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 9004168443, 9789004168442

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The Chinese Translation of Russian Literature

Sinica Leidensia Edited by

Barend J. ter Haar In co-operation with

P. K. Bol, D. R. Knechtges, E. S. Rawski, W. L. Idema, E. Zürcher †, H. T. Zurndorfer


The Chinese Translation of Russian Literature Three Studies


Mark Gamsa


Cover illustration: Samovar and teacups. After an idea by Ursula Stadler Gamsa. This book is printed on acid-free paper. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Gamsa, Mark, 1970– The Chinese translation of Russian literature : three studies / by Mark Gamsa. p. cm. — (Sinica leidensia ; v. 90) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-90-04-16844-2 (hardback : alk. paper) 1. Russian literature—20th century—Translations into Chinese—History and criticism. 2. Translating and interpreting—China—History—20th century. 3. Savinkov, B. V. (Boris Viktorovich), 1879–1925—Criticism and interpretation. 4. Artsybashev, M. P. (Mikhail Petrovich), 1878–1927—Criticism and interpretation. 5. Andreev, L. N. (Leonid Nikolaevich), 1871–1919—Criticism and interpretation. 6. Lu Xun, 1881–1936—Criticism and interpretation. I. Title. PG2985.G36 2008 495.1’8029171—dc22 2008027646

ISSN 0169-9563 ISBN 978 90 04 16844 2 Copyright 2008 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Hotei Publishing, IDC Publishers, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers and VSP. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by Koninklijke Brill NV provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910, Danvers, MA 01923, USA. Fees are subject to change. printed in the netherlands

Translation (noun): 1. the process of translating words or text from one language into another. 2. the process of moving something from one place to another. The New Oxford Dictionary of English (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998).

CONTENTS Abbreviations used in notes ........................................................ Conventions ................................................................................ List of illustrations ......................................................................

ix xi xiii

Introduction ................................................................................ I. Three Russian writers ..................................................... II. The translation of Russian literature in China .............. III. Aims and method; state of the field ...............................

1 2 16 25

Chapter One Savinkov and the technique of translation ...... I. Kon’ Blednyi and its author ............................................... “A philosophy of revolution”, and a challenge to “revolutionary literature” ........................................ II. The Pale Horse in China ................................................... The intermediary: Zinaida Vengerova’s English translation ................................................... The Chinese translation by Zheng Zhenduo ............. III. The reception of Huise ma .............................................. The translator’s interpretation .................................... Response: critical and creative ....................................

49 49

Chapter Two Artsybashev and the ideology of translation ... I. The author of Sanin and Shevyrev .................................... Sanin ............................................................................. Worker Shevyrev ............................................................... II. Sanin and Shevyrev in China ............................................. Shaning and individualism ............................................ Gongren Suihuilüefu, and Lu Xun as a translator of Artsybashev ..............................................................

107 107 109 116 120 120

Chapter Three Appropriation and decline; the channels of translation ............................................................................... I. “Bloodstains” from 1905 to 1925, and the rise of Marxist criticism .......................................................... II. Intermediaries .................................................................. III. A story, essay and play—and their translators ...............

56 62 63 69 83 83 92

141 190 190 205 213



Chapter Four Andreev and the practice of translation .......... I. The translator as an engaged intellectual ....................... II. The translator as a political activist ................................ III. Translating, and adapting for the theatre ....................... IV. Translation in a collective ...............................................

228 232 247 260 275

Chapter Five The translator’s profession ................................ I. The translation market of the 1910s .............................. II. Putative professionals ....................................................... III. Decadents and agents of the modern ............................ IV. Occasional translators, and forgotten names ..................

289 289 304 323 339

Conclusion .................................................................................. I. The Russian “Silver age” in China ................................ II. The translator in society ................................................. III. The travels of the Russian book .....................................

359 359 365 368

Annex Three Russian writers in Chinese translation, 1909–1950 ...............................................................................


Acknowledgements ..................................................................... Bibliography ................................................................................ Glossary ....................................................................................... Index ...........................................................................................

387 389 415 419


Chen Yutang 陳玉堂, Zhongguo jinxiandai renwu minghao da cidian 中國近現代人物名號大辭典 (Dictionary of Names and Styles of Chinese Personalities of the Early Modern and Modern Periods), 2nd, revised ed. Hangzhou: Zhejiang guji chubanshe, 2005. HSM: Huise ma 灰色馬 (The Pale Horse), by V. Ropshin (Boris Savinkov), trans. Zheng Zhenduo. Serialized in Xiaoshuo yuebao 小 說月報 vol. 13, nos. 7–8, 10–12 (1922). LXQJ: Lu Xun quanji 魯迅全集 (The Complete Works of Lu Xun). (1973) Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 1973, in 20 vols. (2005) Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 2005, in 18 vols. PH: The Pale Horse, trans. Zinaida Vengerova. Dublin and London: Maunsel, 1917. ZFC: Zhongguo fanyijia cidian 中國翻譯家辭典 (Dictionary of Chinese Translators). Beijing: Zhongguo duiwai fanyi chubanshe, 1988. ZFWS: Meng Zhaoyi 孟昭毅 and Li Zaidao 李載道, eds., Zhongguo fanyi wenxue shi 中國翻譯文學史 (A History of Translated Literature in China). Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, 2005. ZXFW: Xie Tianzhen 謝天振 and Zha Mingjian 查明建, eds., Zhongguo xiandai fanyi wenxue shi (1898–1949) 中國現代翻譯文學史 (1898–1949) (A History of Translated Literature in Modern China). Shanghai: Shanghai waiyu jiaoyu chubanshe, 2003. The 1973 edition of Lu Xun’s Complete Works (a reprint of the first edition of 1938) is used for Lu Xun’s translations, as these were not included either in the 16-volume edition of 1981 or in the 18-volume edition of 2005. The publisher Renmin wenxue in Beijing is also due to bring out a complete edition of Lu Xun’s translations, Lu Xun yiwen ji, in ten volumes.

CONVENTIONS In order to make this study accessible to a wider range of readers, some terms and references to historical events familiar to specialists in Chinese or Russian literature are explained in the text. In the bibliographical list, titles of sources in both languages are translated into English. Footnote references to sources listed in the Bibliography are given in abridged form, while full citation is used only for those less relevant sources, which the Bibliography omits. Chinese titles, personal and place-names, are all given in the now standard Hanyu pinyin transcription, with the usual exceptions of Chiang Kai-shek and Sun Yat-sen. The capital of China was known to the world as Peking during most of the 20th century; adhering to this single appellation will save us the need of distinguishing between Beijing and Beiping (the official name of the city when the national capital was Nanjing, then known in the West as Nanking, from 1928 to 1949). For reasons of greater historical familiarity and period flavour, the use of Canton in pre-1949 context has been similarly preferred, though readers will notice that Beijing and Guangzhou appear in references to the PRC period, and in all publication data.

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS Chapter One 1. Boris Savinkov in Genoa prison, April 1922 .................... 2. Zinaida Vengerova, around 1896 ...................................... 3. Zheng Zhenduo, in 1923 or 1924 .................................... 4. Cover of Ropshin, trans. Zheng Zhenduo, Huise ma (The Commercial Press, 1924) .......................................... Chapter Two 1. Mikhail Artsybashev. Frontispiece of Revolutionsgeschichten (Munich and Leipzig: Georg Müller, 1909) ...................... 2. Mikhail Artsybashev. Photograph reproduced in Lu Xun quanji (1938) ........................................................... 3. Lu Xun in Peking, 1926. Photograph reproduced in Lu Xun quanji (1938) ........................................................... Chapter Three 1. Percy Pinkerton. Photo-postcard, tipped into Martin Secker’s copy of Sanine ...................................................... 2. Dai Wangshu. Photograph attached with his enrolment form to the Institut franco-chinois in 1933 ...................... 3. Li Yaolin reading ............................................................... 4. Zheng Zhenduo in 1934 ................................................... Chapter Four 1. Leonid Andreev (on a visit to his hometown Orel, 1910) ........................................................................ 2. Zhou Zuoren, Vasilii Eroshenko and Lu Xun in May 1922 ........................................................................... 3. Shen Zemin in 1920 .......................................................... 4. Shen Zemin in 1923 .......................................................... 5. Yuan Muzhi in the role of Henrik Tille in The Waltz of the Dogs, 1929 ................................................ 6. Li Jiye, Wei Suyuan and Tai Jingnong ............................. 7. Li Jiye in the courtyard of the Weiming Society in Peking, 1928 .......................................................................

50 64 70 90

108 142 184

206 216 222 225

229 246 252 254 263 278 283


list of illustrations

Chapter Five 1. Zhou Shoujuan’s Introduction to his translation of Andreev, “The Red Laugh”, 1917 .................................... 2. Cover of the journal Youxi zazhi, no. 10 (Sept. 1914) ...... 3. Title page of Pierre Louÿs, trans. by Zeng Pu and Zeng Xubai, Rou yu si (Zhenmeishan Bookstore, 1929), and the translators’ dedication .......................................... 4. Title page of Andreev, trans. Mei Chuan, Hong de xiao (The Commercial Press, 1930) .......................................... 5. Title page of Andreev, trans. Ji Jie, Qi ge jiaosha zhe (Nanjing: Huapailou shudian; and Shanghai: Nanhua shudian, 1928), and a reader’s commentary ......

295 297 336 343 348

INTRODUCTION Writing, probably in the summer of 1908, to André Villard, who translated him into German, Mikhail Artsybashev (1878–1927) concluded his letter with the following words: Ich kann mich nicht genau erinnern, glaube aber, daß Sie mich um mein Bild baten. Ich schicke Ihnen die Photographie, die mir nach Meinung meiner Freunde am ähnlichsten sieht. Ich bitte Sie sehr, mir mitzuteilen, ob Sie von diesen Aufzeichnungen, sowie von meinem Bilde Gebrauch machen wollen. Es interessiert mich sehr: Wir Russen sind unserer Natur nach sehr neugierig!1

The text is quoted here in German because the original Russian letter is no longer extant. It was sent by the Russian writer from the Crimea (where he was then being treated, “without much hope of success”, as he admits elsewhere in the letter, for the tuberculosis that bedevilled him for most of his life). Published for the first time in the German collection of Artsybashev’s stories Revolutionsgeschichten (1909), for more than eighty years it remained practically the only source of biographical information on the writer.2 Retranslated, surreptitiously, from German into English for inclusion in a collection of Artsybashev’s stories published in 1915, the letter has been quoted and analysed ever since, with no awareness of its provenance or date, in almost every English-language publication on this writer.3 Portions of the same autobiographical letter were also 1 “I do not quite remember, but it seems to me that you asked for my picture. I am sending you a photograph, which, in the opinion of my friends, shows me at my best. Should you want to make any use of these notes, or of the photograph, I very much ask you to inform me about it. This interests me a lot: we Russians are most curious by nature”. See “Einleitung”, in Artsybashev, trans. S. Bugow and André Villard, Revolutionsgeschichten, p. xxii. The author’s name appears on the title page of this book as “M. Artzibaschew”; it was “Michael Artzibashef ” in his translations into English in the 1910s. In the interests of uniformity, Russian names are transcribed here and below according to the modified Library of Congress system, now in standard use. 2 Eighty-two years later, other letters by Artsybashev accompanied by memoirs of his frequent stays in Balaklava (southern Crimea) before the revolution, and glimpses of him in Moscow shortly before his emigration, appeared in M. Aspiz, “Vospominaniia o M. P. Artsybasheve”, followed by “Pis’ma M. P. Artsybasheva”. Translations of all Russian and Chinese titles are provided in the Bibliography. 3 See, for example, the recent dictionary entry on Artsybashev by the main specialist on him in the West, Nicholas Luker: “In his introduction to The Millionaire (translated by Percy Pinkerton, 1915), he wrote . . .”; “as he said in his introduction to The Millionaire”. Judith E. Kalb et al., eds., Russian Writers of the Silver Age, 1890–1925, pp. 43, 44.



rendered from the German into Chinese by the main translator of Artsybashev into that language. An employee of the Chinese Ministry of Education, he had come across the Revolutionsgeschichten volume while sorting out the library of a German cultural club in Shanghai, which was confiscated and removed to Peking after Germany’s defeat in the First World War. Not only did the photograph that Artsybashev sent to Villard appear on the frontispiece of the story collection that Villard was then preparing for publication in Munich, but it was also used to illustrate the Chinese translation of Artsybashev’s short novel Worker Shevyrev in 1922. It has since been reprinted in the Chinese translator’s complete works; much blurred in comparison with its first reproduction in Revolutionsgeschichten, Artsybashev’s image is barely recognizable in the 1973 edition of Lu Xun quanji. There is, of course, much more here than the story of a letter and a photograph. By studying Chinese translations of works by Artsybashev and two other Russian writers, Boris Savinkov (writing under the pseudonym V. Ropshin, 1879–1925) and Leonid Andreev (1871–1919), this book will follow the channels of transmission and unpredictable fortunes of literary texts once they are given a new lease of life in another culture. I. Three Russian writers While they belonged to the same generation, our three Russian writers were anything but a coterie of like-minded associates. Savinkov showed little interest in Andreev;4 he was far better acquainted with Artsybashev, though a draft of Savinkov’s last letter to him from Soviet prison contained threats of physical violence.5 Artsybashev once had high regard 4 A chance meeting with Andreev in Moscow, in Jan. 1905, is recorded in Boris Savinkov, Vospominaniia terrorista, p. 91. Though a less prominent contributor than Andreev, Savinkov also wrote for the Moscow newspaper Kur’er (1897–1904): see M. N. Teliatnik, “Kto avtor etikh fel’etonov?” (Who is the Author of These Sketches?), in V. A. Keldysh and M. V. Koz’menko, eds., Leonid Andreev: materialy i issledovaniia, p. 341. Savinkov’s only remark on Andreev as a writer, in his prison diary of 1925, is sharply dismissive: see A. L. Litvin et al., eds., Boris Savinkov na Lubianke, p. 182. 5 While they too only met once, in Warsaw in Aug. 1924, Artsybashev and Savinkov had by then maintained a year’s-long correspondence related to their work in the Warsaw-published émigré Russian newspaper Za Svobudu!. See D. I. Zubarev, “M. P. Artsybashev: Pis’ma Borisu Savinkovu. K istorii russkoi emigratsii v Varshave”, esp. p. 67; idem, “Amfiteatrov i russkie v Pol’she (1922–1932)”, esp. pp. 406–9, 423, 433–34. In March 1925 Savinkov took offence at an article in the same newspaper, in which



for Andreev, with whom he collaborated in literary journals in the first decade of the century,6 though by the late 1900s this appreciation had diminished, and the two writers were prone to disagree. An admirer of Savinkov as a leading figure of the anti-Bolshevik struggle in the early 1920s, like the entire White emigration Artsybashev considered him a renegade once he publicly espoused the Soviet regime. Andreev expressed his opinion of V. Ropshin the writer by resigning in protest from his position as editor in “Shipovnik” when that St Petersburg publishing house issued The Pale Horse in 1909; there would be further, indirect, conflict in the last years of Andreev’s life.7 The uneasy relationship between Andreev and Artsybashev developed beyond the refusal of the former to participate in the latter’s publishing ventures, and ultimately both writers criticised each other’s work in their plays.8 And yet, despite this caveat, the writing of Savinkov, Artsybashev and Andreev obviously shared much common ground. In the years between the first Russian revolution of 1905 and the October revolution of 1917, all three authors responded to the challenges that politics posed to literature.9 Struggling to define the place

Artsybashev had accused his closest associates of having knowingly led him into a trap set by the Soviet intelligence: Vitalii A. Shentalinskii, Donos na Sokrata, pp. 114–15, 155–56. More will be said on the circumstances of Savinkov’s return to Soviet Russia, his imprisonment and death, in Ch. One below. 6 The names of Artsybashev and Andreev first appeared together in the popular Zhurnal dlia vsekh ( Journal for All; St Petersburg, 1896–1906), an experience Artsybashev recalled, as in his letter to Villard in 1908 (Revolutionsgeschichten, p. xvii) he expressed appreciation of Andreev’s writing. For a while, their stories continued to be published under the same cover: see, for the years 1907 to 1909, items 248, 261, 329 in O. D. Golubeva, Literaturno-khudozhestvennye al’manakhi i sborniki, 1900–1911 gody. 7 On Andreev’s resignation from Shipovnik, see entry by V. A. Bogdanov in P. A. Nikolaev, ed., Russkie pisateli 20 veka: biograficheskii slovar’, p. 33. On Savinkov’s attempt to take over the newspaper Russkaia volia, which Andreev edited in Petrograd in 1916–17, see Andreev, eds. Richard Davies and Ben Hellman, S.O.S., p. 110 and editors’ commentary. 8 Andreev’s refusal to take part in Artsybashev’s anthologies Zhizn’ (Life) and Zemlia (Land), in 1908 and 1909, is mentioned in the entry on Artsybashev, by M. P. Lepekhin and A. V. Chantsev, in P. A. Nikolaev, ed., Russkie pisateli 1800–1917, vol. 1, p. 115. The surname of Worker Shevyrev, while not a rare one, may have been borrowed by Artsybashev from Andreev’s story “Prizraki” (Phantoms, 1904). T. F. Prokopov, “Vozvrashchenie Mikhaila Artsybasheva”, in Artsybashev, Nash tretii klad, p. 18, finds a veiled critical dialogue between Andreev’s play Anfisa (1909; itself a possible commentary on Artsybashev’s novel Sanin) and Artsybashev’s Zakon dikaria (The Law of the Savage, 1915); Andreev’s Ekaterina Ivanovna (1913) and Artsybashev’s Revnost’ ( Jealousy, 1913). None of the plays mentioned in this note reached China, but below we discuss others that did. 9 Andreev’s novella “The Governor” (1906) was triggered mainly by the assassination



of modern man in a world without God, they were concerned with the autonomy of the individual, who was then subject to increasing demands for collective action. Rather than volunteer answers to their readers, they restated dilemmas, which they admitted they could not resolve, and they expressed doubt in the slogans of the day in literary works that denied far more than they affirmed. Rejecting pat solutions for the political future of their country, they were equally mistrustful of religious and philosophical doctrines purporting to resolve the existential problems of mankind. “Decadence” is a highly problematic concept in the vocabulary of literary criticism. Long used by historians in relation to the “decline and fall” of the Roman Empire, the notion was inseparable from the teleological tradition in historiography and the analogy between historical and biological processes (the “birth, maturity and ageing” of states). In the late nineteenth century, “decadence” was used to describe trends in French and later English literature and art; proudly flaunting their “decadence” in the face of bourgeois society, some writers, artists and musicians espoused this appellation. Recourse to the term was subsequently made in studies on poets such as Baudelaire and Wilde. In Russia, in the argument between realists and symbolists from the mid1890s, some symbolists regarded themselves as “decadents”; however, as symbolism entered its “second wave”, most rejected that label. An authoritative study of Russian symbolism has urged that “decadence” be treated as a worldview or an element of social psychology (to which not only symbolists were partial), rather than as a literary current or style.10 The fiction of the three writers treated below, none of them members of the symbolist circle, shared such “decadent” features as heightened attention to sexuality and enchantment with death, a self-consciously stylised language (most evident in Andreev and in Ropshin’s Pale Horse, the absence of comparable stylisation also attests to Artsybashev’s

of Grand Duke Sergei in the previous year. Savinkov, who took part in the terrorist plot next to the assassin Ivan Kaliaev, based on it his novel The Pale Horse in 1909. Artsybashev used Kaliaev for a story entitled “Tak slagaetsia zhizn’ ” (So Life Takes Shape; mentioned in the entry on Kaliaev by A. V. Chantsev in Nikolaev, Russkie pisateli 1800–1917, vol. 2, p. 448); political terror was as central to his short novels Morning Shadows (1905) and Worker Shevyrev (1909) as the figure of the revolutionary fighter was to Andreev’s play Savva (1906), story “Darkness” (1907), novella “The Seven Who Were Hanged” (1908), and only full-scale novel Sashka Zhegulev (1911). 10 I. V. Koretskaia, “Simvolizm”, here pp. 696, 727.



greater distance from symbolist aesthetics), mistrust of progress and the premonition of an apocalyptic end. They were not alone in writing sceptical and disillusioned prose in those years, a tendency that later allowed Marxist literary historians to attach the labels of “depression” and “decadence” to the writers of the period who had not joined the realist school led by Maxim Gorky, or who, like Andreev, parted ways with it. Marxist literary historiography took up “decadence” for its own teleological purposes, using it in a strictly derogatory sense that identified writers with the contents of their work.11 The last generation of writers in the tsarist era presented a problem for Marxist taxonomy: they had to be retrospectively defined as “decadent” in order to uphold the thesis of a rotten empire which, like Rome, collapsed in obedience to the rules of history. Pessimist writing in the same period was attributed to depression and decay from a critical perspective requiring all writers to subscribe to the utopian vision of socialism. A “dark” or tragic vision of human existence was denied legitimacy in the Soviet annals of Russian literature, as were books that grappled with the meaning of sex. These narrow boundaries could not have accommodated some of the theatre of Eugene O’Neill any more than some of the most important plays of Leonid Andreev; they left no more room for the fiction of D. H. Lawrence than for that of Artsybashev. The “decadence” of which Russian writers like Andreev and Artsybashev were repeatedly accused can only be seen now as an integral part of modernism. The term “decadent pessimism” should not be given more critical weight than the rival definition of the same chapter in Russian literature: the “Silver age”—a catchword promoted by intellectuals driven into emigration by the October revolution, and another term most often applied with the symbolist school (especially symbolist poetry) in mind.12

Richard Gilman, Decadence: The Strange Life of an Epithet, is a lively attack on the unreflective usage of “decadence” in literary criticism and popular culture; it draws a useful comparison (pp. 168, 172) between the tendentious use of “decadent”, as synonym for sterility and stagnation, and the definitions of “degenerate” art in Nazi Germany. The main study of European decadence is Roger Bauer, Die schöne Décadence: Geschichte eines literarischen Paradoxons (Frankfurt am Main: V. Klostermann, 2001); English-language publications on decadence in Russian literature are forthcoming from Kirsten Lodge. 12 The confusion inherent in the term is unravelled in Omry Ronen, The Fallacy of the Silver Age in Twentieth-Century Russian Literature; the blurb of an augmented Russian edition of this book, Serebrianyi vek kak umysel i vymysel (Moscow: OGI, 2000), described the “Silver age” as “arguably the most influential terminological error in the history 11



Research coming out of Russia today acknowledges the different directions taken by Russian writers in the years “between the revolutions” and no longer considers it acceptable to glorify any of these paths with the aim of discrediting the others.13 Thus post-Soviet studies of Leonid Andreev soon left behind the formerly prevalent emphasis on this writer’s pessimism to rediscover him as a seeker of existential (less plausibly, religious) truth and as an idealist thinker.14 In retrospect, the “Silver age” of the early twentieth century may be seen as an interlude between two epochs of moralism: the Russian literature preceding it and the Soviet socialist literature that followed. All three writers became émigrés after 1917: Andreev did so without moving, as his house, forty miles west of Petrograd, fell under the jurisdiction of independent Finland in 1918. Savinkov and Artsybashev left Russia in 1920 and 1923 respectively. All three declared themselves enemies of the Bolshevik regime. Andreev and Artsybashev died abroad; Savinkov returned to fight in the Russian civil war, was later lured back to the Soviet Union from his exile in Paris, and died in a Moscow prison. These biographical facts explain the proscription of these authors’ works in the USSR. Andreev, with the exception of his prerevolutionary stories about children, was forbidden for publication from 1930 to the “thaw” of 1956. The works of Savinkov and Artsybashev were already effectively obliterated by the 1920s;15 only in the early 1990s, together with other forgotten writings of the “Silver age”, did their books emerge from oblivion to regain a new generation of readers in the original language. In 1996, following the publication of three volof Russian culture and literary criticism during the [twentieth] century”. As Ronen reminds us, the “Silver age” was originally used by the Romans to refer to writers of the first and second centuries AD, the purity of whose Latin was regarded inferior to that of Cicero, Virgil and Caesar (authors retrospectively made to stand for “the golden age” of Latinity). In English literature, too, while “the golden age” is still applied to the Elizabethan era, “the silver age” has been typically used to deride, not to praise, writers in the period that followed: thus Thomas Love Peacock’s famous criticism of Shakespeare’s unworthy descendants in The Four Ages of Poetry (1820). 13 For a detailed presentation of the argument that considers the literature of the “silver age” the expression of a common quest for meaning, see V. A. Keldysh, “Russkaia literatura ‘serebrianogo veka’ kak slozhnaia tselostnost’ ” (Russian Literature of the ‘Silver Age’ as a Complex Whole), in idem (ed.), Russkaia literatura rubezha vekov, vol. 1, pp. 13–68. 14 Cf. Introduction to Keldysh and Koz’menko, Leonid Andreev: materialy i issledovaniia, p. 4. 15 Writing in 1988, Ulrich Steltner, “Symbolismus und Symbolik in M. P. Arcybaševs Roman Sanin”, p. 230, still referred to “the peculiar taboo” on Artsybashev in the Soviet Union.



umes of his Collected Works in 1994, the formerly vilified, “decadent” Mikhail Artsybashev was included in a series published by the Moscow “School-Press”, proposing a new reading programme for pupils in postSoviet Russia; deservedly or not, the author of Sanin thereby found a place next to Pushkin, Chekhov, Bulgakov and Mandelstam.16 Rescued from as long a neglect in the West, Sanin came out in 2001 in a new English translation at Cornell University Press and has since entered the syllabi of courses on the “Silver age”. A number of plays by Artsybashev and Andreev have been staged in Russian theatres during the past fifteen years. The publication of a twenty-three-volume academic edition of Andreev’s collected works and letters, the enterprise of a team headed by the leading Andreev scholars Richard Davies, Vsevolod Keldysh and Mikhail Koz’menko, was launched in Moscow in December 2007. More than in the English-speaking world, Andreev continues to be read in France: since the 1990s, many of the titles to be mentioned in this book became available in new French translations. Boris Savinkov’s novel The Pale Horse was also translated anew into French and introduced by Michel Niqueux of Caen University, in 2003. The largest Russian cinema producer, Mosfilm, released an adaptation of this novel for the screen in April 2004.17 Notwithstanding this new interest, even the reader of the original Pale Horse finds little guidance on Savinkov the writer, rather than the terrorist.18 While research on the reception of these writers by audiences outside of Russia is still in its beginning,19 a student of modern 16 See Artsybashev, Nash tretii klad, a collection addressed to “pupils and teachers”, and bearing the official recommendation of the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation. Omitted from the title and even the bibliographical description (where it was designated only as “A Novel”; ibid., p. 4), Sanin was nevertheless included in this book. It had already been available in a facsimile edition of 1990 and had also opened the Collected Works in 1994. Several editions are currently on sale in Russian bookstores. 17 The film, directed by Karen Shakhnazarov, was renamed The Horseman Named Death in the course of production, because it was assumed that the biblical connotations of the original title would not be recognizable to modern spectators. A new edition of the book, with images from the film reproduced on its cover, was published concurrently as Vsadnik po imeni smert’ (St Petersburg: Amfora, 2004). With a three million dollar budget, spent largely in the elaborate reconstruction of old Moscow settings, this film was described as the most ambitious production of the new Russian cinema. 18 The only exception, as important for its comparative analysis of Artsybashev and Andreev, is Marina Mogil’ner, Mifologiia “podpol’nogo cheloveka”: radikal’nyi mikrokosm v Rossii nachala XX veka kak predmet semioticheskogo analiza. 19 The introduction by Michel Niqueux to his translation of Le Cheval blême gives a fair idea of Savinkov’s importance in France. A volume on Andreev’s reception abroad



Chinese literature interested in gaining even a basic idea about writers translated by the famous critic and scholar Zheng Zhenduo (1898–1958) and read by all the important Chinese authors of the 1920s, will come up with even less. On the in-depth reading of Artsybashev by his principal Chinese translator and interpreter Lu Xun (1881–1936), the pre-eminent writer of modern China who was also the first to translate Leonid Andreev, we have close to nothing in English. For these reasons, our enquiry into the transmission, translation and interpretation of Russian literature in China is also a study of the literature that was translated. The argument has been well put by Benjamin Schwartz: “I would suggest that in dealing with the encounter between the West and any given non-Western society or culture, there can be no escape from the necessity of immersing ourselves as deeply as possible in the specificities of both worlds simultaneously”.20 This immersion strategy is also chosen here, in deliberate preference to the more common (and less demanding) method of providing only summaries of works “received” as an introduction to the analysis of their reception. Chapter One, focusing on Boris Savinkov’s novel The Pale Horse in the translation of Zheng Zhenduo, will thus begin with the book itself. It will go on to discuss the technical aspects of translating into Chinese through an intermediary source, in this as in most other cases, an English translation of the Russian novel. The interpretation of early twentieth-century Russian literature by Chinese translators and the reading public is at the centre of the following two chapters, discussing fourteen translated titles by Mikhail Artsybashev. Through a study of the translation history of Sanin, Chapter Two places the reception of Artsybashev’s trademark novel within the context of arguments on individualism in China in the late 1920s, thereby raising the question of translators’ ideology. Focusing on the short novel Worker Shevyrev, this chapter then considers Lu Xun as a reader and translator of Russian literature. Chapter Three follows the critical fortunes of Artsybashev in China to the end, showing both the growing rejection of nonCommunist modern Russian literature by leftist critics by the close of

is currently being edited, by Richard Davies and Mikhail Koz’menko, for publication in the series Leonid Andreev: materialy i issledovaniia (Moscow: IMLI RAN, forthcoming). It will include a survey on Andreev in China by the present author. 20 Schwartz, In Search of Wealth and Power: Yen Fu and the West. Western Thought in Chinese Perspective, p. 2.



the 1920s, and the attempts still made to salvage a place for a writer such as Artsybashev in the 1930s and 1940s. In between, taking a closer look at the intermediaries who unwittingly facilitated the translation of Russian fiction into Chinese from English and German, we will offer some conclusions on the implications of mediated translation for the transmission of literary texts. Chapters Four and Five use available information on the forty-two translators, of thirty-five works by Leonid Andreev rendered into Chinese from 1909 to 1950, to draw a collective portrait of the translators of Russian literature in China during the first half of the twentieth century. Chapter Four discusses translators acting out of a commitment to the introduction of foreign literature; translators driven to a close engagement with Russian literature by their engagement with Communism; the translation and stage adaptation of plays, and the social frameworks, within which translation was carried out. Chapter Five turns to some of the least familiar categories of literary translators: the writers of “entertainment fiction” in the 1910s; the would-be professional translators, none of whom was able to support himself by this activity in republican China; the translators associated with the brief flowering of Shanghai “decadence” in the late 1920s, and those all but anonymous persons, for whom translating literature was a rare or a one-time experience. We have suggested that the work of the three writers could be coherently approached within the framework of one study—as indeed they often have been in contemporary Russian and Chinese criticism.21 However, we may still ask whether this literary corpus deserves to be studied at all. How significant is the place of these authors in the history of Russian literature, and is it enough to justify research into their translation and reception in China? Regarding such successful professional writers as Artsybashev and Andreev, as with many of their contemporaries, recognition of one’s

