Posts Tagged ‘Nobel prize’

LIGHT – 伊沙 Yi Sha

十月 8, 2017

Yi Sha
PLAINLY SAID IT’S LIKE THIS

Two years ago at this time
I was in Vermont.
In that month,
I was with poets and writers, all kinds of artists,
everyone doing their stuff.
60 people,
I was the only one waiting for news on the Nobel.
I asked them
why they didn’t care.
They gave me strange looks,
like I was some Chinese bug on the ground.
Oh, we have such a deep Nobel complex,
it’s in our cultural genes.
Plainly said it’s opportunism,
always looking for shortcuts,
no doubt about it.

October 2016
Translated by MW, October 2017

 

 

《说穿了便是》

两年前这时候
我在佛蒙特
那个月里
我与来自世界各地的
诗人、作家、艺术家
一起创作
六十个人里
只有我
在关心诺奖的消息
我问他们
为什么不关心
他们用怪怪的眼神
望着我这只中国土鳖
哦,中国人如此深重的
诺奖情结
来自我们的文化基因
说穿了便是
机会主义者
老想走捷径
一锤子定音

2016/10

 

 

Yi Sha

I remember
three years ago
in Vermont,
Austrian sinologist Martin Winter told me
he didn’t agree
when I translated “light” into “guangming” 光明,
bright light.
“Light is just light”, he gave no reason.
I thought he didn’t like
the false pathos from the Mao era,
using big words.
Only just now
I see the light!
光 guang is immediate experience,
if you add 明 ming, meaning bright
the language is one step removed.
A colloquial poetry eagle
doesn’t pick up second-hand words.

October 2017
Translated by MW, Oct. 2017

 

《light》

伊沙

我记得
三年前
在佛蒙特
奥地利汉学家
维马丁说
他不赞同
把英语中的light
译成中文的"光明"
"光就是光"
他没说理由
我理解成
他不喜欢
这来自毛时代的
假大空中文
如今
三年过去了
就在刚才
我恍然大悟
"光"是第一现场语言
加个"明"
就退到了第二现场
对于后者
口语鹰是不屑叼走食用的

(10月第16首,总第9168首)

 

Yi Sha
LATE REVENGE

we have a late poet and critic
in his many writings
he also named my greatest sin:
after 1989,
the Third Generation of elite poets –
some went to prison
some went into business
some had stopped writing
hence my sudden rise

this kind of thinking is interesting
let me use it on Charles Bukowski
from 1960 to 62
China was stuck in extreme misery
people were starving
he didn’t care if we starved to death
kept slurping cheap wine
kept writing good poems
and became famous

October 2017
Translated by MW, October 2017

 

《秋后算账》
伊沙

一位死去的诗人、诗评家
在其洋洋万字的遗文中
给我罗致的罪名是
1989年后
趁第三代精英诗人
坐牢的坐牢
下海的下海
罢笔的罢笔
而崛起

这种思维很有意思
我想拿来一用
给美国诗人布考斯基 罗致一项罪名
1960-1962年 趁中国人民在水深火热中
忍饥挨饿
不顾我们死活
喝了好多烂酒
写了好多好诗
而崛起

2017/10

Yi Sha’s new book has come out in Chinese and German! Click here!

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HOW MANY ROADS

十二月 10, 2016

bob

HOW MANY ROADS
– for Bob Dylan

wer ist der beste deutsche dichter?
der wind der wind das himmlische kind

wer ist der beste englische dichter?
der wind der wind das himmlische kind

wer ist der beste höllische dichter?
der wind der wind das himmlische kind

wer ist der beste gutmenschendichter?
der wind der wind das himmlische kind

wer ist der beste bösmenschendichter?
der wind der wind das himmlische kind

wer ist der beste weibliche dichter?
der wind der wind das himmlische kind

wer ist der beste männliche dichter?
der wind der wind das himmlische kind

wer ist der österreichischste dichter?
der wind der wind das himmlische kind

MW Dezember 2016

img_20161209_070331_586

 

WIRBELT IM WIND
– Danke an Bob Dylan!

wieviele wege geht denn ein mensch
bevor du sagst er ist ein mensch?

eine weiße taube fliegt übers meer
wie oft bevor sie schläft?

wieviele male fliegt denn ein ball
bevor die kanone zerbricht?

die antwort, mein freund
die weht im wind
die antwort wirbelt im wind

wieviele jahre steht denn ein berg
bevor ihn der wind wäscht ins meer?

wieviele jahre stehen menschen auf
bevor du’s erlaubst: sie sind frei!

wieviele male drehst du dich um
und tust so als ob du nichts findst?

die antwort, mein freund
die weht im wind
die antwort wirbelt im wind

wieviele male schaut denn ein mann
bevor er den himmel sehen kann?

wieviele ohren brauchst du denn noch
bevor du hörst: jemand weint!

wieviele tote bis du dann weißt
dass zu viele niemand mehr find’t?

die antwort, mein freund
die weht im wind
die antwort wirbelt im wind

MW Dezember 2016

 

img_20161209_074251_496

 

img_20161209_070244_850

NOBLE POEM

十月 23, 2016
Photo by Ronnie Niedermeyer, www.rn.co.at

Photo by Ronnie Niedermeyer, http://www.rn.co.at

NOBLE POEM

wish I could write a noble poem
a prized noble poem
a swedish prized noble poem
a norwegian prized noble poem
pricey and noble
like norwegian beer
everything becomes pricey and noble
unless global warming
comes fast enough

MW October 2016

 

last week the brazilian author ricardo domeneck wrote a noble commentary on Facebook that actually sounds a little dylanesque, partly. masters of war, yes. dynamite. 伊沙 has a great little nobel dynamite poem. from 1992. 今年的文学諾貝爾得主有一首 Masters of War,我有一首 “X&Y”, 伊沙翻譯成《一搭一挡》。講尼克松和他的外交部长、大陸前领導和他的首相等等。墙上還有“毛”字,因為伊沙1991年一首小詩。 we had a reading here in vienna on Oct. 15 in our new housing close to the new central train station. we have a library downstairs. run by people from our house, we are there often. open to other houses, gudrun and peter built a stage, and we have theatre. and we had a bob dylan night a few months ago. masters of war is a little like my poem X&Y. x was cruel/ butt is sore/ y was able/ and suave./ both loved culture/ both destroyed/ hundred million/ butts are cold. written march 2007 in beijing. yes, nixon and kissinger, mao and zhou, maybe there is a pair like that in brazil? only six or seven swedes in over 100 years of a great swedish prize for literature is actually not very much, is it? wonder if ricardo brazil/domeneck/africa ever read tomas tranströmer. oh well. pity this busy monster manunkind/ not. progress is a comfortable disease:/ your victim (death and live safely beyond) plays with the bigness of its littleness …[…] pity poor flesh and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this fine specimen …. listen: there’s a hell/ of a good universe next door. let’s go. there must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief …

yes, the music of jimi hendrix. dylan is honored as tip of the iceberg, should be chuck berry and many others at the same time. preferably african brazilian women. yes, manunkind maybe doesn’t always deserve something poor ricardo doesn’t always get, maybe. pity. oh yes.

martin-winter_cover_web

Yi Sha_Cover_Web

WHY WRITE POETRY? – 馬非 Ma Fei

四月 30, 2016

Ma Fei small photo

Ma Fei
WHY WRITE POETRY?

In my dream
they hung me up,
dipped a whip in cold water
to beat me,
so I should confess.
Their question
was tricky:
“Why do you write poems?”
I told the truth:
“I don’t know.”
The leather lashed as heavy rain,
thicker, harder.
Really couldn’t stand it,
so I roared, “Pain! …”
A miracle happened,
the rain stopped.

