How a Man International Booker longlisted writer was found in translation
While people create trends in literature, like Harvey Thomlinson, the British author, publisher and translator, who favours Derrida and experiments with languages, translators often get to choose what they translate. He chose to bring Chinese writers to limelight — among them Man International Booker long-listed author Murong Xuecun. And it was his translation that was longlisted.
In Thomlinson’s own words: “ In those days, the web gave them space to widen the domain of the novel stylistically and thematically by covering subjects such as drugs, sex and violence. There were so many of these rough diamonds in the online riverbed, I even started to translate a few chapters myself, beginning with Murong’s first novel, Leave Me Alone: A Novel of Chengdu (2006).
“It was discovered on the website by literary agent Benython Oldfield and sold to Allen & Unwin. I took time off from work and for two weeks locked myself in a hotel in Bangkok, where the atmospherics resonated with the grit of Murong’s Chengdu. There’s tremendous pressure to do justice to such a great book. By the end of that time I had a first draft, the publisher entered it for the Man International (literary prize) without a lick of editing and it was longlisted.”
In Japan, the trend is to translate writings by women authors. Says translator Tapley Takemori in a recent report in Japan Times: “What gets published in English (from Japanese and other languages) is increasingly translator-driven. International translators have organised and campaigned for more women writers to be published in English, and editors have eagerly responded.”
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