in New Songs from a Jade Terrace, the revelation of human nature in Eileen Chang and Qian Zhongshu s novels, the sci-fi and dystopian writing in Cat Country, and the Western setting and postcolonial awareness in Mr Ma and Son. These thematic or stylistic features with parallels to Western literature have come to resonate with what is regarded by many Chinese scholars as essential to the success of Chinese literature on the international stage: the incorporation of common values of humanity with local experience, and the glocalization of Chinese literature Julia Lovell, Editor s Afterword, in Lust, Caution, translated by Julia Lovell, Karen Kinsbury, et al. (London, 2007), p Hsia Chih-tsing, A History of Modern Chinese Fiction (New Haven, CT, 1961), pp. 393, The many Chinese scholars include Zhang Qinghua, ( On Literariness and the Chinese Experience ), (Literature and Art Forum), 10 (2007), pp. 1 2; Song Xuezhi, ( What is a Classic of Literary Translation? ), (Chinese Translators Journal), 1 (2005), pp ; and Wang Ning, 302

9 Translation and Literature 26 (2017) In short, the inclusion of a Chinese work in Penguin Classics can be partly attributed to the prestige the work has accrued in the Chinese and/or receiving culture, and partly to its own aesthetic significance from the perspective of Western literary values. In addition, with the advent of cultural globalization, the plurality of languages, the concept of a global canon, and the development of a transnational perspective on literature have underwritten the idea that literary texts are heterogeneous cultural artefacts. In selecting foreign works for its list, accordingly, Penguin Classics has attached increasing importance to the works supranationality, modernity, and transcendent universality but usually, as I will argue, on a particular view of how the works exhibit these qualities. Translation is also a key step in canonization. When a classic is translated, writes Lawrence Venuti, its very nature as linguistic and literary artefact is fundamentally altered, along with the value it had acquired in the foreign culture where it was produced. 23 Translators, that is to say, alter a work in ways that can radically change perceptions of it. In translation a work may either fail to acquire the status it had enjoyed in the foreign culture, or a work may be able to (re-) establish its canonicity by acquiring an afterlife or continued survival in the receiving culture. A translator s creativity may improve a work s readability. And more specifically, although Penguin translations of Chinese literary works vary in their stylistic features, they still exhibit common tendencies in the use of certain strategies to contribute to their literary stature. These can be identified as follows. One strategy is to highlight the foreign elements in translations. Penguin Classics attaches much importance to the fidelity and authority of its translations. Most of its translators have chosen to register the linguistic and cultural differences of the foreign works. In dealing with culture-specific Chinese expressions, they have used literal translation with explication, transliteration, or compensation to create a foreign reading experience. Such defamiliarizing effects may prevent immediate understanding and open the reader s mind to new perceptions. This happens to harmonize with Harold Bloom s claim that the key indicator for canonicity is strangeness, a mode of originality that either cannot be assimilated, or that so assimilates us ( Canonization, Non-Canonization and Re-Canonization ), (Southern Cultural Forum), 5 (2006), pp Venuti (n. 12), p

10 Qian Menghan/Chinese Penguin Classics that we cease to see it as strange 24 if we admit that foreignness in translation is also a form of originality. These unfriendly translations challenge readers with unexpected imagery and unfamiliar grammatical or lexical choices. Instead of using idiomatic English phrases to replace Chinese culture-bound expressions, the translator Karen Kingsbury explains that in her Love in A Fallen City she has pushed hard at commonplace idioms and metaphors, trying to find lively equivalents instead of letting them dissolve unobtrusively, as could well happen in a skilled Chinese reader s mind. 25 An expression meaning to abuse someone by pointing at someone else ( ) is rendered pointing at the mulberry but cursing the locust tree. Another, meaning to argue with someone face to face (, ), turns into beat the drums, bang the gongs. Other examples are ( bleeding from one s mouth, nose, and ears ) as spouting blood from all seven bodily openings, and ( to hack someone to death ) as gradual dismemberment and death by ten thousand slices of the sword. 26 In Fortress Besieged, the translators have endeavoured to reproduce the Chinese work s rich verbal texture by retaining an abundance of literary devices including paradoxes, wordplay, literary allusions, and so on. A second translation strategy is scholarly annotation. Most of the translated Chinese works in Penguin Classics exhibit the hallmarks of thick translation, in which the translators edit, annotate, gloss, comment, and provide their own references, so as to create a more informed intellectual or cultural context. The voluminous explanatory material is intended to retain the complexity and profundity of the original, to present a rich and diverse cultural identity, and awaken in anglophone readers a certain respect for the foreign culture. In particular, the use of paratextual material like prefaces, introductions, and afterwords has special pragmatic status, and can ensure that the text is read in the desired way. Readers of Penguin Classics translations of Chinese literature are provided with such introductions and afterwords, some written by the translators themselves and some by well-known scholars of Chinese literature, which provide biographical information on the author and discuss the work s 24 Bloom (n. 7), p Introduction to Love in a Fallen City, translated by Karen Kingsbury (London, 2007), p. xvi. 26 See Love in a Fallen City, translated by Karen Kingsbury (London, 2007), pp. 125, 118; Cat Country, translated by William A. Lyell (Melbourne, 2013), p. 151; and Mr Ma and Son, translated by William Dolby (Melbourne, 2013), p