2016
Tr. MW, 2016

 

《为什么写诗》

梦里
我被吊起来
有人用皮鞭
沾凉水
抽打我
严刑逼供
他们的问题
十分刁钻:
“为什么写诗”
我据实回答:
“不知道”
皮鞭变雨点
更密集地落下
实在受不了
我大喊一声:
“疼啊——”
奇迹发生了
雨点停了

 

Ma Fei
ALS ICH KLEIN WAR

in der nacht
geh ich raus aufs klo
sehe
die schaukel
an der weinranke
schwingt noch
mondlicht
sitzt
und freut sich

2015
Übersetzt von MW im Januar 2016

 

馬非
《小时候》

夜半
出门小便
看见
挂在葡萄架
的那具秋千
还在晃荡
月光
优哉游哉
坐在上面

2015

Ma Fei signiert

Ma Fei
IN DOUBT

Some people say this country
resembles a public toilet.
Some go further and say
it is a latrine.
I am not of the same opinion.
Whenever I enter such a latrine
I feel I am going to
spit out all my entrails.
In real life
I don’t feel this
all the time.

2015
Tr. MW, 2016

Ma Fei
ZWEIFEL

manche sagen dieses land
gleiche einem pissoir
andere meinen sogar
es sei eine latrine
ich hege nicht dieselbe meinung
auf einer latrine
hab ich immer das gefühl
ich spucke alle innereien heraus
sonst im leben
ist das
nicht immer so

2015
Übersetzt von MW im Januar 2016

《质疑》

有人将这个国家
比喻成公共厕所
更有甚者
比喻成公共旱厕
我是有不同意见的
每次出入旱厕
无一例外都会产生的
吐光内脏的感觉
在现实生活中
我不是无时无刻
都有的

2015

Ma Fei
DOG POEMS – HUNDEGEDICHTE 2016
2016年第一浪

《决定》

有关狗诗
就是再好
我也不写了
在老婆说出
“等儿子
上大学去了
也养一条狗”
之后

DECISION

Dog poems,
even if they are good ones,
I’m not going to write them,
after my wife said,
“once our son
has left for college,
we’ll get a dog too.”

2016

ENTSCHEIDUNG

hundegedichte
auch wenn sie gut sind
werd ich nicht schreiben
nachdem meine frau gesagt hat
“wenn unser sohn
weit weg auf der uni ist
dann nehmen wir
uns auch einen hund”

2016

Ma Fei reads

《人民》

我对人民的反感
源自小时候
看过的电影
银幕上面的家伙
老以人民的名义
杀人
有一次
他们枪毙了
我喜欢的一个
女孩的父亲
使小姑娘
悲痛万分
无路可走
投河自尽

THE PEOPLE

my feeling against The People
comes from my childhood,
from the movies I saw.
those guys on the screen
they always killed
in the name of the people
one time they shot
the father of a girl I was fond of
the girl was so desperate
she saw no way out
drowned herself in the river

2016

DAS VOLK

meine abneigung gegen das volk
kommt aus den filmen
aus meiner kindheit
auf der leinwand
haben sie immer
im namen des volkes
leute getötet
einmal
wurde einer erschossen
der war der vater
eines mädchens
das ich gern hatte.
sie war untröstlich
sah keinen ausweg
und ging ins wasser

2016

《冲突》

针对一部电视剧的结尾
由于我的一句话
和老婆发生了冲突
还颇为激烈

作为主人公的革命老干部
在即将告别人世之际
哆哆嗦嗦地翻阅
儿子给他偷印来的档案
说:“你们看看
我一生清白
一个污点都没有
我很满足很幸福”
然后含笑而逝

我多嘴说:
“他应当痛哭才对”

 

Ma Fei
ARGUMENT

Concerning the end of a tv drama,
I had an argument with my wife,
it got rather intense.
The revolutionary cadre,
about to take leave from this world,
trembling while reading his file,
secretly printed out by his son,
saying: “You all take a look,
my whole life is blameless
not one little blemish!
I am happy, I am content.”
Then he dies with a smile.

And I ruined it and said:
“He should have been in agony!”

2016
Tr. MW, 3/29/16

Ma Fei reads in bookstore1

《人生是无尽的忍受》

虽然说
人生是无尽的忍受
但也有憋不住的时候
如果我不写诗
进行疏导
就爆炸了
尽管是因为写诗
才让我知道
人生是无尽的忍受

Ma Fei
LEBEN IST ENDLOSES ERTRAGEN

obwohl man sagt
leben ist endloses ertragen
manchmal kann man es nicht mehr halten
würd ich nicht schreiben
für umleitung sorgen
müsst ich explodieren
obwohl ich durchs schreiben
erst richtig erfahre
leben ist endloses ertragen

2016

《错过》

在刚刚过去的夏天
在西安小寨的天桥上
我被一位大学同窗
也是前女友拍入手机
她当时并不知道
是在事后整理照片时发现的
而我是在她把照片发过来后
才知道在那个时刻
我们俩同时出现在一个地点
硬生生地错过了
其时她在拍摄一个乞丐
无意间把我也拍了进去
从照片上看
我正经过这个乞丐
没给钱

Ma Fei
MISSED

This summer in Xiaozhai in Xi’an,
on a pedestrian bridge.
A friend from college,
my former girlfriend,
she took my picture but didn’t know it.
Only later she went through her mobile.
She sent it to me, then I realized,
we had been there at the same time,
but missed each other.
She took a photograph of a beggar,
I was in there by accident.
You can see on the photo,
I passed the beggar,
gave him no money.

2015
Tr. MW, 2016

 

Ma Fei
VERPASST

im grad erst vergangenen sommer
xiaozhai in xi’an, eine fussgängerbrücke
dort hat mich meine frühere freundin
und studienkollegin fotografiert
sie hat es zuerst nicht gewusst
später in ihrem handy hat sie mich entdeckt
mir das foto geschickt dann habs ich erst gewusst
wir waren gleichzeitig am selben ort
und haben uns ausgerechnet verpasst
sie hat einen bettler fotografiert
mich dabei zufällig auch aufgenommen
auf dem foto sieht man
ich geh an dem bettler vorüber
und geb ihm kein geld

2016
Übersetzt von MW, 2016

《屠呦呦》

屠呦呦在瑞典斯德哥尔摩
领取诺贝尔生理学或医学奖
并发表获奖感言的消息
中央电视台在新闻联播中
安排播出了
时间虽短
但还是看得我一身汗
我是担心啊——
播音员嘴一秃噜
来上这么一句:
“这是勤劳智慧的中国人民
又一次伟大的胜利”
说是中医的胜利
我勉强可以接受

Ma Fei
TU YOUYOU

Tu Youyou received her Nobel
in Stockholm
Biology prize or Medicine prize
and thanked them
on China Central Television
they didn’t air her for long
but I started sweating
I was afraid
the speaker would blurt out:
“This is another victory
for the working masses’ wisdom
of the Chinese people.”

If it was a victory for Chinese medicine,
I guess
that would be ok.

