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th Century French Literature in China Huang Hong Rose May France
A Critical Survey of Translation and Reception of the 20th Century French Literature in China Huang Hong Abstract: The translation and reception of the 20th century foreign literatures in China reflect the cultural movements and literary trends in China. In particular, the translation and reception of contemporary French literature in China illustrate the dynamics of cultural exchange between the East and the West. Through the analysis of the change of cultural policies, the development of literary studies, the dialogue and cooperation between Chinese and French writers, authors, translators and publishers, this paper points out that the translation and reception of the 20th century French literature in China have made great achievements while there are new challenges in a multi-cultural context. Keywords: 20th century French literature; Translation and Reception In China’s book stock of “translated literature”, French literary works take up an important position. In 1898, the publication of Alexandre Dumas fils’s The Lady of the Camellias, translated by Lin Zhu and Wang Shouchang together, was the beginning of the translation and reception of French literature in China. In the past century, while the Chinese researchers and translators of French literature worked on translation and research of French literature, they also paid close attention to the development and trend of 20th century French literature. Since the opening-up and reform in the 1980s, translation of modern and contemporary French literature in China has become more popular than ever. There are three phases through the one hundred years’ translation of French literature in China. The first one is the beginning period of May Fourth new literature movement. During this period, translation of French literature by Chinese writers and scholars bore distinguishing characteristic of the time and was a voluntary choice of the double enlightenment of ideology and literature. It is represented by the translation of enlightening ideologists Voltaire and Rousseau, and is supplemented by Victor Hugo’ novels which disclose Western social reality and Romain Rolland’s “great courage doctrine of daring to challenge the Gods”. The second one is the development period of Chinese modern and contemporary literature in 1920s and 1930s. The most significant characteristic of this period is the interpenetration of foreign literature translation and new literature movement. China’s new literature actively draws lessons from French literature, and adopts its theory and creative model of Critical Realism, Realism, Naturalism and Symbolism, “to make it work for us” from the standpoint of localization. This literature phenomenon of “writer affects writer”, “genre creates genre”, translation and creation “depend on each other” is prominently reflected on Luxun, Maodun, Bajin, Li Jieren, Luling, Liang Zongdai, Li Jinfa and other literary masters. The third one is the revival period of Chinese modern literature. With the thawing in the fields of ideology and economy, and the policy of opening-up and reform, translation of foreign literature and local literature on Mainland China again revive and develop vigorously. This period’s focus is French contemporary works, while translation and publication mechanism and forms of cultural exchange develop in a mode of plurality and co-existence. First: barely warm but still cold: minor upsurge from 1950s to early 1960s Since the foundation of People’s Republic of China, the world’s eyesight has focused on the socialist construction under the leadership of Chinese Communist Party, and the western progressive intellectuals (“fellow travelers”) were full of hope for a “socialist China”. While opening doors to a few progressive westerners, China, guided by the general policy of “making the foreign things serve China, making the past serve the present”, directed its attention to western civilization, introduced foreign literary works in an organized, planned and selective way, aiming at classical writers and their representative works. Therefore French literature received relatively systematic translation and interpretation. Besides the two choices of ideology and literature, politics was another standard, thus translation of French literature in 19th century focused on Realist and Naturalist writers: Balzac, Zola, Maupassant. At the same time major works of 20th century progressive writers such as Romain Rolland, Henri Barbusse, Aragon, Paul Eluard were energetically introduced, while there were few translation of other contemporary French writers. During this period, China’s choices of translation of French literature fully met the cultural policy of special context of that age: using Mao Zedong’s literary theory as the guiding principle, using Yan’an literature as guidelines, emphasizing the social political function of literature. To a certain extent, political standpoint determines the existence and value of literary works, and translation circles’ attitude also rose and fell according to it. For example, today Chinese scholars’ final judgment for Sartre is “He has major differences from traditional ideology in face of world and human existence, and has significant values for China’s ideological reformation and attention of individual existence discourse in the later half of 20th century. As for ideological depth and width, Sartre certainly influenced a whole generation.” But in the early 1950s, Sartre was considered a representative figure of bourgeois ideology, and his ideology and works met criticism and rejection