11 Translation and Literature 26 (2017) historical background, central themes, and literary achievements. 27 In the extended afterword which N. K. Mao writes for Fortress Besieged, he gives a detailed overview of Western criticism on the novel followed by his own analysis of its artistic features, in which the work is praised as China s greatest novel and the author as China s foremost scholar novelist. 28 The translator of Six Records of a Floating Life also underscores the canonical status of the work in his introduction: a book arising out of the Imperial literary tradition that extolled enduring, romantic love easily became and has remained a favorite among Chinese readers. 29 And the introduction to the poetry anthology of Tu Fu and Li Po takes up nearly half the book s length. It consists of eleven parts, and contains in-depth discussion of the origins and development of T ang Poetry. Apart from prefaces, introductions, and afterwords, Penguin Classics translations are characterized by the extensive use of notes and appendices, which provide a wide range of information in the form of chronology, maps, tables of weights and measures, further reading lists, glossaries of personal and place names, Chinese names and pronunciation, discussions of the works themes, key terms, basic concepts, and so on. Annotations are especially abundant in translations of philosophical and ancient literary texts. In Ta Hsüeh and Chung Yung, for instance, the translation is accompanied by a structural analysis and integral argument, coupled with 206 footnotes and three appendices that anatomize separately the work s key concepts, its textual history, and the use of copy texts. Moreover, in translating the terse and ambiguous writings of Chinese philosophy, the technique of stealth gloss is used: the translator adds narrative subjects, conjunctive phrases, and explanatory words to make the translation more coherent and logical for Western readers. The poetry anthology New Songs from a Jade Terrace has over 700 notes which inter alia expound the name, courtesy name, birthplace, life story, and official role(s) of each poet. While some Chinese Penguin Classics tend to foreignization, some translators have chosen to adopt a reader-oriented strategy, recontextualizing the translation in light of the assumed needs of the intended audience. The translators have prioritized making their versions readable and idiomatic. Julia Lovell states in her translation of The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun that, in an attempt to enhance 27 All the Chinese Penguin Classics under discussion are accompanied by an introduction and/or afterword apart from Red Rose, White Rose and Traces of Love. 28 Nathan K. Mao, Afterword in Fortress Besieged, translated by Jean Kelly and Nathan K. Mao (London, 2006), pp. 391, Pratt (n. 18), p

12 Qian Menghan/Chinese Penguin Classics the fluency of the text, she has kept the use of footnotes and endnotes to a minimum and worked Chinese background information unobtrusively and economically into the main body of the text, so as to offer a more faithful recreation of the original reading experience than a version that literally renders every point. 30 Thus she has replaced Chinese culture-specific phrases in the novel with simple, vivid, and colloquial English expressions, rendering, ( The monk can touch you, why can t I? ) as sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander ; ( Xuande Emperor s burner ) as a valuable Ming incense-burner ; ( Fu Xi s eight-diagram style ) and ( Cang Jie s ghost-crying style ) as a miscellany of calligraphic styles. 31 Another much-discussed example is David Hawkes translation of The Story of the Stone, in which many Chinese culture-bound expressions are assimilated to Western norms: ( Xiaoxiang Bamboo Lodge ) is translated as Naiad s House ; ( go to Mount Wutai ) as go to heaven ; ( Amitabha ) as God bless my soul. 32 In the canonizing process of The Story of the Stone, Hawkes pleasurably fluent version plays an undeniable role. Studies of the international reception of Hawkes and Yang Xianyi s translations of Hong Lou Meng find that the former has been cited as the authoritative source in specialist circles and far better received by general readers. 33 Some translators have even made radical changes to the work s structure, as Arthur Waley did with his translation of Monkey. Inorder to conform the work to the psychology and reading habits of a Western readership in the post-second World War era, Waley omitted seventy chapters of the Chinese novel, removed descriptive passages, and shifted the focus of the book from the quartet s legendary pilgrimage to the development of a single character: the monkey king. The abridged translation has enabled Western readers to understand the work s general storyline in terms of a forceful response to the Western literary tradition that gives prominence to personal growth and development. Monkey is Waley s own title, replacing what would literally be Journey to the West. 30 The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China: The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun, translated by Julia Lovell (London, 2009), p. xliv. 31 See The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China: The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun, translated by Julia Lovell (London, 2009), pp. 92, 112, See The Story of the Stone, translated by David Hawkes, 5 vols (London, 1973), I, 365, 433, Jiang Fan, ( The Story of the Stone Abroad ) (Tianjin, 2014), p