2016
Tr. MW, April 2016

踟蹰

我要去造访
一座雪山
从现在上路
需要耗时
一个冬天
这没什么
问题是你说:
“走到那里
就是春天了
冰雪该化了”

 

不屑爱

酒后归家
老婆正用IPAD
看电视剧
她说:“去
给我接盆水
洗脚”
半路折回
我问:“为啥”
“这里面说
男人给女人洗脚
可以证明爱”
她指着IPAD说
“那就算了
不过……
我给你捏背”

 

新年联欢会

他唱得真好
比原唱还好
可是他唱得越好
我越觉得不好
终至以接电话为由
逃到外面抽烟

他五十大几
听说曾有老婆
但跟别人跑了
是我们单位
临时聘来
打扫卫生的

那天他唱的歌曲是
《爱江山更爱美人》

可怕

事情的可怕之处
不在于
你离不开手机了
却可以任由
她的离去
而在于
在她离去的时候
你甚至都没有
从手机上
抬一下头

 

读书生活

有的书
我压根不知道
它的存在
有的书
我扫了一眼书名
就丢到一边去了
有的书
我读了开头
就丢到一边去了
有的书
我读到一半
就丢到一边去了
有的书
我是从中间读起的
有的书
我只读了最后几页
有的书我读完了
有的书我想读完
可是我读不完了
有的书会读到
我的结尾

Ma Fei
ICH WILL JEMANDEN SCHLAGEN

an einem tag
unterwegs
im bus
beim abendlichen spaziergang
haben drei leute
wie ausgemacht
mich dasselbe gefragt:
“da ist etwas in der luft,
es stinkt, riechen sie das?”
ich sag jedesmal
“meine nase ist entzündet”
wie ausgemacht
haben alle drei nicht nur neid im gesicht
sondern antworten auch noch dasselbe:
“entzündete nase haben ist gut!”

2016

《我想打人》

一日之内
在路上
在车上
在夜晚散步的时候
跟约好了似的
分别有三个人
如是问过我
相同的问题:
“空气里有股臭味
你闻到了吗”
我告诉他们
“我有鼻炎”
跟约好了似的
这三个人
不但露出艳羡的神色
还异口同声:
“鼻炎真好”

Ma Fei reads in bookstore

Ma Fei
NACHREDE

tief in meinem traum
hat mich jemand leise erwähnt
ich spitz die ohren
hör nur einen satz
aber das ist genug:
“dieser kerl ma fei
ist ziemlich stolz.”
ich bin gleich erleichtert
und kicher sogar
das war gute nachrede
jedenfalls
für einen dichter

2016

 

《坏话》

在梦的深处
有人悄声议论我
我竖耳细听
只捕捉到一句
但已足够
“马非这个家伙
比较傲”
我一下子放松了
还扑哧一笑
这哪是坏话
分明是表扬
对于诗人来说

 

牙疼的好处

让我相信
这个世界
还有美好
存在
意欲获取
也并不
十分困难
治好了牙
便得

荡妇

许多年过去了
这个非议女人
最恶毒的词
我几乎都是从
女人的口中
听闻的

 

乘机经历

在候机厅
老能听到
这样的广播:
“XXX乘客
您乘坐的航班
即将起飞
请速到X号登机口
上飞机”
有时不免奇怪
他们干啥去了
有时还很羡慕
仿佛如此待遇
是多好的待遇
于是就有了一次
如下的经历:
其实我早早到了
直到最后一名乘客登机
还稳稳地坐着
耳朵持续充血
越来越硬
越竖越高
也没听到
喊自己的名字
终至按耐不住
一个箭步
窜到登机口
递上登机牌
在美女地勤的白眼中
狂奔而入

 

一种现实

他对我说话的时候
看着别人
他冲别人说话的时候
目视着我

我正试图理解
错在我与别人
所处的位置关系
有问题
而不是他的生理缺陷
——斜视

做不到我也得做

 

冬日在杜甫故里

刚踏入大门
一个上了年纪的
女人就小跑过来
“师傅
麻烦给我拍一个照
和他”
她递上手机
又手指杜甫雕像
“天太冷了
我找了好半天
一个人也没有”

Ma Fe reads1

Ma Fei
KUNSTWERK

ich glaube nicht
dass der schornstein
der hinter der statue
des dichters Du Fu
in dem ort wo er lebte
fröhlich paffend
schwarze wolken ausstößt
böse absicht ist
im gegenteil
er meint es gut
es ist eine aktion
er will kontrastieren
kontrastieren und stärken
die sorge des dufu
um sein ganzes volk
dieser klassische ausdruck
das ist ihm gelungen

2016

Ma Fei
ART PIECE

I don’t think
the smokestack
spouting
clouds of dark smoke
behind Du Fu’s statue
in the town where he lived
was put there with ill will.
On the contrary,
I think it is well-intentioned.
It is a performance,
they want to contrast and emphasize
Du Fu’s great sorrow
for the land and the people
that classic expresssion
it shows very well

2016
Tr. MW, April 2016

《作品》

我不认为
立在杜甫故里
其塑像身后
不远处小山上
咕嘟咕嘟
冒黑烟的烟囱
是有人恶意而为
相反我以为
他充满好意
是行为艺术作品
他想借此达到的
烘托和强化
杜甫忧国忧民
经典表情的目的
实现得很完美

《在杜甫陵园》

在杜甫的雕像上
我找不见杜甫
在各色名人
以杜甫的诗句
为书写内容
的书法碑刻上
我找不见杜甫
在杜甫的坟前
我找不见杜甫
直至绕他的坟茔
步行一周
中途与一株正吐露
黄花的腊梅相遇
在微雪之中

Ma Fei audience

 

Ma Fei
ICH BIN ERST 45

den ganzen tag
hab ich an sex gedacht
mehr als an geld
überhaupt kein vergleich
wirklich
nicht schlecht

2016

Ma Fei
THIS YEAR I AM JUST 45

This whole day
I thought about sex,
so many times,
so much more
than about money;
I’m very content.

2016
Tr. MW, April 2016

《45岁某夜的一点反思》

一天之中
我想到性
比想到钱
的次数
依然多出
很多
对此
我很满意

GLASTÜR, ICH UND DU: Zwei Generationen 玻璃门、你和我:两代诗人各一首

十二月 13, 2013

glastuer

Tang Tu

GLASTÜR

 

ich schrieb von einem

kristallglas

das sich erhob

 

als eine tür

aus dem wohnzimmer

auf den balkon

 

wie die sonne

wollte sie durch

die fliege knallte

schallend aufs glas

 

ihr betäubtes

zuckendes

brummen

 

noch einmal kam es

ich wusste nicht

ob das knallen

 

dieselbe fliege

war oder nicht

 

der maeterlinck

der 1911 den nobelpreis

für literatur erhielt

dieser belgier

 

hat das verhalten

von insekten

gründlich erforscht

 

5. 8. 2013

 

Übersetzt von MW im Dezember 2013

 

Han Jingyuan

ICH UND DU

 

wir nicken uns zu

du mit deinem kopf

und ich mit meinem

dann richten wir beide köpfe gerade

 

wir lächeln uns zu

du lächelst dein lächeln

ich lächle meins

dann ziehen wir die schmerzenden muskeln ein

 

wir schütteln einander die hände

du schüttelst deine hand

ich schüttle meine

dann lassen wir los

 

wir umarmen einander und machen liebe

du machst deine

ich mache meine

wir haben einander nicht kennengelernt

 

so ist das leben

die nacht ist still wie überm bett grellweisses licht

die nacht ist still wie vom schnupfen der schweiss

die nacht ist still ohne signal

im TV

die scheibe brennt mit silberstreifen

 

Übersetzt von Martin Winter im Dezember 2013

 

韩敬源

《你和我》

我们互相点头

你点你的头

我点我的头

然后各自矫正弯曲的头

我们互相微笑

你笑你的笑

我笑我的笑

然后各自收敛被拉伤的肌肉

我们互相握手

你握你的手

我握我的手

然后彼此抽开

我们搂着对方作爱

你作你的

我作我的

我们彼此不认识

生活老这样

夜晚静得像床头白炽的光

夜晚静得如感冒时渗出的汗

夜晚静得如走失了信号

的电视机

屏幕上剧烈燃烧的银色光斑

Liao Yiwu, Meng Huang, Maria Rosen: Performance in Stockholm

三月 31, 2013

Liao Yiwu reading his poem “The Massacre”, Meng Huang 孟煌 reading his “Letter to Liu Xiaobo in Prison” and Maria Rosén singing the Swedish folksong “Ballad from Roknäs”, 19th March 2013, 9 pm, Sergels Torg, Stockholm, Sweden

Click here for texts and lyrics in Chinese, and to access the FREE LI BIFENG 釋放李必丰 page:

1993libifengDVD and CD recordings of Liao Yiwu’s works, with texts in Chinese, English and German: Please click on the image below
LiaoYiwu_72dpismall
Click here for recent texts and speeches by Liao Yiwu.