21 Prerevolutionary critics in Russia, who drew parallels between the works of Ropshin, Andreev and Artsybashev, are too numerous to mention. In China, Qian Xingcun evoked Ropshin’s Pale Horse in his review of Artsybashev’s collection The Bloodstain in 1928, and went on to treat Artsybashev alongside Andreev in a chapter of his Wenyi yu shehui qingxiang (Art and Social Tendencies, 1930). This well-known Marxist critic is also author of the only book-length study of Andreev in Chinese, the “critical biography” Andeliefu pingzhuan (1930). Articles of the early 1920s, cited in Ch. One, discuss The Pale Horse along with Worker Shevyrev, a comparison familiar in Russian criticism.



own limits was triggered by the mere notion of writing Russian prose during the lifetime of Tolstoy. “He has overpowered me”, was how Artsybashev put it in the same oft-quoted letter of 1908; even long after the great writer’s death in 1910 he continued to argue with him in his works, a curious mixture of admiration for the artist, disagreement with the thinker and a schoolboy’s bravado in trying to provoke the master.22 Andreev knew that Tolstoy did not appreciate him as a writer, and yet he posted his short stories to him in unconditional adoration for the man he addressed as “the personification of conscience and truth”. These Count Lev Nikolaevich would then grade, as was his custom, on a scale from zero to five plus.23 Even Savinkov did not escape the unflattering comparison: his only full-fledged novel, What Never Happened, was cut down by critics upon its appearance in 1912 with the words: “Tolstoy’s style is only fit for him and for him alone”.24 An author of a modest if remarkably consistent literary output, Savinkov fascinated readers by being the man he was as much as by

22 Artsybashev, trans. Bugow and Villard, Revolutionsgeschichten, p. xxi. For samples of Artsybashev’s argument with Tolstoy and with the proponents of hierarchical rankings in literary criticism, see his essays “O Tolstom” (On Tolstoy, 1910), “Ot ‘malogo’—nichtozhnym” (From the “Minor” to the Lowly; a retort to critics provoked by the former piece) and “Zheleznoe kol’tso Pushkina” (Pushkin’s Iron Ring, 1911; another salvo at critics swearing by the names of Pushkin and Tolstoy), all in Artsybashev, Nash tretii klad, pp. 658–84. The aged Tolstoy, giving high praise to Artsybashev’s “vegetarian” story “Krov’ ” (Blood, 1903), rated the author above Andreev and Gorky, as Peter Brang points out in his extensive discussion of this story in Ein unbekanntes Russland. Kulturgeschichte vegetarischer Lebensweisen von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart (Cologne: Böhlau Verlag, 2002), pp. 133, 395. 23 To limit ourselves to stories translated into Chinese, Tolstoy gave “five” to “Into the Dark Distance” and the third part of “Silence”, “one” to “The Little Angel” and “zero” to “The Lie”. After offering Tolstoy his first story collection in 1901, Andreev also sent him “The Red Laugh” and “The Seven Who Were Hanged”; with Tolstoy’s permission, the latter work was publicly dedicated to him. Valerii I. Bezzubov, “Leonid Andreev i Lev Tolstoy”, Ch. 1 in idem, Leonid Andreev i traditsii russkogo realizma, has more on Tolstoy’s criticism of Andreev, and on Andreev’s reverence of the writer he called “the giant” and “the colossus”. Andreev’s only pilgrimage to Iasnaia Poliana in April 1910 is the subject of a loving short tribute, “Za polgoda do smerti” (Half a Year before Death, 1911), while the commemoration of Tolstoy by the tsarist state is allegorically described in “Smert’ Gullivera” (Gulliver’s Death, 1911), both in vol. 6 of Andreev, Sobranie sochinenii. Cf. Richard Davies, “Pis’ma L. Tolstogo i A. Bloka Leonidu Andreevu”. 24 To defend the author from allegations that went as far as plagiarising War and Peace, the Marxist theoretician Georgii Plekhanov wrote in 1913 of the “involuntary” imitation of a genius by a beginning minor writer. See his “O tom, chto est’ v romane To, chego ne bylo”, pp. 383–84. More surprisingly, Tolstoy himself is said to have appreciated The Pale Horse; Shentalinskii, Donos na Sokrata, p. 102.



the thrilling subject matter and idiosyncratic style of his writing. By contrast, Artsybashev and Andreev were two of the most celebrated representatives of Russia in world literature between about 1905 and 1915. Within the nineteen years of Mikhail Artsybashev’s career as a writer of fiction, a career curtailed by his forced exile in 1923, a grand total of 146 books and essays in literary journals were, by one reckoning, dedicated to his work in Russia—attention commanded by very few of his colleagues.25 In 1910 Hippolyte Havel (1871–1950), a Czech anarchist resident in the United States, friend and future biographer of Emma Goldman, wrote an article on Artsybashev for Goldman’s monthly magazine Mother Earth. The allegedly “immoral” writer, Havel said, was “next to Andreiev and Gorki . . . the most prominent personality in modern Russian literature”; and he went on to predict that “in the history of Russian literature Sanin will find its deserved place among the masterpieces of Gogol, Gontcharov, Dostoyevski, Turgeniev, and Tolstoy”.26 In 1911 the same trio, Gorky, Artsybashev and Andreev, were discussed as the three most important living Russian writers in a survey of Russian literature by William Lyon Phelps (1865–1943), the Yale University chair professor of English. Phelps’s Essays on Russian Novelists was reprinted many times into the 1920s, making this conservative Christian minister an influential source of reference in China.27 The following statement on the popularity rates of Russian writers in the United States, from the year prior to the October revolution, seems equally difficult to reconcile with our current perspective on the Russian literary canon: “Of the three living Russian authors who have achieved world fame, Gorky, Andreyev and Artzibashef, Gorky is better known 25 Artsybashev’s “re-discoverer” in the 1990s T. F. Prokopov arrived at this figure in his “Zhizni i smerti Mikhaila Artsybasheva”, in Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 1, p. 6. His commentary to Sanin, however, speaks of “hundreds” of responses to this work alone, following its publication in 1907 and its immediate translation into several European languages: see Artsybashev, Nash tretii klad, p. 714. 26 Havel, “An Immoral Writer”, p. 194. 27 Phelps, Essays on Russian Novelists, was a companion volume to the same author’s Essays on Modern Novelists (1910), which had mainly dealt with English-language writers. Andreev was in Phelps’s opinion “the man best worth watching” among Russian writers of the day, and “the most gifted artist of them all”. His “The Seven Who Were Hanged” was “one of the most remarkable of contemporary Russian novels”, and “a book bearing on every page the stamp of indubitable genius”: see Essays on Russian Novelists, pp. 32, 284. Phelps also thought highly of Artsybashev’s Sanin, appalled though he was by that novel’s morals. Like many at the time, he underestimated Chekhov, and he took too obvious a pleasure in ridiculing Gorky.



than read in this country, Andreyev is both known and read, though by more limited numbers, while Artzibashef is read more and known less”.28 Even before their unequivocal condemnation in Soviet literary criticism, “minor” had been among the kinder epithets applied to Savinkov and Artsybashev, and those who called them that and worse usually went on to accuse their books of propagating cynicism and immorality. Andreev, too, was in bad odour with those critics who rejected the high-strung pathos of his short fiction and theatre as little more than histrionics or a successful sales strategy. The purpose of this study on their translation into Chinese is not to convince readers of the literary quality of these writers’ stories, novels and plays—some of them excellent and memorable, others less likely to extend beyond the concerns of their time. What matters here is that, in their time, these literary works were widely read, debated and staged, and that interest in them did not disappear on its own. The normal process of a writer’s rise to popularity, followed by the gradual decline of his or her appeal to the reading public, did not pertain where political repression intervened to take certain books off the shelves and to censor others. Translations of the three writers in China came after commercial success and reader interest at home had led to their translation into English, German, French and (either directly from the Russian or through one of those intermediary languages) Japanese. English was the primary language from which the three writers’ works were first transmitted into China in the late 1910s and the early 1920s by translators unable to read Russian literature in the original. These texts therefore arrived in China after a considerable delay, at a time when their authors were already about to be banned in their own country. Savinkov and Artsybashev were still alive but could not have had any inkling of their being retranslated in the East.29 Andreev died too early to be reached by the distant Oriental echo of his former world fame.


p. v.

Thomas Seltzer, “Michael Artzibashef ”, translator’s preface to Artsybashev, War,

29 Artsybashev did express his awareness, as early as 1908, of a first partial translation of Sanin into Japanese (letter to Villard in Artsybashev, trans. Bugow and Villard, Revolutionsgeschichten, p. xxi); he was mistaken, as his novel did not appear in Japan until Dec. 1913, possibly in a retranslation from Villard’s German. I thank Wataru Haishima for answering my query on this matter, in a personal communication of 22 Dec. 2006.



What was China for these Russian writers? Were we to collect references to this country in their works, a hypothetical essay entitled “Artsybashev and China” would prove the thinnest of the three. In Sanin, the eponymous hero said that “people always defend themselves against happiness by building a Great Wall of China around them”; another protagonist of the novel was made to appear ridiculous as (obviously parroting the ideas of Tolstoy) he proposed to include “Confucius, the New Testament, Ecclesiastes” in the programme of a workers’ reading group.30 China absorbed Artsybashev’s imagination only in his story “Pod solntsem” (Under the Sun; written in Moscow in 1919). In this anti-utopian vision of a Europe destroyed and invaded by Negro mercenaries, another cruel enemy assaults Russia’s Asian borders: “The dark and terrible Orient has moved, and countless Chinese hordes have swarmed into poor Russia, flooding it with blood”.31 Like the rest of Artsybashev’s fiction dating after 1914, this story never reached China, which in this case should be no cause for regret. Belief in “Chinese idols” stood for the loss of faith threatening modern society in the eyes of Vania, as the political terrorist was preaching the Christian gospel to a sceptical George, hero-narrator of Ropshin’s Pale Horse.32 In the later Black Horse, the cruelty of Russian soldiers, the hero’s subordinates, is offset by the mention of Chinese torture.33 While no hint of this is to be found in his literary work, China was more familiar to Boris Savinkov than to our other two writers, for he had seen it with his own eyes. In his prison diary (among the holdings of KGB archives that first came to light in the 1990s), only five days before his death, Savinkov jotted down his memories of the voyage from Shanghai to Marseilles: “the cold sky in Shanghai, the blue hills in Hong Kong . . .”34 We cannot tell how long he stayed in Shanghai on his return journey from Siberia and Japan in 1918 before boarding the ship for France. Doubtless unbeknown to its author, his first novel was published in Chinese in that city in 1922. In summer 1900, when the Boxer uprising against the foreign powers flared up in North China, as the forces of eight allied nations occupied

30 Sanin, in Artsybashev, Nash tretii klad, pp. 409, 527; English from Sanin, trans. Michael R. Katz, p. 55. 31 Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, p. 644. 32 Kon’ blednyi, in Savinkov, Izbrannoe, p. 322. 33 Kon’ voronoi, ibid., p. 412. 34 Diary entry of 2 May 1925. See Litvin, Savinkov na Lubianke, p. 193.



the Chinese capital, some members of the Russian intelligentsia felt indignant at the heavy-handed campaign in which Russia, too, took part. Tolstoy posted an epistle “to the Chinese people”. Gorky wrote two letters to Chekhov, beseeching the older writer to go with him to China.35 Leonid Andreev, a close friend of Gorky at the time, was also moved to take a stand on the events. In one of the humorous sketches he was then writing for The Courier in Moscow, he ridiculed people who, just out of boredom, might “go to China to look at Peking in flames”. On another occasion, he dedicated three pages of scathing satire to denounce the demand of the powers that the Chinese execute those of their own officials, who had sympathized with the rebels. But it seems he could not long sustain his newfound posture of a “serious” political publicist—nor was that what his readers expected. His next sketch happily parodied the current fixation with China through a mock-project of a novel on the subject. Andreev apologised that “owing to weak knowledge of the Chinese language” he would use medical terms to render both place-names and his protagonists’ dialogue in a novel that he proposed to call The Uncle of a Chinese Corpse.36 With this Andreev’s curiosity for the exotic Middle Kingdom was nearing its end; the only other substantial reference to China to be found in all the thirty-five texts by him translated in that country before 1950 is to a Chinese mask.37 The later Andreev was, however, prepared to extend to Oriental philosophy and spirituality at least the respect he felt was due them for being promoted in Russia by Tolstoy himself.38 35 The letters are quoted in Mark E. Shneider, Russkaia klassika v Kitae: perevody, otsenki, tvorcheskoe osvoenie, p. 179, and of course in Ge Baoquan, “Gaoerji yu Zhongguo” (Gorky and China), as collected in idem, Zhong-wai wenxue yinyuan, here pp. 152–53. 36 The three sketches can be found in vol. 6 of Andreev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii: see “V krugu” (In the Circle), p. 183; “O kitaiskikh golovakh” (On Chinese Heads), pp. 192–95; “Kitaiskii roman” (A Chinese Novel), pp. 268–72. The sympathy for China in the liberal Russian press in 1900 is discussed by David Schimmelpenninck Van der Oye, “Russia’s Ambivalent Response to the Boxers”. 37 A Chinese mask is worn by the hero of the story “Laughter”, first published in Kur’er in Jan. 1901; an exotic-looking Chinese makes an insignificant appearance in a Russian bath in “The Governor” (1906). 38 Andreev, “O ‘Dvukh dushakh’ M. Gor’kogo” (On ‘Two Souls’ by M. Gorky, 1916), collected in idem, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 6, pp. 568–73, reminded readers of these interests of Tolstoy while criticising an essay in which Gorky had contrasted “retarded” Asia with an “advanced” Europe. On Tolstoy’s fascination with ancient Chinese philosophy, see Derk Bodde, Tolstoy and China, to be used with the review by Peter A. Boodberg, “Tolstoy and China—A Critical Analysis”, Philosophy East and West, vol. 1, no. 3 (Oct. 1951), pp. 64–76; and Ch. 1, “Tolstoi i Kitai” in Aleksandr I. Shifman, Lev Tolstoi i Vostok.



In Finland, in the midst of the civil war unleashed by the October Revolution, he seems to have been dimly aware of current calls for a revolution in Chinese literature, if not of the student demonstrations that took place in Peking on 4 May 1919.39 But he no longer remembered his former sympathies, when (much like Artsybashev in “Under the Sun”) he allowed newspaper reports on the presence of Chinese fighters in the ranks of the Red Army to coalesce in his mind with an apocalyptic vision of the Yellow Peril.40 The subject cries out for serious systematic research, having received to date much biased, impressionistic or simply uninformed treatment. However, the scope of this book cannot accommodate the broader question of what “China” meant to the authors of twentieth-century Russian literature and to their readers. Another study would be needed to evaluate the deeper meditations on “China” by Andrei Belyi, Viacheslav Ivanov and Maximilian Voloshin, and to distinguish them from the flood of fin-de-siècle chinoiserie that sprang out of “the Silver age”. One can only wonder how Andreev, and other early twentiethcentury Russian writers with even less interest in or firm knowledge of China would have taken the news of their being translated in the Far East. Chekhov, who did travel in the Orient, is said to have regretted his inability to forbid the adaptation and staging of his plays abroad. Consider, however, this short poem by Osip Mandelstam, a European by conviction. In his “Tatary, uzbeki i nentsy . . .” (Tatars, Uzbeks and the Nenets; November 1933) the poet imagined himself, “perhaps in this very minute”, being rendered “into the Turkish tongue/by some Japanese”—a translator twice removed, therefore, and one so distant both geographically and culturally as to be almost inconceivable, and yet one who in that imagined moment (so Mandelstam’s poem ends) “had reached straight into my soul”.41

39 He referred to “the extraordinary importance of propaganda at the present historical moment, when ‘literature’ captivates the entire world from China to America and the power of the word subdues the power of arms . . .”. Letter to P. N. Miliukov of 26 July 1919, in Andreev, eds. Davies and Hellman, S.O.S., p. 295. 40 See ibid., diary entries for 29 Aug. and 16 Sept. 1918 (pp. 141, 148), and the extended image of Red Chinese recruits as “exotic beasts” fed with Russian bodies in “S.O.S.”, Andreev’s dramatic appeal in Feb. 1919 for the peoples of Europe and America to rescue Russia from Bolshevik rule (ibid., pp. 339–40). 41 This poem is perceptively analysed, as an expression of a utopian vision of the intercultural encounter, in V. N. Toporov, “Prostranstvo kul’tury i vstrechi v nem”, pp. 6–7.


introduction II. The translation of Russian literature in China

Russian literature entered China together with the new century, when in the year 1900 three fables by Ivan Krylov were translated from English by American missionaries. An abbreviated translation from the Japanese of Alexander Pushkin’s short novel The Captain’s Daughter appeared three years later, thanks to the efforts of a Chinese student in Japan associated with the revolutionary movement of Sun Yat-sen.42 It is unlikely that any of these translations were noticed. Since China’s defeat in the second Opium war in 1860, the Qing dynasty showed an interest in the material accomplishments of the Occident. The aim was a utilitarian use of Western “objects” that would retain the Chinese “spirit”. Mastering the language of the foreign powers was seen as a necessary first step: the Tongwen guan (School of Foreign Languages) was created in Peking in 1862, and schools modelled on it soon emerged in Shanghai, Canton and Tientsin (Tianjin). Foreigners, most of them missionaries, were engaged by these schools to teach languages as well as the astronomy and mathematics perceived as the key to Western science. Emphasis was clearly put on English, although the Tongwen guan also incorporated the ancient Eluosi wenguan—the school of Russian, established in Peking by order of Emperor Kangxi already in the early eighteenth century.43 Students of Russian at the Tongwen guan did not turn to translating literature even after the School became part of the Imperial Metropolitan College (predecessor of Peking University) in 1901 and changed its name to Yixue guan (School of Translation) in 1903. It closed down in 1911.44 Yet from the later half of the 1890s the intel42 On the first translation of Pushkin by Ji Yihui, much studied by both Russian and Chinese scholars, see e.g. Shneider, Russkaia klassika v Kitae, pp. 51–2, and Chen Jianhua, 20 shiji Zhong-E wenxue guanxi, pp. 35–9. Chen Jianhua discovered a “Russian fable” probably by Tolstoy, translated into Chinese by an American missionary as early as 1872, but he points out that it could not have aroused any interest at that time (ibid., pp. 9–21). The first translations of Western fiction in late-Qing China are the subject of Patrick Hanan, Chinese Fiction of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, chapters 3–5. 43 Meng Ssu-ming, “The E-lo-ssu-kuan (Russian Hostel) in Peking”, here pp. 39–45. 44 Li Ding, “Eguo wenxue fanyi zai Zhongguo”, p. 353. The only exception, which Li mentions, was Zhang Shuyan—who though translated more classical Chinese texts into Russian than vice versa: see Ah Ying, “Zuizao jiandao Tuo’ersitai de Zhongguo xuesheng” (The First Chinese Student to See Tolstoy; 1961), in Ah Ying quanji, vol. 2, pp. 845–48.



lectual heritage of Europe did begin to attract some serious attention in China—still more as a tool for the future reform of the country than for any inherent value of its own. In 1895 another military defeat, inflicted on China by Japan, was perceived as a demonstration of the insufficiency of previous modernisation strategies, while turning Chinese eyes to the Japanese example. Here was a country indebted to the culture of traditional China, which, in the Meiji reforms of 1868, had already embarked on an ultimately successful course of transformation aided by Western technology and by the absorption of Western thought. From the 1880s, this included the translation of Russian literature.45 The esteem for Japan further increased after it achieved an unprecedented victory over a Western power in its war with Russia in Manchuria, in 1904–5. During the first decade of the twentieth century, Chinese educated society, still reeling from the defeat and humiliation of the Boxers, was making its first steps towards the discovery of Western literature. Steadily increasing numbers of Chinese students went to Japan in pursuit of “Western learning”, relying on the mediation of a language they found relatively easy to master. Retranslation from the Japanese soon followed; Lu Xun, a student in Japan from 1902 to 1909, was an early practitioner of this method. The initial stage of Chinese acquaintance with Russian literature lasted to the late 1910s,46 a period encompassing the fall of the Qing dynasty and the ensuing years of political chaos under the republic. In 1898, European political thought was introduced by Yan Fu (1853– 1921), a Fujian-born graduate of the Naval College at Greenwich, whose version of T. H. Huxley’s Evolution and Ethics became highly influential.47 The most celebrated translator of foreign fiction in the 1900s and 1910s, however, was a fellow Fujianese poet and novelist (as well as painter and playwright) who, unlike his friend Yan, knew no

45 Nobori Shomu, “Russian Literature and Japanese Literature”, in Peter Berton et al., trans. and ed., The Russian Impact on Japan: Literature and Social Thought, pp. 21–71. 46 Cf. the chronology proposed by Shneider in Russkaia klassika v Kitae, p. 20, and in his “Reception of Russian Classical and Soviet Literature in China”, pp. 13–4. 47 Yan Fu’s preface of 1901 advertised (in a formulation tirelessly quoted ever since) the virtues of “faithfulness, comprehensibility and elegance” in translation. His own was, rather, a critical commentary on Huxley’s treatise. Yan went on to translate Adam Smith, J. S. Mill and Montesquieu. See Leo Tak-hung Chan, ed., Twentieth Century Chinese Translation Theory: Modes, Issues, Debates, pp. 69–71, and notes.



foreign languages. Lin Shu (1852–1924) relied on collaborators with knowledge of English or French, who would sit with him and translate books orally into colloquial Chinese. Lin, being a great stylist, transformed their impromptu renderings into the elegant classical idiom for which he was widely admired.48 Towards the end of his career, from 1915 to 1920, using this method he produced some of the first Chinese translations of Tolstoy. Lin’s versions of well over a hundred Western novels and stories were read by an entire generation, which by the end of the 1910s would rebel against the archaic language and Confucian ideology embedded in his and Yan Fu’s writing. Central to the introduction and reception of Russian literature in China, was the idea of “learning from Russia”: since the beginning of the century, Chinese intellectuals intent on overthrowing imperial power in their own country had followed revolutionary developments in Russia as closely as language barriers and limited sources of information permitted. However, the fine distinction between self-professed Russian “anarchists” and “nihilists” (not always clear to newspaper readers in Western Europe) was generally lost on Chinese observers, who were no better informed about the platform of the main opposition force to the tsarist regime, the Party of Socialists-Revolutionaries (the SR, created in 1901). Rather, the Russian opposition movement became best known by the method of resistance that required the least understanding of its political background but could not fail to impress: the “bomb-throwing anti-tsarist revolutionary”, through narratives often embroidered by the imagination of writers in Britain and Japan, imprinted himself on the fancy of readers in China.49 Inspired by the Russian example, as made available in Japanese through Kemuyama Sentarō’s Modern Anarchism (1902), the exiled reformer Liang Qichao (1873–1929) became a supporter of “nihilist” action.50 Perceiving nihilism as a variety of anarchism, Kemuyama and his Chinese readers linked both terms “by connotations of violence, a fanatical hostility to the existing order, and ruthless idealism”; tellingly, Modern Anarchism was translated into Chinese in 1903 as Eluosi 48 On “face-to-face” or “tandem” translation (Chinese: duiyi), as a method Lin Shu shared with other translators of the late Qing, see Hu Ying, Tales of Translation: Composing the New Woman in China, 1899–1918, pp. 73–4. 49 Quotation from Don C. Price, Russia and the Roots of the Chinese Revolution, 1896– 1911, p. 2; cf. p. 121. According to Price, ibid., p. 211 and p. 267 n. 55, the Party of Socialist Revolutionaries was particularly poorly known in China. 50 Ibid., p. 134.



xuwudang (The Russian Nihilist Party).51 Chinese writing about Russia increased in volume, while keeping to its political focus, after the failed Russian Revolution of 1905. The rhetoric of “learning from Russia” continued for much of the twentieth century. But were Liang Qichao or, say, Chinese commentators on Russia in the journal of Sun Yat-sen’s Alliance Society in Tokyo, the Minbao (The People’s Journal, which also carried partial translations of memoirs by Russian revolutionaries), really out to “learn” from Russian political and literary “teachers”? Or did they rather enlist those Russian authorities in support of their own positions?52 Conscious appropriation for local needs had its place in the Chinese reception of Russian literature, as well as in the later political history of Sino-Russian relations.53 Though translations of Russian literature into Chinese were still few and far between, “nihilist” stories abounded, and (rendered overwhelmingly from English) fitted well with contemporary taste for English and American adventure and detective fiction.54 At a time when Chinese women in gentry households were still not expected to venture out of the inner quarters (foot-binding was only formally prohibited in 1902), descriptions of the daring exploits of female revolutionaries provided an obvious attraction. Some twenty years after her death, Sophia Perovskaia, the first Russian woman ever to be executed for her role in a terrorist plot (the assassination of Tsar Alexander II by the People’s Will party in 1881), became a cult figure in the East. There was some ironic resemblance in this turn of events to the destiny imagined by another Russian writer bearing the same Christian name, the first Russian woman mathematician Sophia Kovalevskaia (1850–91). Becoming “a martyr in China” had been a fantasy of Vera, the main heroine of Kovalevskaia’s novel A Nihilist (posthumously published in 1892). Under the name Su Feiya, the story of Sophia Perovskaia was told in the novel Heroines of Eastern Europe, serially published in 1902–3 in 51 Ibid., p. 122. Cf. Nakamura Tetsuo, “The Influence of Kemuyama Sentarō’s Modern Anarchism on Chinese Revolutionary Movements”, here p. 97. 52 James D. White endorses this interpretation in the conclusion of his analysis of the Minbao translations: see “The Russian Revolution of 1905 and the Chinese Intellectuals”, p. 149. 53 The issues are familiar. For example, W. J. F. Jenner, The Tyranny of History: The Roots of China’s Crisis, pp. 44, 63, argues that the Soviet model was adopted not for its own sake but because it resembled (while giving a “modern” legitimacy to) the patterns of autocratic rule familiar through Chinese history. 54 Chen Jianhua provides plot summaries of such works in 20 shiji Zhong-E wenxue guanxi, pp. 25–9. Cf. Guo Yanli, Zhongguo jindai fanyi wenxue gailun, pp. 336–38.



the pioneering literary journal Xin xiaoshuo (New Fiction) founded by Liang Qichao in Japan. A Sophia-like “Sara”, an alleged half-sister of Perovskaia’s associate Gesia Gel’fman, made an appearance in the best-selling Flower in a Sea of Retribution, a novel also begun in 1903 and rewritten in the 1920s.55 A character taken from history, “Sophia” shared her posthumous glory in China with Harriet Beecher Stowe and two other female martyrs: Madame Roland of the French revolution and the long-suffering heroine of Alexandre Dumas fils, La Dame aux camélias (1856)—the first foreign novel translated by Lin Shu in 1899.56 Russian literature was, on the whole, only sparsely represented in Chinese by the end of the 1910s, Lin Shu’s Dumas being far better known than his Tolstoy. According to one authoritative set of statistical data, 2504 translated books of literature appeared in China from the earliest beginnings to 1920, and among the 1748 of these that indicated the author’s nationality (if not always his or her exact name), the 133 titles from Russian literature ranked distant third after English-language fiction with 1071, and French with 331.57 The second stage, a new tide in the translation of Russian literature, began with the “literary revolution” of May Fourth. On this day in 1919 a large student demonstration in Peking overflowed into violent protest against the humiliating conditions imposed on China by the Treaty of Versailles, and the acceptance of these conditions by the hapless Chinese government. Much ink has since been spilled in debates over what “May Fourth” meant and how long-lasting were its effects on Chinese literature and culture in the twentieth century. Not unlike the recent reconsideration of the Russian “Silver age”, the tendency in academic writing today is to limit the use of “May Fourth” to the political manifestations of 1919. Undeniably, however, through the second half of the

55 The novels Dong Ou nü haojie, by Liang Qichao’s associate Luo Pu, and Niehai hua by Zeng Pu, are studied in Hu Ying, Tales of Translation. Kemuyama’s book described the careers of three “women nihilists”: Sophia Perovskaia, Gesia Gel’fman and Vera Zasulich. I thank Thomas Zimmer, translator of Zeng Pu, Blumen im Meer der Sünde (Munich: Ludicum, 2001), for discussing with me the “Sara” figure of the novel, who as he points out first appears in Chapter 9. 56 On the confusions surrounding Chinese interest in the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, translated by Lin Shu in 1901, see Xia Xiaohong, “Ms Picha and Mrs Stowe”, in David Pollard, ed., Translation and Creation: Readings of Western Literature in Early Modern China, 1840–1918. On Mme Roland and Dumas’s heroine, see further in Hu Ying, Tales of Translation. 57 Tarumoto Teruo, “A Statistical Survey of Translated Fiction 1840–1920”, in Pollard, Translation and Creation, p. 40.



