Liberal versions : late Qing approaches to translating Aesop's fables

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Book chapter

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Translation and creation : readings of western literature in early modern China, 1840-1918

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John Benjamins Publishing Co.


In the late Qing period, from the Opium War to the 1911 revolution, China absorbed the initial impact of Western arms, manufactures, science and culture, in that order. This volume of essays deals with the reception of Western literature, on the evidence of translations made. Having to overcome Chinese assumptions of cultural superiority, the perception that the West had a literature worth notice grew only gradually. It was not until the very end of the 19th century that a translation of a Western novel (La dame aux camélias) achieved popular acclaim. But this opened the floodgates: in the first decade of the 20th century, more translated fiction was published than original fiction. The core essays in this collection deal with aspects of this influx according to division of territory. Some take key works (e.g. Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Byron’s “The Isles of Greece”), some sample genres (science fiction, detective fiction, fables, political novels), the common attention being to the adjustments made by translators to suit the prevailing aesthetic, cultural and social norms, and/or the current needs and preoccupations of the receiving public. A broad overview of translation activities is given in the introduction. To present the subject in its true guise, that of a major cultural shift, supporting papers are included to fill in the background and to describe some of the effects of this foreign invasion on native literature. A rounded picture emerges that will be intelligible to readers who have no specialized knowledge of China.



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ISBN of the source publication: 9781556197093

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Recommended Citation

Chan, T. H. L. (1998). Liberal versions: Late Qing approaches to translating Aesop's fables. In David E. Pollard (Ed.), Translation and creation: Readings of western literature in early modern China, 1840-1918 (pp. 57-79). Amsterdam ; Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Co. doi: 10.1075/btl.25