13 Translation and Literature 26 (2017) By such means Penguin Classics translators engage their readers emotionally and intellectually in Chinese literature. These high-quality translations have engendered multiple afterlives for Chinese literary works beyond their original language and culture, the prerequisite for establishing the works canonical status and a solid foundation for the follow-up canonization processes: publishing and literary criticism. Publishing provides for the wider recognition of a canon. In Lefevere s much-cited system of patronage, publishers are institutions outside the literary system that might promote or hinder the reading, writing, and rewriting of works. In particular, recognized publishers of highbrow literature play an important part in admitting new works to the canon. 34 Lawrence Venuti has also confirmed the two-fold function of publishers in the canonization or de-canonization of works of foreign literature. On the one hand, publishing practices have decisively shaped our intercultural exchanges and contributed to the appallingly low volume of anglophone translations on the market; yet on the other, publishers promotion and marketing schemes running advertisements, sending out review copies to newspapers and magazines, and contracting editors and reviewers in order to generate some favorable publicity 35 all help translated texts achieve their status in the target culture. But what exactly are the strategies by which Penguin Classics have managed to elevate their works of Chinese literature to the status of classics? One of the ways in which Penguin Classics contributes to the canonization of foreign literature is through synopses or descriptions on the cover, coupled with brief introductory messages on its official websites and catalogues. Such synopses cannot be neutral: they represent a view of the work (deriving from the marketing department or wherever else) that will often set the parameters for readers understanding. Driven by the profit motive, the publisher has first to consider the reading habits and expectations of the anglophone audience, taking account of its needs and preferences. Two important publisher strategies can be identified here. The first is to advertise the works universal values or global elements, so as to highlight the affinity between Chinese and Western literatures. The cover description of Poems by Li Po and Tu Fu stresses that this anthology covers the whole spectrum of human life, experience and feeling. 36 And the reasons for publishing Ta Hsüeh and 34 Lefevere (n. 10), p Lawrence Venuti, Translation Changes Everything (London, 2013), pp. 158, The synopses are quoted from the official website of Penguin Classics UK at < https:// > (accessed 21 June 2017). 307

14 Qian Menghan/Chinese Penguin Classics Chung Yung are that the work has established a universal framework that links individuals with the cosmos, as well as having long occupied a central position in the educational and political infrastructure of China, Korea and Japan, nations whose influence and popularity continues to grow, in the East and in the West. The Art of War is introduced as an elemental part of Chinese culture which has also become a touchstone for the Western struggle for survival and success, whether in battle, in business or in relationships. A second strategy is to foreground the works as a source of information on China, the gateway to understanding Chinese culture. According to the blurb for The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun, forexample, the book is to be recommended because its author bequeathed to modern Chinese letters a contradictory legacy of cosmopolitan independence, polemical fractiousness and anxious patriotism that continues to resonate in Chinese intellectual life today. The synopses of both Mencius and The Book of Chuang Tzu point out that these works are vital to comprehending Chinese philosophy. Jo Lusby, Penguin China s managing director, has explicitly promoted Lao She s Cat Country and Mr Ma and Son by claiming that Penguin s release of the two books as part of its Modern Classics series is the right platform to promote him and his reputation as being somewhat essential reading if you want to understand the contemporary Chinese psyche. 37 It is arguable that these strategies answer to two common requirements of Western readerships: a desire to identify with other cultures in a search for universality, and a desire for both cosy ethnicity and coveted exoticism. By employing the two strategies, the Chinese works selected are made to appear at once accessible and appealing. In recent years, state control over the publishing of Chinese writers overseas has been eased, with a number of foreign publishers directly involved in, and even dominating, the publishing process. This has in effect broadened and diversified the publishing channels of Chinese literature, and facilitated a series of effective marketing devices. Foreign publishing institutions have thus been given more say in introducing and interpreting Chinese literature in the international literary arena. The strategies Penguin Classics have used in promoting it reveal exactly what Penguin understands are its selling points for anglophone readers. Setting aside the question of whether this understanding of the translated works is correct or not, Penguin s efforts to explore the universality and local colour in Chinese literature 37 Debra Bruno, New Release of Lao She Books Revisits a Dark History, Wall Street Journal, 9 August