1910s young Chinese, led by students recently returned from abroad, expressed themselves strongly in favour of a new cultural orientation. The distinguishing features of what became generally known as the movement for New Culture were: rejection of literary writing in classical Chinese and the promotion of a new literature in the colloquial language; rebellion against the Confucian value system and fascination for Western literature as well as for Western material culture. As early as January 1917 the journal Xin qingnian (New Youth, or La Jeunesse; founded in September 1915 under the name Qingnian zazhi) served as a vehicle for an article by Hu Shi, entitled “Some Modest Proposals for the Reform of Literature”. The event has been widely regarded as launching the New Culture movement. In March 1918 the same journal lashed out at the translations of Lin Shu, finding fault both with Lin’s use of classical Chinese and his being more than cavalier with the original texts.58 The translator’s political stand was another “fault”: Lin Shu was as unrepentant in his devotion to the classical idiom as he remained unwilling to switch his allegiance from the monarchy to the republic. Even less could New Youth abide the conservatism of Yan Fu, a critic of the 1911 revolution and supporter of the warlord president Yuan Shikai. With few exceptions, translators of Western fiction after 1920 adhered to Hu Shi’s “proposal” by adopting the colloquial language. Despite the growing emphasis on “fidelity” in translation, the inaccessibility of the original texts was a problem that would not die with Lin Shu, and (as will be illustrated below) was all the more acute when the original was Russian. In terms of the prominence given to translation work and the intellectual stature of translators, the early 1920s brought about the first peak in the introduction of Russian literature in China. According to the most recent count of the titles included in The Complete Contents of Modern Chinese Literature, book length translations of Russian literature from January 1917 to December 1927 were second in number only to translations from English (93 compared to 152 from British and American literature, out of a total 530 translated titles in this period). Russian literature remained the second most translated in China during the next ten years, from 1928 to 1938, reaching a total of Hu Ying, Tales of Translation, pp. 18–9. The article by Hu Shi (1891–1962), the Columbia University PhD later to become a famous liberal scholar and diplomat, is translated in Kirk A. Denton, ed., Modern Chinese Literary Thought: Writings on Literature, 1893–1945, pp. 123–39. 58



327 titles (compare with 386 translated works by British and American authors). It climbed to head the list between 1939 and October 1949, with 577 titles against 476 from Britain and the United States.59 This overall count for 1917–49 would leave us with 1011 Russian vs. 1029 translated English-language books. Similarly, for the thirty-year period from June 1919 to October 1949, a study drawing on the Complete Bibliography of Books from the Republican Period gives Russia 1045 book titles (including reprints), amounting to over 28 percent of all translated literature, and second only to the combined 31 percent (1124 titles) of British (604) and American (520) fiction.60 The New Culture movement was committed ideologically to bringing the world’s literature to Chinese readers, and it also possessed the infrastructure that made this possible: far more translated fiction than is indicated by statistical data limited to translations in book form appeared in the literary journals associated with the movement. Next to Xin qingnian, which folded in July 1922, translations were an essential feature of Xiaoshuo yuebao (English title: The Short Story Magazine) and Dongfang zazhi (Eastern Miscellany), journals published by the renowned Commercial Press (founded 1897). Translations first serialised in journals were also taken up by other presses and published as books in Shanghai: the hub of young literary reformers and China’s uncontested publishing capital. The violent dispersal by colonial police of a workers’ rally in that city on 30 May 1925 ushered in “the end of the period of the initial Literary Revolution and the beginning of the era of Revolutionary Literature”.61 Since 1923, the Chinese Communist and Nationalist (Kuomintang) parties were reluctantly kept together by the United Front policy dictated to them from Moscow. Their uneasy collaboration collapsed as, in the

59 Li Jin, Sansishi niandai Su-E Hanyi wenxue lun, pp. 3–5. The division between “Russian” (prerevolutionary; to a lesser extent, émigré) and “Soviet” literature was as follows: 91 Russian and only 2 Soviet titles in 1917–27; 160 Russian and 167 Soviet in 1928–38; 152 Russian and 425 Soviet in 1939–49. American fiction was represented by only 28 titles against Britain’s 124 in the first period, rising to 164 compared to Britain’s 222 in the second, and to 256 as opposed to 220 in the third. This and the next source below offer no data on the translation of literature from the rest of the English-speaking world. 60 Li Ding, “Eguo wenxue fanyi zai Zhongguo”, p. 364, breaks down his total of 1045 titles as follows: 401 by Russian writers, 530 by Soviet writers, and another 114 by Gorky (for whose translations Li Ding introduces a separate category). 61 The oft-repeated formulation is obviously an over-generalization, but it is one endorsed by C. T. Hsia, A History of Modern Chinese Fiction, 1917–1957, p. 17.



spring following the joint Northern expedition for the reunification of China (begun in 1926), the streets of Shanghai became the setting for Chiang Kai-shek’s purge of his former allies. The third stage in the translation of Russian literature, stretching from the second half of the 1920s to the end of the republican period in 1949, was marked by a shift to the left of Chinese writers in general, and of the translators of Russian fiction in particular: more than translators from English or from French, they were expected to popularize socialist fiction and disseminate Marxist literary criticism. The establishment of the League of Left-Wing Writers in February 1930 signalled the domination of Communism over a growing tract of Chinese literature, even as the Kuomintang regime attempted to control literary production through its use of censorship and the promotion of a “Nationalist literature movement”, launched in June of the same year. None of the leading intellectuals, who as translators or critics had introduced Savinkov, Artsybashev and Andreev during the New Culture movement, continued to translate or discuss these writers’ works after 1930. Instead, following Japan’s invasion of Northeast China in 1931, and all the more so after the war with Japan had engulfed the country in 1937, writers were under pressure to participate in the resistance effort. They did so in works such as the novel Village in August (1934), by the Northeastern writer Xiao Jun, which like others in the genre was indebted to Lu Xun’s 1931 translation from the Japanese of Alexander Fadeev’s The Rout (1926).62 The introduction of Soviet literature in China, begun in 1928, accelerated at this time along with a comparative decline in the translation of nineteenth-century Russian writers and the seemingly complete disappearance of interest in those representatives of early twentieth-century literature who had not welcomed the October revolution. But it would be giving too much credence to propaganda to conclude that this literature could have lost its readers so soon after being introduced by the likes of Lu Xun and Zheng Zhenduo, and after being given centre stage in the main periodicals of the 1920s.

62 Leo Ou-fan Lee, The Romantic Generation of Modern Chinese Writers, p. 266. Xiao Jun himself acknowledged the importance of Alexander Serafimovich’s epic of the Russian civil war, The Iron Flood (1924; translated in the Soviet Union by Cao Jinghua and published in China in 1932). Rudolf G. Wagner, “Xiao Jun’s novel The Countryside in August ”, argued that while drawing on both Soviet authors Xiao had also used them to legitimise an essentially Chinese narrative technique.



In reality, as suggested also by the data presented above on the almost equal division between “Russian” and “Soviet” titles in 1928–38, translations by participants of the New Culture movement were reprinted in the 1930s, while less famous and politically unaffiliated translators carried on where May Fourth had stopped. In this book we shall try to find out who some of these “second wave” translators were, what was different in their approach to the writers they translated, and who may have been their readers. Very few Chinese translations of the three authors appeared in the 1940s: Savinkov was not translated into Chinese from 1936 to this day, while the most famous novel of Artsybashev (an author last translated in 1946) and the stories of Andreev (the last of which had appeared in a new translation in January 1950) had to await the 1980s to be reintroduced to readers in the People’s Republic.63 The 1950s were the time of the “great friendship” between the Soviet Union and Communist China: Soviet literature and works by a small number of sanctioned Russian classics (though not émigré writers) were translated extensively, far more than literature in any other language, up to the Great Leap Forward in 1958. The volume of translations decreased at that point, predating the rift in Soviet-Chinese relations in 1961.64 The last openly published new translation of a Soviet book appeared in 1963 (neibu, or “internal circulation” editions, also known colloquially as “the yellow-wrapped books”, huangpi shu, continued to come out until 1966, and were relaunched to supply the fuel for the criticism of Soviet literature in 1972).65 In 1964 Soviet literature officially disappeared from the People’s Republic, and was not made publicly available again until 1976.66 That prerevolutionary Russian and Soviet-period literature still

63 Republican-era translations of Sanin, and the translation by Geng Jizhi of Andreev’s play The Life of Man, were reprinted in Taiwan but not in the PRC. 64 Translations from the Russian made up over 56 percent of all books of fiction (1907 titles out of 3379) translated in the period between Oct. 1949 and July 1960, according to the data in Wolfgang Bauer, Western Literature and Translation Work in Communist China, pp. 17–20; translations from the English ranked second, but with only about 11 percent. 65 For examples of foreign literary works published as “yellow books” between 1961 and 1966, among these Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, see Maghiel van Crevel, Language Shattered: Contemporary Chinese Poetry and Duoduo, p. 37. 66 Song Binghui, “20 shiji 50–70 niandai Sulian wenxue zai Zhongguo de yijie ji qi yingxiang” (The Translation and Introduction of Soviet Literature in China during the 1950s–1970s, and Its Influence), now collected in idem, Fangfa yu shijian: Zhong-wai wenxue guanxi yanjiu, pp. 119–68.



accounted for over 59 percent of all literature translated in the PRC from October 1949 to December 1979 (3281 titles as opposed to the 492 translated from English) attests to the unique standing of this literature in twentieth-century China, attention and interest confirmed by the new peak achieved by translations from the Russian during the 1980s.67 III. Aims and method; the state of the field Through the study of Chinese translations of works by three modernist Russian writers, including the analysis of statements by translators, writers and readers about the meaning of these works, this book intends to tell the story of the translation of Russian literature in republican China. The titles of chapters One, Two and Four identify three main aspects of translation: technique, ideology and practice. Technique is understood here as the whole range of decisions that translators take in the course of their work. Ideology denotes the motivation for translating, and the choice of texts by the translator. Practice refers to translating as an occupation, seen in its social and historical contexts. These three directions of enquiry are pursued through a close scrutiny of all known Chinese translations of Savinkov, Artsybashev and Andreev. The thematic division, however, is flexible enough to allow each chapter to reach beyond its designated focus. The underlying premise is that the empirical study of translations, of their interpretation by translators and other readers, and of the biographies of persons responsible for them, makes for a more useful and interesting method of investigation (for this is what is proposed here) than would abstract discussion of translation and reception problems. Chinese views on translation in the republican period are certainly relevant to our purpose and will be considered, while translation theory will be explored to the extent that offers insights into the choices actually made by translators in China. Chinese translators of foreign fiction and their readers were engaged in an activity that (as an admirer of Artsybashev will vividly put it in Chapter Two) would not have been comprehensible to the generation of their parents. Did the foreign books they read and translated exert a

67 Li Ding, “Eguo wenxue fanyi zai Zhongguo”, pp. 364, 380. Out of the 3281 titles, Russian literature comprised 356, Soviet literature 2787, and the books of Gorky 138.



direct influence on their own creative writing? Or was Russian literature, their new reading matter, instinctively processed through the powerful prism of traditional Chinese aesthetics? Few questions are as important to our understanding of Chinese intellectual and literary history in the first half of the twentieth century, and both answers have had their proponents among students of modern China. The first approach can be traced back to the time-honoured idea that the introduction of Western thought by the New Culture movement represented a step towards progress. Young Chinese turning their back on tradition and embracing the fruits of European civilization were ostensibly assisting in the global diffusion of Enlightenment; their search for the “spiritual disease”—the inherent malaise of Chinese “national character”—was acknowledged as timely realization of a congenital weakness. Hence the new Chinese literature, promoted by students returning from Western and Japanese universities, was considered the only one worthy of the scholar’s attention. The crusade, which the young literary reformers declared against the rival genre of fiction that developed in the 1910s and sought to entertain where they were at such pains to instruct, was endorsed as a campaign by the party of progress against the forces of reaction. So, too, was the label that the reformers attached to their opponents: “The Mandarin Ducks and Butterfly School”. The latter example shows that this interpretation of May Fourth cannot be regarded as merely a self-flattering construction by Westerners eager to celebrate China’s acceptance of a Western model; it was no less a case of placing trust in the statements of the reformers themselves, a set of basic assumptions that is reiterated in PRC publications to this day. While this interpretative scheme was by no means limited to academic research in the Communist world, it fitted especially well with construing the reformers as denouncers of a corrupt feudal society, harbingers both of a new literature and of a new social order. Seen through this lens, early Chinese readers of Western literature were essentially pupils, either to be commended for improving under the influence of progressive foreign teachers or to be rebuked for choosing the wrong mentors; their childlike impressionability and proclivity to copying what they liked were at any rate taken for granted. Not all of these clichés were unfounded (many, again, can be supported by statements in Chinese), but understanding of the role played by hero worship and the search for teacher figures in the Chinese reception of foreign literature could not come from scholars sharing the premise that such teachers were, indeed, required.



It is not surprising that Western academics in the past two decades have found it all the more difficult to applaud the avowed breakaway of “May Fourth” intellectuals from indigenous culture. As early as 1979 a study by Lin Yü-sheng offered a critical view of the reformers so dear to the Marxist school. Radical iconoclasts, “totalistic” in their uninformed adoption of Western cultural tokens and rejection of their own, they were also—so Lin claimed—profoundly conditioned by the very tradition against which they rebelled. The mighty Confucian culture pervaded the very unconsciousness of these Chinese intellectuals, who had been moulded by it “without . . . being aware of the fact”.68 Lin Yü-sheng’s distaste for the “May Fourth” generation was that of a conservative alarmed by the recent assault on all (Chinese and foreign) culture in the mayhem of the Cultural Revolution. However, much the same insistence on the “moulding” and “shaping” powers of tradition has since been heard from Western sinologists uncomfortable with equating Westernisation with “enlightenment” or saluting it as an “intellectual revolution”. In a magisterial essay on the development of modern Chinese literary thought, Kirk Denton spoke of a “sanctification” of the West by leaders of the New Culture movement, their “deeply felt sense of cultural inferiority” and “obsession with the ‘new’ and ‘modern’ ”.69 Yet hard as they may have tried to couch their writings in a “new” language, it is the very concepts these reformers had so deplored in the old tradition that Denton finds maintained in their own work.70 Admirers of a recently imported “realism” were actually defending the utilitarian Chinese view of literature, known by the formula wenyi zaidao (“literature is the vehicle of the Way”); supporters of romanticism resonated neo-Confucian tenets of self-assertion; and the venerable shi yan zhi (“poetry expresses intent”) lurked behind the shoulder of the aspiring Chinese aesthetician.71 Imagining himself a disciple of John Dewey, Hu Shi launches a literary revolution; Chen Duxiu, enthralled by “the awesome and brilliant Europe”, responds by a utopian proposal to abolish the Chinese language. The literary historian would put all in its place: “Although the thrust of their orientation is clearly away from literature as the embodiment of the Dao, Hu and Chen are working 68 Lin Yü-sheng, The Crisis of Chinese Consciousness: Radical Antitraditionalism in the May Fourth Era, pp. 28–9, 50. 69 See the Introduction in Denton, Modern Chinese Literary Thought, pp. 10–11. 70 Ibid., p. 18. 71 Ibid., pp. 37, 45–6, 58.



under the traditional assumption that a reconstituted prose style would enable literature to transform the moral life of society”.72 It is easier to show where both approaches are wrong than to find an alternative immune both to the patronizing of Chinese intellectuals as unthinking acolytes of their Western peers and to the error of denying them the right to define themselves as students, disciples and adepts of Western writers, aesthetical theories or political doctrines, even where they themselves had proclaimed it loud and clear. There can be no general answer to the question of whether educated readers making their first acquaintance with Western literature were responding to it with tools fashioned by Chinese tradition; nor can there be a universal method of assessing the effect of foreign books read and translated. Some answers will, nevertheless, be attempted in this study on the basis of concrete examples. Modern Chinese writers were heirs to a culture that had developed a sophisticated view of literature by a time when nothing comparable had existed in Europe. Yet we shall see that those who engaged in the interpretation of Western literature wished to move beyond the aesthetic criteria of The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons. We owe them the courtesy of not considering them merely the products of their genes: pace the weight of a mighty cultural tradition, which today still claims possession of the individual in the name of the nation.73 An educated Chinese in the early twentieth century should be entitled, no less than any thinking person in France or in Australia, to choose the brand he or she regarded as most advanced and promising from the new global marketplace of ideas.74 This is not to deny that these brands

72 Ibid., p. 38. The equally famous response to Hu Shi’s “Modest Proposals” by Chen Duxiu (1880–1942), editor of Xin qingnian and future founding member of the Chinese Communist Party, is also made available in Denton’s anthology: see “On Literary Revolution”, pp. 140–45. 73 Zhi Liang, “Lun wenxue de minzu jieshou” (On the National Reception of Literature), in idem, ed., Eguo wenxue yu Zhongguo, esp. pp. 14, 22, 25, defines great writers and translators as those most imbued with the national spirit; their seemingly “individual” reception of foreign literature invariably expresses and reflects the nation’s needs. 74 A similar critique is developed by James R. Pusey, Lu Xun and Evolution, pp. 106–7. The sixth-century treatise Wenxin diaolong by Liu Xie is considered the fountain source of Chinese literary thought. Lu Xun still alludes to it in his essay, published in 1908, “On The Power of Mara Poetry” (partly translated in Denton, Modern Chinese Literary Thought), which however is a work interspersed with quotes from European writers, and one trenchantly critical of the literary heritage of classical China.



were frequently adapted to local needs or that powerful, pre-modern ideas about the function of the intellectual and the role of literature would exact their dues even from the most “iconoclastic” importers of foreign modernity. The reception of foreign literature in early republican China presents a special case both because its introduction was so closely related to the dissatisfaction of young writers with Chinese literary culture, and because in an atmosphere of compelling interest for Western literature an unusually large number of writers became engaged in translation work. This background would appear to facilitate research by doing away with the evidence-gathering stage; rather than demonstrating an author’s acquaintance with the works of a foreign writer, we are tempted to begin the enquiry with the list of that author’s translations. No doubt, many Chinese authors of the 1920s were influenced by foreign literature, and some (whatever the reliability of such statements) said as much in no uncertain terms: Lu Xun, for one, attributed to Leonid Andreev an influence on his story “Medicine”.75 Nor is there need to subscribe to the Freudian model of authors’ relations with their predecessors as put forward by Harold Bloom in The Anxiety of Influence to acknowledge that writers borrow from, struggle with and creatively rework the books they read.76 Influence may also be idiosyncratic and largely in the writers’ minds, as they project their own current preoccupations upon the works they read, attributing meaning to them that a “neutral” reading of the same story or novel would not elicit; and influence can be negative, for example when a writer may be discouraged from pursuing an idea because of having found it expressed by another.77 While no mutual As Lu Xun put it on two separate occasions in 1935, the ending of “Medicine” (1919) was indebted to Andreev’s “chill”. He did not, though, associate that stylistic quality with any of the four short stories by Andreev that he had translated, and he is known to have read many others of Andreev’s works. Cf. Shi Fuxing, “Lu Xun yu Anteliefu”, p. 43. Far too many commentators have proceeded from this statement to attribute other instances of “chilliness” in Lu Xun’s writing to Andreev’s influence. 76 An original suggestion to treat the reception history of Russian literature in China as a case of Bloom’s “anxiety of influence” is made in the Introduction to Wang Jianzhao, Zhong-E wenzi zhi jiao: E-Su wenxue yu ershi shiji Zhongguo xin wenxue, pp. 10–11. 77 For examples of these forms of “influence”, see S. S. Prawer, Comparative Literary Studies: An Introduction, respectively pp. 72, 66. Chinese authors of the early twentieth century, encountering “kindred spirits” in the romantic European poets which they read and translated, are described by Lee in The Romantic Generation of Modern Chinese 75



dialogue occurs between the reader and an author remote in time or place, a form of communication (whether it be acceptance, resistance, admiration, or dispassionate “storing” of the information received) does take place in the reader’s mind and may or may not manifest itself in subsequent literary production.78 Hence there is nothing wrong with the word “influence” and nothing injurious to national pride in being taught or inspired by foreign writers—in the way, to recall only two examples from English literature, that G. A. Moore was by Turgenev or Katherine Mansfield by Chekhov—except that it must be recognised as only one of the possible effects of reading. As to the straightforward causal chain of influence as “the transfer and rearrangement of literary forms and themes”, it is (even if theoretically possible, something which Claudio Guillén has denied)79 exceedingly difficult to prove. Writers react to the writing of others, as they do to works of music or art (Hemingway, listing the numerous sources of influence on himself, mentioned Bach and Cézanne) and to events in their own lives. Historians of literature may tackle the creative process through a combination of rigorous textual and archival research. Once sufficient evidence has been collected for the extent of an author’s familiarity with and interest in (to limit ourselves to the literary sphere) a writer he or she has read, it becomes possible to study the passage from “influence” to “appropriation”, provided that conclusions are considered tentative and are presented as such.80 In this book, however, we shall pursue goals more tangible since we are not asking how specific Chinese literary works came into being, but rather trying to find out why Chinese authors were attracted to literary works, and themes from Russia. The

Writers; see pp. 277–78. Examples in the Russian field include the analysis of Joseph Brodsky’s literary relationship with John Donne, in David M. Bethea, Joseph Brodsky and the Creation of Exile (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), here pp. 84–92. 78 The argument here is against a definition of influence as direct transmission, detecting proof of influence whenever writer B mentions something that appears in a text by writer A, whom B is known to have read. Prawer, Comparative Literary Studies, p. 73 (cf. p. 168), explains the inadequacy of such mechanical reasoning. 79 See, for a close scrutiny of the problems involved, the two essays on “literary influences” in Guillén, Literature as System: Essays Toward the Theory of Literary History, quoting p. 31. 80 It is worth pointing out that identifying the junctures at which the second author departs from the model set up by the predecessor could be as important a task as that of establishing the influence of the earlier text. It is, obviously, an even more demanding one. Cf. Anna Balakian, “Influence and Literary Reception: The Equivocal Junction of Two Methods”, collected in her The Snowflake on the Belfry: Dogma and Disquietude in the Critical Arena, here pp. 143–44.



data used to this end will be drawn from published texts (in which category the reviews, and translators’ comments, found in Chinese periodicals, are most important next to the translations themselves)81 and from the whole array of biographical and bibliographical details that are indispensable for tracing “the career of literary communications on an international scale”.82 In much of what follows, this book employs an approach championed by Robert D. Hume: it goes by the name of contextual historicism, or in Hume’s coinage “archaeo-historicism”. To learn how literary works were created, transmitted and interpreted, we need to get the fullest picture possible of their historical contexts. With this aim in mind, Hume (a historian of English theatre) proceeds by the scrupulous collection of “facts”; ignoring artificial boundaries between textual studies, sociology, cultural and political history, he takes the pieces of his puzzle from any area of potential usefulness.83 Facts, as Hume is quick to point out, mean nothing in themselves. If we want to do more than compose lists of Chinese translations and commentaries on them, it is necessary to advance from what Hume calls “documentary reconstruction” (of chronology, authorship and such other issues that admit of empirical verification) to “extrapolative analysis” of our findings. But we must also remember that the generalizations 81 Essential too, for grasping the context in which Russian literature was read in China, is the large corpus of republican-era essays about the purpose and social function of literature. Writings on these questions, scattered in contemporary periodicals, are sampled here next to articles now reprinted in the “collected works” of translators and commentators on foreign literature. 82 Guillén, Literature as System, p. 44. Contemporary reviews were used to study the reception of early modern Chinese poetry in Michel Hockx’s first book, A Snowy Morning: Eight Chinese Poets on the Road to Modernity. The need for such “background information” is all the greater where we are concerned with the reception of foreign literature. We should, for example, be able to identify our critics, the sources available to them and the journals in which they published; we must be aware of extra-literary (political or commercial) reasons for translation, and of tension between the discourses on foreign and home literature. See, on these issues, Yves Chevrel, “Le Discours de la critique sur les oeuvres étrangères: Littérature comparée, esthétique de la réception et histoire littéraire nationale”, and more recently idem, “Littérature comparée et histoire des mentalités: Concurrence ou collaboration?”, esp. pp. 57–62. 83 See Hume, Reconstructing Contexts: The Aims and Principles of Archaeo-Historicism. Cf. idem, “The Aims and Limits of Historical Scholarship”. Historicism as practised by Hume should not to be confused with the anecdote-based “cultural” theorizing known as New Historicism. An omnivorously investigative method, closely akin to Hume’s, is at work in the essays of Grigorii Kruzhkov (formerly of Columbia University) on the Russian reception of English and Irish poetry: these are now gathered in Kruzhkov, Nostal’giia obeliskov (The Nostalgia of the Obelisks) (Moscow: NLO, 2001).



required by analysis and speculation, such as those on “May Fourth” attitudes to the West, cannot do justice to the individual attitudes of real people. Although trivial, this is a point all too often forgotten. In the chapters that follow, focus on a concrete list of translated works is meant to avert the danger of “finding” what one already knows about Chinese literature and literary criticism of the 1920s and 1930s. In Hume’s words, this approach aims “to work from particulars, not to illustrate general prepositions with reference to selected evidence”.84 Casting the net over the translators of three specific writers should allow us to encounter translators of all varieties, from the great to the ephemeral, as opposed to listing only the most famous names. Throughout this book, an attempt is made to let Chinese readers of Russian literature speak for themselves, insofar as their now distant voices could be unearthed and adequately understood. Literary history, Robert Hume has also argued, copes badly with the individual element in literature. It tends far too much to arrange writers in schools and currents, the better to weave its narratives of how one writer led to another. Moreover, in Hume’s view, it is fundamentally wrong to presume that the “history of literature” can be written in isolation from that of the world at large. Without declaring it explicitly, the alternative he proposes is essentially the history of culture: an enquiry departing from a concrete detail of the literary sphere to suck in, as it were, as broad a segment as possible of the surrounding reality. It is an attractive model. A methodological problem in need of resolution here was that of assessing the diffusion of literature: how many, and what kind of readers, did our translations reach?85 Such views as we have on record are impressionistic: Leo Ou-fan Lee mentions Andreev among those foreign writers who, in spite of “extensive translations”, “failed to achieve much popularity”.86 Chen Jianhua, for his part, gives the names of Tolstoy, Chekhov, Turgenev and Andreev as the four Russians most favoured by “May Fourth” readers.87 Hume, Reconstructing Contexts, p. 63; cf. p. 187. As Hume, ibid., p. 41, puts it: “Statements about genesis, context, and reception must be backed up by hard evidence, or they are worthless”. 86 Lee, “Literary Trends I: The Quest for Modernity, 1895–1927”, now in Merle Goldman and Lee, eds., An Intellectual History of Modern China, p. 182. 87 Chen Jianhua, 20 shiji Zhong-E wenxue guanxi, p. 68. Turgenev is called the most translated Russian writer in China of the 1920s in Sun Naixiu, Tugeniefu yu Zhongguo: Ershi shiji Zhong-wai wenxue guanxi yanjiu, pp. 64, 86. 84 85



In support of the claim that Russian literature was more influential in China than the literature of any other country, Yu Dafu listed the names of Chekhov, Gorky, Andreev and Artsybashev as the four modern writers best known in China at the time, 1926.88 Like other Chinese writers describing wide interest in Andreev and Artsybashev in the 1920s, Yu must be understood as speaking primarily of his own circle: those active participants in the New Culture literary scene, who combined an absorbing interest in foreign literature with actual translation work. Prone though they were to present themselves as spokesmen for the nation, their comments are unrepresentative of the wider reading public, with whom the “New Culture” literature itself remained less popular than entertainment fiction.89 Identifying, apologetically, the Chinese interest in early twentieth-century Russian writers with the immature phase of “May Fourth” eclecticism, some later memoirists evoked an incomplete image of Russian literature in China of the 1930s: in that decade, as has been mentioned above, some of the early translations were reprinted, while works by the same authors were translated anew by persons outside the dominant stream of Chinese literature. The opinions of ordinary readers, as distinct from those of writers and translators, are admittedly a mystery: only occasionally can we catch a glimpse of these in a letter to a literary journal, in the comments of a publisher on communications received from book buyers, or (another channel that will be explored here) in the marginal notes left by the users of a library.90 The Annex at the end of this book lists all known translations of the three writers up to 1950, suggesting that

88 Yu Dafu, Xiaoshuo lun, p. 118. Yu undermined his own claim by employing an outlandish transcription of Artsybashev’s name such as had not been used by any of his Chinese translators. 89 Yu Dafu’s statement can be compared with another, by the poet and translator of German poetry Feng Zhi (1905–93). Recalling the mid-1920s as a time “when we thirstily read foreign literary works”, he mentioned Andreev as one of “the names we frequently raised” (speaking of the literary society of which he was a member, Feng went on to say that “the things we [then] wrote were naturally also influenced by that reading material”). Feng Zhi, “Lu Xun yu Chenzhong she”, pp. 4–5. On the popularity of entertainment fiction until as late as the 1940s, see Chen Pingyuan, “Literature High and Low: ‘Popular Fiction’ in Twentieth-Century China”, p. 122. 90 As William H. Sherman puts it in the Preface to his new study, Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England, “Readers’ marks are better at providing examples (and still better at providing counterexamples) than general rules; but if we cast our net widely they can reveal both large-scale patterns of use and extraordinary encounters of individuals and their books” (p. xvi; I am grateful to the author for making parts of this book available to me in advance of publication).



reprints and succeeding (or concurrent) translations of the same text may offer the best available indicators for readers’ demand. Considering the key importance of the subject for Chinese literary and intellectual history, far too little research has so far been dedicated to the discovery, translation and appreciation of Russian literature in republican China. This field offers neither a parallel to Leo Lee’s now classic exploration of the influence of European and American romanticism on the lives and writings of early twentieth-century Chinese poets in The Romantic Generation of Modern Chinese Writers (1973) nor an equivalent to this and other scholars’ more recent substantiation of the “decadent” inspiration in modern Chinese literature.91 What does exist is often badly out of date. The only monograph in English, The Russian Hero in Modern Chinese Fiction (1988) by the late Mau-sang Ng, illustrates the attraction for Chinese writers of a particular type of “Russian hero”: many in the 1920s found solace in identifying with the “superfluous” man of ideas, convinced that he would have greatly benefited society were it not for the barriers erected in his path by the apathetic mistrust of fellow countrymen and the oppression of an authoritarian regime. Such literary protagonists could not but appeal to writers whom C. T. Hsia described as “obsessed” with the fate of China in an essay published as early as 1967 (known for its inclusion as an appendix in the second edition of A History of Modern Chinese Fiction in 1970), and whom Bonnie S. McDougall has more recently characterized as obsessed primarily with their own status in twentieth-century Chinese society.92 Yet twenty years since its appearance, Ng’s book would now find few defenders with regard to either method or presentation. Operating in 91 Lee, Shanghai Modern: The Flowering of a New Urban Culture in China, 1930–1945. Lung-kee Sun, “The Presence of the Fin-de-Siècle in the May Fourth Era”, draws attention to Lu Xun as “the translator of Leonid Andreyev and Mikhail Artsybashev, authors of the Russian fin-de-siècle” (p. 208). See also Linda Wong, “The Paradox of Beauty: A Survey of the Presence of the Pre-Raphaelites in Modern China”. 92 See Hsia, “Obsession With China: The Moral Burden of Modern Chinese Literature”, in his A History of Modern Chinese Fiction, pp. 533–54. Cf. McDougall, Fictional Authors, Imaginary Audiences: Modern Chinese Literature in the Twentieth Century, pp. 18, 36. The protagonists of Yu Dafu’s stories “Nights of Spring Fever” and “Flight”, as studied ibid., pp. 52–3, certainly call to mind the two main heroes of Worker Shevyrev. It is, however, unlikely that Yu would have needed Artsybashev to construct his image of the alienated intellectual: enough “superfluous men” had already been provided to him by Turgenev. As we shall see, much of the interest in Worker Shevyrev and The Pale Horse in China of the 1920s derived from these books’ preoccupation with the place of the intellectual in the revolution.



