A Brief History of Translations of Modern and Contemporary Chinese Literature in Spain (1949-2009) (1)
Received: 15 November 2012
1. Indirect translation: a symptom of the present globalized literary polysystem
The present state of reception of modern and contemporary Chinese literature in Spain reveals a predominance of indirect translations. The Spanish translations of Nobel Prize-winner in Literature, Mo Yan (莫言),(2) are a good example: six of the seven Spanish translations of Mo Yan's work are indirect translations from Howard Goldblatt's English version and his latest novel has been translated from the original Chinese by a translator whose mother tongue is Chinese. However, very few Spanish critics or journalists have referred to the way in which these works have been translated.
Most of the translations of 20th and 21st century Chinese literature that have been published in Spain — in Spanish and in Catalan — in the last ten years are taken from the English or French versions. From 2001 to 2009, for instance, 25 novels have been translated indirectly (15 from English, eight from French, one from Italian and one from Spanish into Catalan), while only eight novels have been translated directly from the Chinese.(3)
This development contradicts the assumption that in the evolution of the reception of a distanced literary system, both geographically and linguistically, indirect translations are initially more numerous and gradually diminish as a closer relationship develops and the concept of translation changes. This idea is supported by the following quotations:
However, this paper will show that the evolution of indirect translations is more complex and does not conform to the expected pattern. The existence of indirect translations is not only due to a lack of translators or to the difficulty of translating from a very different language. The factors that promote this type of translation go beyond these constraints and are related to the development of a global literary system in which the transmission of texts involves hierarchies and differences of power between different systems. Even if, as Toury (1995) indicates, indirect translations are less and less tolerated, this is reflected in a growing number of hidden indirect translations and not in a decrease in number of this type of translations. By hidden indirect translations I mean work presented in such a way that the information included on the credit page will lead readers to believe the book has been translated directly from the Chinese. The English title and the English translator are completely omitted and only the original Chinese title and the Spanish translator are mentioned.
The object of this paper will be to outline the history of translations of twentieth century Chinese literature in Spain both in Spanish and in Catalan in order to examine the evolution of the relationship between the Chinese and the Spanish literary systems. Indirect translation is a very appropriate indicator to examine the relationship between different literary systems and the nature and trends of the present globalized literary polysystem. Not being able to examine each translation in depth due to space restrictions, my attention will focus on the authors that are translated in each period, the type of texts or genres, the translators, the mediating languages and the way in which these texts are rendered: direct translations, indirect translations (hidden or marked) and reprints of Chinese editions (previously published by Foreign Languages Press) and Latin American editions.
The history of translation presented below can be chronologically divided into three periods. The criteria used for this division will become clear in the following pages. The first period begins in 1949, when the first translation of a modern literary text was published, and ends in 1977. The second period starts in 1978, with the publication of Iñaki Preciado's direct translation of Lu Xun's (鲁迅) Grito de llamada (Nahan 呐喊, Call to arms, 1923), and runs until 2000. It is a period marked by the appearance of various translators of Chinese modern literature and is therefore a time when direct translations increase considerably. During the third period, from 2001 until 2009, translations are much more numerous and, as I have already mentioned, the number of indirect translations increases.
In this history of translation only translations that have been published in Spain will be taken into account. Therefore, translations published by Foreign Languages Press in Beijing and those issued in Latin American countries will not be considered, except for those translations that are reprinted by Spanish publishing companies.(4)
2. Translations until 1977: the interest appears
Xie Bingyin's (谢冰莹) autobiography Autobiografía de una muchacha china (1949 ) (5) was the first modern literary text to be translated, in 1949. It was translated from the English by Rosa María Topete and the translation was preceded by an introduction by Marcela de Juan, one of the few Chinese translators of the period.(6) In her introduction, she praises both the English and the Spanish translations but expresses her preference for classical literature and highlights the change inherent in this modern text. The information on the credit page makes it clear that it is an indirect version.
The next translation did not appear until 1962, when Marcela de Juan published an anthology of poems translated from the Chinese: Segunda antología de la poesía china. This anthology contained mainly the same classical poems that she had chosen for a previous anthology, but she decided to add some modern poems in order to show readers what modern Chinese poetry looked like.