15 Translation and Literature 26 (2017) should be acknowledged, in that they have the potential to foster in Western readers an appreciation for the depth and diversity of Chinese literature, and to provide opportunities for more Chinese works to break into the international book market in the future. As an important mode of rewriting, literary criticism also participates in the canonization process for translated literature. Critics, both in the academy and in the media, have great authority in determining how a translated text is viewed, and serve as a conduit for the eventual reception of a whole canon. Lefevere has pointed out that translations, criticism, and entries in reference works operate in tandem, supplementing (though sometimes contradicting) each other, in efforts to canonize an author in English. 38 The Chinese literary classics on the Penguin list would never have reached their exalted positions without favourable receptions from academic and other powerful literary-critical institutions in the West. Criticism in the form of literary histories and anthologies constitutes the primary means of canon-formation. These are the most enlightening and memorable ways of transmitting a culture within a country because the arrangement, the configuration, creates a meaning and value greater than the sum of meanings and values of the individual items taken in isolation. 39 In the early 1960s, when Eileen Chang was ignored by most politically-minded Chinese scholars, C. T. Hsia devoted a whole chapter to her, a chapter longer than any other in his pioneering Yale University Press-published History of Modern Chinese Fiction. Apart from extolling the rich imagery and powerful symbolism in Chang s works, Hsia also regards Fortress Besieged as the most delightful and carefully wrought novel in modern Chinese literature, perhaps also its greatest, and highly commends Lao She s Mr Ma and Son. 40 It is generally agreed that Hsia s work has established the reputation of Chang and other modern Chinese authors within Western academia. Or we might take, from a remoter generation of literary history, the distinguished British sinologist Herbert Giles, whose History of Chinese Literature commends Journey to the West as a favorite novel written in a popular and easy style, and Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio as a work which for purity and beauty of style is now universally accepted in China as among the best and most perfect models. 41 A standard study of Chinese literature, Giles 38 André Lefevere, Acculturating Bertolt Brecht, in Constructing Cultures, edited by Susan Bassnett and André Lefevere (Shanghai, 2001), pp (p. 109). 39 Armin Paul Frank, Anthologies of Translation, in The Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, edited by Mona Baker (London, 2001), pp (p. 13). 40 Hsia (n. 21), pp. 395, 441, Herbert Giles, A History of Chinese Literature (New York, 1901), pp. 281,

16 Qian Menghan/Chinese Penguin Classics work has been reprinted many times, and has undoubtedly helped these translated texts secure their position in the Western literary system. As well as histories, scholarly monographs written by well-known critics and sinologists in the West also play a major part. The international recognition of poems by Wang Wei, Li Po, and Tu Fu owes much to Stephen Owen s seminal The Great Age of Chinese Poetry: The High T ang, in which Owen discusses this period as the apogee of Chinese poetry, and elucidates the differences between the poets artistic styles and accomplishments by setting them in their respective historical contexts. Although Owens warns against the tendency to identify a period with individual poets, Wang Wei, Li Po, and Tu Fu still constitute the focus of his work. 42 A final genre deserving mention here is book reviews in major newspapers, which also serve as a platform where Chinese works are dissected, debated, and accumulate cultural capital. Immediately before Penguin Classics took Fortress Besieged onto its list, the Guardian published an article by Julia Lovell under the title Great Leap Forward, which describes its arrival as momentous, and provides a detailed introduction to the author, the work, and its translation, followed by scathing reflections on Western publishers records with modern Chinese literature. 43 An important feature of Western literary scholarship on Chinese literature is its diversified research perspectives. By drawing on recent developments in a variety of disciplines, Western critics have tried to probe the textual and extra-textual features of Chinese writing. Their innovative theoretical paradigms and research methodologies have given much insight into the understanding of the cultural, political, and social dimensions of Chinese literary texts, and fully activated their vitality in the English literary system. For instance, in his Voices from the Iron House: A Study of Lu Xun, Leo Ou-Fan Lee adopts a psychological perspective, revealing the impact of family, education, and early experiences on Lu Xun s writings, and presenting the author as a man who struggles with his inner doubts. The work sets Lu Xun s works against the backdrop of Chinese historical situations and establishes him as a prodigious but complex artist, rather than the all-powerful revolutionary of propagandistic Chinese presentations. 44 In recent years, studies of The Story of the Stone in the West have also 42 Stephen Owen, The Great Age of Chinese Poetry: The High T ang (New Haven, CT, 1981). 43 Julia Lovell, The Great Leap Forward, The Guardian, 10 June Leo Ou-Fan Lee, Voices from the Iron House: A Study of Lu Xun (Bloomington, IN, 1987). 310

