Posts Tagged ‘theory’


一月 17, 2017


Zhu Jian

I harbour no prejudice at all
against any poetry,
including colloquial poems
and lyrical expressions of feeling.

Writing good or bad poetry is not important.
Anyway we are all brothers!

I don’t write for fame or profit, I am a pure amateur.

Good or bad, cow parts or not, wait for history’s judgment!

Just keep quiet and stick to your writing, who needs to fight and find fault all the time?

“Your circles are messy!”

Poetry isn’t the only thing, I have to live!

If he had not died, poetry would not be in this state.

I write for eternity.

I am still learning, please esteemed teachers, point out my faults!

I also try my hand at this shit.

Quality, not quantity! One poem beats hundreds of others.

How can you think you bastards could ever write a good poem?

Tr. MW, January 2017



五月 16, 2015
Photos and videos by Beate Maria Wörz

Photos and videos by Beate Maria Wörz

Yi Sha 《结结巴巴》

m-m-my s-st-tut-t-ter-r-ring t-trap
d-d-dis-s-sab-b-bl-led c-c-cla-p-t-trap
c-c-can-n-t g-g-et a-a b-bit-te i-int-to m-my b-brain
and l-look a-at m-my l-legs

y-you-your f-f-fly-i-ing spit
y-y-your m-mildewed s-slime
m-m-my w-weary l-lungs
a-are f-f-full o-of g-grime

I n-need t-to b-b-break out
f-f-from y-y-your s-sp-pout-ting s-song
b-break o-out o-of y-your h-house

m-m-my sh-shoot-t-ting t-t-tongue
m-m-mach-chine g-g-gunn f-fire
it feels so good

i-in m-m-my s-st-tut-t-ter-ring l-life
the-there a-are n-no g-ghosts
ju-just l-llook at-t m-my f-face
I d-d-don’t c-care!

Tr. MW, 2015

Yi Sha 《结结巴巴》

m-mein st-sto-to-tt-ternd-der m-mund
b-b-behind-dderter schschlund
b-b-bei-sst- s-ich wund
an m-meinem r-rasenden hirn
und m-meine b-beine –

euer t-trief-fend-der,
schschimmliger schschleim
m-meine l-lunge
i-ist m-müd’ und hin

i-ich w-will r-r-aus
aus eurem g-gross-a-artiggen rh-rhythmus
a-aus eurem h-haus

es tut so gut

in m-meinem st-stott-ttoterndem r-reim
auf m-mein l-leben g-gibt es k-keine l-leich-chen
s-s-seht m-mich a-an
m-m-mir i-ist all-les g-gleich!

Übersetzt von MW im April 2013








Photos and videos by Beate Maria Wörz

Photos and videos by Beate Maria Wörz

Yi Sha 《精神病患者》

weiß ich nicht
wie es sich äußert
wenn eine geisteskrankheit ausbricht
ich hab nur gesehen
in diesem land
in dieser stadt
wenn ein geisteskranker loslegt
streckt er den arm hoch und bricht aus
in parolen
der revolution

Übersetzt von Martin Winter 2013




Yi Sha《精神病患者》

I don’t know
how it should be
when a mental patient
suffers an outbreak
but what I have seen
in this country
in this city –
a mental patient suffers an outbreak:
up goes his arm
out come the slogans of revolution

Tr. MW, 2013-2014

Photos and videos by Beate Maria Wörz

Photos and videos by Beate Maria Wörz

Yi Sha 《我想杀人》

ich fühle mich etwas komisch
ich will jemanden töten

oh! das war letztes jahr
herbst kroch über das laub

zwanzig todeskandidaten
am flussufer nördlich der stadt

“peng! peng!”
einer wurde aufgeschnitten

in der folgenden operation
erhielten WIR eine niere

Übersetzt von MW 2012


– 我想殺人


Yi Sha 《我想殺人》

I am feeling a little strange
– I want to kill someone
Oh! It was last year
autumn crept over the leaves
twenty death candidates lined up
at the river north of the city
„Peng! peng!“
One of them was cut open
and in the following operation
We got a kidney

Tr. MW, 2015


Yi Sha 《9/11心理报告》

erste sekunde mund offen scheunentor
zweite sekunde stumm wie ein holzhuhn
dritte sekunde das ist nicht wahr
vierte sekunde kein zweifel mehr da
fünfte sekunde das brennt nicht schlecht
sechste sekunde geschieht ihnen recht
siebte sekunde das ist die rache
achte sekunde sie verstehen ihre sache
neunte sekunde die sind sehr fromm
zehnte sekunde bis ich drauf komm
meine schwester
wohnt in new york
wo ist das telefon
bitte ein ferngespräch
komme nicht durch
spring zum computer
bitte ins internet
email ans mädl
zitternde finger
wo sind die tasten
mädl, schwester!
lebst du noch?
in sorge, dein bruder!

Übersetzt 2013 von Martin Winter

Yi Sha

Ist second: mouth barn-door open
2nd second: wooden-chicken stiff
3rd second: couldn’t believe it
4th second: it must be true
5th second: what a great fire
6th second: well they deserve it
7th second: this is retribution
8th second: these buggers have guts
9th second: must be their religion
10th second: before I realize
my own little sister
lives in new york
I need a telephone
long distance call!
can’t get a connection!
I go storming for a computer
where is the internet
typing out characters
writing an email
shaky fingers
“sister, sister!
are you alive?
your elder brother is worried sick!”

Tr. MW, Oct. 2014





一月 7, 2013

Please click on the image


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.

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?

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