She presents a poem by each of the following well-known Chinese authors of the 1920s and 1930s: Guo Moruo (郭沫若), Xu Zhimo (徐志摩), Wen Yiduo (闻一多), Tian Han (田汉), Liu Bannong (刘半农), Ai Qing (艾青) and Huang Jianzhu (黄剑珠). Furthermore, she translates four poems by Mao Zedong (毛泽东) and presents some poems of authors who moved to Taiwan and promoted modernism in the island in the 1950s and 1960s, such as: Cheng Ch'ou-yü (郑愁予), Fang Si (方思), Luo Fu (洛夫), Hsia Ching (夏菁), Yü Kuang-chung (余光中), Huang Yong (黄用) and Hsin Yü (辛郁).
Her introduction aims to bring Chinese poetry closer to the reader; she tries to demystify it and attempts to get rid of exotic stereotypes by comparing some of the authors to Spanish poets. Eleven years later, in 1973, she published a new anthology, Poesía china: del siglo XXII a. C. a las canciones de la Revolución Cultural, which is another extension of the previous anthology. She adds more of Mao's poems and a chapter of songs from the Cultural Revolution, as well as some poems written in 1971-1972 by various poets.
In this first period of the history of translations, besides Xie Bingying's autobiography and these two poetic anthologies, the Spanish readership was introduced to Mao's poems and Lu Xun's short stories. Five books containing indirect translations of Mao's poems were published successively in 1966, 1970, 1975 (two of them) and 1976. Even if they cannot be considered modern — as they follow the classical pattern — they are included in this outline because they are part of the first wave of texts of twentieth-century Chinese literature that were presented to the Spanish readership. One of these books — a translation from a Portuguese version — is the first translation of a modern Chinese text into Catalan. This same book is also translated into Spanish and of the other three versions two are from English and one from Italian. The translation done from English, published in 1970, is a reprint of a Foreign Languages Press edition. Therefore, many different indirect ways are used to present these poems, sometimes accompanied by an introduction to Maoism, to the Spanish readership. The publication of these books was probably related to the growing interest in Maoism at the end of Franco's rule in Spain, when various Maoist organizations were founded: the Spanish Labour Party (Partido del Trabajo de España) founded in 1967, the Workers' Revolutionary Organization (Organización Revolucionaria de Trabajadores) founded in 1969 and the Communist Movement (Movimiento Comunista) in 1967, among others (Ríos, 2009). Except for the reprint of the Foreign Languages Press edition, the other translations are marked indirect translations, which means that the paratext clearly states the source language.
In 1971 two Spanish publishing companies decided to publish Lu Xun's short stories for the first time. Salvat published La verdadera historia de A Q y otros cuentos containing nine short stories selected from Nahan (1923) and Panghuang (彷徨, Wanderings, 1926) as well as the preface to Nahan. Another publishing company, Tusquets, presented Diario de un loco, which includes three short stories: "Aq zhengzhuan" (阿Q正传, The Real Story of Ah Q) and "Kuangren riji" (狂人日记, A Madman's Diary), from Nahan, and "Changmingdeng" (长明灯, The Eternal Flame) from Panghuang. These two books are both hidden indirect translations and can be considered the first modern Chinese narrative texts published in Spain after Xie Bingying's autobiography. In the first book, neither the translator nor the source language are mentioned, while the second book indicates the translator, Sergio Pitol, but omits the source language. The same books published by Foreign Languages Press at different dates prove that both of these books are indirect translations and were translated by a Chilean (Luis Enrique Délano) and a Mexican translator (Sergio Pitol) working for this Chinese publishing company. Spanish publishers decided to reissue these two short story collections.
The translation of the short stories published in La verdadera historia de AQ y otros cuentos (1971) is identical to a publication by Foreign Languages Press in Beijing in 1960. The translator, Luis Enrique Délano, can be identified as his name is indicated in the Beijing edition.(7) It is an indirect translation, as Luis Enrique Délano translates from English and French and not from Chinese.(8) The second book, Diario de un loco (1971), was also translated by a Mexican author who worked for Foreign Languages Press in 1962 as an English translator (Fernández de Alba, 1998, 122) and a similar edition was published one year later in Beijing.