the most simplistic mode of “influence studies”, Ng read the works of writers such as Mao Dun, Ba Jin and Lu Xun, and then seized upon any detail that reminded him of a Russian author who had written more or less about the same thing. This surface similarity, being much too easy to observe, naturally lent itself to facile manipulation; the close filiations that Ng was at pains to establish between the Russian and the Chinese texts were rarely backed by any evidence.93 That Ng read Russian literature in English and Chinese translations94 was another obvious problem: his knowledge of the writers, whose “influence” in China he was determined to prove, was too sketchy for the task, and a tendency to embellish his prose with the help of other people’s words did nothing to enhance his reliability. On Savinkov, Artsybashev and Andreev, as on early twentieth-century literature in general, The Russian Hero in Modern Chinese Fiction offered deprecating commentary gleaned from outdated secondary sources. Artsybashev was thus in Ng’s eyes not merely a decadent and a nihilist, but also “a curious and, on the whole, regrettable episode in the history of Russian literature”;95 as to Andreev, “it seems that he had some mental quirk which forced him to dwell on the abnormal and

93 It will suffice to look at Ng’s analysis of Lu Xun’s “In the Tavern” (1924) in conjunction with E. N. Chirikov’s “Provincial Town”, conveniently available in Lu Xun’s own translation in vol. 11 of the Lu Xun quanji (1973). At the end of a three-page discussion, Ng, The Russian Hero in Modern Chinese Fiction, p. 248, states that “one can safely talk of Lu Xun taking Chirikov’s story as a model for his own” (among a host of such pronouncements, mistaking thematic or typological similarity for textual evidence, cf. p. 251, on Worker Shevyrev: “It is beyond doubt that Lu Xun borrowed the Aladiev-Olenka parting scene from Artzybashev for his own in ‘Regrets’ ”). He also says (p. 225, n. 22) that “little is known of Eugene Chirikov”, whose life dates (1864–1932) he immediately gets wrong. As Lu Xun knew, and wrote in a postscript to his translation of another Chirikov story, “The Lilac” (both stories being part of his contribution to the Anthology of Translations from Modern Fiction, ed. by Zhou Zuoren in 1922), the Collected Works of Evgenii Chirikov, published in Moscow in 1910–16, comprised seventeen volumes. As he translated (probably via Japanese) the two early stories from vol. 12 (1912), Lu Xun was not aware that the author he described as a “revolutionary” had recently been forced to flee revolutionary Russia. In Prague since 1921, Chirikov became one of the most widely-read writers of the Russian emigration; significantly, none of his work posterior to 1917 would ever be translated into Chinese. 94 Russian-language sources in his Bibliography are limited to two articles, and Shneider’s Russkaia klassika v Kitae. 95 This definition is quoted in Ng, The Russian Hero in Modern Chinese Fiction, p. 68, from A History of Russian Literature (1926) by D. S. Mirsky—a critic as brilliant as he was idiosyncratic and provocative, and one whose opinion of Anton Chekhov was hardly more favourable.



diseased. The outcome is that his work is not only decadent, but decidedly pathological”.96 More sophisticated, and better documented than Ng’s, has been the work of the Slovak sinologist Marián Gálik. Dating mostly to the 1980s, his articles on the reception of Russian literature in China subscribed to the conventions of the Marxist approach to “May Fourth”. To Ng’s “influence”, Gálik preferred the concept of the “interliterary process”, and he has been the single most consistent advocate of this method, devised by the critic Dionyz ÚDurišin. As Gálik himself acknowledged in several publications on the theory of the “interliterary process”, the notion was broad enough to be applied to everything in the literary field: from the genesis of a literary work to its structure and meaning. In practice, Gálik’s prolific research most often trod the familiar path from the list of foreign books that a Chinese author had translated or read to the same author’s literary output. At that end of the production line, the presumed impact of the foreign text was ready and waiting, to be identified by the scholar.97 To reiterate, this criticism of earlier simplistic approaches to the history of Russian literature in pre-Communist China should not be mistaken for a denial of the ability of any good literature to inspire and, indeed, influence its readers. The importance to Lu Xun of the ideas he found and reworked in Artsybashev (rejection of “the future golden age”, with all its consequences for action in the present) is not

Ibid., p. 74. This statement, which may have sounded acceptable in 1911, is lifted from Phelps, Essays on Russian Novelists, p. 269, with Phelps’s “not exactly decadent” changed into “not only”, and his above-quoted praise of Andreev’s “genius” ignored. With a purpose opposite to Ng’s, “not to stigmatize Andreev, but to clarify much of his legacy, which is associated with a mental condition”, research on Andreev’s mental health has recently been carried out by Frederick H. White: see Memoirs and Madness: Leonid Andreev through the Prism of the Literary Portrait, quoting p. 158. White’s attempts at retrospective medical diagnostics have been rejected, essentially on ethical grounds, by Andreev scholars in Russia: see the polemics in Russkaia literatura, no. 4 (2005), pp. 103–14; no. 4 (2006), pp. 152–60. 97 Thus Gálik, Milestones of Sino-Western Literary Confrontation (1898–1979), p. 33, argued on the basis of impressionistic evidence that “Medicine would probably never have been written (at least not in the form known to us) without Andreev’s short stories Ben-Tovit and The Silence”. Ibid., pp. 38–9, claimed that Lu Xun’s translation of Andreev’s “The Lie” and “Silence” (“Ben-Tovit” having been translated by Zhou Zuoren) had enabled him to write his story “Tomorrow”. Contrast these verdicts with the nuanced approach to Lu Xun’s relationship with Andreev and other European writers in Hanan, Chinese Fiction of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, p. 226: “None of Lu Xun’s stories is derivative in any important sense of that word, but the links to other literatures are both interesting and important”. 96



a matter for conjecture; it can be proven by a long line of direct and indirect quotations, far more substantial than those we have in the Andreev case.98 Hence it merits the comprehensive study that will be undertaken in Chapter Two. If the act of translation can be taken as an indication of a translator’s interest (a point to which we shall return), there is no comparing a mature writer’s commitment to translating a book such as Worker Shevyrev in 1921 (completed with the translation of two more short stories in 1922) to a student’s experiments with two stories by Leonid Andreev in 1909: on these grounds alone, it would seem that no one studying Lu Xun’s relationship with foreign literature can ignore his dialogue with Artsybashev’s writing. However, there could have been no room for the impact on Lu Xun of a writer such as Artsybashev within a scheme that enshrined the former as a culture hero and dismissed the latter as a negligible decadent. Among the non-canonised Russians whom he translated, responsibility for Lu Xun’s “chill” was instead most easily assigned to Andreev, although, to explain whatever interest this retrograde author may have evoked in his progressive translator—inevitably “intent on transforming the ‘spirit’ of the Chinese people”—it was necessary to argue that this potentially fatal attraction had been overcome.99 Lu Xun was, for a long time, in the centre of attention of Western scholarship on modern Chinese literature, and a number of studies in English have discussed him as reader and translator of foreign, most notably Russian, writers.100 Because of the linguistic qualifications required, however, research on the translation of Russian literature in

98 An incomplete but representative selection of Lu Xun’s references to Andreev, furnished in Fujian shifan daxue zhongwen xi, Lu Xun lun waiguo wenxue, pp. 113–17, shows that up to 1925 these consisted of brief comments on the four stories which Lu Xun translated. In 1925 Andreev appeared to him “a writer in total despair”; the context in which these words were said has, however, been largely ignored. Lu Xun was then preparing for publication Li Jiye’s translation of Andreev’s play To the Stars, and he would soon promote Li’s translation of another play, The Black Masks. See letter to Xu Qinwen of 30 Sept. 1925 in Lu Xun quanji (hereafter: LXQJ) (2005), vol. 11, pp. 516–18, and more on Lu Xun and Andreev in Ch. Four. 99 See Gálik, on Lu Xun and Andreev, in Milestones of Sino-Western Literary Confrontation, pp. 40–41 (the allusion is to the Introduction to Lu Xun’s Call to Arms). 100 See J. D. Chinnery, “The Influence of Western Literature on Lu Xun’s ‘Diary of a Madman’ ” (1960); Patrick Hanan, “The Technique of Lu Hsün’s Fiction” (1974; revised and abridged version now in idem, Chinese Fiction of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries); Douwe W. Fokkema, “Lu Xun: The Impact of Russian Literature” (1977); Lennart Lundberg, Lu Xun as a Translator: Lu Xun’s Translation and Introduction of Literature and Literary Theory, 1903–1936 (1989).



China was naturally undertaken in these two countries. Indeed, work in this field has been of considerable volume, but no less sizeable is the space left untouched. The critical judgement that both Communist regimes formed against early twentieth-century Russian literature outside the realist school, combined with their hostility towards émigré literature, meant that for many years both of these literatures could not be seriously approached on either side of the Soviet-Chinese frontier. Special mention should be made here of Mark Shneider’s pioneering study Russkaia klassika v Kitae (Russian Classical Literature in China, 1977), which included a chapter on Leonid Andreev: despite its ideological bias, in its best parts this work displayed conscientious and meticulous scholarship. The same qualities, coupled with originality and liveliness of presentation, also characterise Leonid Cherkasskii’s Maiakovskii v Kitae (Mayakovsky in China, 1976) and Russkaia literatura na Vostoke (Russian Literature in the Orient, 1987). Yet the overall impression we get from Soviet and Chinese histories of Russian-Chinese literary relations is that, prior to discovering the new Soviet literature of the 1920s, Chinese translators had divided their efforts between the nineteenth-century classics and (that most convenient bridge from Tolstoy to the twentieth century) Maxim Gorky.101 As the leading translator of Soviet literature Cao Jinghua (1897–1987) put it, “After ‘May Fourth’, the literary and art circles in China introduced quite a lot of Russian literary works; a little later, they moved from classical Russian literature to the new literature written after the October Revolution”.102 Though no secret had been made in China since the early 1980s of past translations of early twentieth-century Russian writers, the mention of such translations was discouraged, while a string of quotations by modern Chinese writers, won over by the moral messages of Tolstoy or Turgenev and firmly put on the path of socialism by Gorky and

101 The first story by Gorky was translated in China as early as 1907 (see Chen Jianhua, 20 shiji Zhong-E wenxue guanxi, pp. 44–5), but the so-called “Gorky fever” did not begin until after the writer’s sixtieth birthday had given occasion to a large number of articles and translations in 1928. See e.g. Viktor V. Petrov, “Sovetskaia literatura v Kitae v 1928–1930 gg.”, p. 218 ff. 102 “Haosi chunyan di yi zhi” (Like a First Swallow), in Cao Jinghua sanwen xuan, p. 141. As noted by Chen Jianhua, 20 shiji Zhong-E wenxue guanxi, p. 284, in the threevolume History of Russian and Soviet Literature, edited by Cao Jinghua (E-Su wenxue shi; Changsha, 1992), the literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was simply “forgotten” in the passage between vols. 1 and 2.



his successors, was copied from one book to the next. Apart from the three writers addressed in this study, another prominent writer denied a place in Soviet-period textbooks and omitted from all accounts of Russian literature in China was the widely translated symbolist Fedor Sologub (1863–1927). As the “decadents” of old have been recast as “modernists”, Sologub became the subject of intense critical interest in Russia, as in the West. Along with Savinkov, Artsybashev and Andreev, he ranks as one of the best-known representatives of the “Silver age” in China.103 More could be said on the circulation in Chinese of stories by the émigré writer Alexander Kuprin (1870–1938). On the reading of Savinkov in China there is, to this day, no specialized study in any language beyond the already mentioned treatment of this writer by Mau-sang Ng.104 Articles on the Chinese translation and reception of Artsybashev began appearing in the PRC in the early 1980s, and while the modest trickle has since grown into a steady outpouring of publications, virtually all of these are by Lu Xun specialists, who cannot read the original Russian texts and do not digress to discuss the work of less eminent translators. Lu Xun’s towering figure also dominates research on the reception of Andreev in the People’s Republic: while the question of any possible echoes of Andreev in Lu Xun remained taboo until the early 1980s,105 the many publications since devoted to the “Lu Xun and Andreev” theme have until very recently shown scant variation in repeating Lu Xun’s successive dicta on Andreev being “a school of his own”, “a writer who blended 103 Though not an émigré, Sologub was only published as a poet and translator during the Soviet era, with sole exception made for his major novel The Little Demon (1907). Lu Xun’s younger brother, the great essayist and literary scholar Zhou Zuoren was the first to translate Sologub into Chinese for their joint anthology Stories from Abroad in 1909, and the second to do so again in 1918. The youngest of the three brothers, also active as a translator in the 1920s, was the biologist Zhou Jianren (1888–1984). He and such central figures of the New Literature movement as Zheng Zhenduo and the journal editor Hu Yuzhi were Sologub’s main Chinese translators. 104 An early reference to the translation of The Pale Horse was made in Bonnie S. McDougall, The Introduction of Western Literary Theories into Modern China, p. 47 (and note). 105 As stated in Zhou Yin and Li Kechen, “Shi lun Lu Xun de ‘Kuangren riji’ yu Antelaifu de ‘Qiang’ ”, p. 236. This article of 1982 balances its defiance of the “tabooed” subject with the assertion that, while influenced by symbolism, the early Lu Xun remained much closer to realism in his writing (he was still able to use symbolism to brilliant results). If Andreev’s symbolist story “The Wall” was merely a fantasy, Lu Xun’s vision of a “man-eating China” was a sociological discovery; finally, the authors believe that—in marked contrast to Andreev—Lu Xun turned his own “despair” into a hopeful battle cry.



symbolism with realism”, then “a writer in total despair”. After proceeding to detect similarities between any of the two authors’ works, these articles typically concluded with Lu Xun’s self-liberation from Andreev’s baleful influence.106 Post-Soviet Russian sinology has demonstrated a regrettable lack of interest in the formerly much ploughed field of Russian-Chinese literary relations, producing no new studies on writers whose significance in those relations could not have been freely discussed before 1989. The opposite development, however, has been unfolding in China. As with Russian readers in the early 1990s, so, too, Chinese readers in the later half of the decade began to rediscover the rich literary heritage of early twentieth-century Russia; available at long last were writers almost unknown in China during their lifetime as well as writers once well familiar to the generation of “May Fourth”. No fewer than four book series presenting new translations of the Russian “Silver age” (baiyin shidai) came out in 1998 alone. The six-volume series launched by The Writers’ Publishing House in Beijing, for example, set no rigid limitations on the “age’s” time span: the beautifully printed books included works by Andrei Belyi, Evgenii Zamiatin, Boris Pil’niak, Alexander Grin and Mikhail Bulgakov along with a collection of Leonid Andreev’s stories, translated by the Slavist Zhang Bing under the title Hong xiao (The Red Laugh).107 In 2001 a new Chinese version of Artsybashev’s Sanin entitled Zongyuzhe Saning (Sanin the Hedonist) came out in Beijing as part of another series, “The world’s one hundred forbidden books”. In 2002 the professor of Russian literature Liu Wenfei published a Saning of his own, and in 2003 a publisher in Liaoning reprinted the very first translation of an Artsybashev work in the PRC, a 1988 Saning by the professional translator Wang Zhi. The first years of this century thus offered a recasting of the competition between publishers that had

106 The lengthiest example of such manipulative criticism that I have seen is Sun Chen, “Lu Xun yu Anteliefu”. Less conventional, and therefore more interesting, is the comparative work of Shi Fuxing: see, e.g., his “Yecao yu Andelieyefu”. Other PRC studies on Artsybashev and Andreev are cited below. 107 On the four book series of 1998, see Wang Jiezhi, “Baiyin shidai Eluosi wenxue zai Zhongguo de jieshou”. Writing in 1999, Wang reminded readers that “only three to four years ago, there were still people convinced that the Silver age had been ‘an age flooded by decadent literature’ ” (p. 36). He stressed the new consensus on the need to study and translate the literature of the period, which he would like to see defined more precisely as 1890–1917.



surrounded six rival versions of the same novel at the time when China first discovered Sanin (1907), between 1930 and 1936.108 With the relaxation of constraints not only on the translation of foreign literature but also on the writing of literary history, younger scholars in the 1990s brought out monographs on the history of Russian-Chinese literary relations, which, to various degrees, were able to leave behind the party-line conformism that had been epitomized in the writings of the veteran of the field, the translator Ge Baoquan (1913–2000). Their work is part and parcel of the revival of comparative literature: a discipline re-introduced in the PRC in the 1980s by teachers of the old generation who, silenced in the anti-rightist campaign of 1958, could only speak up again after the end of the Mao era.109 In its first three chapters Selection and Omission: A Cultural Perspective on Chinese-Russian Literary Relations (1995) by Wang Jiezhi of Nanjing Normal University compiled every familiar generalization on classical Russian literature and modern Chinese literature as the expression of Russian and Chinese national characters and mediums of national awakening; the fourth chapter then pointed out both such aspects in Russian literature (the influence of Orthodox religion, writers’ “repentance consciousness” and tendency for speculative inquiry), which its interpreters in China did not fully appreciate, and others (essentially, the element of social criticism), which they over-emphasized.110 From these cautious beginnings, Wang would move on to advocate the rediscovery of Russia’s early twentieth-century symbolists and modernists, contributing to the revitalization of an academic discipline in which

108 Zongyuzhe Saning, in the translation of Su Jing, was published by Yinguan dianzi chubanshe; the other Russian titles in the series were The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov, The Pit by Kuprin, Doctor Zhivago by Pasternak, The Cancer Ward by Solzhenitsyn, Children of the Arbat by Rybakov and Red Wood by Pilniak. The publisher of Liu Wenfei was the Yilin (Translation Grove) edition house in Nanjing. Wang Zhi’s translation was reprinted by Liaoning jiaoyu in Shenyang. 109 The comparatist Yue Daiyun, whose Introduction to the eight-volume book series “Foreign Writers and Chinese Culture” opens the volume on Russia by Wang Jiezhi and Chen Jianhua, Youyuan de huixiang: Eluosi zuojia yu Zhongguo wenhua, is widely credited with the growth of cross-cultural literary studies in the PRC. Less well-known abroad, the professor of Chinese literature Qian Gurong (b. 1919) was a source of inspiration for Chen Jianhua in writing his 20 shiji Zhong-E wenxue guanxi; Wang Yougui’s recent monograph, Fanyijia Lu Xun, is dedicated to the bibliographer Jia Zhifang (1916–2008). 110 Ch. 5 of Wang Jiezhi, Xuanze yu shiluo: Zhong-E wenxue guanxi de wenhua guanzhao, traced the fortune in China of one “literary giant”, Maxim Gorky, while the concluding Ch. 6 offered an overview of the reception of twentieth-century Russian literature from the 1920s to the post-Mao period.



“modern Russian literature” had been too long identified with Soviet socialist realism.111 A lucid and useful chronicle was presented in 1998 in another monograph, by Chen Jianhua of East China Normal University in Shanghai, Chinese-Russian Literary Relations in the 20th Century.112 Concentrating on the order of appearance of the Chinese translations of works by the main Russian and Soviet writers, and incorporating extensive summaries of the most important critical essays on Russian literature to appear in Chinese from the last decade of the Qing up to the 1990s, Chen did not shirk interpretation, criticising past “errors” in the politicized attitude to literature in the PRC. In 2005, new ground was broken as Lin Jinghua of Capital Normal University published his Misreading Russia: The Russia Factor in the Problem of China’s Modernity.113 Fully at home in post-Soviet Russian as well as in English-language research on Russian literature, Lin lowered the critical axe upon a good many of the assumptions dominating previous PRC writing. Devoting a massive chapter to early twentieth-century Russian literary modernism, which, he argued, had been ignored in China, Lin offered the most wide-ranging reconceptualization to date of the meaning of “Russian literature” in the intellectual horizon of republican-period Chinese writers, translators and critics. Awareness of the links between translation, literature and the problems of cultural change, is a development shared by Chinese and

111 See Wang Jiezhi, “Chongxin shenshi 20 shiji Eluosi wenxue”: a plea for readers to acquaint themselves with three categories of Russian literature, described here as still almost unknown in China owing to the past politicization of literary history: the Silver age, émigré literature, and Soviet-period writing that had been banned from official publication in the Soviet Union. Indeed, Wang’s own book of 1995 had contained not a word about any of the three categories that he would single out in 2000, but in 2003 he published Yuanshi de guanghua: Baiyin shidai de Eluosi wenhua (Departed Splendour: Russian Culture of the Silver Age) (Nanjing: Yilin chubanshe), a broad cultural history. Other scholars, such as Zhou Qichao, have contributed to the lifting of the ban from Russian symbolist poetry. 112 Chen Jianhua, 20 shiji Zhong-E wenxue guanxi. A part of the monograph replicates (with minor modifications) the author’s contribution to Ni Ruiqin, ed., Lun Zhong-Su wenxue fazhan jincheng (1917–1986) (On the Development Course of Chinese-Soviet Literature; Shanghai, 1991). Sections of 20 shiji Zhong-E wenxue guanxi are also reprinted in Wang Jiezhi and Chen Jianhua, Youyuan de huixiang, while the whole book is now available in a second edition for students, published by Gaodeng jiaoyu chubanshe in Beijing in 2002 (as significant change in the latter was limited to breaking the first chapter into two, we shall still use the more widely available 1998 edition of 20 shiji Zhong-E wenxue guanxi here). 113 Lin Jinghua, Wudu Eluosi: Zhongguo xiandaixing wenti zhong de Eguo yinsu. My review of this book is forthcoming in China Review International.



Anglophone academic research. Among the best achievements in Chinese scholarship on these issues are the closely documented studies on translation history by Guo Yanli,114 and the original monographs on Zhou Zuoren and Lu Xun as translators by Wang Yougui.115 New research coming out of the PRC continues to attest to the vibrancy of Chinese comparative literature and cultural history today.116 By bringing Russia into the orbit of discussion, turning attention to the special standing of Russian literature in China in terms of both the bulk and impact of translation, the present study aims to fill an evident gap among the book-length publications that have so far explored the above links in English.117 While the interpretation of Russian classical and early Soviet literature in twentieth-century China has required separate treatment, and a different approach,118 this book traces the process by which the literature of “the Russian fin-de-siècle” was discovered, and then—at least by the mainstream of modern Chinese literature—discarded. The point has already been made that (to evoke David Pollard’s apt choice of a title, a staple formula in republican-period criticism) the borders between “translation and creation” are thin; much caution needs to be exercised in an analysis attempting to throw bridges between the two. It is no easier to explain translators’ motivation in choosing their texts than to determine their responses to them. To begin with, the choice of the author or of the book may come from the publisher, 114 Guo Yanli, Zhong-Xi wenhua pengzhuang yu jindai wenxue (Chinese and Western Cultural Interaction and Modern Literature; 2nd ed., 2000); idem, Zhongguo jindai fanyi wenxue gailun (An Outline of Literary Translation in Early Modern China; revised ed., 2005). 115 Wang Yougui, Fanyijia Zhou Zuoren (Zhou Zuoren as Translator, 2001); idem, Fanyijia Lu Xun (2005). 116 See e.g. Wang Jiezhi, Huiwang yu chensi: E-Su wenlun zai 20 shiji Zhongguo wentan (A Retrospective and a Contemplation: Twentieth-Century Russian Literary Theory in the Chinese Literary Sphere, 2005), and the above-cited Li Jin, Sansishi niandai Su-E Hanyi wenxue lun (The Translation of Soviet and Russian Literature into Chinese in the Thirties and Forties, 2006). 117 For example: Eugene Chen Eoyang, The Transparent Eye: Reflections on Translation, Chinese Literature and Comparative Poetics (1993); Lydia H. Liu, Translingual Practice: Literature, National Culture, and Translated Modernity—China, 1900–1937 (1995); David Pollard, ed., Translation and Creation (1998); Hu Ying, Tales of Translation (2000). On the social history of translation in the late Qing, see also David Wright, Translating Science: The Transmission of Western Chemistry into Late Imperial China, 1840–1900 (vol. 48 in the Sinica Leidensia series, 2000). Rudolf G. Wagner, Inside a Service Trade: Studies in Contemporary Chinese Prose (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992), focused less on the translation than on the appropriation of Soviet literature in the 1950s. 118 See Mark Gamsa, A Moral Example and Manual of Practice: The Reading of Russian Literature in China (forthcoming).



the translator being ready to tackle anything that will pay; even the translator’s independent choice may prove restricted by language skills, on the one hand, and by the stocks of local bookstores and libraries, on the other. A translator can start working on the basis of an initial impression, without having read the whole book. Certainly, a translator may be responding to an affinity with another author’s text, but he may also become attracted to “the new and the different”; to a subject and a style very unlike his own. Attraction to the consonant and the alien is not mutually exclusive.119 Different sets of considerations may be expected to guide the translator-writer as opposed to the translator who does not express himself in other forms of creative writing; attitudes to translation, its function within the culture and relation to native literature, are known to change through time. Caution, therefore, is imperative and it would be naïve to treat every translator as interested in (to say nothing of being “influenced” by) his author. However, while it is preferable to err on the side of scepticism than on that of gullibility, there is still ample justification for the enquiry into translators’ choice of their material. Financial rewards for the translation of highbrow fiction are not, after all, such that this activity would normally appeal to persons indifferent to literature and only intent on making an easy profit. To deny the aesthetic or “ideological” dimension of translations not produced solely out of pure love for literary art is to forget that the translated author was also paid for his work and may well have been writing with that reward in mind: Leonid Andreev’s house in Finland was appropriately nicknamed “Villa Advance”. Emotion is part of translating, as it is of writing, and books are not ordinary commodities. The interaction between the individual reader and the story, the poem or the novel, is far too complex and personal to be explained by the generalized theorizing of “reception studies”.120 119 On Yan Fu’s attraction to “the new and the different” in Herbert Spencer, see Schwartz, In Search of Wealth and Power, pp. 53–4, 62. Zhou Zuoren wrote in an Introduction to his anthology of translations Diandi (one of the very first to appear in the colloquial language, in 1920) that his selection of material stemmed from a wish to offer readers a variety of perspectives, rather than impose on them any single outlook with which he identified. Zhou Zuoren, “Jiu xu”, p. vii. 120 Never having been able to satisfy advice to arm myself with the vocabulary of “reader-response” criticism and the writings of H. R. Jauss and Wolfgang Iser, I was relieved to find some of my misgivings about the abstractions of this school shared by Robert Hume: see Reconstructing Contexts, pp. 18–25, 76–7. Research methods quite the opposite of “reader-response” theory, in that they are concerned with “real acts



What goes on between the reader and the foreign text is again a special category,121 and a reader preparing to translate that text into his or her own language reads differently than most of us do for the first time, and will read in still another way for the second. An opponent of “translation theory”, in After Babel George Steiner constructed an ideal translator who starts out with an intuitive “trust” in the text, believing it to contain something important enough to justify the effort of rewriting it in another language.122 One may add that a translator’s need to approach a book or a writer—to enter, through translation, the “sphere of gravity” of another culture or to identify oneself with another person—could be a stronger imperative than the need to convey this private enchantment to others.123

of reading” and “the reading of real readers”, are introduced in David S. Miall, “Empirical Approaches to Studying Literary Readers: The State of the Discipline” (quoting pp. 308, 309). 121 One of the better attempts at a definition, precisely because it acknowledges that its “dimensions” are far from excluding each other, is made in David Damrosch, What Is World Literature?, pp. 11–12: “Any full response to a foreign text is likely to operate along all three of these dimensions: a sharp difference we enjoy for its sheer novelty; a gratifying similarity that we find in the text or project onto it; and a middle range of what is like-but-unlike—the sort of relation most likely to make a productive change in our own perceptions and practices” (emphasis in the original). 122 The next three stages in the translator’s work, according to this model, are decipherment (breaking the foreign code), appropriation (i.e. domestication of the foreign in the translator’s own language), and finally the restoration of balance between the source and the new text. See Steiner, After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation, pp. 312–18. 123 In a review of the Hebrew translation of Paul Ricoeur’s Sur la traduction, a distinguished Israeli (Tianjin-born, as one may precise in this context) translator from English, Spanish and Russian begged to differ with the explanations for the translator’s motivation as postulated by both Ricoeur and Steiner. “He (the translator—M. G.) is not necessarily motivated by curiosity and the wish to understand. One of the characteristic qualities of the translator is, rather, the capacity for admiration and love for the other, which overcomes any resistance. It is the urge of the actor, who through the part he performs aspires to be many characters, at different places and different times. When the text is of the highest order, it means dwelling for some time in the dominion of greatness. It seems to me that this, in most cases, is the more correct explanation for the need to translate again works that have already been translated; more correct than dissatisfaction with existing translations. It may be compared with the repeated performance of a musical piece by different musicians, not out of an aspiration to reach the perfect absolute which is the score sheet, but out of the wish to put oneself in the shoes of the author through your own personality. [. . .] In this way the translator seeks to add to the world something that had not been there before: his version of Shakespeare, Pushkin and so on. [This process] may be called ‘creative identification with the model’ ”. Rena Litvin, “Meshartam shel shnei adonim” (The Servant of Two Masters), Ha’aretz (Tel Aviv), “Books” supplement, 27 June 2007, p. 10 (my translation).