Mo Yan 莫言 and Liao Yiwu 廖亦武

三月 4, 2013

Mo Yan corn

無論怎樣,諾貝爾文學獎、和平獎十二年之內三次給中國人就是很大的機會。這次給主流作家,有矛盾。有矛盾就更加討論。像顧彬在艾未未被綁架的時候站在中國政府一邊,這樣的漢學家謝天謝地畢竟很少。馬悅然絕對不會這樣。

In December 2012, after Mo Yan’s Nobel lecture, they had heated discussions in Sweden, for example between Göran Sommardal and Björn Wiman. Liao Yiwu told me about it. You can read the articles in Swedish or Chinese (萬之譯) …

I also wrote a blog post about Mo Yan and ideology in early December, after the school massacre in Connecticut.

Liao Yiwu 廖亦武 is going to visit  Sweden this month (March 2013). He wrote another open letter to Göran Malmqvist. I have copied it here, along with a recent speech he held in Hamburg. In the open letter, Liao mentions a new song by the Chinese punk group Pangu 盤古.

Recently, I have translated essays and poems by Shi Mingde (Shih Ming-te) 施明德 and his brother Shi Ming-zheng 施明正, Li Khin-huann 李勤岸, Song Tik-lai 宋澤萊, Zhan Che 詹澈 and Yi Sha 伊沙. All of it has to do with resistance.

drache ade 别龍年

一月 28, 2013

Beijing

drache ade

der mond ist ungeheuer oben.
der drache ist bald nicht mehr da.
am spielplatz sehen wir noch den mond.
es war ein schoener nachmittag
mit kleinem bob im belvedere.
der schnee ist jetzt schon laenger da.
die rampe bei den stufen rechts
wenn man hinaufgeht. leo fuhr
auf maias kleinem leichtem bob
vom schiurlaub in kaernten noch.
es war ein schoener ruhiger platz
und niemand stoerte sich an uns.
und eine mexikanerin.
der erste schnee, ganz frisch in wien
mit ihrem freund. der kann gut deutsch
er wohnt auch hier. sie fragten uns
und leo liess sie einmal fahren
und sogar beide je einmal.
der mond ist ungeheuer oben
ein bisschen hoeher als im herbst.
der letzte mond im drachenjahr
das fruehlingsfest ist heuer spaet
es kommt am zehnten februar
der mond ist ungeheuer oben
ein bisschen hoeher als im herbst.
das drachenjahr war ganz ok
mehr wasser als beim letzten mal
es rannte damals jiang zemin
mit fackel in die neue zeit
auf dem milleniumsmonument
jetzt gibt es schon den xi jinping
viel wichtiger: es gibt mo yan
man ahnte beides lang davor
beim letzten mal wars gao xingjian
das war im letzten drachenjahr
recht lang ists her. 12 jahre frueher
da war ich in taiwan
die 80er jahre
das letzte jahr vor 89
hat da shen congwen noch gelebt?
der haett es auch noch fast gekriegt
in stockholm, aus des koenigs hand
fuer literatur aus den vierziger jahren
und dreissiger jahren. vor 49.
jetzt gibts in deutschland liao yiwu
aus taiwan kamen lai hsiangyin
und chen kohua unlaengst nach wien
in taiwan ist viel hoffnung da
in china ist die luft recht dick
der mond ist ungeheuer oben
ein bisschen hoeher als im herbst
das drachenjahr war ganz ok
mehr wasser als beim letzten mal
in peking wars sogar zuviel
im juli, mit ertrunkenen.
zum abschluss wurde es sehr kalt
am ende kam ein schlimmer smog.
war es ein gutes drachenjahr?
ich weiss es nicht. wir sind in wien
in wien gibts haeupl weiterhin
und bundesheer. an seinem platz
und wenigstens nicht fuer den krieg.
der mond ist ungeheuer oben
den fluechtlingen ist ziemlich kalt
vor 20 jahren: lichtermeer
ich war in china. doch davor
nach 89 bald danach
war ich in wien. da war der loeschnak an der macht.
der cap war auch schon funktionaer.
das boot war voll. das sagte wer.
es gab die plakate
gesetze statt hetze
als auslaenderhetze.
das als das das statt war
das wollte ich kleben
auf alle plakate. in einer nacht.
ein bisschen wie bei ai weiwei.
ich hatte nicht genuegend freunde.
dann kam der krieg. jugoslawienkriege.
und ich war in shanghai.
dann war ich zivildiener, lehrer
fuer fluechtlinge aus bosnien.
doch nur weil ich wollte.
der grissemann hat nichts getan.
vielleicht aber spaeter.
es gibt nichts gutes. man tut es.
von kaestner. wie war das?
dann ging ich nach wuhan.
und spaeter nach chongqing.
dazwischen war rumaenien.
wir lernten und lehrten.
wir kamen nach peking.
und jackie ging zum militaer.
militaer in der botschaft.
und alles ganz friedlich.
und ich uebersetzte
dann waren schon die kinder da.
der mond ist ungeheuer oben
ein bisschen hoeher als im herbst
der letzte mond im drachenjahr.
ich muss jetzt endlich schlafen gehen.

MW Sa., 26. Jaenner 2013

NOT

一月 7, 2013

Please click on the image

Mo1

My favourite comments on Mo Yan in the last few months are in the article by Liu Jianmei (刘剑梅), published in FT Chinese on Dec. 11 and posted on the MCLC list on Dec. 19. The title asks something like ‘Does literature still work like a shining light?’ Maybe my translation is not too bright. Should literature be a shining lantern? That’s one of the questions in Liu’s article. Literature and art were thought of as relevant to society and the nation in the 1980s. Liu talks about different approaches and relationships of life and art. Mo Yan deserves careful reading, just like Yan Lianke and Lu Xun. Nothing more or less. Liu uses “Save the cildren”, the last line from Lu Xun’s Diary of a Madman, for a close look into Mo‘s works as well as Yan Lianke’s latest novel Four Books (not published in Mainland China). The main characters of Republic Of Wine and Frogs are unable to save the children, like Lu Xun’s narrator. Republic of Wine features cannibalism and a riotous carnival of language. It’s my favorite among Mo Yan’s novels, along with The Garlic Ballads.

