Book reviewTranslation and Creation: Readings of Western Literature in Early Modern China, 1840-1918 Amsterdam-Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1998. vi + 335 pp. ISBN Hb.: 90 272 1628 2 (Eur.) NLG 170.00/ 1-55619-709-8 (US) $ 85.00. (Benjamins Translation Library, 25).
Reviewed by Anthony Pym
If a complete non-Sinologue like myself can follow and enjoy this multifaceted and variously fascinating account of how Western literature was received and translated in [ p. 370 ]the China of the late Qing period, this must be a mighty good piece of editing. And indeed it is. David Pollard has assembled 14 articles, six of them translated (three translated by Pollard himself), to touch almost all the bases: the political and sociological background, a statistical approximation to the number of translations, a survey of the general ideas governing translations at the time, in-depth analyses of translations, attention to the main genre shifts and linguistic difficulties, and accounts of the ways in which the transferred literature helped transform Chinese writing. All this is held together by Pollard's long synthesizing introduction, a chronology, a dramatis personae, helpful notes on the kinds of Chinese being used in the translations, a functional index, and patches of good humour, with scarcely a sign of polysystems or any readymade theory in sight, and I think only one "always already" (p. 303). As Pollard himself states, although any selection must inevitably leave gaps, this one holds together as a broad account of "what came in" and "what came out" (p. 22; Pollard's position in Hong Kong might account for the choice of verbs). More than that, the authors have "quite a good story to tell" (p. 22). In fact there are quite a few stories worth re-telling.