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Chinese Literature Today - Winter/Spring 2011

  • Issue Number: Volume 1 Number 2
  • Published Date: Winter/Spring 2011
  • Publication Cycle: Biannual

This magazine's second issue shows the same strengths that reviewer Sima Rabinowitz found in its inaugural issue last year—windows into China’s national culture and experience, uniquely personal poems in excellent translations, and stunning graphics. An offspring of World Literature Today and a publication of the University of Oklahoma, Chinese Literature Today will be an important resource for followers of the Chinese literary scene, and is likely to make converts of others who seek to connect with this turbulent and vital society.

What's most impressive about CLT is its depth and roundedness. The question of whether a national literature should be judged in its own or global terms is particularly salient for China, given its rich literary past and history of isolation and Western oppression. We get not one or two, but five different and sharply argumentative takes on this discussion. Similarly, in a section on China's migrant worker poets, we not only have an essay on the movement, but a baker's dozen of lyrics by three poets, in fine translations. Here are the opening strophes of Zheng Xiaoqiong's (b. 1980) "Iron Nails," translated by Jonathan Stalling:

How much love, how much pain, how many nails
Pin me to the machine table, blueprint, order form
Early morning dew, midday's blood
Must have an iron nail to pin down overtime, industrial disease
And the nameless grief follows, the time of the working class
From the factory buildings unfolds an era of fortune and misery

This issue’s featured author is poet Shi Zhi, whose early lyrics were memorized by the "sent down youth" of the Cultural Revolution. He spent three decades in mental institutions before re-emerging as "an icon of historical survival and poetic witness." We have an essay on Shi Zhi, a timeline, part of a letter from the poet "To My American Readers," and nine poems from a forthcoming collection, also adeptly translated by Stalling.

Further fuel for the mind includes two articles on one of China's most prolific and innovative writers, Yan Lianke, an interview with To Live author Yu Hua about his new novel Brothers, and articles by and about Michelle Yeh, an important scholar of contemporary Chinese literature who teaches at the University of California, Davis. English translations of reviews of new writing in Chinese round out the 112-page issue of Chinese Literature Today, which has striking cover and inside art by independent Shanghai artist Yang Yongliang.

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Review Posted on September 14, 2011

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