17 Translation and Literature 26 (2017) become increasingly multifaceted, with scholars approaching the novel from a rich array of angles such as feminism, narratology, architectural aesthetics, and New Historicism. This novel has thus become less closely tied to its mid-eighteenth-century origins and has come to seem more contemporary. Another characteristic of Western literary criticism is its tendency to establish parallels between Chinese and Western literatures. Through comparative studies, Western scholars have looked to their native literatures for analogies to the Chinese works they have sought to introduce, so as to incorporate them into the discourse of Western literary criticism. In doing so, they have rewritten these Chinese works in terms of a critical vocabulary that is immediately intelligible to a non-specialist audience, which encourages a sense of identification and affinity. Among the works assimilated into the Penguin Classics list, Monkey has been associated with works of Western mythology such as Homer s Odyssey, Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio with Western Gothic novels, The Story of the Stone with wisdom literature and the apprenticeship novel, Cat Country with utopian/dystopian satires, Mr Ma and Son with anti-colonialist writings, and so on. The use of such a strategy derives partly from Western elements that some later Chinese authors have incorporated in their works, and partly from Western critics efforts to find connections between Chinese and Western literary traditions. It is worth noting that among these critics, Chineseborn literary scholars living overseas have contributed much to Western criticism of Chinese literature by exploiting their knowledge both of Chinese literary traditions and Western theoretical resources. Their writings, along with those of native Western sinologists, have potential to exert an impact on English readers reading preferences, and can even foreshadow publishers selections of texts. The previous sections have identified the various means by which canon-forming forces have assigned high status to Chinese works in translation, and promoted them as classics. Translation carries a work across time and space into a global context. Publishers present the work appealingly and help it thrive on the international market. Critics and reviewers influence how it is read and interpreted, and grant it access to readerships, whether drawn from the general public or in education/academia. These processes do not necessarily happen in a standard order; a work can even be translated and submitted to critical judgement before being published. But these different canonization processes feed into each other and feed off each other. Publishers and the media may join forces in marketing books and informing decisions 311

18 Qian Menghan/Chinese Penguin Classics on translation strategies; literary critics may cooperate with publishers by writing introductions or book reviews for recent releases. The whole mechanism reveals a consistent appetite for a blending of the local and the global; and all the agents in the receiving situation are acting under the influence of cultural and ideological values. It is undeniable that, in a work s passage to canonicity, extra-literary factors have provided people with new perspectives for understanding the translated text, but more often than not they go hand in hand with a degree of prejudice against the culture of the Other. The history of literary celebration, as Pascale Casanova writes, amounts to a long series of misunderstandings and misinterpretations that have their roots in the ethnocentrism of the dominant authorities. 45 While it is true that some Chinese works have won worldwide acclaim as a result of these canonizing strategies, and have been hailed by many as success stories in terms of Chinese literature going global, it can be shown that prejudice and misunderstanding persist through the whole process of canon-formation. To some degree, the growth of international recognition is achieved at the price of perpetuating entrenched stereotypes of Chinese literature and culture. For one thing, the information Penguin Classics provide for their readers is sometimes one-sided. The synopsis of The Most Venerable Book on the Penguin Classics website suggests that The First Emperor tried in 213 BC to have all copies of the book destroyed because of its subversive implication that the Mandate of Heaven could be withdrawn from rulers who failed their people. For similar reasons it was also banned by Chairman Mao... [and has] been revived by the Chinese government of the 2010s. The second sentence probably alludes to the Chinese Cultural Revolution, when Confucian teachings came under attack, but studies of Confucianism were available again in China long before the 2010s. Accentuating the work s political implications can easily be seen as a response to the Western obsession with anything that is banned and forbidden in China. Literary scholarship and media reviewing of Chinese literature in the West are notable for their Eurocentricity. In particular, modern and contemporary Chinese literature has often been viewed as source material for the study of Chinese thought and society. Although the tendency to regard modern Chinese fiction as socialist realism has been accompanied by a growing interest in the artistic merits of the texts, 45 Pascale Casanova, The World Republic of Letters, translated by M. B. DeBevoise (Cambridge, MA, 2004), p

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