What is art? What is it for? A little more than 100 years ago now, the Dadaists (in voluntary exile in Switzerland and other places) concocted a virtual antidote to the First World War. Words, ordinary and exalted speech, had lost any meaning in the collective carnage. Not much later, Hu Shi, Zhou Zuoren, Lu Xun etc. attempted to change the Chinese language, in written form and on stage. Yomi Braester shows in Witness Against History how Lu Xun’s most famous passages retain ambiguities that belie any straight nationalist reading, even if the author himself would have read them that way. I like the crazed language of the Madman. Republic of Wine, more experimental than any other works by Mo (to my knowledge), goes into that direction. In Bei Dao’s Rose of Time (Shijian de meigui), a collection of essays that appeared in Shouhuo (Harvest) magazine in the early 2000s, when Bei slowly became acceptable in China again, he writes about Pasternak and Mandelstam. In his youth, Pasternak praised Stalin. Later he tried to extricate other writers from the Gulag, with mixed success. Mandelstam believed in Communism all the way to his death in a labor camp. Bei Dao doesn’t say that. But the chapter on Pasternak invokes Russian Formalism and Structuralism that grew out of the abortive 1905 revolution. Art makes reality appear strange and different, enabling the spectator to perceive it more clearly. And the flag of art is always different from the flag on the citadel.

Republic of Wine is wilder than the real Mo Yan on the Nobel stage. When the real Mo (sounds funny, doesn’t it? The real NO, or the real NOT, like NOT A WORD), when the real Mo Yan talked about his mother, I was moved. It sounded like my grandmother in rural Austria around 1920. Sometimes she couldn’t go to school in winter because she had no shoes. But Mo Yan also said his mother was afraid he would “leave the collective” with his storytelling. Qunti 群体, the masses, the collective, could that be called an example of Mao wenti or Mao-ti, Mao-Speak in this usage? Actually not, qunti 群體 is an older word, could have been used by Li Dazho and other founders of the Chinese Communist Party, before Mao, Prof. Weigelin told me recently here in Vienna. She was right, I encountered qunti in another text I liked very much, was it by Yu Hua? Anyway, I was rather baffled when Perry Link related how a mother would tell her child on the bus to “jianchi 堅持”, to hold it until the driver could stop and let the child out to go to take a leak. Would “jianchi” really sound strange outside of Mainland China? But the discussions about Mao-style are still relevant – Mo Yan is an establishment figure nowadays, and generates critique of China’s established system in general.
I was a little surprised when Chinese critics of Mo Yan talked about the carnivalesque language in his novels. As if you had to be careful not to lose yourself in there. I did think of Mikhail Bakhtin and his concept of carnival in Dostoyevsky’s novels when I read Republic of Wine. But as far as I remember, Bakhtin had defended language and storytelling that would sound strange and crazy, as opposed to Socialist Realism. So when was Mo Yan’s writing first associated with carnival? Maybe in the 1980s? And how did this association evolve?
A few days after the recent massacre in a primary school in Connecticut, Ross Douthat in the New York Times talked about Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov. Although Dostoyevsky was a Christian, Douthat says, the senseless cruelty against children in the novel is just cruelly senseless, there is no “rhetorical justification of God’s goodness”. You have to look at the behaviour of characters who show “Christian love” to find any counterpoint. Below this op-ed, there are 121 reader’s comments, all within one day. Many say they want to talk about guns, not literature.
What is literature for? Why is there a Nobel for literature, but not for music or fine art? Or films? Nobels make for debate. Very much debate, in this case. Great.

十二月 10, 2012

請按這裡

please click here

you can find comments here (MCLC List)

Mo Yan’s Nobel lecture is worth seeing and hearing. The link above doesn’t work in China. Tried to post it on Weibo 微博, didn’t work either. Nobelprize.org is still banned in China, it seems. The video of Mo Yan’s speech is of course accessible on many websites in China. What is also accessible, to my surprise, is a video of Gao Xingjian’s Nobel lecture, 12 years ago. One Weibo user made this comment:
对莫言的指责,不尽赞同。但与高行健相比,莫言的差距不是一点点。结局是一个不能回国、只能在海外流浪,而另一个可以继续做作协副主席,备受当下世人追捧。相对于莫言的获奖演说,高行健2000年演说,恐怕更堪称是中文世界的骄傲。

“I don’t agree with Mo Yan’s critics. But if you compare him to Gao Xingjian, there is a huge difference. In the end, one of them can never return to his home country, the other one can keep his job at the Writer’s Association and be celebrated. Comparing the two Nobel speeches, Gao Xingjian’s could be the one more deserving of pride in the Chinese-speaking world.” Hard to translate, because it’s very good and rather literary Chinese.

They had heated discussions in Sweden, for example between Göran Sommardal and Björn Wiman. Read all about it, in Swedish or Chinese (萬之譯) …

Mo 莫

十二月 9, 2012

Please click on the image

mo

Thanks to Charles Laughlin for his eloquent and far-reaching defense of literature. A defense, at least a deeper discussion of art and literature, is what has been missing from the debate. We’ve had apologies of Mo Yan 莫言, or the Nobel prize 諾貝爾獎. From himself, in his storied speech. From commentators, including me. I said debate in China is the best thing, perhaps the only thing, that comes from this prize. But what kind of debate? And why? Shouldn’t we be glad about the attention for Chinese literature, and for literature in China? Isn’t it enough to read more, and read more carefully?

Nick Kaldis has observed that Anna Sun’s article was the first attempt to debate Mo Yan and the current situation of Chinese literature in literary terms. Charles has pointed out the crucial flaws. The concept of Mao-speak or Mao-ti 毛體 came up in the 1980s in the context of a renaissance of culture, writing, philosophy, debate- everything that had been missing in the Mao-aftermath. Charles has emphasized that new literature in the 1980s, like the fiction of Yu Luojin 遇羅錦, Dai Houying 戴厚英, Zhang Wei 張煒, Zheng Yi 鄭義, Zhang Jie 張潔, A Cheng 阿城, Wang Anyi 王安憶, Liu Suola 劉索拉, Zhang Xianliang 張賢亮, Han Shaogong 韓少功, Jia Pingwa 賈平凹, Can Xue 殘雪, Ma Yuan 馬原, Yu Hua 余華, Ge Fei 格非 and many others, along with the critical writing, philosophy etc. around it, was supposed to overcome the effects of Mao-speak. Charles has also shown how Anna Sun’s view deliberately blocked out major portions of Chinese literature in many centuries, including the last 100 years.

But let us go back to the 1980s. In hindsight, it was very naive to believe that art and literature could renew the nation. What nation? What kind of nation, stemming from which revolution? It’s very easy and futile now to say all the hope of renewal was naive. The hope ended in 1989, and has been ending ever since, in the selling off of land 地, air 空氣, culture 文化, heritage 傳統, water 水, people 人 – with steadily worsening consequences. On the other hand, art and literature are still involved in an ongoing renewal, with very interesting results.

The only flaw in Charles’ essay, from my point of view, is what I’ve said before, too many times perhaps. I believe that ideology isn’t harmless. Questions involving ideology and philosophy aren’t harmless. At least they were thought of as relevant in the 1980s. Copying Mao’s seminal 1942 speech on literature and art in 2012 is just a ritual, yes. But what do Mao Zedong, the “Yan’an Talks” 延安講話, the involved concepts and the furious critique of ritual obeisance signify in the first place?

Are they all more important than reading more art 藝術? Maybe not. Still, how about a little theory 理論? What is ideology 意識形態? Lacan’s 拉岡 answer, according to Žižek 齊澤克, comes down to emptiness 空虛. No, this is not about Buddhism 佛教. Ideology is what people hold on to in their hearts and minds, in order to belong. To belong to a group. To have an answer, the hope of an answer, a meaning. Do you need to know what your ideology is all about, where it came from, what it involves? Not really. It’s there. Like the believe that everyone is entitled to buy automatic weapons. Every citizen.

