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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 Four. Lyrical Narrative Style 87


87 Chapter Four. Lyrical Narrative Style The second narrative feature to be discussed in this dissertation is Shen Congwen’s long-acclaimed lyrical narration, which contributes greatly to his fame as a master of style. Lyrical narration is a distinctive feature of Shen Congwen’s narrative style, and is well-recognized among literary critics. His pastoral descriptions of the story circumstances, restrained affectionate depictions of characters and events, iterative narrative mode, and his inventive uses of figurative language all contribute to his unique characteristics of lyrical narrative discourse. David Der-wei Wang believes that Shen Congwen establishes himself as, among other roles, a “lyrical stylist”. Wang explains that “lyricism is often described as a narrative mode that presents an atemporal effect, ‘spatializing’ the linear sequence of time in pursuit of an epiphanic look into the depth of life” (Wang, 1992: 224). He regards Shen Congwen’s lyrical discourse as “critical lyricism”, through which Shen reveals “the immensity of perception, letting the darkest realities situate themselves in the music of human memory” (Wang, 1992: 20). Wang’s observation is insightful, as Shen Congwen is indeed capable of treating various kinds of themes and subjects in a lyrical manner, even such pathetic subjects as war, death, prostitution and child brides. The lyrical narrative makes it possible for Shen Congwen to present his home region and its people, with subdued passion and pathos. “In a lyrical style, Shen Congwen explores West Hunan both as a geographical territory and as a tropological locus” (Wang, 1992: 19). It is precisely Shen’s lyrical...

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