as a “reactionary” and “Survivalism”. He was once invited by Chinese government to visit China as a “progressive writer”, because he publicly declared pro-Communism and pro-Soviet Union after WWII. In 1951 Sartre actively devoted himself into rescuing French communist Henri Martin who went to jail because he refused to serve in the army as a way to protest against the war in Indochina. However, indignant at Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Sartre vigorously attacked French Communist Party and Soviet Communist Party, and therefore he once again fell from a “progressive writer” to a representative figure of bourgeois ideology. From late 1950s to early 1960s, translation of Sartre and French existentialism continued within a restricted area, and some existentialist works were translated as internal data. However, at these days translation of Sartre and existentialist writers were not promoted for study, rather they were criticized as negtive information. Reviewing history, we find these critical data actually reveal some new atmosphere to the ever integrated Chinese intelligentsia and provided a chance to get in touch with western contemporary ideology and literature. This is not only misfortune of contemporary French literature in China, but also the universal fate of the whole western culture at a special historical time. Second: Fractured and Ice-bound: repulsion of French literature in 1960s and 1970s* On April 28, 1956, Mao Zedong, at the enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, proposed a policy of developing science and boosting literature and art: in the matter of art --“let a hundred flowers blossom”, in the matter of scholarship-- “let a hundred schools of thought contend”. From late 1950s (Anti-Rightist Movement in 1957 as the watershed), left deviation in the field of ideology became more and more serious, and introduction and reception of foreign culture were all judged by proletariat ideology, absolutely obeying the political need of “Anti-imperialist and Anti-revisionism”. As a result, introduction of French literature and foreign literature lost its modern consciousness and spirit of subjectivity which ran through cultural vein since the May Fourth, the inevitable result of politicization being simplification of aesthetics. After promotion of literary normal form of Socialist Realism by Soviet Union’s Zhdanov, censorship of ideology became overwhelmed; even the previous celebrated works of French Realism and Critical Realism were ruthlessly liquidated and negated. Jean Christophe translated by Fulei was a typical example. After 1966, foreign literature received more thorough repulsion and criticism, and in French literature, only The International‘s author Eugène Edine Pottier and poetry of Paris Commune were to be introduced. Influenced by the domination of acceptance mode of the political consciousness - “foster the proletarian ideology and eliminate bourgeois ideology”, Chinese western literature readers who had lost subjectivity and independent spirit could only be trapped in a dilemma, not knowing whether to refuse or accept French literature which had numerous genres and encouraged individuality and independent spirit. When making personal choices, translators, writers and intellectuals often involuntarily submitted to certain political ideology or political pragmatism, and therefore declined to a cultural chessman to be selected and controlled. Third: Thawing and Revival: new upsurge of French literature translation since new era After the Great Cultural Revolution, China found itself on an area of literary remains, all neglected tasks being undertaken. New political atmosphere followed the dawn of reform and opening-up. The relationship between China and the West again changed. Changing from its image as a demon-like class enemy, the West once more entered China as an enlightener who brought new cultural ideology. Since the 1970s, China has begun another high tide of large-scale translation of western ideology and culture. In the eyes of many writers and readers of the 1980s, Western modernism was a concept of wide coverage. It included all kinds literary forms as symbolism, expressionism, futurism, stream of consciousness, surrealism, existentialism, the new novel group, the Beat Generation, the theatre of the absurd, black humor, magic realism and so on. Nevertheless the West had long come into an era of Postmodern Literature and even post-postmodern literature at that time. In regard to one important western cultural exporter - France, Chinese researchers and translators of French literature on one hand systematically reprinted and retranslated works from the Renaissance to Critical Realism, on the other hand introduced a large number of works and literary theories of contemporary writers in order to make up for the lag caused by the rupture. Starting from literary thoughts and schools, translators raised a new upsurge of systematically introducing modern and contemporary French literary writers and their works, which was marked by emergence of a group of excellent translators and several volumes of art collection which had far-reaching influence. For example, Liu Mingjiu successively edited three art collections: “Collection of Essays on Western Literary Thoughts in 20th Century” (seven volumes), “Series of Research Data of Modern and Contemporary French Literature” (ten kinds), “Series of 20th Century French Literature” (seventy kinds), “aiming to provide solid and systematic materials for 20th century literary research and take a share in social cultural accumulation, commencing from three aspects of theoretical thoughts, research of writers and