The significance that Chinese translators have attached to their work may be appreciated by reading their introductions and postscripts. An Introduction by Ba Jin (1904–2005), probably the best-loved writer in modern China, to his translation of Peter Kropotkin’s autobiography Memoirs of a Revolutionist, began with the words: “This is my favourite book and the book that has had the greatest influence on my intellectual development”. Ba Jin described both the utter financial failure of his translation upon its first appearance, and his nonchalance about that side of the publishing business: his only reason for taking up the enterprise had been his veneration of Kropotkin’s Memoirs. “I understand better than anyone else”, he said, “that all my books put together could not measure up to this one”.124 The excitement of discovery as well as the self-deprecating stance of the discoverer had much to do with the elusive “spirit of May Fourth”. The position of the translator vis-à-vis the text will be further discussed below. But fascination with foreign literature did not disappear once the returned students’ dreams of a new China had given way to a more sombre reality; long repressed, it re-emerged as soon as it could, with Ba Jin himself leading readers back to Russian literature in the 1980s. The first-person narrator of another Chinese author, an émigré writing in French in 2000, is a city youth sent down to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. The life of Dai Sijie’s hero is transformed by his discovery of the novels of Balzac, in the translation of Fu Lei: “Ba-er-za-ke”. Traduit en chinois, le nom de l’auteur français formait un mot de quatre idéogrammes. Quelle magie que la traduction! Soudain, la lourdeur des deux premières syllabes, la résonance guerrière et agressive dotée de ringardise de ce nom disparaissaient. Ces quatre caractères, très élégants, dont chacun se composait de peu de traits, s’assemblaient pour former une beauté inhabituelle, de laquelle émanait une saveur exotique [. . .]125

124 Ba Jin, “Zhong yizhe qianji”, p. 1. This Introduction was written for the third edition of Wo de zizhuan in 1939; Ba Jin’s translation had first appeared in 1930. In addition to the original American edition (Kropotkin’s memoirs were first published in English, in New York in 1899), the translator had perused the Japanese and the authorized French versions. 125 Dai Sijie, Balzac et la Petite Tailleuse chinoise, p. 61. The translator Fu Lei (1908–66) is a constant presence in the novel (see pp. 114, 155). On p. 179 the narrator weeps in homage to his admired translator, as he hears that Fu had been declared “enemy of the people”; in reality, following the first attacks against him, the acclaimed translator of fifteen novels by Balzac and Rolland’s Jean-Christophe had committed suicide together



It is hoped that readers specializing in Chinese and Russian literature will not be the only ones to share the excitement that this book on Russian literature in China will try to convey. Students of translation and comparative literature, more accustomed to dividing their attention between two cultures at a time, did not have to be reminded by the last quotation of the West’s potential to seem as “exotically” alluring to the East as vice versa. Setting out from the same curiosity, our study of the discovery of Russian writers by Chinese readers becomes our own discovery of a cultural environment, in which “Russian literature” was both admired and appropriated. While the early surge of Chinese enthusiasm for world culture came to be submerged in torrents of political propaganda, a new and more confident wave is now, once again, gathering in strength. Shortly before Dai Sijie had published his French-language tribute to Balzac, the prominent PRC writer Mo Yan was asked to compile an anthology of ten short stories that had influenced him. Evincing no need to apologize for ignoring native literature, he chose nine stories in translation (among them a story by Ivan Turgenev), and only one (Lu Xun’s “Forging the Swords”, from Old Tales Retold) by a writer in Chinese.126 To these problems of choice, between Chinese and translated literature, we shall return in due course. For the moment, it is perhaps most appropriate to think of this book as a lens: gradually zooming out from a close-up shot of a single translation of one novel by Savinkov, expanding to a wider angle on the translations and reception of Artsybashev, then to a group photo of the forty-two Chinese translators of Andreev. It is with the close-up that we begin.

with his wife. European literature serves in the novel as a key to the discovery of love and sexuality, and eventually of individualism and self-realisation (see pp. 113–15, 157 and the last chapter). Dai Sijie himself directed the successful film version of his book in 2002. On the hunger for foreign literature among youth in the late 1960s and early 1970s, cf. van Crevel, Language Shattered, pp. 40–43. 126 See Mo Yan’s Introduction, “Dute de shengyin”, in his (ed.) Suokong li de fangjian: yingxiang wo de 10 bu duanpian xiaoshuo, which includes some very frank statements of debt to his favourite foreign writers. There is, though, no hint of servility in Mo Yan’s readily avowed borrowings: having learnt from Sienkiewicz (the Polish writer introduced in China by Lu Xun and Zhou Zuoren) how to describe the ocean, he feels, upon reading him again, the simple joy of running into an old friend. It is Mo Yan who takes from Julio Cortázar the right “tune” he had needed to write a novel, not the Argentinean exile who thrusts his voice upon a Chinese disciple; and as Mo Yan describes himself as a pupil of Faulkner, he remarks in passing that “to call a writer one’s teacher one neither needs to kowtow, nor to obtain the teacher’s permission” (pp. 6–7).


SAVINKOV AND THE TECHNIQUE OF TRANSLATION I. Kon’ Blednyi and its author Literature is not the first association that the name Boris Savinkov evokes. While also a novelist and a poet, his rightful place is in the first rank of political activists involved in the revolutionary struggle and civil war in early twentieth-century Russia. Unlike Mikhail Artsybashev and Leonid Andreev, whose works in Chinese translation will be discussed in the following chapters, he was not a professional writer. As the novel Kon’ Blednyi (The Pale Horse) is inextricably tied to the career of Savinkov the political terrorist and to the violent upheavals of the most turbulent years in Russian history, we would do well to devote greater space here to the biography of the writer and to the historical background of his novel. These two are so closely linked that it would seem feasible to tell the story of the writer in parallel with that of the book. In January 1909, The Pale Horse appeared under the pseudonym V. Ropshin in the Moscow literary journal Russkaia Mysl’. A few months later it was issued in book form by the Shipovnik (Sweetbriar) publishing house in St. Petersburg. Between 1907 and 1911 the author of this work travelled a great deal, living mainly in France, where he would then settle before returning to Russia in 1917.1 Precisely the kind of activity depicted in fictionalized guise in the diary-form novel had condemned Savinkov to his long exile. Born in Kharkov in the Ukraine in 1879, he was brought up in Warsaw where his father served as a judge, a senior representative of Russian imperial power in Poland. As a student in St. Petersburg in 1898–9, Boris Savinkov became associated with the Social Democratic Party. However, he soon grew disenchanted with that party’s programme. As he himself testified, in the opening lines of the autobiography Vospominaniia terrorista (Memoirs of a Terrorist; published

1 Biographical information generally follows Richard B. Spence, Boris Savinkov: Renegade on the Left.


chapter one

Fig. 1. Boris Savinkov (photograph taken in Genoa prison, April 1922). Reproduced in A. L. Litvin et al., eds., Boris Savinkov na Lubianke: Dokumenty (Moscow: Rosspen, 2001).

serially in 1908–10, completed in 1912), by 1902 his allegiances had shifted to the “traditions of ‘The People’s Will’ ”.2 Between 1873 and 1876 the first Russian populists (known as “Narodniki”) concentrated on the dissemination of revolutionary ideas among the peasantry. After the suppression of the populists by the government in 1877, a terrorist association was established under the name “Zemlia i volia” (“Land and Liberty”). It launched the wave of assassinations that would characterize the Russian revolutionary movement from then on. In 1880 this organization was succeeded by “Narodnaia Volia”—“The People’s Will”, whose fighters managed to kill Tsar Alexander II in the


Savinkov, Vospominaniia Terrorista, p. 14.

savinkov and the technique of translation


following year. Under the rule of Alexander III, from 1881 to 1894, the state took drastic measures to wipe out this organization’s network. In late 1901, the goals and means of The People’s Will were revived with the emergence of the Party of Socialists-Revolutionaries, known as the SR.3 Another famous abbreviation, used to designate the arm of the party engaged, in contrast to its political arm, exclusively in the assassination of key figures of the tsarist government, was the BO, standing for “Boevaia Organizatsiia” (“Combat Organization”). A terrorist cell within a political party, the BO was Boris Savinkov’s field of action from the summer of 1903 until its dissolution in autumn 1905. Savinkov personally planned and participated in the two bestknown assassinations, considered the BO’s greatest triumphs: those of Viacheslav K. von Plehve, the minister of the interior, on 15 (28) July 1904 and of Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich, uncle of Tsar Nicholas II and Governor-General of Moscow, on 4 (17) February 1905.4 What was the ideological justification, in the eyes of their perpetrators, for these acts of political murder? We would be less interested here in the platform of the Party of Socialists-Revolutionaries, than in the motivation which had put the revolutionary fighter, who was soon to describe the events of those years in both documentary and fictional form, on the bloody path of terror. There is a passage in Memoirs of a Terrorist, where Savinkov makes clear just how distant from the official SR line were his and other BO members’ convictions. Mentioning his party’s condemnation, in July 1904, of terror in every other country apart from Russia (“where despotism disallows any form of open political struggle” and where, as consequence, “we are forced to oppose the violence of tyranny with the might of revolutionary justice”),5 Savinkov says that he and his associates in the Combat Organization had always viewed “central terror”, or action directe, as the only principle solution everywhere. At the same time, he emphatically rejected accusations in “anarchism”.

3 See Ch. 2, “The Party of Socialists-Revolutionaries and Terror”, in Anna Geifman, Thou Shalt Kill: Revolutionary Terrorism in Russia, 1894–1917, and survey of SR history in V. V. Shelokhaev, ed., Politicheskie partii Rossii: konets XIX—pervaia tret’ XX veka, pp. 433–52. 4 The Julian calendar, used in Russia until 14 Feb. 1918, lagged twelve days behind the Gregorian in the 19th century and thirteen days in the 20th. The dates of historical events as given below will refer to the Gregorian calendar, with OS (Old Style) dates indicated when required. 5 Savinkov, Vospominaniia terrorista, pp. 76–7.


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There was an Anarchist party in Russia, as well as a so-called “Maximalist” faction operating within the SR; both were regularly involved in political terror. Savinkov, however, would have no truck with either of these groups. His dissociation of himself from “the anarchists”, both in belief and in practice, is a common theme of the Memoirs. In The Pale Horse, too, in response to one of his fellow-terrorists’ suggestion that they shoot at random through a crowd of fancily dressed ladies and gentlemen, the autobiographical main hero says: “But, Fedor . . . We are not anarchists”.6 It seems, then, that we know what we are not. Yet we must find out what we are. In the pages of The Pale Horse, the question of what “I”, the first-person hero of the novel, believe in (as distinct from the collective “we” of the memoirs) makes Savinkov’s work of fiction an account of relentless self-examination. Savinkov wrote his memoirs and his novel roughly at the same time. The lack of moral introspection in the former, a laconic account of the BO’s terrorist activities, is more than amply made up for in the latter. The factual basis of The Pale Horse is mainly the second chapter of the Memoirs, narrating the assassination of Grand Duke Sergei, though echoes of the Plehve operation (as recounted in the first chapter of the autobiography) are evident too. The fictionalized account cannot be described as merely a “thinly disguised retelling of the [Sergei] assassination”, as Savinkov’s biographer Richard Spence observed in a book centred on the terrorist and political figure not the writer,7 for the story as told in the novel in 1909 has indeed proved sufficiently distant from the documentary narrative to allow for its occasional misinterpretation as “an autobiographical recasting surrounding the assassination of Plehve”.8 Rather than simply paint in words the members of the

6 Savinkov, trans. Vengerova, The Pale Horse (Dublin and London, 1917), p. 78. All quotations from the novel will be given in this English translation, hereafter abbreviated as PH. Comparison with the Russian Kon’ Blednyi refers to the text of 1909, the source of Vengerova’s English translation, as reprinted in Savinkov, Izbrannoe (Moscow, 1990). 7 Spence, Boris Savinkov: A Renegade on the Left, p. 92. 8 Scott W. Palmer, “A Crisis of Faith: Boris Savinkov and the Fighting Organization (1903–1912)”, p. 45 (emphasis mine). The terrorists’ stalking of their prey, the preparation of explosives and other details may appear similar, but closer comparison even of the journal version of the novel with Savinkov’s memoirs points clearly to the assassination of the Grand Duke. Thus Heinrich of the novel, handing to the narrator the bomb that was about to fall from his trembling hands (PH, p. 99) repeats a gesture of the terrorist Kulikovskii (Vospominaniia terrorista, p. 97); more importantly, Vospominaniia terrorista, p. 102, quotes Kaliaev’s letter from prison after the assassination (cf. PH, p. 128). Note that the months and days indicated by the novel’s diary entries are fictional, as is made evident by the dating of the assassination to “18 August” (PH, p. 128).

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hit-group who had carried out the assassination of the Grand Duke, the author appears to have added other characters to his portraits of several of the actual participants (himself, Ivan Kaliaev, Dora Brilliant).9 Through each of these characters, that were familiar to him from the entirety of his experience in the Combat Organization, he is then able to present a different answer to the enquiry pervading every page of the book: what, if anything at all, could make killing legitimate? “Why am I pursuing it? In the name of what do I go out to kill?”10 asks George, the first-person narrator and ringleader of the terrorist group. Unable to answer, he can only observe his four associates, each of whom seems to present a more or less clear motivation of their own: “I don’t know why I have taken up the work, but I know the reasons that have brought others into it”.11 Let us begin, then, with “the reasons of others”. There is Heinrich: twenty-two years old, a former student. “As for Heinrich, he does not trouble with riddles. The world to him is as simple as an alphabet. There are slaves on one side, masters on the other. The slaves revolt against the masters. It is right that a slave should kill. It is wrong that a slave should be killed. A day will come when the slaves shall conquer. Then there will be paradise on earth. All men will be equal; all will be well fed, and all will be free”.12 One of the stalkers, Heinrich will not eventually be the one to throw the bomb. Thus, once the Grand Duke is killed, he will be able to leave Moscow unscathed. Heinrich is in love with Erna, the chemist in charge of preparing the explosives. She, however, loves George, which is the main reason for her taking part in the assassination plot. Only once does the narrator tell us anything of the motivations behind Erna’s throwing in her lot with the terrorists: “Erna says she is ashamed to live”.13 Otherwise, her feelings for George are all she can think and speak about: it is love, then, that must be considered her personal “justification”. When failed attempts delay the assassination, the burden suddenly

9 The factory worker and self-avowed anarchist Fedor Nazarov, as portrayed in the Memoirs (see Vospominaniia terrorista, pp. 189–90), bears a great resemblance to “Fedor” of the novel, also a factory worker who simply wants to “blow them all up”. But Nazarov did not participate in the murder of Grand Duke Sergei; if he did serve as the prototype for Fedor, he must have been brought in by the author in order to represent the anarchist “justification” for political terror. 10 PH, p. 9. 11 Ibid. 12 PH, p. 169. 13 PH, p. 9.


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grows too heavy for Erna: “ ‘When will it all end, George?’ . . . ‘I can’t live for murder. I can’t’ ”.14 During one of these repeated assaults on the Grand Duke’s life, policemen’s bullets strike Fedor, whose bomb, aimed at Sergei, had only succeeded in blowing up his coachman. Fedor manages to shoot down at least seven of his pursuers before they get to him. As to Erna, about a month after the assassination she commits suicide as the police come knocking on her door. Three different answers to the question so harrowingly important to the narrator/author of The Pale Horse have been examined so far: those of a socialist, an anarchist and a woman in love. None of them, however, ponders as deeply about the “moral justification of killing” as does Vania—the famous Ivan Kaliaev, assassin of Grand Duke Sergei.15 His tireless quest for a solution is firmly grounded in his religious faith. There are only two paths for man to take in his life, that of Christ or that of Smerdiakov (the servant, and Ivan’s half-brother, in Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov);16 the choice is therefore one between utmost good and basest evil. The dream, for the realization of which Vania is ready to kill, is a Christian utopia far more demanding than Heinrich’s imagined paradise of material equality. Vania scorns socialism for its pettymindedness;17 as if the satisfaction of mere physical needs could ever be enough. His ideal is a world of universal, brotherly love: to love all mankind the way Christ did, to have simple, guileless faith in Him, are the only answers to the dilemmas life poses. But, for a person of such convictions, should murder not be unpardonable sacrilege? Vania is well aware he is about to commit a sin, but having struggled with this recognition throughout the novel, he emerges at peace with himself and with his decision. He expected to die, killed either by the bullets of the police or by shrapnel from the bomb he would throw at the Grand Duke’s carriage, and his death would atone for the life taken. Vania is the parallel of George in that he, too, never stops questioning PH, p. 101. Spence, Boris Savinkov: Renegade on the Left, p. 402, n. 75, identifies Vania explicitly with Kaliaev, and Erna with Dora Brilliant. A biographical sketch of Ivan Kaliaev (1877–1905) is in Shelokhaev, Politicheskie partii Rossii, p. 236. 16 PH, p. 10. The figure of Smerdiakov, frequently mentioned in Pale Horse, came to stand for all evil in Savinkov’s 1923 novel The Black Horse. Commonly invoked in Russian polemical writing, Dostoevsky’s character was endowed with the same symbolic intensity as Turgenev’s Bazarov, Goncharov’s Oblomov and Gogol’s Chichikov. In a pamphlet under the same title, published in 1921, Evgenii Chirikov called Gorky “The Smerdiakov of the Russian Revolution”. 17 PH, p. 32. 14 15

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himself about the “right to kill”; in the end, he succeeds in finding an answer where George has none. At the novel’s outset, George still feels a tinge of envy for those who are able to believe, be it in the resurrection of Christ (Vania) or “in socialism, in the coming paradise on earth” (Heinrich).18 He often reflects on a third kind of faith, the one inspired by love: while Erna’s emotions leave him indifferent, he is attracted to Elena, a twenty-yearold carefree beauty, whom he courts with dogged perseverance. But still, not even love exists; “There is no love, no world, no life. There is only death. Death is the crown—the crown of thorns”.19 Those who go on believing are laughable in George’s eyes: “I don’t understand how a man can believe in love, love God and live for the sake of love”.20 At the bottom of it all, there is just nothing. Therefore, I am my own God and law; my only reason to act this way or that is simply “because such is my wish”—increasingly, the refrain of George’s words. The search for “a moral justification” ultimately turns out to be as meaningless as all the rest. Once the Grand Duke has been killed, Vania is executed in prison (contrary to his wishes, he had survived the explosion). Shortly thereafter, George runs across Elena’s husband on a Moscow street. He challenges his rival to a duel and shoots him dead. Is it in any way different to kill this man than to kill the Tsar’s uncle? “Here is still another death. I have killed a man . . . Earlier I had an excuse: I was killing for the sake of an ideal, for a cause. . . . But now I have killed for my own sake. I wanted to kill, and I killed. Who is the judge? Who will judge me guilty? Who will justify me?. . . . Why is it right to kill for the sake of an ideal, for one’s country, and not for one’s own sake? Who will answer me?”21 In the wake of the murder, even George’s passion for Elena evaporates. Only a cavernous void is left, in which there is no room for the will to go on living. Sombrely, the concluding line echoes as yet another death sentence: PH, p. 8. PH, p. 96. 20 PH, p. 108. 21 PH, p. 165 (emphasis in the original). At this final stage of the novel, George’s questions remain the same as he had asked in the very beginning: cf. “[W]hy is murder justified in one case and not in another? People do find reasons, but I don’t know why one should not kill; and I cannot understand why to kill in the name of this or that is considered right, while to kill in the name of something else is wrong” (ibid., p. 5). 18 19


chapter one When the stars come out and the autumn night falls, I will say my last word: my revolver is with me.22

“A philosophy of revolution”, and a challenge to “revolutionary literature” In attempting to arrive at the “message” of Savinkov’s Pale Horse, let us resort to a method, which can only be justified by the consistency between the author’s literary output, starting from his first novel, and the life he lived: for he continued to search for an answer to the question permeating the pages of Kon’ Blednyi in both fiction and reality. These two sources will be used to bring out of the short ambiguous narrative of 1909 what (to borrow a phrase from Thomas Masaryk’s The Spirit of Russia) could be called the author’s “philosophy of revolution”. We shall then see what challenge The Pale Horse presented to the established genre of Russian “revolutionary literature”. V. Ropshin the writer made his second appearance on the literary scene with the serialisation in 1912 of a new novel, To, chego ne bylo (What Never Happened). Much broader in scope than The Pale Horse, this second book was both an ambitious account of the lives of revolutionaries in the years 1905–07 and a reiteration of the philosophical enquiry begun in the previous work. As Masaryk put it: “Either it is lawful to kill always, or not at all”.23 Elaborating, restating the dilemma all over again, yet offering no fresh contribution in the way of “solution”, What Never Happened turned the attention of critics and readers back to Ropshin’s first novel: a second edition of The Pale Horse appeared in the same year, now revealing the true identity of its author. The discussion that ensued was heated and intense, and it focused on the political implications of both novels rather than on their literary qualities. The portrayal in The Pale Horse of George’s passage from political assassination to plain murder and finally to what certainly seemed like suicide, could not—originating from a member of the Party of Socialists-Revolutionaries—be construed as anything but the repudiation of terror as a means in the political struggle. Not surprisingly, most of the criticism came from within the SR: twenty-two senior party figures

PH, p. 180. Thomas Garrigue Masaryk, The Spirit of Russia: Studies in History, Literature and Philosophy, vol. 2, p. 454. 22


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signed a petition against the author, who in their eyes had blasphemed the SR with “an outlook utterly alien to the movement”.24 Although Savinkov did question the moral permissibility and ultimate efficacy of individual terror, the angry letters of his readers that sought to dissuade the terrorist from abandoning the fight had been mistaken in identifying the author’s position with that of his protagonist. These readers had spilled their ink in vain. At the end of three years as military reporter with the French army during the World War, Savinkov resumed life in politics with a brief tenure as deputy minister of war in Kerensky’s provisional government. He took part in General Kornilov’s attempted coup d’état of August 1917 and in a failed plot to assassinate both Lenin and Trotsky in 1918, after which he returned to massive terror in the ranks of Colonel Kappel’s partisans (“I executed Bolsheviks and Germans by the hundreds”, he wrote).25 Back in Western Europe in 1919, Savinkov met with Churchill,26 Poland’s president Piłsudski, and every other statesman willing to supply capital and arms to the diminished White army now rallied under Admiral Kolchak. He participated in a disastrous campaign into Russia from the Polish border under General Bulak-Balakhovich in 1920 and thereafter shifted hectically between Warsaw, London, Berlin, and Paris. On 13 April 1922 he was briefly imprisoned in Italy for plotting to assassinate the members of the Soviet delegation attending the Genoa conference. In 1923 Savinkov was approached by Soviet secret agents, pretending to be representatives of a “party of liberal-democrats”—supposedly a clandestine anti-Soviet movement now gathering in strength and eager to appoint Savinkov its leader.27 In August 1924 he was eventually lured

24 Ibid., p. 457. See, on this criticism: Mogil’ner, Mifologiia “podpol’nogo cheloveka”, pp. 133–52. 25 Spence, Boris Savinkov: Renegade on the Left, p. 217. One would assume Savinkov had ordered these executions, rather than pulled the trigger himself; there is no evidence that he ever personally killed a man. See Dmitrii A. Zhukov, “B. Savinkov i V. Ropshin: Terrorist i pisatel’ ”, Nash sovremennik, no. 8, p. 171. Cf. on this: Spence, “The Terrorist and the Master Spy: The Political ‘Partnership’ of Boris Savinkov and Sidney Reilly, 1918–1925”, p. 113. 26 The impressions of this meeting gave rise to the chapter “Boris Savinkov” in Winston S. Churchill, Great Contemporaries [1937], pp. 125–33, an admiring survey of Savinkov’s life in politics, concluding with the words: “[W]hen all is said and done, and with all the stains and tarnishes there be, few men tried more, gave more, dared more and suffered more for the Russian people”. 27 The essentials of this famous conspiracy, known under the code-name “Syndicate2”, are in Nikita Struve, Soixante-dix ans d’émigration russe, 1919–1989, pp. 36–8. For


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into the USSR, to be immediately arrested, tried and condemned to death. The court’s sentence was surprisingly commuted to ten years’ imprisonment after the accused had publicly embraced the Soviet regime and promised to collaborate with his former enemies. Yet less than a year later, on 7 May 1925 Boris Savinkov leapt, or was thrown, out of a prison window. The official verdict pronounced it suicide, but conflicting evidence on this final mystery—including alleged confessions by Savinkov’s jailers, collected by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and published in his GULAG Archipelago—continues to obscure our knowledge of Savinkov’s end.28 One common thread runs through this remarkable career: the awareness that what one did was futile yet still had to be done. We find numerous statements by Savinkov to this effect, nowhere more poignant and razor-sharp than in his third, last novel Kon’ Voronoi (The Black Horse, written in Paris during 1923 and published the following year with an Introduction added from behind the walls of Moscow’s “Inner prison”). Covering the period from November 1920 to March 1922, the book harks back to Kon’ Blednyi in much more than is evident from its title, a restatement of the writer’s fascination with an apocalyptic topos prominent in Russian literature at least since Pushkin’s Bronze Horseman.29 V. Ropshin’s first novel had carried the following two epigraphs on its front page: “and behold a pale horse; and his name that sat on him was Death”, from the Revelation of John 6.8, and “But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes”, from The First Epistle General of John 2.11. Kon’ Voronoi now opened with verse 5 of Revelation 6, and the same warning from the First Epistle of John. Because Kon’ Voronoi (another diary-form novel) is a fully intended

an account from the Soviet KGB files, see the chapter on Savinkov in Shentalinskii, Donos na Sokrata, esp. pp. 108–23, and for the interpretation of the affair by Savinkov’s former associates in the Russian emigration, Zubarev, “Amfiteatrov i russkie v Pol’she (1922–1932)”. 28 Hearsay evidence on Savinkov’s murder, reported by survivors of the camps such as writers Solzhenitsyn and Shalamov, has generally been mistrusted by historians. Following Spence and Shentalinskii, the commentators of an extensive recent collection of KGB (currently, FSB) documents see no reason to doubt the suicide version, though they too cannot explain Savinkov’s decision to espouse the Soviet regime. Litvin, Boris Savinkov na Lubianke, pp. 42–3. 29 See David M. Bethea, The Shape of the Apocalypse in Modern Russian Fiction (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989).

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elaboration on the philosophical query of the first book, with which it maintains a conscious dialogue,30 we can look to it for some clues on George’s inner conflict. Nearly twenty years after the assassination of Grand Duke Sergei, we are once again led by the narrator and main protagonist (again, he is called George) to the realization that murder will remain murder whatever the “ideological” guise in which one may attempt to enwrap it. Mighty rivers of blood now flood the ravished Russian hinterland, making the streamlets released, back then, by the city romantics of the BO pale in the comparison. Peasants enlisting with the Whites today and with the Reds tomorrow have not the least idea why they kill or what “higher purpose” is served by their action. Along with scenes of abominable cruelty (of which none—“reds”, “whites” and “greens”—are exempt), the unanswerable question “what are we fighting for?” haunts the pages of The Black Horse.31 Yet despite the futility of the struggle, the lack not only of “moral justification” for murder but even of any measure of certainty that the violence inherent to the combat for the cause would ever bring that “cause” any nearer to its achievement, a self-imposed call for action pertains: herein lies what we may indeed call Savinkov’s “philosophy of revolution”. Fight, as both Georges of The Pale and The Black Horse do, even though you are honest enough to admit that there can be no 30 Compare Savinkov, Kon’ Voronoi, in Izbrannoe, p. 382 (a call “to go out and kill”) with PH, pp. 23, 26, 151; Kon’ Voronoi, p. 421 (the juxtaposition of two paths: either Smerdiakov or Karamazov) and PH, pp. 10, 38, 41, 144 (here, it is either Smerdiakov or Christ). The moral imperative “Thou shalt not kill”, constantly present in Kon’ Voronoi (pp. 386, 410, 419), had already been a main theme of George’s arguments with Vania (see, e.g., PH, pp. 32, 79). “Cranberry juice”, as a metaphor for blood (Kon’ Voronoi, p. 386) refers back to a memorable passage towards the end of The Pale Horse (PH, p. 175), which in turn corresponds with Alexander Blok’s poem “Balaganchik” (The Fair Show Booth, July 1905; Blok published a better-known play under the same title in 1906). Finally, George of Kon’ Voronoi establishes a clear identity between himself and his predecessor in Kon’ Blednyi: “Once, I said: ‘I don’t want to be a slave, not even a free slave. All my life has been a clash. I drink my wine undiluted’. I drink it now” (p. 419; the inner quote is indeed from PH, p. 169). Mikhail Artsybashev considered Black Horse to be based on experiences related to Savinkov by his then close associate, Sergei Pavlovskii: see Zubarev, “Amfiteatrov i russkie v Pol’she (1922–1932)”, p. 429; idem, “M. P. Artsybashev: Pis’ma Borisu Savinkovu”, p. 68, n. 10. 31 See Kon’ Voronoi, pp. 384, 390, 391. The “greens” were peasant rebels, whom George joined in the second part of the book. Savinkov himself had founded the “green movement”, with the intention of unleashing a nationwide partisan war against the Communists; Churchill, in his above-cited essay on Savinkov, called them “guerrilla of the Green Guards—a sort of Robin Hood warfare”.


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end to justify the means. Thomas Masaryk proposes the following definition of the “philosophy” of The Pale Horse: “Ropshin . . . . knows that the maxim ‘everything is permissible’ is false and wrong; he is forced to admit that he has no right to kill. Yet he kills, knowing that he does wrong, for, ‘One must have courage enough to say, This is wrong, cruel, and terrible; but it is inevitable’ ”.32 With a credo such as this, Ropshin’s hero went out to die for the cause neither with fervent belief in its justice nor eager to quickly pay with his own life for the moral sin committed through the struggle. To the former genre of never-doubting revolutionaries belonged the nihilist terrorists described by the exiled terrorist and writer Stepniak (1851–95).33 It is this writer whom an innovative recent study credits with the invention of a particular type of revolutionary Hero, that dominated Russian literature until about 1907: a Hero, whose mythologized image relied on self-sacrifice and on the abnegation of any personal desire in the name of loyalty to the Party and the people.34 Ideologically pure, he or she could not become contaminated by the act of killing, which was described as carrying out the revenge of the oppressed masses, never as murder. The Hero’s natural environment was “Underground Russia”: title of a famous book by Stepniak, first published in Italy in 1882, but only made widely available to readers in Russia in 1905. Among other biographical sketches, it presented those of Peter Kropotkin, Gesia Gel’fman, Vera Zasulich and Sophia Perovskaia. The Hero’s demise began after the events of that year had confronted the Russian intelligentsia with the unadorned cruelty and chaos of “revolution”. The second type of martyr, one markedly different from Stepniak’s atheist terrorists, was introduced in the person of Vania in The Pale Horse: consumed by doubt, he finds his solution in a sacrifice more religious than political. The third type, however, no longer had an “ideology” to offer him the comfort that—whatever it was—it was worth dying and killing for. This was the challenge posed by George, the first-person hero of Savinkov’s novel, to Russian revolutionary literature: for the first Masaryk, The Spirit of Russia, vol. 2, p. 461. Ibid., p. 451. Stepniak was the pseudonym of Sergei Kravchinskii: a “nihilist” terrorist who in 1878 stabbed to death N. V. Mezentsov, Chief of the Secret Police. His memoirs, Career of a Nihilist, and a pamphlet, “A Life for a Life”, described that assassination. 34 This and the following paragraph summarize the argument of Mogil’ner, Mifologiia “podpol’nogo cheloveka”; see esp. her chapter entitled “The Pale Horse”, pp. 102–20. 32 33

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time, from within the very “underground” world in which, so people believed, the struggle for Russia’s future was conducted by morally pure fighters, a voice emerged and questioned the myth of self-sacrifice, spoke of sexual desire in the revolutionary circle and called political terror an act of murder. With Ropshin’s George, the mythical Hero of “underground Russia” was transformed into the alienated individualist hero of modernist European literature; assisted by Artsybashev’s Sanin (eponymous hero of a novel published already in 1907), he was to displace the idealised figure of the revolutionary in the works of the “Silver age”, until, upon the outbreak of the Great War, demands for patriotic writing changed the tenor of Russian literature. The October revolution would then reanimate the iron-willed Hero of the 1880s, while no longer locating him in Stepniak but in Gorky.35 This is now Savinkov himself, proclaiming in Paris: “Je dois aller en Russie, fût-ce pour y mourir dans la lutte avec les bolcheviks. Je montrerai à mes compagnons du parti qui avaient prêché la terreur au temps de tsarisme, et qui maintenant se taisent, comment il faut mourir pour la Russie”,36 and instead of going on to die shrouded in the glory of a revolutionary martyr, à la Kaliaev, abruptly changing his “convictions” to depart from this world reviled by both camps. But, “A choice must be made: either ‘Thou shalt not kill’—in which case we all are murderers . . . . or ‘eye for eye and tooth for tooth’—in which case there is hardly any need for justification. . . . Why should one fear to be called a murderer and wish to be called a hero? After all, what do I care for what other people might say?”37 And again, commenting on Vania’s death as a martyr: “I will die as he died, but my death will be dark . . .”38

35 Ibid., pp. 114–15, 205. On Gorky, and for similar conclusions on the role of The Pale Horse in the temporary discarding of the idealised revolutionary hero from Russian literature by 1913, see Aileen M. Kelly, “The Intelligentsia and Self-Censorship”, collected in her Toward Another Shore: Russian Thinkers Between Necessity and Chance, pp. 134–54. Both Kelly and Mogil’ner also discuss the impact of other factors on the decline of the positive Hero after 1905: the betrayal of Evno Azef, leader of the SR Combat Organization, who in 1908 was unmasked as a double agent of the tsarist police; and the publication in March 1909 of a volume of essays which, under the title Signposts (Vekhi), criticized the intelligentsia’s unconditional support for the “revolutionary” Left. 36 Struve, Soixante-dix ans d’émigration russe, p. 38. 37 PH, p. 26. 38 PH, p. 145. For Savinkov’s own perception of philosophical incompatibility with his comrades in arms, cf. an important letter of 1907, “Pis’mo B. V. Savinkova V. N. Figner” (Letter to Vera Figner), in Minuvshee, no. 18 (1995), p. 196.