In this first period, translations of modern and contemporary Chinese literature were almost limited to Spanish, as only one book containing Mao's poems was translated into Catalan. Some direct translations of poetry appeared as early as the 1960s and 1970s, but the other translations — Xie Bingying's autobiography, Mao's poems and Lu Xun's stories — are all indirect translations. Five of them are marked indirect translations and three are hidden, which indicates a partial tolerance for this phenomenon. Reissuing a book previously published by Foreign Languages Press was also standard practice. In this first period there was a great variety of mediating languages, even if English was the most common: four translations were from English, one from Italian, and two from Portuguese.(9)
1977 not only symbolises the end of this first stage but it also coincides with the end of Maoism and the Cultural Revolution (1967-1976) in China and the end of the Franco period (1939-1975) in Spain.
3. Translations from 1978 to 2000: paving the way
1978 is not a randomly chosen date, as it represents a great change in the diplomatic relations between China and Spain. The visit of the King and Queen of Spain to China that year marked the normalization of foreign relations after decades of isolation, which was also the case for China. During that visit, Taciana Fisac acted as the interpreter; she would later play an important role translating some works in the 1980s and creating and developing the Centre for East Asian Studies at the Autonomous University of Madrid in the 1990s. 1978 also represents a key date in the reception of modern Chinese literature in Spain, as Iñaki Preciado, with Miguel Shiao's collaboration, translated Lu Xun's collection of short stories Nahan, which until that time had been only partially and indirectly translated.
From 1978 the variety of translated authors increases and so does the number of Chinese translators who choose to render modern and contemporary literature into Spanish (twelve works) and into Catalan (two works).
Most of the translated works were originally published in China in the 1980s. The following authors were translated: Bei Dao (北岛), Gu Hua (古华), Lu Wenfu (陆文夫), Zhang Jie (张洁), Tie Ning (铁凝), Wang Anyi (王安忆), Zhang Xianliang (张贤亮), Feng Jicai (冯骥才), Mo Yan, Zhang Xinxin, Sang Ye and Xia Zhiyan (夏之炎). Some authors from the first half of the century were also translated, such as: Lu Xun, Ba Jin (巴金), Ding Ling (丁玲), Qian Zhongshu (钱钟书), Yu Dafu (郁达夫), Lao She (老舍), Mao Dun (茅盾), Guo Moruo, Wen Yiduo and Huang Jianzhu, as well as two short stories written at the beginning of the 1960s (by Liu Zhen, 刘真 and Li Na, 李纳) and two female authors from the 1990s: Li Bihua (李碧华), from Hong Kong, and Hong Ying (虹影).
In the 1980s and 1990s direct translations were done by the following translators: Iñaki Preciado, Taciana Fisac, Dolors Folch (in Spanish and Catalan), Seán Golden (in Catalan), Isabel Alonso and Lola Díez. These translators were trained abroad, mostly in China and some of them in France (this is the case for Taciana Fisac and Isabel Alonso). However, from 1978 it became possible to study Chinese at the Translation Faculty of the University of Granada and the Autonomous University of Barcelona offered a similar program from 1988.
Regarding indirect translations, all of them into Spanish, five of them are from English (one of them from the English version of Foreign Languages Press), three from French, one from both English and French and a translation from an unmentioned source language: Ernesto Posse's translation of Lu Xun's La verídica historia de AQ (1991). Two translations originally published by Foreign Languages Press were also reprinted by Spanish publishing houses in this period: La familia (1982 ) by Ba Jin translated from the Chinese by María Teresa Guzmán and Ocho escritoras chinas: vida cotidiana en la China de hoy (1990), both of them direct translations, even if the second one is a short story collection translated by Chinese hispanicists and revised by Latin Americans living in Beijing.
In this period, publishers' interest in this literature develops and besides publishing translations that are suggested by translators themselves, they start requesting translations of books that they encounter in international Book Fairs in their English or French version. Hence, some direct translations are motivated by an English or French translation of the book. This is the case for direct translations such as La mitad del hombre es la mujer (1992 ) by Zhang Xianliang and Que broten 100 flores (1997 ) by Feng Jicai.(10) This trend will become more prominent in the next stage, from 2001, and it will lead to an increase of indirect translations.