their works as well as translation of works of art.” Inspired by him, China’s three generations of the old, the middle-aged and the young translators together magnificently translated a bulk of French literature to Chinese readers. In the meantime, the study of French literature underwent considerable progress; on the one hand, academic journals like Foreign Literature Review, Foreign Literature Studies, Foreign Literature, Contemporary Foreign Literature, World Literature, Translation, Translations, Transcultural Dialogue, China Comparative Literature, World Literature Recent Developments, French Studies, became a platform for communication and debate in national literature studies, comparative literature studies, as well as the research in world literature studies; on the other hand, significant results and latest research on the French literary trends, French literature context, creative writing and text generation have been quickly introduced to China by books like Collection Que sais-je? (What do I know? Series) by the Commercial Press, French Thoughts and Culture Series by SDX Joint Publishing and Sino-French cultural relations Research Center of Beijing University, Comment and Introduction to 20th-Century French Thinkers by Beijing University Press, and works of influential French literary theorists like Gaston Bachelard, Gérard Genette, Robbe-Grillet, Maurice Blanchot, Roland Barthes and Todorov have also been translated and introduced. Among these efforts, French University 128 Series by Tianjin People's Publishing House since 2003 focuses on the construction of foundational and cutting-edge discipline of literature, widens the horizons of Chinese scholars, and in the methodology level, effectively stimulating the twentieth-century French literature study in China. At the same time, domestic French literature scholars published a series of important works on literature history and theory, in the formation of an academic dialogue and resonance. If, during the May Fourth Movement the most prominent feature of foreign literature introduction is the common prosperity of translation and creation (when many translators are also writers), then the new period is the common prosperity of translation and research (nowadays many scholars are also translators). Since the new period, although most translators focus on the realm of translation and research, and few join the practice of pure literary creation, "Translation Literature" is still in a very long time a profound impact on Chinese literature. From Obscure Poetry to “Breaking”, from “Root-Seeking Literature” to Avant-Garde novel, from “Literature of the Wounded” to New Realistic novel, contemporary writers have each transformation and breakthrough with "Western Learning", with the selected, received, absorbed, and eventually transformed foreign gene. After the rejection of the grand narrative of revolutionary literature, literature first returns to life and human life ontology (reality) in the content, and then returns to art and aesthetic pursuit in the form. The dual awakening of text awareness and humanism awareness soon let Chinese writers, in the face of the typical cultural landscapes of post-industrial era like individual, absurdness, loneliness, anxiety, (de) politicize, nihilism, have the empathy and understanding with their foreign counterparts. Chinese contemporary literature is also polished into its own style and discourse, becoming an integral part of world literature. Translation and introduction of foreign literature have profound impact on the cultural construction of a country and a nation; what to introduce, what to translate is not simply an individual act of the translator on language conversion level, but also about the cultural learning and absorbing of the country of the target language. Owning to the cultural exchange between countries, nations and individuals, contemporary foreign literature translation and introduction has become widespread and direct, and the integration and interaction of foreign and local culture more prominent. In the context of world culture, cultural differences and coexistence provide many new topics for literature studies; French literature studies since the early 1990s have attached special attention to the Sino-French literary relations, therefore topics like China in French writers’ works, the translation and reception of French writers in China, French writers and Chinese culture, the dialogue of Chinese and French writers, the Chinese writers in France and the Diaspora Literature, contemporary French women writers and their impact on Chinese female writings all fall to the research scope of Sino-French comparative literature. Fourth: Worries in Prosperity: the translation and introduction of French contemporary literature in the context of globalization In the new era, many translators of French literature are also the researchers in the field, so the translator's subjectivity is newly demonstrated as translation and research begin to promote each other; translators, in involving in book selections, writing translation prologues or translation postscripts to analyze works, to guide readers’ aesthetic orientation, and even participate in or take responsibility of editing work. “Book Hunter” and “Copyright agent”, as an emerging industry after China's accession to the International Copyright Convention Organization in October 1992, has played a positive role of bridge to help publishers introduce and select books. However, since the late 1990s, French literature in Chinese cultural territory has been shrinking, according to a survey published in China Book Business Report: In 2003, there were 6287 kinds