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The approach we have used here, a parallel “reading” of the author’s life and the soul-searching of his heroes, has taken us some distance away from the original text. One example is the novel’s ending: does George’s implied suicide (notice, though, that he has not yet pulled the trigger) denote a renunciation of terror? It is only in retrospect that we know it did not: the lives of both the writer Ropshin and the terrorist Savinkov point to the contrary. George, too, resurfaces in the pages of The Black Horse fifteen years later; ever more tormented now by the moral dilemmas we remember from the first novel, he nevertheless carries on his struggle. Yet this knowledge, which apart from the reading of later texts necessitated some grounding in Russian history, could only have been acquired outside the scope of the book. With only The Pale Horse as reference, and even that text only available through the intermediary of another language, how would one read this cryptic roman à clef about the lives of Russian revolutionaries? What kind of “message” would one find in its pages? It is with these questions in mind that we now turn to China, and to one of V. Ropshin’s very first readers there. II. The Pale Horse in China Born in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, in December 1898, the translator of Pale Horse into Chinese was twenty-three years old when, in its July issue of 1922, the literary journal Xiaoshuo yuebao (The Short Story Magazine) carried the first instalment of Huise ma along with the translator’s introduction. But Zheng Zhenduo was by then no newcomer to the literary world: having arrived in Peking from his native province in July 1917, in December 1920 he was among the twelve founders of the Literary Research Association, which proved to be the most influential among the many literary societies created by adherents of the movement for New Literature. In January 1921 the Commercial Press in Shanghai gave over the editing of Xiaoshuo yuebao (founded 1910) to the Association, making Shen Yanbing (who was to become the famous writer Mao Dun, 1896–1981) the first editor of this journal in its new role as a vehicle of literary reform and central platform for translated fiction. In January 1923, Zheng would replace his friend, to edit Xiaoshuo yuebao until it ceased publication in January 1932. In the same month when the Literary Research Association was founded, Zheng Zhenduo graduated from the Peking School of Railway

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Administration (Beijing tielu guanli xuexiao). Classes there were given in the morning, and the free afternoons had allowed him daily excursions to the YMCA library.39 In all probability, it had been there, among the shelves of Russian fiction in English translation which he avidly perused during his four years as a student in the capital,40 that The Pale Horse by V. Ropshin had first caught his eye. Zheng Zhenduo knew no Russian; his passionate involvement with Russian literature and his many translations from it were effected through English sources. Let us therefore begin (demonstrating, by way of this example, the transmission routes of Russian literature to China)41 with the book that for Zheng replaced the original Russian text of Kon’ Blednyi. The intermediary: Zinaida Vengerova’s English translation Zinaida Vengerova (1867–1941) is well-known both as a leading turnof-the-century Russian interpreter of West European literature and as a prolific translator with more than two hundred English, French, German, Italian and Spanish titles to her credit. Her linguistic skills allowed her to translate Russian writers into English (the works of Tolstoy, among others) and English writers into Russian, as well as to publish literary essays in four languages. For these accomplishments, and her many acquaintances in European literary circles, a recent biographer has called Vengerova “a literary ambassador between East and West”.42 As a young woman, she studied in Vienna and St Petersburg, read French literature at the Sorbonne, and travelled to England and

39 Vladislav F. Sorokin, “Zheng Zhenduo: Man and Scholar”, p. 106. See the short biography of Zheng by his son, Zheng Erkang, Zheng Zhenduo, pp. 7, 14; the novelistic biography by Chen Fukang, Zheng Zhenduo zhuan, pp. 31–2. 40 Zheng left a detailed description of the YMCA library in Peking and its collection of translated Russian fiction in his “Xiangqi he Jizhi tong zai yi chu de rizi” (Remembering Common Days with [Geng] Jizhi; 1947), in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 2, p. 580. 41 A previous example of the approach taken here is Ch. 3 of Sun Naixiu, Tugeniefu yu Zhongguo; see esp. pp. 167–72, on the role played by the translations of Constance Garnett (1861–1946) in the Chinese discovery of Turgenev. 42 Rosina Neginsky, Zinaida Vengerova: In Search of Beauty. A Literary Ambassador between East and West. The “East” of the sub-title obviously refers to Russia, while the extension of Vengerova’s “ambassadorial” functions to the Far East has not been previously discussed. An autobiographical sketch by Vengerova, with list of publications by and about her as of 1914, were included by her brother, the renowned bibliographer and critic Semen Vengerov (1855–1920), in idem, Russkaia literatura XX veka 1890–1910 (originally published 1914–18), vol. 1, pp. 138–40; vol. 2, pp. 350–56.


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Fig. 2. Zinaida Vengerova, around 1896. From Rosina Neginsky, Zinaida Vengerova: In Search of Beauty. A Literary Ambassador between East and West (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2004).

Italy. Living in London from 1908 to 1912, she lectured widely on Russian literature, establishing her British reputation in these years. Her translation of The Pale Horse came out, in Dublin and London, in 1917. The background for taking up this particular novel may have been of a more personal nature than most of her translation work, as Vengerova was on intimate terms with the poet Zinaida Gippius, who, along with her husband the writer Dmitrii Merezhkovskii, was Boris Savinkov’s main patron in the literary world.43 An émigré in Berlin,

43 See Vsevolod E. Bagno, “ ‘Krasnyi’ tsikl pisem Zinaidy Gippius k Zinaide Vengerovoi”. The epigraphs for The Pale Horse, the novel’s title and the nom de plume that would accompany its author throughout his literary career, had all been chosen by Zinaida Gippius (1869–1945), at whose Paris apartment Savinkov was a frequent guest during his years in France. The role of Gippius and Merezhkovskii is discussed by Niqueux in his Introduction to Savinkov, Le Cheval blême.

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London and Paris from 1921, Vengerova would spend the last four years of her life with her younger sister in New York.44 Some aspects in Vengerova’s translation of the novel stand out in a parallel reading of the Russian and the English texts. The original Kon’ Blednyi makes use of several levels of speech: the racy working-class patois of Fedor; the religious overtones of Vania; the colloquial exchange of passers-by on the street, and the subservient talk of domestics; even the distinct voice of a merchant, overheard in a chance theatre encounter. The English of The Pale Horse is, however, homogeneous, with no attempt made to reflect in like manner the strongly differentiated registers of the Russian text. This important stylistic effect (the multivocality, or “heteroglossia” of the novel—in the terminology made popular by Mikhail Bakhtin) is thus lost for the English reader, and with it much of the doubt, which the author appeared intent on conveying to readers of his book, that a “common cause” could ever be pursued by a George, or a Vania, on behalf of Fedor or the hotel waiters. When an idiomatic expression proves too difficult to translate, the translation tends to explain it, again diluting most stylistic value in the process; often enough it is just dropped. An underlying concern is felt in the English text, one known to anybody who has ever translated from his or her native language: that “the foreigner might not understand”. Thus, metaphors turn to similes whenever possible. The speech of characters is punctuated with frequent “quite”s and “rather”s, presumably to make it more familiar to the English reader, but this solicitous approach also denies the reader access to other devices of the author such as ellipsis and an unorthodox usage of the present tense. Typically, a city square twice depicted as “white” is only allowed in the translation as “covered with snow”.45 “Aha” becomes “Oh, so that’s how things stand”.46 The dramatic tone of the narrator’s present (“I look through the window; I say to her . . .”), especially important in the first pages, is invariably flattened into regular past.

44 “The venerable” Isabelle Vengerova (1877–1956) was a pianist, and teacher among many others of Leonard Bernstein: see the biographical entry by S. Grokhotov in V. V. Shelokhaev, ed., Russkoe zarubezh’e, zolotaia kniga emigratsii, pp. 141–42. The Vengerov sisters were aunts (and Isabelle—first piano teacher) of the distinguished American musicologist Nicolas Slonimsky (1894–1995; in the USA from 1923). 45 PH, pp. 2, 40. 46 PH, p. 57. The Russian nu (“well”) is, in another dialogue, translated once as: “ ‘And then, what happened?’ ” (p. 48) and immediately thereafter turned into: “ ‘What did they do to her?’ ” (ibid.).


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Moving from the stylistics that shaped The Pale Horse as a work of modernist fiction to what may be broadly defined as realia (aspects of religious ceremonies or daily clothing; the denominations of objects or abstract concepts, native to one culture, but non-existent and in need of an explanation in another), the English translator does not appear to follow a clear code of action, tackling the problem differently each time it arises. Sometimes the same English word is used to accommodate different objects that mean “more or less the same”: pince-nez and ochki are both rendered as “glasses”;47 on another occasion just the opposite happens ( poddevka is translated twice as “tunic”, on the third instance with the added translator’s explanation—“such as worn by men of the lower class”—and once it turns into “a peasant’s coat”).48 At one point transliteration is given for likhach (a footnote explains the term as “a superior class of cab-drivers, provided with fast-running horses and smart carriages”),49 and while this transliteration is repeated later in the text, a few pages earlier the same likhach had been translated, silently, as a “smart carriage”.50 Footnotes are seldom employed (they accompany mention of Smerdiakov and St. Seraphim of Sarov),51 and more often than not terms of specific reference to Russian culture simply fail to find their way into the English translation. An example of this is George reading the Niva, but merely “an old literary magazine” in the English version.52 A more important loss for the English reader is the rather meaningless question that Heinrich is made to ask: “ ‘Have you read, George, what they say in the News?’ ”.53 The anonymous “News” is nothing else than the SR Party organ, a reference made clear in the 1909 original, where George’s subsequent disdain for the paper’s coverage of the governor’s assassination emphasised his own dismissal of “party ideology” as possible moral justification for the terrorist act. This loss of “local colour” in the English translation, through both adaptation and generalization, blurs a picture already made vague

PH, pp. 16, 89. See PH, pp. 2 and 29; p. 9; p. 69, respectively. 49 PH, p. 80, note. 50 PH, p. 53; cf. p. 84. 51 PH, pp. 10, 76. 52 PH, p. 137. Niva (sometimes translated as The Cornfield) was a weekly family magazine, published in St. Petersburg from 1870 to 1916 and best known for the literary supplements, which accompanied its every issue from 1891. 53 PH, p. 151. 47 48

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enough in the source text. Any uninitiated reader of Ropshin’s book, as published in Russia in 1909, would have found it difficult to locate the scene of the plot. The two towns (Moscow and St Petersburg), in which action takes place, are coded as N. and X.; the “Governor’s” identity remains unknown, and no specific reason offered for his eventual assassination (why him, and not some other public figure?). Zheng Zhenduo would never have suspected that the initial version of the book, which Vengerova translated, had been severely censored. Indeed, publishers in post-Soviet Russia continue reprinting the 1909 text to this day. However, Vengerova was doubtless aware that the author had published a complete Russian text in France in 1913, restoring the missing names and spelling out the geographical locations.54 Vengerova had reasons to be prudent, and she was following a strategy that she had used in the past to stay out of trouble while translating controversial fiction.55 However, the excision of geographical and historical references, especially when coupled with inadequate transmission of Russian speech and of the attributes of Russian daily life, left the English version of The Pale Horse suspended in limbo. While Vengerova’s is not what one might call a “bad” translation (gross mistakes and unaccountable omissions being few and far between),56 it was the work of a busy professional apparently not aiming for meticulousness, and who preferred to

54 See V. Ropshin, Kon’ Blednyi (Nice: M. A. Tumanov, 1913). The French translation published by Michel Niqueux in 2003 is based on this edition. Advertised as the first modern reissue of the Nice version, the novel as included in Boris Savinkov, Zapiski terrorista; avtobiograficheskaia proza (Moscow: Zakharov, 2002), bizarrely proves to be nothing of the sort, opening with the words “Yesterday evening I arrived in N.” (in Moscow, as Savinkov made plain in the edition of 1913). In 1994 Viktor Leonidov found an untitled and undated manuscript of another short novel in diary form in Savinkov’s archive, probably the missing middle part between Kon’ Blednyi and Kon’ Voronoi: see Leonidov, “Neizvestnaia rukopis’ B. V. Savinkova”. Set against the background of sterile émigré life in Nice, apparently in the early 1910s, this work employs the familiar technique of interspersing biblical and poetic quotations to describe George’s longing to resume his revolutionary struggle in Russia. The memory of Kaliaev is evoked, a woman’s love is rejected, and a pathetic Party representative (Andrei Petrovich of The Pale Horse) is ridiculed once more, here under the name Pavel Danilovich. 55 In 1908 Vengerova had exercised self-censorship by omitting, or toning down, passages in her translation of Anatole France’s L’Île des pingouins. A second, more faithful Russian version of that novel in the following year, would be confiscated, with charges pressed against the translators and publishers. See commentary by S. R. Brakhman, in Anatole France, Sobranie sochinenii v 8 tomakh (Collected Works in 8 vols.) (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1959), vol. 6, p. 696. 56 Four sentences in Vania’s speech are omitted on p. 12, and so is an entire twopage entry for 11 March.


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sacrifice the author’s ambitious stylistic experiments rather than put at risk the reception of the book. Another difficulty in Kon’ Blednyi, and one that the author left intact in his 1913 version of the novel, is presented by the numerous unattributed quotations with which the text is interspersed (all coming from the New Testament, in Vania’s case, and otherwise including also French and Russian poetry). A German translation based on the uncensored 1909 manuscript is helpful here, as—possibly assisted in this task by the author—its translators made the effort of identifying these quotations in their footnotes.57 Apart from the two biblical epigraphs, with which the novel begins, we find seventeen direct citations from, and two allusions to the New Testament; one quotation each from the Song of Solomon, Paul Verlaine and the Odyssey (other literary references, that remained unidentified in the German, were verses from Pushkin’s “Prophet” and from Tiutchev’s “Noon”). This mapping out of the biblical excerpts in Das fahl Pferd allows us to re-examine the English translation so as to establish that, with hardly any exceptions, its quotations from the Bible followed the King James (Authorised Version) word by word. Obviously, Vengerova recognized Ropshin’s quotations. That she did not indicate their biblical sources made things considerably more difficult for the next translator. Let us now take this particular problem as our point of departure, as we proceed from Kon’ Blednyi, through The Pale Horse, to Huise ma.

57 In Jan. 1909, parallel to the appearance of the mangled Russian version in Moscow, a German translation of the original MS was published in Copenhagen, with the author’s name coded as “Leo . . .”: see Aage Madelung and Otto Völckers, Das fahl Pferd: Aufzeichnungen eines Terroristen. Such glaring omissions as a two-page diary entry of 4 April, containing Fedor’s account of his earlier terrorist activities, were restored here (pp. 35–7; see the Russian in Kon’ Blednyi [1913], pp. 23–5) along with the minute topography of Moscow streets, parks and taverns. Savinkov first met the Danish writer Aage Madelung (1872–1949) while in exile in Vologda in 1902–3 and maintained contact with him in the late 1900s. In 1909 Madelung also published a translation of The Pale Horse into Danish; his only other translation from Russian was the story “The Grand Slam” by Leonid Andreev. Cf. Peter A. Jensen and Peter U. Møller, Pis’ma A. M. Remizova i V. Ia. Briusova k O. Madelungu, p. 9; Savinkov, Vospominaniia Terrorista, p. 292. Madelung’s political sympathies, as a supporter of anti-tsarist terror, were expressed in English in one of his several contributions to the London New Age: see his “The Terror” in vol. 6, no. 24 (April 1910), pp. 565–66, on the SR’s assassination of the Prefect of St Petersburg, Vladimir von der Launitz, in Jan. 1907.

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The Chinese translation by Zheng Zhenduo Zheng Zhenduo’s rendering of the two epigraphs preceding the first chapter of the novel (the only biblical quotations explicitly identified by the Russian author, and then by his English translator) shows him relying on the “Chinese Union Version” of the Bible, copying both verses from Revelation 6.8 and from The First Epistle General of John 2.11.58 In three more cases when Zheng was able to trace the source of lengthy quotations from chapters 11 and 20 of St. John, he also followed the “Chinese Union” translation, albeit with minor alterations, adding each time a “translator’s note” of his own to point out these sources for the reader’s benefit.59 However, on every other occasion when he came across Vengerova’s quotations from the King James Bible, the Chinese translator failed to match the feat of his predecessor: instead of quoting from the “Union Version”, he simply translated Vengerova’s English. The need to provide Chinese transcriptions (rather than “transliterations”, there being of course no Chinese alphabet) for the names of biblical characters appears to have been exasperating, though it was a problem with which he had dealt before. Having already turned Lazarus into Lacaolu and Martha into Masha60 (the corresponding “Chinese Union”

58 Compare Huise ma, in Xiaoshuo yuebao, vol. 13, no. 7 (1922), p. 5 with the parallel text in Shengjing, pp. 360 and 346. All references to the Chinese translation of the novel (hereafter abbreviated as HSM, followed by the relevant issue number of Xiaoshuo yuebao) are to the most easily accessible journal version of 1922. The book-form version, with introductory material by Qu Qiubai and Mao Dun (see below), is reprinted in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 19, pp. 3–146. 59 HSM, no. 11, pp. 2–3. The Chinese (or: Mandarin) Union Version Bible was first published in 1919 and “quickly superseded all previous versions [to become] the Bible for Chinese Christians everywhere”, according to I-Jin Loh, “Chinese Translations of the Bible”, p. 63. There were two editions, one using shangdi and the other using shen, as translations for “God” (ibid.). 60 HSM, no. 7, p. 9; no. 8, p. 9. Zheng chose another transcription of Lazarus than that used by Shen Zemin in his 1920 translation of a story by Leonid Andreev (“Lanshalesi”, to be discussed in Ch. 4). The conversion to Chinese of foreign names and locations was still an open field at the time, though proposals for standardization were debated in the pages of Xiaoshuo yuebao; see Zheng’s own contribution of June 1921, “Shending wenxue shang mingci de tiyi” (Suggestion for an Approved Standard of Terms Occurring in Literary Texts), reprinted in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 15, pp. 77–94. Lu Xun, in “Budong de yinyi” (Incomprehensible Transcriptions; Nov. 1922), collected in Refeng (Hot Wind, 1925), in LXQJ (2005), vol. 1, pp. 417–22, defended the (today standard) method of using random Chinese characters to convey the sound of the foreign name, as opposed to attempts at translating the name’s meaning.


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Fig. 3. Zheng Zhenduo, in the study of the new apartment to which he moved after getting married in October 1923: No. 9, Baoxing Xili, Zhabei District, Shanghai. Courtesy of the Lu Xun Museum, Beijing.

versions being Lasalu and Mada), Zheng may have thought better of “reinventing the wheel” with Annas and Caiaphas, whose names he wrote in Roman letters61—an indicator, throughout Huise ma, of terms unfamiliar to the translator. Christian terms, such as Mass and Calvary do not fare any better in Zheng’s translation: the first he had evidently mistaken for a reference to “the masses”,62 whereas the second—perhaps under the influence of “cavalry”—turns in his interpretation of “He must ascend his own Calvary” into “he must strengthen his military spirit” (ta bixu tigao ta ziji de wushi jingshen).63 Faced with the task of translating George’s childhood

HSM, no. 12, p. 18. HSM, no. 7, p. 5. Zheng did translate “Mass” correctly as daogao in the fourth instalment of Huise ma. 63 HSM, no. 7, p. 10. 61 62

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memories of Easter, Zheng can find no other solution for Lent than its transcription in the form of lingte jie, followed by the English word in brackets.64 While he is confident enough to translate Easter itself as fuhuoji and “sacrament” as shengdian, he is unable to offer a Chinese rendering of “The Holy Week”, and thus merely copies the English words. “The passionate clinging to the Savior’s grave, exposed in the church”, must have seemed so incomprehensible that the “grave” was omitted in the Chinese altogether.65 Reminiscing in conversation in 1957 about his early student days in the library of the Young Men’s Christian Association, Zheng said, with a laugh: “A Christian I didn’t become”.66 The obvious difficulty he had had in locating biblical quotations and handling religious terminology in his translation of Pale Horse may offer curious testimony to this fact: someone like Guo Moruo would surely have done better.67 Another passage in V. F. Sorokin’s article about his talks with Zheng Zhenduo in Moscow in October 1957, when Zheng was on an official visit to the Soviet Union as the PRC deputy minister of culture, is worth citing here: Zheng Zhenduo did not like to talk about his translations and regretted not knowing Russian, which compelled him to rely on English and German translations in selecting and interpreting the works. He also spoke coolly of his early articles “Russian Literature of the Period of Realism”, “The Reasons for the Flowering of Russian Literature and Its Impact” and “A Short Essay on the History of Russian Literature” published in 1923: “They were based on non-Russian sources, mostly English, and probably contain quite a few mistakes”. I protested: “Even if there were inaccuracies in the translations and articles, they achieved their primary aim—they helped the Chinese reader find his bearings in the rich and complex literature of another people that had opened up to him”. “I don’t know, I don’t know . . .” he said. Nothing less than total accuracy and authenticity would do for him.68

HSM, no. 8, p. 7. Ibid. 66 Sorokin, “Zheng Zhenduo”, p. 106. 67 On the poet Guo Moruo’s (1892–1978) “thorough familiarity with both the Old and New Testaments”, see Lewis S. Robinson, Double-edged Sword: Christianity & 20th Century Chinese Fiction, p. 26. 68 Sorokin, “Zheng Zhenduo”, p. 107. The dating of Zheng’s Concise History of Russian Literature (Eguo wenxue shilüe) to 1923 indicates the beginning of its serialisation in Xiaoshuo yuebao. The article “Russian Literature of the Period of Realism” (Xieshi zhuyi shidai zhi Eluosi wenxue) appeared in Xin Zhongguo in summer 1920. “The Reasons for the Flowering of Russian Literature and Its Impact” corresponds to “Eguo wenxue 64 65


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We may safely assume that he “did not like to talk about” at least some of his Russian translations (there were also stories and essays by Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gorky; Chekhov’s play The Seagull and another, Poverty is No Vice, by Alexander Ostrovsky), because an association with the likes of Savinkov and Artsybashev, Chirikov and Sologub, all writers condemned by Communist criticism, would not have been a source of pride for a People’s Republic deputy minister in 1957—and the article by Leon Trotsky, which he translated in 1920,69 much less so. Indeed, he may have had to work hard to bury those youthful transgressions, and one can only wonder how he would have survived the “antirightist” campaigns and the ensuing Cultural Revolution, had a plane crash not brought his life to a premature end in October 1958.70 Two dimensions of his translation work, raised in this late interview with a Soviet sinologist, are clearly discernible in Zheng’s translation of The Pale Horse in 1922: the mistakes and the perfectionist’s aim of complete fidelity to the text. Beginning with the mistakes, two kinds may be distinguished: those stemming from insufficient knowledge of English, and those attesting to the translator’s difficulty in coping with unfamiliar aspects of Western (not necessarily Russian) life. As far as English was concerned, Zheng found himself in dire straits whenever needing to deal with idiomatic speech—such phrases and sentences, according to the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of “idiom”, the meaning of which is not obvious through knowledge of the individual meanings of the constituent words. The prime example of this is the emphatic “Look here!”, Vengerova’s favourite method of expressing in English what were in fact at least three different forms of address in the original text. On the first three occasions when Zheng comes across “Look here” in the English translation, he renders it word-for-word as kan wo zheli.71 Only on the fourth encounter does he realize his mistake and from now on fada de yinyuan yu yingxiang”. Zheng’s last statement may be compared with his early opinions on “retranslation” in general, as will be discussed below. 69 “What Should We Begin With?”, in Shuguang (The Dawn), vol. 1, no. 6; reprinted in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 20, pp. 493–95. 70 Criticism against Zheng, as a “scholar of the old school”, was already unleashed in summer 1958. His associate since the days of Xiaoshuo yuebao, Mao Dun was in 1965 toppled from his post as minister of culture. As Russian literature was criticised in the years leading up to the Cultural Revolution, translators were unable to escape the attack: one of the best-known of them, Ge Baoquan was sent down for “re-education” in the countryside at the time. 71 HSM, no. 8, p. 4; no. 10, pp. 4, 11.

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he translates all “look here” (there are three more left) as ting wo shuo;72 his crowning achievement is a correct translation of the last (seventh!) “look here”, which on this instance does mean kan zheli.73 Throughout his Huise ma, Zheng was unable to make sense of other English expressions, such as “don’t be cross with me” (translated “don’t hit me”),74 “I am always on the point of telling her” (in the Chinese text: “I have frequently told her”)75 and even “let us say” (in the sense of “let’s imagine what would happen if . . .”, but translated word-for-word as rang women shuo).76 A misunderstanding of the construction “the more”, as in George’s comment to Heinrich: “it [driving a cab] is the more unpleasant when a man is in love”, results in the completely mistaken sentence “but even more unpleasant is to be a man who has fallen in love”.77 Often enough, one can trace the translator’s mistake to a wrong turn taken at the crossroads of several possible meanings. “Just” can mean “only”, “nothing more than . . .”; not so, however, in the phrase “But I’ve just told you!”, where it serves to indicate an immediate past.78 “Cause” is not yuanyin in a phrase like “A great cause is being fought now”, where it means a high purpose;79 this the translator would realize on his second encounter with such usage, and accordingly render “our cause” as women yao zuo de shi.80 In another case, “the conductor . . . swinging his bow” (“baton” would have been the correct word in English) is found to “make a bow” ( jugong) instead.81 There is confusion about the difference between “conscience”, “to be conscious of . . .” and “consciousness”. 82 Finally, in the phrase “We value so highly . . . And, after all, nothing is yet settled” (what is valued here are the efforts of the terrorists to bring about the planned assassination, and the speaker is Andrei Petrovich, a much ridiculed party apparatchik), the verb is misinterpreted for a noun and the sentence turned into: “we have paid such a high price”.83

72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83

HSM, no. 10, pp. 17, 19; no. 12, p. 11. HSM, no. 12, p. 13. Bu yao da wo. HSM, no. 8, p. 9. Shichang gaosu guo ta. HSM, no. 10, p. 17. HSM, no. 11, p. 24. HSM, no. 10, p. 5. Cf.: Wo buguo gaosu ni er yi. HSM, no. 11, p. 10. HSM, no. 8, p. 9. HSM, no. 10, p. 4. HSM, no. 11, p. 11. Cf. HSM, no. 7, p. 7; no. 10, p. 3. Women chu le zhema gao de jiazhi . . . HSM, no. 8, p. 4.


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Ellipsis, the omission from a sentence of words needed to complete its construction or meaning, was, as we have seen, an important trait of Savinkov’s literary style. We have also noted that, as a result of heavy “editing” at the hands of his English translator, this characteristic of the author’s Russian style had all but vanished from the pages of The Pale Horse. Whatever remained of it presented yet another type of obstacle for the Chinese translator, as seen in the last-quoted example where an ellipsis had engendered a misunderstanding of the verb “to value”. Another example comes from a passage, in which George recalled a story he had once heard from a friend, a Belgian officer in Congo. “Sometimes, to while away the idle hours, he took his gun and aimed at some curly head in the foliage”.84 Prompted to fill in the lacking information (the “curly head” of whom?), and hardly knowledgeable about the conduct of the Belgian military in Congo, Zheng translates: “he took his gun and shot at some wild animal, hiding in the forest”.85 A more crucial mistake is committed by the Chinese translator once he reaches the following dialogue between George and Elena. These lines are of some significance to any understanding of the hero’s “philosophy”: “I wonder,” she said, turning round to me, “whether you would recognize a single law?” “Not for me, but for you.” “No . . . But surely . . . What is your aim in life? Why do you live like this?” “I don’t know.” “You don’t know?” “No.” “Then I can tell you that’s your law. You said to yourself: It is necessary.” “No. I said to myself: ‘I desire it.’ “So you desire it?” She looked straight into my eyes in astonishment”.86

Unwilling to translate “it” as it stands, and motivated by his constant urge to provide the reader with a maximum of information (a feature of the Chinese translation which will become ever more apparent as we proceed), Zheng errs here by filling in “life” (shengming) as the miss-

84 85 86

PH, p. 25. Xiang senlin zhong cangzhe de shoulei daqu. HSM, no. 8, p. 6. PH, p. 60.

