Review by Matt Turner
Most American readers of Chinese poetry come to it through classic translations by Ezra Pound, Gary Snyder, Burton Watson, and a few others. With some notable exceptions, those translations have tended to focus on the poetic triumvirate of the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE): Li Bai (Li Po), Du Fu (Tu Fu), and Wang Wei. The literary context in which those three Tang poets are placed—in China as well as the US—is part of a long, ascendant tradition in Chinese letters, beginning to certain degree with the early anthology that Confucius legendarily put together: The Shijing, better known in English as the Book of Odes or the Book of Songs (Pound translated it as Shih-Ching: The Classic Anthology Defined by Confucius). The poems of the Shijing, which often seem little more than folk ditties, span seven centuries during the fabled Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BCE)—the time, according to Confucius in his Analects, when politics and society were ordered as they should be. In China, the Zhou and Tang periods are acknowledged as two golden ages, exemplars of what is best in the Chinese tradition. A trajectory of one to the other is easily assumed.
Reviewed by Tyler Langendorfer
Though largely a conservative society, Wilhelmine Germany was nonetheless home to some of the most progressive and pioneering thinkers of its time. The pronounced militarism and censorship embodied by Kaiser Wilhelm II were counteracted by early human-rights activism and experimental, anti-reactionary art. Yet fiction and non-fiction from this period, in particular from exponents representing the liberal side of these conflicting forces, have remained largely unknown to Anglophone readers. Seeking to rectify this problem, the Berlin-based publisher Rixdorf Editions, in two authoritative translations by James Conway, has now released two texts never before available in English: The Guesthouse at the Sign of the Teetering Globe (1917) by Franziska (Fanny) zu Reventlow, a short story collection; and Berlin’s Third Sex (1904) by Magnus Hirschfeld, which according to Conway is “arguably the first truly serious, sympathetic study of the gay and lesbian experience ever written.”
Reviewed by Jan Steyn
The table of contents announces seven chapters (the numbers are mine): 1) Dragonese, 2) D̶o̶n̶'̶t̶ Do Translations, 3) And Still No Rain / Roland Barthes Rhymes with, 4) Amateur Translator, 5) Maker of Wholes (Let’s Say of a Table), 6) Who Refuses To Let Go of Her Translations Until She Feels She Has Written the Books Herself (Or, Translation and the Principle of Tact).
I am interested in tables, so I turn to the fifth chapter and start skimming. It begins with the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand in Paris (the one with the four right-angled towers facing in on each other like open books and the “sunken forest garden” in its center). It ends with a plea to recognize the singularity of every translation. Ah, I think, she is here also “actively parrying against the all purpose explanation.”
And so: Kate Brigg’s book, This Little Art, is about translation, dragons, and tables. It argues for singularity and against all-purpose explanations. It applies the methods of genre-bending song and active parrying to evidence from Roland Barthes and the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand…
Reviewed by Craig Epplin
If our bones will betray us, if they can betray us, it is because they have stories to tell. Like the rings of a tree, our bones have secrets to share with those who know how to listen. And in fact, much of the plot of The Iliac Crest turns on a secret. “I know you are a woman,” the houseguest breathes into the narrator’s ear one evening. The doctor does not immediately react, but the revelation of the secret, the dramatic display of the power inherent in its possession, interrupts his internal world and sense of self.