of topic selection for foreign books, among which American books accounted for 76.3%, British books 6.2%, Germany books 3.1%, Russian books 2.2%, and even South Korea have accounted for 3%, while French books was only part of the “rest” 1.2%. In comparison, according to Japanese scholar TARUMOTO Teruo, China published 2,567 kinds of foreign books around May Fourth, 1919, including 331 French books, accounting for 12.9%. Why is there such a huge contrast? Can we reach a conclusion that: French (including literary) books, like movies, because of their artistry, niche, and avant-courier, their translation and introduction are receding to low ebb? October 1992 was a turning point, as China officially became a member of international copyright conventions, a big step forward that the publishing industry in China is geared to international standards. Nevertheless, to those who haven’t prepared, it’s been undoubtedly a heavy blow. Previously Chinese publishing houses had always followed the “Tak-ism” in publishing foreign books, translating and publishing the new and the good ones, never thinking of applying for the copyright and pay the royalty. As a result, once the publishing work of foreign contemporary books was in stagnation, and publishing houses specialized in translation works lay hands on those foreign books with public copyright, especially the piece of “free bread”—foreign classic literature; there was a time when the market was rampant with translation works of foreign classic literary works, for many, an original copy with multiple translation versions, even the abominable plagiarizing and scrambling of translation works. After the copyright turmoil, publishing houses gradually accepted the copyright rules of the market; Shanghai Translation Publishing House took the lead, purchased the copyright and published Contemporary French Literature Series, followed by Yilin Press’s French Contemporary Literature Series, Experimental Art Series by Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, Midnight Collections by Hunan Literature and Art Publishing House, Recent Award-Winning French Novels by Baihua Literature and Art Publishing House, French detective novels: Police Station Award Winners Series by Henan People's Publishing House, French Series by Guangxi Normal University Press, Contemporary Famous French Writers’ Novels Translation Series by Flower City Publishing House, and so on. The translation of contemporary French literature has boomed again in China, to get the copyrights of works that won the Nobel Prize, Goncourt Prize, Femina, Renaudot and other important awards, publishers even had heated copyright battles. However, especially after the “New Fiction”, a majority of French contemporary writers have virtually no market in China. Many super-best-sellers in France, after introduced to China, has a rather low reception, comparing with the enthusiastic response from British and American or Japanese and South Korean best-sellers. What follows the problem of “what to translate” is “who to translate”. Looking back at the history, the translation of French literary works was praised for its quality, and played a leading role in the field of translation; successful translation works done by Fu Lei, Li Jianwu, Wang Daoqian, Luo Xinzhang, Guo Hong’an, Xu Yuanchong and other renowned translators have been regarded as classics and gone into the category of “Translation Literature”. At present, China does not lack a dynamic team of excellent French translators, but most of the older translators are no longer able to take heavy load of translation works, while almost all excellent young translators have their own hands full. In research institutions and universities, translation is not regarded as research, and the payment publishing houses provide to translators is far from enough. All these result in the passive loss of translators. In 1954, Mao Dun, at the National Working Conference on Literary Translation, suggested a unified translation plan to be drafted by literature translators of the country, “publishers and magazine pressed, based on the present as well as potential strengths, systematically organize translation, revision and publication works in accordance with the priority, manpower and translators’ expertise.” But as the market economy replaced planned economy, problems like dispersion, impetuousness of the translation works recur, the separation between translators and insulation between publishing houses, a great waste of manpower, material and financial recourses caused by repeated translations, the substantial decline in quality because of the haste translation driven by the need to take the initiative in the market, all of these problems have seriously harmed the reputation of French books in China. Publishers seeking to maximize economic benefits thus have doubts on French books. They fix their eyes only on a few literature awards, and further affect the book selection, thus forming a vicious cycle. But imagine if translation of French literature in the translation and publishing market is unattainable, if no timely and orderly supply of translations of French contemporary literature is on the reading list of Chinese intellectuals, where will the French literature studies go? If the situation of emphasizing research and neglecting translation in academic field does not change, the heavy load and low payment of translation works in publishing filed does not improve, not only the quality of translation of excellent French contemporary literature can not be guaranteed, but, I’m afraid, good translators will soon fall to extinction.
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