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ing subject.87 Rather than the self-professed “non-believer”, who is well aware of the ultimate futility of the struggle and the inability of any “ideology” to provide it with moral justification but nevertheless continues the fight on the strength of his own resolve, Zheng’s George becomes here a speaker for “life for life’s sake”. This is probably the only case, in which the Chinese translation misinterprets Savinkov’s novel to the extent of distorting its “message”. There is further evidence in Huise ma of Zheng’s difficulty in dealing with elliptical constructions; one last example will suffice. In the sentence “He drives in his carriage to his office twice a week, between three and five”88 the omission in English of “o’clock” was sufficient to cause the Chinese governor of Moscow to visit his own office between Wednesdays and Fridays, instead.89 The mistakes in translation that have been discussed so far can all be explained by an imperfect mastery of English. The following will be a selective list of errors committed, but also of solutions found by the translator, when faced with foreign geographical, historical and mythological names. These include names of ethnic groups, literary heroes, characters of the commedia dell’arte, and even a Russian children’s game and a Brazilian dance. Let us begin with the method Zheng adopted to deal with a poem and a proverb in two foreign languages, preserved in their original form in Vengerova’s English translation. In the first case, he provided an accurate translation of twelve lines by Verlaine (a source unidentified in either the Russian or the English text). Yet since the translator did not signal that these lines are in a language different from that of the surrounding text, the effect on the Chinese reader, as he begins with Weida de tianshu de shuimian / lailin yu wo de shengming li 90 (“Un grand sommeil noir / Tombe sur ma vie . . .”) is rather of the hero composing a poem of his own to express his current state of mind. This impression is heightened since the poem is introduced with the words Wo ziji shuodao. The translator is not at fault here in following Vengerova’s “I

87 Shengming shi bixu de, wo yao shengming. HSM, no. 10, p. 13. Compare this with the similarly elliptic: “or is it not all. . . . a puppet show?” (emphasis mine), towards the end of the novel. Zheng’s “filling in” technique (life instead of it) is here somewhat more justified, though still unwarranted: Huozhe rensheng dou buguo shi yi suo kuilei dian ma? HSM, no. 12, p. 20. 88 PH, p. 106. 89 Zai libai san yu libai wu zhijian. HSM, no. 11, p. 16. 90 HSM, no. 7, p. 8.


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say to myself ”,91 but in the original and in the English translation the sudden intrusion of French had clearly marked the lines as a quotation from a foreign source. Zheng chose exactly the same approach to tackle George’s ironic retort to Heinrich, at a later stage in the novel. The tormented student had been on the verge of tears, as Vania—not he—was selected to throw the bomb at the governor’s carriage, and possibly to perish in so doing: “I laughed. ‘You just wait,’ I said. ‘Suum cuique’ ”.92 The Latin (‘let each have his own’) is here translated only very approximately into Chinese,93 and again no hint is given to the reader that another language had been employed by the author. On the part of the translator, who could have put in a note or left both poem and proverb unchanged, which was the English translator’s choice, this was another act of simplification undertaken for the reader’s benefit, though one out of tune with Zheng’s overall strategy of providing his readers with as much information as possible. Here, in turn, are some creative solutions: an accurate translation, “back” into Chinese characters, of names and locations connected with the Russo-Japanese war of 1904–5 (General Togo, Tsushima), complete with an explanatory note about these events and the natural Chinese equivalent for the depreciatory “Japs”;94 a note explaining that Raskolnikov is the hero of Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment (and that his crime was to murder an old woman);95 another, identifying Pierrot as “a clown of the ancient Italian comedy”;96 translation of Vengerova’s description of what a likhach is (a superior class of cab-drivers), rather than of her transliteration thereof;97 an attempt,

PH, p. 8. PH, p. 67. 93 Geren zuo geren ying zuo de shi. HSM, no. 10, p. 17. 94 “Japs” naturally becomes wonu. HSM, no. 8, pp. 1–2. The inclusion in the novel of several references to Russia’s defeat in the Tsushima battle (PH, pp. 15, 67, 168) is another case of the author taking liberties with the historical facts surrounding Grand Duke Sergei’s assassination in Feb. 1905. No analysis of The Pale Horse has noticed the obvious time discrepancy: the Japanese navy under Admiral Togo succeeded in destroying the Russian Baltic fleet at Tsushima within two days in late May 1905. Still, the memory of Tsushima provides the only pointer to the year of the events in the 1909 text, which as we recall had been stripped of other geographical or historical indicators. Russia’s defeat in its war with Japan would become a theme of Savinkov’s (1912) What Never Happened. 95 HSM, no. 8, p. 7. 96 HSM, no. 12, p. 21. 97 HSM, no. 11, p. 4. 91 92

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without recourse to a footnote, to translate samovar as “a kettle on a spirit-lamp”;98 finally, translating “the Pleiades” as “the seven female stars”,99 an innovation not to be found in a dictionary. Unavoidably, there are mistakes here too, and some of them rather crude: the Urals are certainly not a river, and a note purporting to elucidate just who was Dionysus falls far from the mark.100 A particularly inglorious fate befalls an old (and now mostly forgotten) Russian toy called “American devil”: a puppet dipped in a water bottle, which, when pulled up and down, could be made to “perform” to the entertainment of children. The English translator did not see fit to explain what the “American devils” (a feature of George’s reminiscences about the happy Easter days of his childhood) were all about, and one can only imagine the blank dismay of her British readers at this point;101 the Chinese translator attempted just to copy the English words, but here a likely typesetter’s negligence generated, written vertically between inverted commas, the inscrutable “Amenun oeirls” (sic).102 Zheng could hardly have recognized the sounds of the “Bells of Corneville”; nor did he know the meaning of “Matchiche”, who were the Huns, or for that matter, the identity of Rinaldo di Rinaldini. It is noteworthy, however, that he still transcribed all these words in Roman letters, unwilling to omit from his translation even what he did not understand himself.103

98 Jiujingdeng shang de shuihu. HSM, no. 11, pp. 8–9. By the time Zheng had reached this point in his translation, he may have had the chance to read the travelogue of his friend Qu Qiubai, published by the Commercial Press under the title Xin E youji (Notes from a Journey to the New Russia) in Sept. 1922 and later known as Journey to the Land of Hunger. In Ch. 13 of that book he would have seen Qu’s solution for the vessel from which tea was served to him in Irkutsk: zinuan hu, or “self-warming kettle”. See Exiang jicheng, in Qu Qiubai wenji, vol. 1, p. 90. Another friend of Zheng’s, Xie Liuyi had rendered “samovar” as shuilu (literally, “water stove”) in his translation of a fragment of Andreev’s story “The Red Laugh”, published in the supplement to the Peking Morning Post on 6 Nov. 1920. 99 Qi nü xing. HSM, no. 12, p. 17. 100 HSM, no. 11, p. 8 and no. 12, p. 15. In the second instance Zheng confounds Dionysus, the Greek god, with Dionysius (a tyrannical ruler of Syracuse in the fourth century B.C.). 101 PH, p. 27. 102 HSM, no. 8, p. 7. These and the previously mentioned mistakes remained in place in the book-form version published by the Commercial Press. 103 Practically the only omission in this category is an insignificant reference to gypsy singers: see PH, p. 153. The Valse des cloches de Corneville (also known in English as The Bells of Normandy) was the big success of composer Robert Planquette in 1874. The mention of this tune in one of Chekhov’s most famous short stories, “The Death of a Clerk” (1883), attests to its popularity in Russia.


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We now arrive at what is the most conspicuous trait of Zheng Zhenduo’s translation: his devoted fidelity to the original (in the absence of the Russian novel, to its English substitute). The difference between the English and Chinese translations of Boris Savinkov’s novel could be summed up by saying that, whereas Vengerova had looked at the book slightly from above, often taking the patronizing decision to amend the style or leave out a detail which “would not pass through”, her young Chinese colleague looked up to the foreign text available to him, and was determined to translate everything for his reader. The best example of this determination is the special note he inserts in one of the author’s many descriptions of nature (“The heather was in full bloom in the woods, and the white lilies as well”),104 to explain that shahua is actually “heather (the English word is copied, M.G.)—an evergreen shrub, whose flowers look very much like roses” . . .105 The only substantial omission in the Chinese text, the last fifteen lines of the diary entry for 24 August,106 must be attributed to an oversight or to lack of space in the final instalment of the novel to be published in Xiaoshuo yuebao. Zheng’s painstaking fidelity validates an observation made in another context by Eugene Chen Eoyang: “In their formative stages, cultures may absorb, borrow, assimilate the writings and teachings of cultures regarded as superior”.107 Referring to translation efforts in sixteenthcentury England, this scholar qualified the translator’s work as “an act of patriotism [that] took the form not of cultural arrogance but of cultural humility”.108 In China of the New Culture movement, translators’ sense of mission to present the richness of world culture to their countrymen was, indeed, often couched in terms of patriotic concern, and their translation of literary texts was conceived as an act of much broader social significance. A certain dose of “cultural humility” may also be detected in Zheng Zhenduo’s holding fast, despite recurrent misunderstandings, to so much as the syntax of his foreign source. On the whole, his faithful rendering into Chinese of one English word after the other manifested PH, p. 24. HSM, no. 8, p. 5. That Zheng translates all tree names goes without saying: thus the oft-mentioned birch becomes huashu, and a “linden tree” is putishu (no. 10, p. 11). 106 PH, p. 136. Cf. HSM, no. 12, p. 3. 107 Eoyang, The Transparent Eye: Reflections on Translation, Chinese Literature and Comparative Poetics, p. 54. 108 Ibid., p. 60. 104 105

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itself in a style which, particularly in its sentence structure, may have seemed peculiarly un-Chinese to readers still attuned to the classical form of their written language. A commitment to vernacular Chinese notwithstanding, Huise ma makes virtually no use of idiomatic expressions; instead, Russian proverbs for which the English translator had not found a proper equivalent and settled, faute de mieux, for a literal word-for-word transfer, continue their journey into the Chinese text as well.109 Reluctance to stray from the substitute-original even when handling English idioms that he apparently understood correctly produces artificial calques in phrases like “a mysterious spell was at work”110 or “my life hangs by a thread”.111 As to such frequent exclamations as “Oh, God!” and “Thank God!”, these invariably bring in the Chinese shangdi. Zheng’s policy of near-scientific precision was symptomatic of a trend towards greater accuracy in translation, put forward in several articles on translation methodology which Xiaoshuo yuebao published in the early 1920s. To the March issue of 1921, Zheng himself contributed a manifesto of sorts, entitled “Three Problems in the Translation of Literary Works”.112 Here Zheng emphatically rejected, on both theoretical and practical grounds, claims about the impossibility of translation. He relied on the “Essay on the Principles of Translation” by Alexander Fraser Tytler, later Lord Woodhouselee (a work dating back to 1790, but the only specialised study on translation he had found), to define a good translation as one able to fully render the “ideas”, reflect the “style and manner”, and read as fluently as the original work. Summing up Tytler’s requirements from the “good translator”, such as the duty to possess an in-depth knowledge of the foreign society and language in question, Zheng proved himself at least well aware of the problems which, in his own work as a translator, he was not always able to overcome. Even as he approved of the Judge-Advocate of Scotland’s strictures against word-by-word translation, subscribing

109 Consider, for example, the following Russian proverbs, both carefully re-translated into Chinese from the English: “strength will break a straw” (HSM, no. 7, p. 7), or “there is no room for an apple to fall” (no. 8, p. 7). 110 Translated twice as shenmi de zhouyu zheng zai gongzuo. HSM, no. 11, p. 16; and no. 12, p. 15. 111 HSM, no. 11, p. 7. Compare these two examples with Zheng’s translation of “let us say”, above. 112 “Yi wenxue shu de san ge wenti”, reprinted in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 15, pp. 49–76.


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to the romantic ideal of translation as both the faithful transmission of a text and imaginative recreation of its “spirit”, Zheng himself clearly leaned towards the former of the two objectives. Under special circumstances, and more in the translation of poetry than of prose, Zheng conceded that limited interference with the original was permissible, but he mainly urged caution and circumspection, proposing that each translator take the adage “seek no merit, seek only no loss” (bu qiu you gong, zhi qiu wu guo) as his motto.113 Consistently with the above, although certainly unexpected, in the light of this translator’s future practice, in the last section of his article of 1921 Zheng decried the dangers of losing the spirit and style of literary works through “retranslation” (chongyi ). The five pages spent on this problem were obviously deeply-felt; they conveyed the anguish of a translator enthralled by the richness of world literature, intent on laying it out before his readers, but forced by the inaccessibility of the original language to perform his work through the medium of another. Zheng concluded that the method of “retranslation” was so common in China because persons conversant with languages other than English refused to do their share for the introduction of literatures such as Russian or (this was the other example he gave) Scandinavian. The method was best eliminated. Until such day may come, however, every translator working with an intermediate text should ask a person familiar with the original language to compare the retranslated manuscript with the original text. While it does not seem as if this solution was applied by Zheng himself when working on The Pale Horse only one year later, we shall still see him follow his own counsel. Zheng’s close friend Geng Jizhi (1899–1947), the foremost translator from Russian in the republican era and one of the very few with direct knowledge of the language, would become his regular consultant. A meeting with Geng awaits us in the context of his own translations of Leonid Andreev. The “retranslation” method used by Zheng Zhenduo and his associates was far from a peculiar Chinese invention: the standard recourse of all cultures in the early stages of their acquaintance with literatures lying beyond their immediate circle of reference, it was employed widely in the eighteenth century as readers in continental Europe discovered English literature through French.114 Russian literature, too, was ren-

113 114

Ibid., p. 63; cf. p. 69. See part 1, “Indirect Translation in Eighteenth-Century Germany”, in Harald

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dered into West-European languages through French and German at least until the early twentieth century; up to the early nineteenth, Russians did the same, retranslating the works of English, Spanish, and even German writers from the French (Russian translators who did know German could be relied on to retranslate Scandinavian and Dutch literature from that language).115 Both French and German were, for a long time, also the actual sources for Russian translations “from the Chinese”.116 But one looks in vain to these European cultures for a parallel to the almost devout attitude to the intermediate sources, which may be found in China of the 1920s. Considering Zheng’s theoretical statements on translation, it is all the more interesting to check on which occasions, in his Huise ma, Zheng was bold enough to depart from the English text. In one case he may have suspected a misprint when Erna was said to be carrying a basket of “linen” in the middle of town (she did, in fact, use linen to cover the bomb she had prepared), with the result that the Chinese Erna carries a basket of “lemons” instead;117 in another he takes issue with remnants of the Russian author’s imagery, and a “blue” shadow, surprisingly admitted into the English translation, becomes the more obvious “black” in the Chinese.118 But these minor deviations all pale in comparison with a conscious educational choice made by the translator. George’s reply to Vania’s question, “can a man live without love?”,119 is changed by Zheng from the characteristic “you simply have to spit at the whole world” to a milder suggestion “to despise” it.120 At a later stage, Fedor of the English text “spits on the floor”; the Chinese reader, however, only sees him “lightly stamping his foot on the floor”.121 Spitting in public was a sensitive matter in China, a habit which cultural reformers (whether under the banners of May Fourth in the early 1920s, or of the Nationalists’ New Life movement in the 1930s) were at pains to eradicate. As he Kittel and Armin Paul Frank, eds., Interculturality and the Historical Study of Literary Translations; and cf. Ch. 7 in Gideon Toury, Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond. 115 P. R. Zaborov, “ ‘Literatura-posrednik’ v istorii russko-zapadnykh literaturnykh sviazei XVIII–XIX vv.”, pp. 66–71. 116 Boris L. Riftin, “Russkie perevody kitaiskoi literatury v XVIII—pervoi polovine XIX v.”. 117 HSM, no. 11, p. 11. 118 HSM, no. 10, p. 19. 119 PH, p. 39. 120 Mieshi shijie. HSM, no. 10, p. 3. 121 Compare PH, p. 102, with Zu qingdao diban, in HSM, no. 11, p. 15.


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was translating a novel about terrorists, Zheng’s concern not to set a bad example for Chinese youth is remarkable indeed. His “solution” to the problem shows that a speaker for the new cultural agenda finding himself in conflict between that agenda and the new values of fidelity to Western texts was liable, at least on occasion, to return to the method of earlier fiction translators: that of adaptation to the needs and sensibilities of their readers.122 By the end of this short review of the “intermediate” text and more extensive analysis of its Chinese translation, several conclusions may be drawn. Essentially, it was the literary style of Savinkov the writer that suffered most in the roundabout transmission of his book from Russian, through English, to Chinese. Both translations nibbled away at the very particularities that had made Kon’ Blednyi a distinctive work of literature: the elliptic phrase construction, sensitivity to different registers of spoken language, careful interweaving of past and present time tenses. Much of this had been filled in, translated into nondifferentiated English and simply edited out by Zinaida Vengerova; the rest often did not fare well at the hands of an inexperienced translator with insufficient command of the source language. Virtually nothing of the Russian author’s stylistic idiosyncrasies remained intact by the time a Chinese reader leafed through the pages of Xiaoshuo yuebao. While that much could certainly have been expected from a censored novel translated twice over, it is surprising that “the ideas of the original work” (article one of Zheng’s adopted criteria for a successful translation, above), the novel’s basic plot, including its characters’ doubts and convictions, above all—the hero’s long process of soulsearching, did survive the journey through two languages well enough for the “message” to come through. Zheng Zhenduo’s Huise ma was understandably far removed from the Russian realities that had given rise to Kon’ blednyi. If asked where did the novel take place, most of its Chinese readers would probably have been able to answer “Russia” only after a moment of thought, during which the translator’s preface would have proved more valuable than any memory they might have retained of enigmatic cities such as X. and N., or of an anonymous

122 Cf. the inventive explanation supplied by Chinese translators in 1916 to the drug addiction of Conan Doyle’s detective: Eva Hung, “Sherlock Holmes in Early Twentieth Century China (1896–1916): Popular Fiction as an Educational Tool”, p. 76.

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“Governor” killed by members of a party not once identified by name, in retribution for crimes unknown. Placed, as it were, outside of any context either geographical or historical (its diary entries never mention the year, and even the proximity in time to the Russo-Japanese war is not made explicit), the novel lent itself all the more easily to a broad variety of interpretations. Surveying some of these in the next section, in anticipation of a broader discussion of reception and interpretation problems in Chapter Two, we should recall that in Russia of 1909–12 the critical response that The Pale Horse had provoked was rooted in the immediate political sphere, its fictionalized narrative irrevocably associated with the assassination by the Combat Organization of the Party of Socialists-Revolutionaries—with the active participation of the author—of Grand Duke Sergei, governor of Moscow and uncle of the Tsar. III. The reception of Huise ma The translator’s interpretation The translator of the novel was also the first in China to offer commentary on it. As we shall soon see, he already did so in March 1922, in a preface to the first translation of Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons by his friend Geng Jizhi. Yet in the preface to the opening instalment of his own translation of The Pale Horse in July, Zheng Zhenduo chose for the most part to rely on English-language sources rather than venture opinions of his own. To begin with, he cited Vengerova’s Introduction, to the effect that “the soul of Russia is revealed even more in her literature than in the realities of her life”.123 A convinced adherent of symbolism, Vengerova was elaborating here on the symbolist idea that art, being the reflection of the soul, is superior to earthly life (it is life that imitates art in this conceptual scheme, not vice versa).124 Zheng Zhenduo, however, took the above sentence to mean that literature was the best guide to Russian reality because it was a truthful reflection of the life (and of the collective “soul”) of the nation. This view of literature, characteristic of nineteenth-century Russian realism, was one to which Vengerova, even when writing for a British

123 124

Vengerova, “Introduction”, in PH, p. v. Neginsky, Zinaida Vengerova, pp. 66, 75, 99.


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reading public, would not have subscribed. However, this was the vision of literature’s educational function in society that the Chinese “May Fourth” proclaimed, and Zheng and his colleagues were pleased to find support for it in foreign commentators on literature, sometimes wrenching them out of context in their eagerness to bolster their position. Endorsing Vengerova’s words, as he understood them,125 Zheng would soon repeat them in his own voice in the opening chapter of his Concise History of Russian Literature.126 Zheng’s preface continued with a brief chronology of main events in Russian history, beginning from late 19th century and culminating in the “peasants’ and workers’ revolution” of November 1917. Zheng then presented Ropshin’s work as typical of the period roughly between 1905 and 1917, when “a so-called ‘terrorist-party’ ” (kongbu dang)127 practised the assassination of political figures. Relying this time on Masaryk’s Spirit of Russia, Zheng emphasized that Ropshin’s novel stood apart from other books about “Russian terrorists” published in England and the USA, in being the only true account by a participant of the events. Zheng then introduced George, the main hero, as an “extreme reactionary” unable to believe in anything: whether in the ideology of his own party, in God or in love. He followed Masaryk verbatim to describe George as a man who avows to be “his own God”, despises the world, and thereby “accepts Nietzsche’s superman”.128 Leaving Masaryk, however, Zheng went on to define George’s sole motivation for killing as sheer “amusement”. He drew this conclusion from a scene at an early stage of the novel, in which George recalled his feelings after shooting a rabbit on a forest hunt: “And I ask myself why I suf125 Zheng Zhenduo, “Huise ma yizhe yinyan”, Xiaoshuo yuebao, vol. 13, no. 7 (hereafter: “Preface”), p. 1. Lin Jinghua, Wudu Eluosi, p. 60, is not aware of these conceptual differences between Vengerova and Zheng, but is right to draw attention to these statements by the successive translators of The Pale Horse. Lin compares them with the views of the realist critic Evgenii Solov’ev (1866–1905), as summarized by Geng Jizhi for the special “Russian literature” issue of Xiaoshuo yuebao in Sept. 1921: “In their spiritual life, Russian people love literature above everything else [. . .] This is why the interest of Russians in literature far surpasses that of Europeans [. . .] The spiritual and public life of the Russians is literature, and is only literature”. See Jizhi, trans., “Shijiu shiji Eguo wenxue de beijing” (The Background of Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature), in Eguo wenxue yanjiu (separate pagination), p. 1. 126 “Reading her [Russia’s] literature, we can then understand her soul”. Zheng Zhenduo, Eguo wenxue shilüe, in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 15, p. 419. 127 Zheng Zhenduo, “Preface”, p. 1. 128 Ibid., p. 2. Cf. Masaryk, The Spirit of Russia, vol. 2, p. 447.

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fered when I heard his outcry, while the fact that I had killed him for my amusement did not arouse any emotion in me”.129 George’s case is, for Zheng, symptomatic, because “tiredness of life and doubting about life” has recently driven many to George’s kind of ruthlessness and all-encompassing contempt.130 The problem presented in Huise ma is thus of a broad relevance, and the novel needs to be studied, much as one should study Sanin. However, readers should not make the mistake of identifying George with revolutionaries in general, as of these there have always been many varieties; Zheng now turns again to Masaryk, to point out the differences between Ropshin’s hero and such terrorists as portrayed in the books of Stepniak, but he goes further than Masaryk to describe Stepniak’s heroes of the 1890s as “steadfast, reasonable, remarkably honest [men, who] followed the call of their ideals fighting for the people and for freedom”.131 The novel itself, Zheng says, shows other characters who believe in what they do, such as Heinrich, Vania and Erna. As far as Russian revolutionary spirit is concerned, The Pale Horse is only representative of the “terrorist party”. The rest of the short preface is used by Zheng to praise the qualities of Ropshin as a writer (quoting this praise from Olgin’s Guide to Russian Literature, he also cites two nature scenes from the novel, concluding that “such poetic descriptions will delight whoever reads them”)132 and to provide some biographical information, largely copied from Masaryk. Indicated are V. Ropshin’s real name, his family background and his part, as member of the “terrorist party’s executive committee”, in the assassinations of “Pleve and Grand Duke Sergius”. The terminology

129 PH, p. 6. “Amusement”, translated as yuyue, is the same word Zheng used to describe George’s motivation for any killing, be it “Governor X or Governor Y” (“Preface”, p. 3; even this turn of phrase is borrowed from Masaryk: loc. cit., p. 449). In his preface to Geng Jizhi’s translation of Fathers and Sons, Zheng had similarly argued that the terrorists portrayed by Ropshin in The Pale Horse “killed people just like one would kill animals, as if on a hunt . . .”. See Zheng Zhenduo, “Fu yu zi xuyan” (originally published on 18 March 1922 in the supplement Xuedeng [Lamp of Learning] of the newspaper Shishi xinbao), in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 15, pp. 401–5 (at p. 404). 130 Zheng Zhenduo, “Preface”, p. 3. 131 Ibid. 132 Ibid., p. 4. The Guide, first published in 1920, served Chinese translators as a handy source of information on Russian literature during the whole decade to come: we shall see it used again by Zheng Zhenduo and Mao Dun. Moissaye Olgin (1874–1939) was a Ukrainian-born American Communist, the translator into English of works by Engels and Trotsky. A poet and writer in Yiddish, he also translated Leonid Andreev’s play King Hunger into that language.


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is important since in referring immediately thereafter to Savinkov’s escape from a Russian prison to live abroad until his appointment to the Kerensky government in 1917, Zheng describes him as “still a member of the Party of Socialists-Revolutionaries”. However, this is, in fact, the first and last time that he identifies the party that blew up both Plehve and Sergei. Noting that Savinkov also wrote other books, Zheng relies on Vengerova in saying that The Pale Horse is the most important of them all. His own motivation for translating the novel was twofold. One reason is presented in aesthetic terms: he wanted to introduce it to Chinese readers because, when reading the book in English translation, he had been moved by its “bold and direct thinking and beautiful, truthful art”. Secondly, “in the transitional period in which China now is, there have gradually appeared more and more young men of George’s type. Though not actual oppositionists or revolutionaries, they display George’s ‘nihilistic thinking’ (xuwu sixiang) in being doubtful, unquiet and disdainful of everything”. Zheng hopes that his translation “will at least provide a source of reference for this kind of people, as well as for the many who would like to understand them”.133 Several questions may now be asked about this brief text, ambiguous throughout but nowhere more so than in its bottom line. The impression given to the reader, that the “terrorist party” and the SR were distinct organizations with no connection between them, may be ascribed to a careless collation of lines borrowed from Masaryk and from Olgin. Not commenting further on “Pleve and Sergius” was all right for Masaryk, who had discussed the assassinations earlier in his book, but how many of Zheng Zhenduo’s readers could have known who the victims were?134 The Chinese translator’s hotchpotch of borrowed statements and snippets of information on his writer failed to explain the fundamental facts: either he did not know them, or he did not want to tell. In any event, he left readers with only the murky notion that the writer Ropshin, actually called Savinkov, had been a member of some “terrorist party” in Russia.

Ibid., p. 5. Liang Qichao, then exiled in Japan, responded to the news of Plehve’s murder in 1904 with an enthusiastic “Great is the dagger! Holy the bomb!”. Price, Russia and the Roots of the Chinese Revolution, 1896–1911, p. 134, cites these words from Liang’s article in Xinmin zongbao of that year. 133 134

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Let us consider for a moment the two main sources at Zheng’s disposal: first, Vengerova’s “Introduction” to her English translation of the novel. This is a text as remarkable for what it says as for what it deliberately withholds. Indeed, the first translator went out of her way to publicize the work as quite the opposite of what it was: “in spite of the story’s pessimistic tone, there is a suggestion of hopefulness in the struggle for the establishment of idealistic values, in the attempt to make the will conform to the standards of enlightened thought”.135 And further on: “In spite of their doubts and indecision, [the way of Ropshin’s heroes] leads to future harmony—it is the way of high-strung idealism applied to the problems of real life. This is the hopeful prophecy of The Pale Horse. The vision of a new and regenerated Russia rises above the sad tale of shattered lives and cruel destinies”.136 As to the book’s author, we are only told that Ropshin is his nom de plume; that “he had played a conspicuous part in the revolutionary movement of about ten years ago”, and that “since then his views underwent a marked change: The Pale Horse is confessional and autobiographical. He gave up party work, came in touch with a strong religious current in the Russian literature of recent years, and made his first appearance as an author with Pale Horse”.137 Perhaps the book’s publisher wished to offer “the Irish and English” reader a Russian novel radiant with hopeful prophecies by a repentant former member of an unknown revolutionary party, now apparently on his way to take holy orders, rather than an active terrorist’s grim tale of murder and despair, with at least a hint of suicide, appropriately named after the fourth apocalyptic Rider. But in the fateful year of 1917, one also senses the circumspection of the Russian translator. Clearly not inclined to provide “keys” to the novel (which, we recall, she had chosen to translate from a censored version), and in line with her attachment to symbolism, at the very outset of her introduction Vengerova chooses to place the book “in a sort of Utopian Freeland, . . . . concerned only with problems of spiritual law and spiritual obligations”.138 It is, finally, noteworthy that Vengerova does offer an apt

Vengerova, “Introduction”, p. vii. Ibid., p. viii. With “Russia” replaced by “China”, this is, incidentally, one of the statements by past authors to make an unexpected reappearance in Ng, The Russian Hero in Modern Chinese Fiction, here pp. 205–6. 137 Vengerova, “Introduction”, p. viii. 138 Ibid., p. v. 135 136


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formulation of what she calls the problem of Ropshin’s hero: “ ‘I am bound in conscience to do it—yet my conscience imperatively prohibits me to do it’ ”.139 This would be closer to the mark if followed by the words: “and my reason tells me it is all in vain”—yet instead Vengerova goes on to claim that the hero’s “problem” was eventually resolved in favour of the moral imperative. Zheng Zhenduo’s second source, The Spirit of Russia by the philosopher and statesman Thomas G. Masaryk (1850–1937), was probably the most penetrating analysis of Pale Horse he could have read. The future first president of Czechoslovakia (from 1918 to 1935) published his two-volume study of Russian history, religion and philosophy in 1913; an English translation from the German original appeared in 1919.140 Zheng copied the comparison of George to Nietzsche’s superman from The Spirit of Russia. However, for Masaryk Nietzsche had been only one name in a long gallery of possible intellectual antecedents to the character of George in The Pale Horse: Ludwig Feuerbach’s teaching of “Homo homini deus”; the philosophy of Max Stirner; Faust; Don Juan; Sanin; the revolutionary leader of the 1880s, later monarchist Lev Tikhomirov; the ideology of suicide as analysed by Nikolai Mikhailovsky; Tolstoy’s “Kreutzer Sonata” and even Alphonse Daudet’s “Une petite paroisse”.141 What Masaryk most insisted on, not surprisingly as the spirit of Dostoevsky seemed to hover above his entire endeavour to elucidate the “spirit of Russia”, was the parallel he detected between George and Ivan Karamazov.142 While Zheng also borrowed Masaryk’s characterization of Vania as “a Tolstoian”143 (referring to Tolstoy’s theory of non-resistance), and mentioned Sanin as a book comparable to The Pale Horse for its value in the study of modern man, he did not summon Dostoevsky in his preface. Nor did Zheng adopt Masaryk’s succinct definition of George’s philosophy, which has already been quoted earlier in this chapter; as we have just seen, his borrowing from Vengerova’s introduction also

Ibid., p. vi. In the meantime Masaryk the statesman, rather than the philosopher, had approached the terrorist Savinkov (a.k.a. the writer Ropshin), to present him with 200,000 inflation roubles in support of the “anti-Bolshevik” struggle. The transfer of funds took place in March and April 1918. Spence, Boris Savinkov: Renegade on the Left, p. 191. 141 Masaryk, The Spirit of Russia, vol. 2, pp. 447–52. 142 Ibid. See, for example, pp. 445, 453. 143 Zheng, “Preface”, p. 3. Cf. Masaryk, The Spirit of Russia, vol. 2, p. 447. 139


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omitted her proposed formulation of George’s problem of conscience. What emerges instead, as the translator’s key to the complex personality of the hero, is an apparently independent contention, derived in large part from the hunting scene (the pointless killing of a “white rabbit”): George, in Zheng Zhenduo’s interpretation, kills merely for his amusement. The sudden appearance of the words “nihilistic thinking” in the last lines of the preface may hark back to Masaryk’s remark on “Ropshin’s analysis of nihilism”, but what the Czech philosopher had in mind was nihilism as exemplified by Ivan Karamazov,144 and he had reserved the use of “nihilist” in its political sense to the heroes of Stepniak. If Zheng was offering his translation to the errant “Georgekind” youths of China (intending to provide them with a “source of reference” and possibly with a warning), Zheng must have been counting on them to have read his preface to Geng Jizhi’s translation of Fathers and Sons. There he had roundly condemned “Chinese Bazarovs” for their cowardice and fantasizing, concluding with a prayer for the opening of their befuddled minds.145 Beyond identifying the biblical verse, from which it derived, Zheng did not comment on the novel’s title. That many of his readers, familiar with the equestrian imagery in their own culture,146 would not have recognized the horses of the Apocalypse, was clear enough to another writer in Xiaoshuo yuebao, two years after its serialisation of Huise ma. In July and August 1924 the journal’s covers reproduced Albrecht Dürer’s woodcut “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”; the very woodcut from which Zheng Zhenduo (or his publisher, the Commercial Press) had selected the figure of the rider named Death for the cover of Huise

144 “Ropshin’s analysis of nihilism is at the same time an analysis of the Karamazov disease; Ivan Karamazov is Faust and Don Juan rolled into one”. Masaryk, The Spirit of Russia, vol. 2, p. 453. Vengerova, for her part, opposed such characterization of George and his comrades: “The book makes clear the fact that the ‘Nihilists’ who deliberately had shaken off all religious and idealistic conceptions, in order to secure their immediate political aims, are a thing of the past”. Vengerova, “Introduction”, p. vii. 145 Zheng Zhenduo, “Fu yu zi xuyan”, in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 15, p. 404. For an earlier admonishment to prematurely disillusioned Chinese youths, see Zheng’s article “The Thought of Dostoevsky”, published in Xiaoshuo yuebao in Jan. 1922; cf. Lin Jinghua, Wudu Eluosi, p. 138. 146 See Ch. 4, “Horses and their Masters”, in Madeline K. Spring, Animal Allegories in T’ang China (New Haven: American Oriental Society, 1993). The colour associated with “mythical” horses in China was white: owing to such examples as the White Horse (Baima) Lake in Zhejiang province, the famous “White Horse dialogue” by the sophist Gongsun Long (4th century B.C.) and the White Horse Temple outside of Luoyang.


