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English Translations of Shen Congwen’s Stories

A Narrative Perspective

Minhui Xu

This book investigates the English translations of Shen Congwen’s stories. Shen Congwen (1902–1988) is one of the most acclaimed writers in modern Chinese literature. His works have been translated into more than ten languages and his 44 stories count with 70 different English translations. Adopting a case study method within the framework of Descriptive Translation Studies, the author selects and compares the most translated stories, those with three or more translations, totalling fifteen translations from four stories. The analysis of the texts focuses on Shen’s narrative style – his narrative commentaries and his lyrical narrative mode – to see how his style was re-presented in translation. In addition, the translators’ overt narrative intrusions – their added notes – are also examined.
Further, on the basis of Bourdieu’s sociological concepts, especially habitus, this study makes an attempt to interpret the different strategies adopted by different translators, including scholar/non-scholar translators, L1/L2 translators, and translators of the 1930s and 40s and those of the 1980s onwards.

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Chapter One. Introduction 11

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11 Chapter One. Introduction 1.1 Preliminaries He who stands the test of time stands in history. Shen Congwen (1902-1988), widely acclaimed as “one of the half-dozen great authors of modern Chinese literature” (Kinkley1, 1987: 1), experienced an eclipse of his reputation for a period of about thirty years, but today his works finally enjoy the world-renown that they deserve. His works have been translated into more than ten different languages, including English, French, Russian, German, Japanese, and Swedish. With a focus on the English translations of Shen Congwen’s stories, this project is a study of the different translations by different translators that have been brought out at different times by different publishers. Given the three most obvious problematics to be expected in the translations – namely, the radical differences between Chinese and English languages and cultures; the distinct “Chineseness” of Shen Congwen’s writings; and the huge differences among translators at different times – the question of how “Shen Congwen” is interpreted and represented in the English world, compared to “Shen Congwen” in the original Chinese world, presents itself. From a historical perspective, this study explores the following questions: the mode in which the translations exist, the differences or changes that occur in the translations, the translation tendencies of different translators, traces of different periods appearing in the translations, the effect of such tendencies or traces on translations, and the reasons for causing these differences. With these questions in mind, this study details textual comparisons and descriptions of selected stories and their translations....

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