Regarding the genre of the translations, in the 1980s and 1990s, fiction was the most translated literary genre, most of them novels but there were also three short story collections. A reportage book, Zhang Xinxin and Sang Ye's El hombre de Pekín (1989 ), was also published. And regarding poetry, besides of the Catalan translation of Lu Xun's prose poems Mala herba (1994 ) by Seán Golden and Marisa Presas, an anthology mostly devoted to classical poetry was also published: Poetas chinos: paisaje a través de una doble niebla (2000), which is an indirect translation from French first issued by a Chilean publisher in 1958.
In this period, direct translations are therefore more numerous than indirect translations: 14 direct translations and ten indirect translations are published. As far as mediating languages are concerned, there are only two pivot languages: English and French; English being the most common. The great majority of these indirect translations are marked, with only Lu Wenfu's (陆文夫) El gourmet (1994 ) and Lu Xun's short story collection La verídica historia de AQ (1991) posing as direct translations.
To sum up, an increase in direct translations can be observed in the 1980s and 1990s compared to the 1970s. This is logically due to the growing interest in Chinese Studies and in the Chinese language, as there were more translators capable of rendering this literature in Spanish and Catalan and they were not only interested in classical literature, but also began to develop an interest in modern and contemporary Chinese literature.
4. Translations from 2001 to 2009 and the mediation of the Anglophone and Francophone literary systems
2000 can be considered a turning point in the reception of modern and contemporary Chinese literature in Spain, as the award of the Nobel Prize to the French Sinophone author Gao Xingjian (高行建) promoted interest in this literature. The proliferation of translations since 2001 is a mark of the increase of this interest.
On the occasion of the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Spanish press published several articles on Chinese literature. Expressing their opinions on the translation of modern and contemporary Chinese literature in Spain, critics concluded that the situation was deplorable (Golden, 2000; Conte, 2001). They suggested that Gao's novel might be better received than other Chinese short stories and poems that had been translated up to that point, because the novel was the genre most favoured by the market (Conte, 2001). They also expressed the hope that Gao's Nobel Prize would encourage publishers to support other authors' work (Golden, 2000). These predictions were borne out by events, as translations of modern and contemporary Chinese literature saw a considerable increase over the ensuing decade.
The majority of translations were novels by contemporary Chinese and Sinophone authors such as Gao Xingjian, Ma Jian (马建) and Bei Dao (all three living outside China), Wang Shuo (王朔), Wei Hui (卫慧), Alai (阿来), Chun Shu (春树), Hong Ying, Xu Xing (徐星), Xinran (欣然), Bi Feiyu (毕飞宇), Chi Li (池莉), Han Shaogong (韩少功), Mo Yan, Jiang Rong (姜戎), Yan Lianke (阎连科), Su Tong (苏童), Yu Hua (余华), Zhang Jie, Wang Anyi and the Taiwanese author Shih Shu-ching (施叔青).
Although they cannot be said to be numerous, the number of poetry anthologies in translation is on the increase. Three books of poems by modern or contemporary authors have been directly translated from Chinese: Bei Dao's Paisaje sobre cero (2001 ), Dai Wangshu's (戴望舒) Mis recuerdos (2006 ) and Wen Yiduo's (闻一多) Aguas muertas (2006 ). One brief anthology entitled La niebla de nuestra edad, translated from the Chinese by Javier Martín Ríos and Fan Ye and published in 2009, is devoted to ten contemporary authors born between 1969 and 1984: Chen Ge (陈舸), Chi He (匙河), Fan Xue (范雪), Hu Xudong (胡续冬), Jiang Tao (姜涛), Leng Shuang (冷霜), Ma Yan (马燕), Ni Zhange (倪湛舸), Wang Ao (王敖) and Zhou Weichi (周伟驰). Besides these, three anthologies principally devoted to classical poetry also include some modern authors (Alberti and León, Poesía china, 2003; Rexroth and Ling, El barco de orquídeas: poetisas de China, 2006; Chen Guojian, Lo mejor de la poesía amorosa china, 2007). Two of these anthologies are indirect translations from French and English, while Chen Guojian's anthology is a direct translation.