In the 1980s, such questions, or more intelligent ones than I can elaborate here, there and anywhere, were asked a lot. A very, very big hope was involved. That’s where Liu Xiaobo 劉曉波 comes from. That’s where Wang Shuo 王朔 comes from. That’s where Yu Hua 余華 comes from. With some writer’s, it’s not always obvious where they come from. Liu Zhenyun 劉震云 and Feng Xiaogang 馮小剛, who are known for lively comedies, with sometimes well-hidden serious issues, have just released “1942”, a film about famine 飢荒. Man-made famine, mostly. And campaigns. Campaigns to unite the nation, to beat intruding foreigners.

It is rather obvious where Gao Xingjian 高行健 comes from, when you hear him speak. Some Weibo 微博 users did that last weekend, for a comparison in Nobel literature speeches 諾貝爾文學演講. Gao’s Nobel speech was available, copied on Chinese servers, which had not been policed very severely in this case, apparently. Gao Xingjian’s Mandarin has a southern accent. He is not hard to understand, but it’s not the kind of Mandarin Mo Yan commands, rather effortlessly, it seems. Mo Yan is the Writer’s Association’s 作家協會 vice chairman 副主席. The chairwoman is Tie Ning 鐵凝. I like her stories, they are very much about memory. But I haven’t heard her speak in public. Don’t know if a shining, booming Mandarin like Mo Yan’s is the standard at official cultural associations these days.

Is it obvious where Mo Yan comes from? Everybody knows where he comes from, we know his aunt, father, wife and brother, as far as they have been interviewed and compared to how they might appear in his novels. That’s what Mo Yan said in his speech. Is that all we need to know? Mo Yan spoke about is mother. It was very moving, at least to me. It’s a great text, that speech. Censorship-resistant. Available in six or seven languages on the official website. Which is blocked 被阻擋 in China, of course.

Gao Xingjian and Mo Yan are very different in their language. Everyone who has read Soul Mountain 靈山 and One Man’s Bible 一個人的聖經 in the original knows that. Mo Yan and Gao Xingjian are very different in their attempts to overcome Mao-ti. Both have written great novels, in my experience. Both stay away from day-to-day political issues and debates. But Gao Xingjian emigrated in order to write and paint in peace, comparatively. Mo Yan worked on his spoken Mandarin. Ok, that was unfair, I don’t know how he sounded in the 1980s. His novels from back then are great, especially The Garlic Ballads. Liu Xiaobo liked Red Sorghum 紅高粱, because it was very sexy, in the 1980s. I like The Garlic Ballads 天堂蒜薹之歌, and The Republic of Wine 酒国. Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out 生死疲勞 and Big Breasts And Wide Hips 丰乳肥臀 are fascinating, too. All stories about more or less recent decades. Sandalwood Death 檀香刑 is a 19th-century-story. Sex, gore and folklore. Very well done. And maybe as moving as Mo Yan’s words about his mother.

Yu Hua’s first novel Cry In The Drizzle 在細雨中呼喊 has a guy running amok in China’s 1970s. The hero’s father, if I remember correctly. Gao Xingjian’s Nobel made many exiled and self-exiled writers and other culture workers think about their paths. Maybe the prize was for all of them, in a way. Is Mo Yan’s prize, in a symbolic way, a reward for everyone in China? Depends on your ideology.

(Sorry, I am not sure where exactly Žižek 齊澤克 published what I’ve related above. Maybe in Has Someone Said Totalitarianism?)

莫言得諾講起

十一月 14, 2012

Image

the noble

the nobel is stronger than china

china jumping up and down

on feet of clay

The situation is maddening for every serious literature critic who cannot acknowledge the encroachment of such a hyper-prize-situation on their territory. On the other hand, this is the perfect opportunity to see, and maybe even acknowledge, the impossible challenge of writing a balanced political or literature and art history of the last 100 years, or even 20 or 30. You could see the huge discrepancy between the international relevance of China and its surroundings and the impossibility for Chinese Studies (and Taiwan Studies etc.) of doing it justice in research, of reacting in adequate or satisfying ways. Actually, Anna Schonberg has found a convincing personal way of talking about Mo Yan’s work and the current debate. Goenawan Mohamad has written an article on Mo Yan and Yu Hua, seen from Indonesia. And Yang Jisheng’s investigation of the Great Leap famine is spawning documentary work in villages in the way of writing “people’s histories” in the People’s Republic. Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the US came out in 1979. China is catching up. There is Yang Xianhui, and there is 1942, a new film centered on famine, after the story Remember 1942 Liu Zhenyun wrote in 1992. But how relevant is literature on the whole?

Li Bai, China’s most famous poet, has been constructed as a would-be useful patriotic official in a recent play. I remember one or two other political readings of his poems. The political role of all literature and art that the CCP ostensibly demanded led to, or enforced overwhelmingly political reading of everything. Now Mo Yan cannot escape political criticism because he is a CCP official. He has written great literature. But because he got this larger-than-anything-even-China-in-a-way-prize, on one hand he can finally be a public intellectual, let his conscience speak and speak out for a return to reason in Chinese-Japanese relations and for a release of Liu Xiaobo, both taboo topics. A voice of reason after “street protests” against Japan (?), somehow evoking both Cultural Revolution and Fascism. Tolerated and stoked by a system in the midst of a supposedly tightly choreographed leadership transition. Leaders of the Bo Xilai generation installed. They’re different, of course.

Yang Jisheng in the international media is the perfect contrast, or antidote, to the 18th Party Congress spectacle. Another good contrast is running a detailed article on the One Child policy, like Die Zeit did. Speaking of family planning, Mo Yan’s Frogs is coming out soon in English and German. Granta magazine has an excerpt online.

Mo Yan spoke out, but he still was attacked because he didn’t speak out before, which is kind of unfair, because it would mean every writer has to be like Liao Yiwu, every artist like Ai Weiwei etc. The Nobel prize is very unique, because it entails so much international attention. And so especially societies with a huge inferiority complex, stemming at least in part from a rather recently constructed nation (as in Turkey) have to turn the recipient into an anointed emblem. The only alternative is to deny, like in Gao Xingjian’s case, that he/she belongs at all to the country he/she comes from and the language he/she wrote most of his/her works in, as Anne Sytske Keijser and Maghiel van Crevel have pointed out in a recent article in “De Groene Amsterdammer” (10/17/2012). In today’s China, for a virtual, fleeting audience online, you can show you are not part of this official face. Up to a point, that is. No mentioning of other recent Chinese Nobel laureates. But you can criticize Mo Yan, no matter if you have read his fiction or not. So anyone interested in freedom of speech has to be thankful to the Nobel prize and to Mo Yan for all the national and international attention they have generated. Mo Yan has chosen to speak out, so he should be respected. You can speak about your own impression of his work, as you should, according to Kant, if the question is “whether it is beautiful” (Critique of Judgement, Book 1). Or you can speak about your personal relationship with him and his work, as Howard Goldblatt has done. But you can also write about Mo Yan in a political light, which is what everybody has done, including me. Reading “Republic of Wine”, for example, both in Chinese and in translation, is much more rewarding.

The debate after Mo Yan won the Nobel is about debate. How much debate is allowed? How does debate get allowed or possible at all? It’s obedience vs. disobedience. What Charles Laughlin said on the MCLC list sounds like this: Demanding outspokenness from Mo Yan now is the same as demanding, in effect, obedience to the Party line in 1942. This is how it sounds like, not only to me, I am afraid. Obedience and disobedience are thus blurred. One-party systems enforce obedience and silence. Draconically, as the 8-year sentence on Oct.31 in Kunming of a young father of an unborn child for talking about a multi-party-system online shows. Multi-party systems include and tolerate traditions of disobedience. In some countries, civil disobedience is highly valued- think of Thoreau and Ghandi. Doesn’t mean these places are always better in every area and aspect.

Apart from Mo Yan and the Nobel subject discussed nobly or not, the New Statesman issue from Oct. 19-25 (guest-editor: Ai Weiwei) and the new issue of Words Without Borders provide worthwhile reading.

Image

Mo Yan 莫言 and Murakami Haruki 村上春樹 (二)

十月 22, 2012

I want to thank Charles Laughlin for his recent posts on the MCLC list and on Facebook. His conclusion included these words: “Mo Yan’s critics are expecting the same of him that Mao Zedong would have: the political subservience of writers and their responsibility to serve as the political conscience of the nation”. Now I have written another blog post about this. 罗老师多谢!
Mo Yan’s 莫言 situation is ironic, as Charles Laughlin says. But serving “as the political conscience of the nation” is not the same as “political subservience”. It is rather the opposite. As we know, Murakami Haruki 村上春树 and his colleagues can be “the political conscience” of Japan, making “politically progressive gestures”, but Chinese writers in China, because of “political subservience” cannot be “the political conscience of the nation”, except obliquely in their fiction, poetry etc. Or in the first few days after they win a Nobel.

Along with Charles and many other people I am very glad that after Mo Yan was announced as a Nobel winner, he finally felt up to, or forced to open his mouth as a public intellectual, in contrast to the meaning of his pen name. Now he can be a public figure, like Murakami in Japan, not just an ambivalent functionary and a reclusive writer. Or can he? Is he going to say anything more on China-Japan relations or political prisoners? Is he going to mention Liu Xiaobo 刘晓波 in Stockholm? He will certainly be asked about other Chinese Nobel winners. That’s the nature of this particular prize, whether you like it or not.

Murakami and his colleagues can “serve” as public intellectuals, when their conscience tells them to do something additional to their writing. The irony is that under CCP 中国共产党 rule, there are no public intellectuals in China. There are occasional trouble-makers and commentators, like Ai Weiwei 艾未未 and Murong Xuecun 慕容雪村, Yu Hua 余华 and Wang Shuo 王朔. But can any of them speak their mind in public at length about Sino-Japanese relations or other sensitive topics? Apart from these writers and artists, there are professors like Cui Weiping 崔卫平, who issued the call to turn back to reason in Sino-Japanese relations, which got censored on Sina Weibo 新浪微波. She has often been prevented from traveling abroad. And there are some civil rights lawyers, who sometimes disappear.

Murakami and his colleagues can “serve as the political conscience” of Japanese society in and out of their books. Mo Yan has to be very circumspect with his topics. The Garlic Ballads was censored and supressed for a while. Mao’s “Talks” 讲话 at the “Yan’an Forum” 延安文艺座谈会 helped to make sure writers and artists could not speak their conscience. Vague documents like this have played an important role as instruments of obedience inforcement in one-party societies, as Anne Sytske Keijser and Maghiel van Crevel have shown in a recent article in “De Groene Amsterdammer” (10/17/2012). Mo Yan knows about this dilemma. His comments after he won the Nobel, and even some comments before, suggest he cannot find hand-copying and displaying Chairman quotes quite as harmless as Charles. That would be the difference between working with political realities in China and teaching about them in the US. The conditions of these political realities are still determined by largely the same factors as decades ago. As Keijser and Van Crevel put it, Mao’s “Talks” and other directives are up on the shelf, routinely mentioned in speeches by present leaders, and ready to be enforced again as needed. Yes, Mo Yan and his colleagues fought successfully for enough freedom to write great literature. Isn’t that enough? Not outside the realm of fiction, unfortunately. The cultural achievements of the 1980s couldn’t prevent the 1989 crackdown and everything that stays vague and threatening in theory and practice today.

Mo Yan writes “stupendous” novels, as Charles Laughlin says. Yes, he does. His development as a writer was influenced by the threat of starvation, the brutality in the name of revolution, and by the ideology. Yes, including the Yan’an “Talks”, as Charles shows. Now, Charles says, “China’s writers are receiving much-deserved international recognition simply because they are devoting their souls wholly to literary art.” Yes, they do. Liao Yiwu’s 廖亦武 speech in Frankfurt was in Sichuan dialect 四川方言. The text is available on the Internet. Try to find a video not dubbed into German. The German translation was fine, it just wasn’t dialect or even colloquial German. And it didn’t sound half as humble as Liao himself did. Politics made him into the writer, musician, poet and activist he is now. And his temper, his foolhardiness, as he readily admits. Not a hero, as Jonathan Stalling suggested. The German Book Trade’s Peace Prize has often been awarded to writers such as Orhan Pamuk.

The irony is that in theory, as taught by Charles, “Mao Zedong would have” reminded writers of their “responsibility to serve as the political conscience of the nation.” In practice, he silenced them. Virtually all, in time. So there would be no political conscience. That’s what Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four is about. Words like “Ministry of Truth” 真理部 are very well-known in China. 1984 is a vision of the closed world of a one-party state. Some moments of life in other societies can feel just as eerie, like a progressive college professor who turns into a cult leader, as in Murakami’s 1Q84, or, even more so, the perfectly cultured killer with secret roots in Korea. But on the whole, Japan in the 1980’s, evocatively and masterfully portrayed, is not ironic enough for connecting to Orwell’s 1984. I guess Taiwan under martial law 台灣戒嚴, in 1984, could have just made it.

Hu Ping 胡平, elected as independent candidate in Beijing’s Haidian district towards the end of the brief Beijing Spring over 30 years ago, recently circulated an excerpt from Mo’s “Life and Death Are Wearing me Out” (Shengsi pilao 生死疲勞). The novel was already well-known before the Nobel. A land owner who had his head blown off in the land reform in 1950 is born again as a farm animal several times, most famously as a donkey. In this excerpt, the donkey/landlord laments his unreasonable and unnecessarily bloody execution, until the guy who shot him tells him he acted with expressive backing from local and provincial authorities, to make sure the revolution was irreversible. So was it “a matter of historical necessity”? I don’t know what Hu Ping meant by circulating the email that somehow ended up forwarded in my inbox, because I don’t follow Chinese exile communications very closely. To me, the excerpt sounds just as absurd, evocative, tragic and yes, “stupendous”, as Mo Yan’s novels usually do. And thus rather close to Orwell’s 1984, or Wang Xiaobo’s 王小波 2015, in a way. I don’t think most readers would think that the author wants to commend, recommend or even excuse such acts of brutality.

There is another irony. Gao Xingjian 高行健 was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 2000 even though, or maybe because, he did not and does not make himself available for political comments. Gao emigrated to France in the late 1980s and rescinded his Party membership in 1989, and it doesn’t seem he wants to come to terms with the powers that be in China in his lifetime. But on the whole, Gao has made about as many explicit political comments in the last 20 years as Yang Mu 楊木.
Chinese writing in 2012 is very complex. At least there is “much-deserved international recognition”, finally. Yu Hua’s essays “China In 10 Words” 《十個詞彙里的中國》 were serialized in the New York Times 紐約時報, among other international papers. And now Yang Mu, Mo Yan and Liao Yiwu appear together in headlines, also in the New York Times. What more could we wish for?