Regarding collections of short stories, eight were published, compared with only five collections published before 2001. These collections include mostly short stories written before 1980; only those by Ma Jian (Treu la llengua saburrosa, 2002 ) and Gao Xingjian (Una caña de pescar para el abuelo and Una canya de pescar per al meu avi, 2003  translated in Spanish and in Catalan) are more recent. Three of these collections are translations of Lu Xun's short stories: one is a direct translation of Gushi xinbian (故事新编, 1936) into Spanish (Contar nuevo de historias viejas by Laureano Ramírez, published in 2001), another is a selection of short stories directly translated into Catalan (Diari d'un boig i altres relats by Carles Prado, published in 2007) and the third is a selection of short stories translated from the English version published by Foreign Languages Press: Diario de un demente (2008). Another collection, Luna creciente (2007), was also translated from an English version previously published by Foreign Languages Press and includes short stories by Wang Tongzhao (王统照), Rou Shi (柔石), Shen Congwen (沈从文), Bing Xin (冰心), Lao She (老舍), Xiao Hong (萧红), Zhang Tianyi (张天翼) and Ai Wu (艾芜). Finally, there is also an anthology —Antología del cuento chino maravilloso (2003) —focusing on classical short stories which contains three modern stories, two by Lu Xun and one by Gao Ertai (高尔泰).(11)
Theatre is unquestionably the least translated genre; there is only one direct translation, that of Lao She's Chaguan (茶馆), La casa de té, published in 2009 (translated by Belén Cuadra et al.). There is also a translation of an opera, Hongdeng ji (红灯记), La linterna roja, translated from the Chinese by Inma González and published in 2005.
Regarding Chinese translators, it may be noted that poetry translations in the last ten years devoted to modern and contemporary authors have been possible thanks to the Taiwanese translator Luisa Chang and the Spanish translator and lecturer at the University of Granada, Javier Martín Ríos. Carles Prado and Laureano Ramírez, lecturers at the Open University of Barcelona and the Autonomous University of Barcelona, respectively, devoted themselves to the translation of Lu Xun's short stories. Laureano Ramírez also rendered a short story collection by Gao Xingjian into Spanish. Sara Rovira, another lecturer at the Automous University of Barcelona, translated some of Ma Jian's short stories and a novel by Chun Shu into Catalan. Gabriel García Noblejas, from the University of Granada, translated Wang Shuo's Haz el favor de no llamarme humano (2002 ). The publishing company Emecé commissioned the Mexican translators Romer Alejandro Cornejo and Liljana Arsovska to translate Wei Hui's Shanghai baby (2002 ) for publication in Spain. Paula Erhenhaus translated one of Bi Feiyu's novels and a publishing company called Belaqva commissioned Mari Carmen Espín to translate Chi Li's Triste vida (2007 ) into Spanish and Catalan. Finally, Yunqing Yao, a Chinese technical translator and interpreter living in Spain, translated Han Shaogong's Pa pa pa (2008 ) for Kailas. In contrast to those of the previous period, some of these translators were trained in Spain, mostly at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Sara Rovira, Carles Prado, Paula Ehrenhaus and Mari Carmen Espín), and at the University of Granada (Javier Martín Ríos). Others are of Chinese origin (Yunqing Yao) or Taiwanese (Luisa Chang) and either live or have lived in Spain. A third group of translators includes those who were trained in China before the discipline of Chinese Translation Studies was established in Spain: Laureano Ramírez, Gabriel García-Noblejas, Romer Alejandro Cornejo and Liljana Arsovska. The latter two translators are lecturers at the College of Mexico.
It is important to consider whether direct translations were proposed by translators themselves or requested by the publisher. In the latter case, publishers discover a work in its French or English version and then decide to look for a translator and publish it. This means that the works in question are selected on the basis of their position in the mediating literary system, with no regard to the position of the original in the source literature. There is therefore a strong mediation of direct translations, especially in the case of novels, as all direct translations of novels have been requested by publishers.(12) Regarding short stories, some have been proposed by translators (such as Lu Xun's direct translations into Spanish and Catalan), while others are requested by publishers (as in the case of the short stories by Ma Jian and Gao Xingjian). Direct translations of poetry have sometimes been requested by the publisher, as in the case of Bei Dao's Paisaje sobre cero (2001 ) translated by Luisa Chang; works translated by Javier Martín Ríos, on the other hand, have always been proposed by the translator to the publishers.