Mo Yan and Murakami

十月 16, 2012


I like both Mo Yan’s 莫言 and Murakami Haruki’s 村上春樹 novels. But 1Q84 left me disappointed, although it’s brilliantly written. Great evocation of ordinary lives and neighborhoods. But not very much connection to Orwell. No prison. The two lovers escape at a terrible price. Maybe I sort of hoped neither Mo Yan nor Murakami would get it. Although I think they’re both great writers. Murakami deserves great credit for his political candor, both in some of his novels and otherwise. He recently spoke out for a return to reason in Chinese-Japanese relations. After Mo Yan got the Nobel, he also said something in this direction. Mo Yan has never made political comments before. Now he can do it. So maybe it is a good thing that he got the prize.
Making handwritten copies of the speech that was the reference point for decades of repression in literature is an absurd, shameful act.
On the other hand, Mo Yan’s novels could be called an important continuation of the magical realism tradition. The realism of The Garlic Ballads clearly shows the helplessness of peasants and ordinary people in the 1980s. The Republic of Wine is a fantastically powerful indictment of official corruption. Some other novels have broader historic scope. The stories take place in many different periods, under CCP rule as well as before and even in the 19th century. But they are all fantastic tales of familiar people in villages and small towns. Ma Lan’s 馬蘭 How We Killed a Glove 我們如何殺一隻手套 employs different techniques, but when you are in the middle of reading you also realize the details refer to massacres and tragedies that seem very fantastic in hindsight but which are actually quite familiar still for many people even now. So I have great respect for Mo Yan 莫言 and Tie Ning 鐵凝, even though they chair the Chinese Writer’s Association. They don’t even have Party members in their stories, as far as I recall. There are no chairmen or even higher functionaries at all in recent Chinese literature. There are no vindications of official policy, in contrast to the 1950s and 1960s. As to the Yan’an Talks or Yan’an Forum 延安文藝座談會, it was not really a discussion with different voices being respected. Maghiel van Crevel 克雷 has put the whole context together in his book on Duo Duo 多多 in 1995, on the basis of Bonnie McDougall etc. The Chairman had remarkable rhetoric skill, but it can’t be separated from the context of writers disappearing, getting imprisoned and killed, not to speak of other people, right then and there in 1942, on the grounds of what Mao was saying. It’s not the kind of literary theory you can discuss on its own. Socialist realism with its many facets and developments in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, GDR etc. is certainly worth a great deal of attention and discussion, but it is always very directly connected with politics. In some countries, like the former Soviet Union and China, this connection was compounded by dictators considered as intellectuals. Marxism, Socialism and Communism were taboo in the US for a long time. This kind of repression is still quite visible in the propaganda against Obama, who isn’t really leftist at all. And because of this, literary and social theory have a very strong and special status in US academia. Infatuation with China and/or what was perceived as its politics is an additional factor, also in other countries. When I look at the social and political context of literature in China, I prefer Yu Hua 余華 to Mo Yan. But it’s not that simple. Mo Yan is a soldier, joining the PLA was the only way for him to become a writer. He has done and is doing what is possible in his position, and deserves respect.

Murong Xuecun, Yu Hua, Liu Zhenyun, Bob Dylan and Rivers of Bablyon

八月 5, 2012

I don’t think Murong Xuecun exaggerates, like one commentator suggested on the MCLC list. Yes, you could encompass many alarming, saddening, embarrassing stories in one speech in other places than China, and people do it all the time, naming names, practices, products. The difference is that in China you will be silenced more swiftly and harshly. Yes, there are exceptions.

Does Mo Yan revel in cruelty like Dan Brown? Does Yu Hua make better use of the cruel parts in his novels? Ok, I’m an interested party, I can’t really say. Would be interesting to analyze in detail. Mo Yan’s novels are great works, at least those I have read, he has written a lot. Deep, cathartic, even accusing use of cruel events and structures. I love Yu Hua’s tone. And I associate Liu Zhenyun in Remember 1942, and Murong Xuecun’s Sky and Autumn speech.

We had Jeremiah in church today, along with that story where a guy goes abroad and gives his gold and silver to his servants. The ones that receive more trade with it, and when their lord comes back, they can give him double. The one who received very little buries it, and when the lord comes back, he digs it out and says, I know you are a harsh governor and reap where you haven’t sown, so I was afraid to lose what you gave me, and kept it double safe. His colleagues get to join the big party, and are rewarded with great posts. He is cast out into the darkness, which is filled with howling and chattering teeth. It’s a horrible story. Yes, it’s a parable, and if you have very little reason for faith, you should still risk it and try to make more, because if you bury it deep in your heart you might lose the little trust you had and received and be cast out into the darkness. But if you are the one who has reason to be afraid, how can you trust your lords? The ones who have more and get more have it easy. Even if they lose everything, they are often rewarded – those powerful managers and functionaries. And if there are enough of those who are cast out, and they get organized, maybe some bishops or other lords might dangle from lamp posts. A Hussite reading, said my wife. Yeah, maybe. No shortage of horrible stories in Chinese literature, like in the Bible.

Jeremiah is even worse, it’s a much bigger story, infinitely more horrible. And there is a detail, not in the Jeremiah parts used in church today, but in the songs in exile. By the rivers of Babylon, where we sat down, where we wept when we remembered Zion. And in the end the singer wishes, or the singers wish they will one day brutally kill the children of the oppressors. That’s the detail in Murong Xuecun’s speech I was thinking about.

The calling of Jeremiah, where he says he’s too young, and God says he has to go and obey, and open his mouth, and God will put His words into his mouth, and he will be set above nations and kingdoms, so he can pluck out and demolish, ruin and destroy, as well as plant and build. The preacher said she thought of parting and setting off to other posts, and how the Marschallin in Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s and Richard Strauss’ Rosenkavalier sings of what she will have to give up. What a horrible comparison! There is nothing light in Jeremiah. There are no waltzes. Ok, Rivers of Babylon, yes. But with Jeremiah, if you have to mention Austrian writers, Franz Werfel would be much more apt. Werfel was Jewish and used Jeremiah, a lot. Ok, she did mention, much too briefly how nobody would heed Jeremiah, and that it’s actually the most terrible story.

Anyway, when I heard Jeremiah, I thought of Bob Dylan. Masters of War. “How much do I know, to talk out of turn? You might say that I’m young; you might say I’m unlearned. But there is one thing I know, though I’m younger than you, it’s that Jesus would never forgive what you do. […] And I’ll watch while you’re lowered onto your deathbed, and I’ll stand on your grave and make sure that you’re dead.” I don’t know if Dylan thought of Nixon and Kissinger explicitly, when he wrote this song. America’s Vietnam War was raging, and I think the song came out when Nixon and Kissinger where in power. Anyway, there is that Monty Python song about Kissinger. Very explicit. Dylan and Monty Python would not be able to sing these songs in China on stage today, to say nothing about what Chinese artists can do. No, Murong Xuecun doesn’t exaggerate.

x and y

x was cruel

butt is sore

y was able

and suave.

both loved culture

both destroyed

hundred million

butts are cold

MW         March 2007

Yes, I thought of Mao and Nixon, and their sidekicks. But x and y could stand for many people, and could be mentioned anywhere, at least today. Almost anywhere, probably. Anyway, it’s about smoking, you know. Littering. OK, enough for today.

Liu Xiaobo bio bibliography

十一月 30, 2010

Bei Ling’s biography of Liu Xiaobo comes out in German on Dec. 9, 2010

Bibliography/ Bibliographie/ 參考資料目錄

 


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