An important feature of the reception of modern and contemporary Chinese literature in Spain that has not so far been mentioned is the fact that the publications are not concentrated in one publishing house. All major publishing houses (such as Mondadori, Anagrama, Seix Barral, Alfaguara, and so on) include one or two publications of modern or contemporary Chinese literature in their catalogue, but there is no publishing company exclusively devoted to this literature.(13) Moreover, with the exception of Gao Xingjian and Mo Yan, it is rare to find several translations of different novels from the same author.
The mediating languages of this period are primarily English and French. 18 works were translated from English, eleven from French, one from Italian and one from Spanish into Catalan; 17 of these are hidden indirect translations. While the remaining translations (14) provide the English or French title, five of them do not mention the name of the first translator or the Chinese title, which gives these translations the appearance of direct translations from English originals. Therefore, contradictory practices are in use; while most translations highlight the Chinese original by making the reader think it is a direct translation, some editions completely omit the existence of this original by only mentioning the English source text on the credit page. Both strategies seem to hide indirect translation.(14) Compared to the previous period, from 1978 to 2000, indirect translation can be considered a hidden and therefore less tolerated practice. Moreover, while 25 novels are indirectly translated, only eight are translated directly from Chinese. The fact that the eight direct translations were commissioned by the publishers proves that the reception process has completely changed.
5. Some reflections on the present reception process
A significant change has taken place in the reception process of contemporary Chinese literature in the last ten years. Most of the translations published in Spain are chosen on the basis of their position in the Anglophone and Francophone literary systems and no attention is paid to their position in the Chinese literary system. This means that, regardless of the language from which the texts are translated, mediation is very often present. An exception would be the minority of translations that are proposed by translators themselves to the publishers.
Publishers get to know a Chinese author's work through literary agents; they read the English or French version and then decide to publish it. As we have already mentioned, most publishers then choose to translate from the English or French version, while a few publishers contact Chinese translators to render the text. Translating from the English or French version means that there is no contact with the Chinese literary system at any time in the reception process. It is not only the translated text that is offered to the readers, but also the paratext and even criticism in the press, often based exclusively on the information that the mediating system provides to publishers and journalists. This mediation also means that the same works are almost simultaneously published in different Western literary systems; a homogenized reception is taking place. It should be pointed out that this also occurs in the case of the translation of novels, the most translated genre.
Another example of the mediation of direct translations is found at the text level in the proofreading process. Once the Chinese translator submits the Spanish text, some publishers decide to revise the text by comparing it to the French or English version; that was the case for the translations of Han Shaogong's Pa pa pa (2008 ), Hong Ying's El verano de la traición (1998 ) and Wang Shuo's Haz el favor de no llamarme humano (2002 ), for instance.(15)
This trend towards indirectness does not prove that the distance between literary systems has grown due to a lack of translators and specialists; it proves the development of a globalized system of transmission of texts that are mediated by dominant literary systems. Regarding the choice of texts and the time of publication, this globalization implies homogeneity and approaches simultaneity.
Another paper would be necessary to study in depth the conclusions that are being suggested here. It would also be interesting to analyse how the works are presented to the reader and what qualities of the literary texts are highlighted. As Shih Shu-mei states, "If stereotyping is inevitable in cross-cultural representations, then we might ask for whom it is inevitable, why it is inevitable, and what are its consequences for Third World texts." (Shih, 2004, 22)
In conclusion, this mediation could be seen from two different perspectives. We could say that the present Chinese literary system depends on first being recognised by the Anglophone and Francophone literary systems before entering the Spanish literary system; or we could say that the Spanish literary system depends on the Anglophone and Francophone systems to receive modern and contemporary Chinese literature. The intervention of Chinese translators and literature specialists is vital in order to diversify the reception and escape from this imposed homogeneity.
(1) This paper is a revised version of: Marin-Lacarta (2011). For a complete chronological list of the translations see my PhD dissertation: Marin-Lacarta (2012, 517-523).
BAUER, Wolfgang (1999), "The role of intermediate languages in translations from Chinese into German" in De l'un au multiple: Traductions du chinois vers les langues européennes = Translations from Chinese to European languages, Viviane Alleton and Michael Lackner (eds.), Paris, Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, pp. 19-32.
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T-1611, Departamento de Traducción, UAB | Research Group T-1611, Translation Departament, UAB | Grup d'Investigació T-1611, Departament de Traducció, UAB