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Fig. 4. Cover of Ropshin, trans. Zheng Zhenduo, Huise ma (Shanghai: The Commercial Press, 1924). First edition. National Library of China, Beijing.

ma, when the translated novel came out in book form in January.147 The August issue, dedicated to the Great War in Europe and its reflections in literature, also introduced The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, an anti-war novel by the Spanish writer Vicente Blasco Ibanez. To his summary of the novel, Fan Zhongyun, a member of the Literary Research Association, appended a note, in which he carefully explained the Christian symbolism of the White, Red, Black and Pale Horses, “those ferocious-looking horsemen on the cover of this journal”.148 The 147 See Fig. 4. The complete woodcut, as it appeared on the covers of Xiaoshuo yuebao in the same year, can be seen in Francis Russell et al., The World of Dürer (Amsterdam: Time-Life Books, 1972), p. 101. 148 Fan Zhongyun (writing under the pseudonym Cong Yu), “Ibennazi de Shilu de si qishi”, and idem, “Si qishi”. On Fan, also translator of Turgenev, see references in Sun Naixiu, Tugeniefu yu Zhongguo, and entry in Chen Yutang, Zhongguo jindai renwu minghao da cidian (hereafter: CYT), p. 1311.

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Apocalypse itself is, of course, one of the most demanding texts of the Christian canon; years later, the vision of the four mystical beasts in Revelation 4.7 would, at the hands of the satirist Lao She (1899–1966), be subject to ridicule as the epitome of an obscurantist religion.149 While Zheng Zhenduo’s preface to his translation of Ropshin’s Pale Horse did not offer a sustained interpretation of the novel, its conclusion did suggest that he was addressing the book to young men and women in China, whom he judged to be already past the first enthusiasm of “May Fourth”.150 In Literature Ten-daily of 30 June 1921 Zheng had made an appeal for “a literature of blood and tears”, a new kind of writing in which “fire” would burn and emotions be real and vivid. These qualities he had set in contrast with sentimental love stories and ready-made descriptions of natural beauty.151 Perhaps it is to the highstrung tension of revolutionary battle, the dramatic framework assuring plenty of “blood and tears” in The Pale Horse, that we should look to explain why Zheng turned to this novel. But beyond feeling uneasy with George’s attitude to the revolution, as his preface showed, neither Zheng nor his readers could have fully appreciated the novelty (which had so struck Ropshin’s first readers) of the appearance of this hero on the horizon of Russian literature. For this they would have had to know more about the author and had better acquaintance than was provided by prior translations of “anarchist” and “nihilist” stories with the classical prototype of Russian revolutionary fiction, the unwavering self-denying Hero, whom George implicitly challenged in every line of his own disillusioned tale. Whether Chinese readers would have wanted to hear Ropshin’s bleak “message”, were they in possession of the necessary tools to understand it, is again a matter of doubt. In China of the time, Russia stood for revolution, and Russian literature was likely to be read in the revolutionary key whenever it treated the subject of political struggle, even if (as we shall see with a number of works by Artsybashev and Andreev) it

See Ch. 8 of Lao She’s unfinished autobiographical novel, Zhenghong qi xia, written in 1961–2 and published posthumously in 1979. In the English translation by Don J. Cohn, Beneath the Red Banner (Beijing: Panda Books, 1982), see esp. pp. 151, 155–56. 150 For a reminder of such enthusiasm, see Zheng’s poem “Wo shi shaonian” (I am a Youngster) of 1919. This call upon fellow “youngsters” to press forward and “smash all authority” is translated in Hockx, A Snowy Morning, pp. 171–72. 151 See “Xue he lei de wenxue”, in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 3, pp. 490–91. An English translation is available as Zheng Zhenduo, “A Literature of Blood and Tears”, in John Berninghausen and Ted Huters, eds., Revolutionary Literature in China: An Anthology, p. 19. 149


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meant to question rather than affirm its values. But, to make an obvious point, no “explanation” of a literary work may be regarded as definitive, and a reading of a book outside its original context may produce confusion as well as a fresh perspective. There will be examples of both in the responses to Huise ma, at which we shall look below. Response: critical and creative In Russian literature, Boris Savinkov became the protagonist of several books, while the author V. Ropshin provided the inspiration for others. The émigré writer Roman Gul’ (1896–1986) offers examples of both kinds: having depicted Savinkov in a novel entitled General BO in 1929152 and in other works, Gul’ entitled his own memoirs Kon’ Ryzhii (The Red Horse, 1945), apparently an allusion to Ropshin’s Kon’ Blednyi and Kon’ Voronoi. Varlam Shalamov, next to Solzhenitsyn the most important writer to describe the Soviet labour camps, was infatuated with Ropshin in his youth, and later credited the author of The Pale Horse and What Never Happened with determining his own “main principle in life, the accord of word with deed”.153 Albert Camus’ famous play Les Justes (1949) was based on Savinkov’s Souvenirs d’un terroriste, published in French translation in 1931. This book had left enough of an impression on Camus to allow Kaliaev, the Vania of The Pale Horse, to resurface in his discussion of terrorism in L’homme révolté (1951). There Camus justified Kaliaev’s decision “to take a life if and only if he gives his own in return”.154 The chilling present-day relevancy of these early ruminations on the psychology of suicide terror (largely the reason for the current rediscovery of The Pale Horse in Russia) can hardly be ignored. Another French writer, the Swiss-born Blaise Cendrars (1887–1961) had no need to await the translation of Savinkov’s works into French. He was in St. Petersburg on the July day in 1904 when the BO assassinated Plehve; later, in Montparnasse, he met Boris Savinkov. From these two experiences his remarkable novel Moravagine emerged in 1926.155 A less 152 The subject of General BO was Azef, the infamous tsarist informer who until 1908 was Savinkov’s commander in the Combat Organization. Gul’s novel drew on Savinkov’s memoirs, giving their author a central place in the plot. 153 See Shalamov’s memoirs, Chetvertaia Vologda (Vologda the Fourth, 1971; first published 1991), in his Sobranie sochinenii v 4-kh tomakh, vol. 4, pp. 93–5. On What Never Happened, cf. notes to part Two of Shalamov’s Kolyma Tales, ibid., vol. 2, pp. 503–4. 154 Peter G. Christensen, “Camus and Savinkov: Examining the Problems of Terrorism”, p. 35. 155 Cf. Hélène Menegaldo, Les Russes à Paris 1919–1939 (Paris: Autrement, 1998),

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well-known example of Ropshin’s capacity to fascinate the most exacting of readers is useful for the contrast it provides with Zheng Zhenduo’s preface. The Hungarian philosopher Georg Lukács (1885–1971) had also become acquainted with the novel in translation, and he too had read the extensive commentary on it by Thomas Masaryk.156 There the similarity naturally ended: for an intellectual thoroughly at home in the European tradition, Masaryk’s interpretation was a text to be challenged, not copied. As this excursion into European reactions to The Pale Horse has shown, its translation in China in 1922 gave readers access to a gripping and action-packed book which many, in and outside of Russia, found intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking. It was also a book that one of its earliest reviewers in English had described as incomprehensible because of what he considered an unbridgeable cultural gap. That review, in the Times Literary Supplement, opened with the words: “The most ignorant of us is not so ignorant of Russia as the translator of The Pale Horse, by V. Ropshin, translated by Z. Vengerova (Maunsel. 3s. net), supposes. [. . .] [W]e knew, of course, that Russians who killed in their efforts to tear down intolerable oppression were not mere thieves and murderers; we would have been stupid indeed if we had not understood at least that much. [. . .] [W]e knew that it was only for ideals that men will deliberately face death. Nevertheless, most English readers must be baffled by this ‘confessional and autobiographical’ book”. Going on to speak for those English readers, the reviewer called the book “vivid” and “convincing”; yet he insisted that “to us it is incomprehensible”. “Why”, he asked, “did this little group of men and one woman want to kill the local governor? What good did they intend to accomplish by the deed—when a successor would be at once appointed?

p. 42. “W. Ropschine, le casse-cou, le veinard, le chef, le spécialiste . . .” plays a fictional role in the central chapter of the novel, alongside the narrator and the eponymous hero, as the commander of their terrorist group in Moscow of 1907: see Blaise Cendrars, Moravagine (Paris: Grasset, 1983), here p. 66. Cendrars’ admiration for Savinkov is evident: “Je pense à Ro-Ro. Quel chic type, bien élévé, lettré, calme, toujours de sangfroid!” (ibid., p. 94); “Mais Ro-Ro est un homme d’action, prompt, rapide, téméraire et qui ne flanche jamais” (p. 103). 156 Lukács had The Pale Horse read out to him in simultaneous German translation by his Russian wife, at a time when he was engaged in the study of Dostoevsky. Sharing Camus’ later attraction to Kaliaev, he found in Ropshin’s book justification for revolutionary murder: in carrying out the act, the terrorist, so Lukács argued, was offering a sacrifice of his soul, not merely of his life, for the ideal of human solidarity. Lee Congdon, The Young Lukács, pp. 98–104.


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These objections one could easily waive, but what becomes more and more bewildering as you read is that men so passionless should kill”. Of all the characters, only the female ones made sense: “The women alone in the book are comprehensible to the English reader”. As to the main hero: “This man is not incredible; on the contrary, he is very real; it is simply that one cannot understand his taking the trouble to kill anyone; and the whole book, therefore, leaves one baffled”.157 A variety of responses in China followed the translation of this novel by Zheng Zhenduo; not one of these, ranging between the admiring and the respectfully critical, would treat the Russian book in the supercilious tone of the review just quoted. A “Postscript to the Translation of The Pale Horse” by the poet Yu Pingbo, in the October 1923 issue of Xiaoshuo yuebao, was an original, lyrical interpretation, intertwined with a long allegoric poem by the Chinese author.158 Yu had most identified with words said to George by Elena, a character that has not received much attention in Russian criticism of The Pale Horse: “So give up thinking, and kiss . . .”.159 He ended his essay with the regret that people were unable to live easily and naturally, without the constant questioning of life’s meaning that had so tortured the hero of The Pale Horse. But there is more to Yu Pingbo’s “Postscript”: an interesting point is his conviction that, in the final account, George is as much moved by love as is his counterpart Vania (Yu goes so far as to consider the two characters as two faces of the same person—one always doubting, the other willing to believe). George, in this critic’s eyes, is the epitome of modern man; the sorrow and suffering of young people such as George are our own.160 All of us, says Yu, are looking for solutions to the problems life poses, and, like a sick man we are happy every time the doctor prescribes a

157 “The Pale Horse” (unsigned review by Dr William Francis Casey), TLS, 7 June 1917, p. 271. 158 A young graduate of Peking University, Yu Pingbo (1900–90) had travelled abroad in the early 1920s, visiting England, France and the United States. Like Zheng Zhenduo, Yu was a member of the Literary Research Association, whose unofficial organ Xiaoshuo yuebao had become (with Zheng as assistant editor) in Jan. 1921. 159 Quoted here from PH, p. 149. See Yu Pingbo, “Ba Huise ma yiben”, pp. 4, 7. A reprint of this text is available in Yu Pingbo xuba (Introductions and Postscripts by Yu Pingbo) (Beijing: Sanlian shudian chuban, 1986), pp. 17–24. 160 Yu Pingbo, “Ba Huise ma yiben”, p. 2. Cf. Yu’s reference to George as “the modern hero” (xiandai yingxiong), p. 3. Mention of the novel’s political background is reduced in this essay to a definition of George as a member of the Russian Terrorist Party (p. 6).

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new medicine for us—even though all medicine may turn out to be mere illusion.161 As one who has tried out all such prescriptions, George evokes our sympathy by being not a hero but an ordinary person. While we all are riding the Pale Horse of destruction, suicide—George’s solution—should not be our way, for in the same “destruction” shines the light of tomorrow.162 It will suffice at this stage to take note of the similarities and differences in the analyses of Zheng Zhenduo and Yu Pingbo: though only the former drew an explicit parallel with the dejected state of mind of young Chinese, both critics believed that the Russian novel and its troubled hero were relevant to the problems of contemporary China. The very next issue of Xiaoshuo yuebao, in November 1923, carried a response to Pale Horse that was most unlike that of Yu Pingbo, the apolitical poet. In an article entitled “The Pale Horse and the Russian Social Movement”, Qu Qiubai sought both to explain the novel’s sources in the Russian politics of its time, and to place it within his conception of Russian literature as a literature constantly preoccupied with social change.163 Born in 1899, Qu had returned in January from two years’ stay in the Soviet Union, to become the main voice for Marxist literary theory and the new Soviet literature in China. His translations from Russian fiction included works by Gorky and other Soviet writers. The first Chinese commentator to identify George as a member of the Party of Socialists-Revolutionaries (shehui geming dang), Qu echoed the assessment of Savinkov and his SR comrades by Anatolii Lunacharskii, the Soviet Commissar of Education. Avoiding such of the latter’s epithets for Savinkov as “dirty adventurer” and “philistine”,164 Qu did praise the novel (rather than the author) for displaying with “artistic truth” the troubled epoch of early revolutionary struggle. Far from suggesting a resemblance between the suffering of the hero and the

Ibid., p. 5. Ibid., pp. 6–7. 163 Qu Qiubai, “Huise ma yu Eguo shehui yundong”. Reprints are available both in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 19, pp. 3–17, and, under the title “Zheng yi Huise ma xu” (Introduction to Zheng’s translation of The Pale Horse) in Qu Qiubai wenji, vol. 1, pp. 255–71. The latter title, identical to the preface by Mao Dun to be considered below, was taken from Mao Dun’s text and given to Qu’s when both introductions were included in the book-form edition of Huise ma. 164 Lunacharskii, as cited by Marián Gálik, The Genesis of Modern Chinese Literary Criticism (1917–1930), pp. 227–29. 161 162


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troubles of contemporary Chinese youngsters, Qu stressed George’s being a “type” limited to his own time and environment.165 Huise ma appeared in book form in January 1924;166 a second edition followed in July of the same year, and a third was printed in August 1931.167 No less than three prefaces, as well as Yu Pingbo’s postscript, accompanied the book: in addition to Zheng’s original “translator’s preface” of June 1922, and Qu Qiubai’s article of November 1923, there was a preface by Mao Dun, which had appeared in the same month as Qu’s in the weekly Wenxue (Literature), organ of the Literary Research Association. The text had little unexpected to offer: in the previous year, as editor of Xiaoshuo yuebao Mao Dun had Huise ma serialised in the journal, and his article anticipating the novel’s appearance with the same publisher, the Commercial Press, offered predictable praise.168 There was also some comparison to other Russian writers: Stepniak (S. M. Kravchinskii, wrongly “identified” by Mao Dun as S. M. Dragomanoff ),169 Artsybashev (from whose Worker Shevyrev Mao Dun quoted a few lines in Lu Xun’s translation) and Ropshin were said to represent three different outlooks on revolution. The first writer portrayed firm and steadfast revolutionaries. The second showed them cynical and lacking in faith. As to the third, his hero’s only goal was assassination itself, and having achieved this he no longer had a cause to live for (according to Mao Dun, George’s suicide illustrated the truth of Dostoevsky’s claim in The Brothers Karamazov that a murderer will always end by taking his own life). As a leading member of the Social Revolutionary Party, Ropshin is also credited with showing the reasons for the SR’s failure in his novel.170

Qu Qiubai, “Huise ma yu Eguo shehui yundong”, p. 3. On 3 Feb. Lu Xun noted in his diary receiving a complimentary copy from Zheng Zhenduo with the morning post. See LXQJ (2005), vol. 15, p. 500. 167 For complete bibliographical information on the Chinese translations of Savinkov, Artsybashev and Andreev up to 1950, see the Annex to this book. 168 Mao Dun’s “Preface” is also discussed in Ng, The Russian Hero in Modern Chinese Fiction, p. 73. 169 See Mao Dun, “Zheng yi Huise ma xu”, p. 1; this error, and misprints in other foreign names, survive in the reprint of the preface in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 19, pp. 18–22, but can be seen corrected in Mao Dun’s own Collected Works. Mao Dun’s confusion was with Mikhail Dragomanov (1841–95), a Ukrainian critic and Stepniak’s approximate contemporary. 170 At the same time, Mao Dun refers to the novel’s hero, George, as a member of “the Russian assassination party, also called the terrorist party” (ansha dang and kongbu dang). 165 166

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But the most interesting part of the preface comes towards its end, after the commentator had exhausted his stock of unattributed literary erudition.171 Describing The Pale Horse as “a masterpiece of Russian literature”, Mao Dun says that it had caused uproar in Russia. He compares Kon’ Blednyi with Leonid Andreev’s Anathema and Artsybashev’s Sanin, both of which, in his opinion (he overestimated the impact of Andreev’s play, on which he had written before), had exerted an explosive effect on the Russian reading public: such, Mao Dun writes, is “the warm-hearted attention that Russian youths pay to all problems in life”. As to our own contemporary youths, however: It seems of late that they have grown tired of paying attention to all the different great problems. To say the least, they have become fed up with the word ‘revolution’ and thus indulge daily in self-intoxicating illusions; by way of emancipating their spirits they merely look for excuses to console themselves. That is why Zhenduo’s translation of The Pale Horse did not ‘Create a sensation’172 when it began appearing in Xiaoshuo yuebao last year. Frankly speaking, until the very end of The Pale Horse’s serialisation in the journal, we did not receive a single letter from a youth discussing The Pale Horse! I wonder: now that The Pale Horse comes out in a separate book edition, will young people continue to view it with the same indifference? In today’s political situation, ever more reactionary with each passing day, the call for a Socialist revolution has long fallen silent. Those anxious about the period we live in may think that in these times, when people’s hearts are benumbed, some men of ideals are needed, who would ‘die as martyrs for a noble cause’; holding a revolver and a bomb in their hands, they would ardently undertake to carry out such actions that may rouse the deaf and awaken the unhearing, and redeem the hearts that had already appeared dead. This is why, when The Pale Horse sees light again in these times, it may still leave people with a deep impression. Yet I hope that if The Pale Horse does succeed to evoke the attention of today’s youths, they will firmly remember the following words: a Socialist revolution must have a programme and a strategy, and its weapon must be mass organization; the ideology of assassination is not the right method for a Socialist revolution to be brought about.173

These lines convey a conception of The Pale Horse’s mission in China: Ropshin’s book must cause its young Chinese readers (note that the 171 Much of the Preface stems directly from the brief essays and plot summaries in Olgin, A Guide to Russian Literature: see pp. 265–69 on Artsybashev, and pp. 277–80 on Ropshin. 172 Create a sensation: in English in the original. 173 Mao Dun, “Zheng yi Huise ma xu”, p. 2.


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designated reader is invariably the “youth”, qingnian) to reflect upon the need to act. The particular method of action chosen by the hero is condemned, and its imitation discouraged, but nevertheless the novel from the lives of Russian revolutionaries nearly two decades earlier is given the role of arousing the consciousness of political struggle in today’s China. Mao Dun’s interest in The Pale Horse passed from his preface to the book to a “decadent” character of his novella Pursuit (Zhuiqiu, 1928), Zhang Qiuliu: “Miss Zhang walked slowly towards the desk, sat down, and started reading The Pale Horse translated by Zheng Zhenduo”.174 Another Chinese writer, on whom reading Ropshin’s novel in Zheng’s translation obviously left “a deep impression”, was Ba Jin. According to Mau-sang Ng, Ba Jin’s New Life (Xin sheng, 1931), the second volume of a trilogy begun with Destruction and completed with Dawn, had been deliberately conceived as an antithesis to The Pale Horse, so as “to paint a full picture . . . of how the ‘George-type’ of hero should and would develop in the Chinese context”.175 Like George, the main protagonist Li Leng (a poet, who bears his author’s surname) tells his story in diary form. Awaiting execution at the novel’s end, Li had been “redeemed by love” from his earlier state of George-like egoistic individualism (and an unadulterated hatred of “the masses”); he therefore meets death with the relief of stepping off the road leading to destruction.176 A vision of a future, more hopeful than Ropshin’s motto from Revelation 6.8, is offered by Ba Jin as a postscript to the novel: “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” ( John 12.24). A major speaker for anarchism among Chinese writers, the early Ba Jin wrote extensively on the doctrine, translating from English and French works by Stepniak (Underground Russia, in 1929), Emma Goldman, and his hero, Peter Kropotkin: it was widely believed that Ba Jin had composed his pseudonym from the first syllable of the name “Bakunin” and the last of “Kropotkin”. As we have seen, Savinkov was no anarchist; this would not have precluded an interpretation Quoted by Ng, The Russian Hero in Modern Chinese Fiction, p. 34. Ibid., pp. 202–6 (here p. 205). Ng’s contention that “The Pale Horse was one of Ba Jin’s favourite novels” (p. 202) rests on an Introduction to one of Ba Jin’s translations, in which he had also expressed appreciation for Artsybashev’s Worker Shevyrev (p. 191). Olga Lang, Pa Chin and His Writings: Chinese Youth Between the Two Revolutions, p. 241, believes that Ba Jin’s inspiration for Li Leng came rather from Turgenev’s Rudin. 176 Ng, The Russian Hero in Modern Chinese Fiction, pp. 202–3. 174 175

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of his novel in that key, but available evidence does not reveal other responses from within Chinese anarchist circles. Political assassinations did take place in China beginning from the last years of the Qing. In his article “Anarchism and Terrorism” (1929), Ba Jin opposed terror, but as Camus would later do in L’homme révolté, he did not reject assassination—provided that, like Vania in The Pale Horse, the terrorist acted out of love for his fellow men, and was ready to atone with his own life for the life he was taking.177 Ba Jin spoke of himself as “probably the one Chinese writer most influenced by Western literature”.178 The epigraph from the New Testament that preceded The Pale Horse may point towards further creative response to the appearance of this novel in Chinese. In autumn 1925 the young poet Wang Jingzhi (1902–96) wrote a poem entitled “Huise ma”, which he would publish in April 1926, and include in his collection Jimo de guo (The Lonely Country) in 1927.179 The poem’s epigraph was none other than the words from Revelation that we have already seen on the first page of Huise ma in Zheng Zhenduo’s translation: “. . . and behold a pale horse; and his name that sat on him was Death”. As one commentator put it: “It is highly typical of Wang Jingzhi when dealing with biblical motifs that the ‘greyish’ horse is completely detached from its context”.180 Speaking of the horse’s beauty as well as of its evil, this poem may have been another hoofprint of The Pale Horse on Chinese soil.181 The authors mentioned so far would have read Savinkov’s novel in Zheng Zhenduo’s translation of 1922. Could it be, that the ideologically motivated translators were more successful in inspiring one another than in arousing the “youths of China”, to whom they so persistently referred? Indeed, Mao Dun’s grim summary of the reception of Huise ma by the general reading audience does point in this direction. The

Lang, Pa Chin and His Writings, pp. 102–4, summarizes Ba Jin’s article; cf. ibid., p. 7 on the origin of his pseudonym (which Ba Jin later denied), and pp. 351–52 for his translations of anarchist writers. 178 Quoted in Chen Sihe and Li Hui, “Ba Jin yu Xi Ou wenxue” (Ba Jin and Western European Literature), as abridged in Zhi Liang, ed., Bijiao wenxue sanbai pian, p. 447. 179 For a discussion of The Lonely Country, see Leonid Cherkassky, “Wang Jingzhi”. 180 Raoul David Findeisen, “Wang Jingzhi’s Yesu de fenfu (The Instructions by Jesus): A Christian Novel?”, p. 292. The novel under consideration dates to 1926. 181 At least in 1921, the year before the serialisation of Huise ma in Xiaoshuo yuebao, we can assume that the young Wang Jingzhi was reading that journal, since it was then publishing his own poems. See Michel Hockx, “Born Poet and Born Lover: Wang Jingzhi’s Love Poetry within the May Fourth Context”, p. 279. 177


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writers and poets just cited were all young themselves (Ba Jin, for one, could have read Zheng’s Huise ma at eighteen), as were Ropshin’s Chinese translator and his editor-in-chief; they firmly belonged to the generation they were addressing in their prefaces, postscripts and introductions. One enthusiastic and obviously young reader of the Chinese Pale Horse, to be encountered in the next chapter, a certain Kong Sheng, not a writer so far as we know, would find a role model in Ropshin’s novel. Moreover, Zheng’s translation went through three book-form editions at the Commercial Press by 1931: surely, not all of its readers were also writers! But let us consider yet another reaction on the book’s first appearance in January 1924. Writing in the supplement to the Peking Morning Post in March, “Zeng Kai” chose a pseudonym that today remains impossible to decrypt. Yet something of the author does emerge from his article, entitled “The Fortune of The Pale Horse”.182 He probably belongs to an age group just above the one referred to by the qingnian attribute. He lives in Peking and may be a university teacher, and he is writing to complain about the reception of recently translated European fiction by the young (qingnian) audience. Take, for example, Goethe’s Werther: far from being inspired by the ideas of the novel, youngsters have made a habit of quoting this romantic hero in their love letters.183 Shevyrev was rejected by young readers directly upon his appearance.184 Bazarov has only been more fortunate as role model because arranged marriages happen to be the one cause that still inspires youngsters to resistance.185 We may skip the details of the argument Zeng Kai has with Shen Yanbing (Mao Dun) and Zheng Zhenduo about finding the precise definition for the attitude of youth to literary works. Zeng Kai’s point is that the fortune of The Pale Horse in China is predetermined: we

Zeng Kai, “Huise ma de yunqi”. Die Leiden des jungen Werthers was published in a translation by Guo Moruo in April 1922. Terry Siu-han Yip, “The Reception of Werther and the Rise of the Epistolary Novel in China”, analyses the effects of this translation on the emergent genre of love-letter fiction in the 1920s; Zou Zhenhuan, Yingxiang Zhongguo jindai shehui de yi bai zhong yizuo, pp. 306–11, gives many examples of its remarkable popularity throughout the republican period, noticing that the eponymous hero benefited from his distinct resemblance to the Chinese literary stereotype of caizi, the “talented youth”. 184 Artsybashev’s Worker Shevyrev in the translation of Lu Xun (to be discussed in detail in the next chapter) was, like The Pale Horse, serialised in Xiaoshuo yuebao before being published by the Commercial Press in 1922. 185 The direct translation of Fathers and Sons by Geng Jizhi, also in 1922, was mentioned above. 182 183

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Chinese shall never have our own George, nor be able to produce any of the other “heroes” mentioned. Since Chinese youngsters are only interested in money-making, romantic affairs and lazy relaxation,186 The Pale Horse may indeed attract them because of its hero’s egoism, but that would merely amount to picking just one facet of the novel. Zeng Kai does not know whether the book succeeded in arousing and stirring its readers to action in Russia, and he claims to love the book too much to want to indulge in an analysis of it. One thing, however, is clear: once arrived in China, The Pale Horse is destined to become another lullaby for the Chinese qingnian. Such lamentations were part of the self-dramatizing of May Fourth: they expressed the image of the literary reformers as enlightened men struggling not only against the old society and its supposed lackeys, the writers of “mandarin ducks and butterflies” fiction, but also against perceived idleness and indifference among the young who were China’s hope. Indeed, considering the amount of reading articles such as this urged upon the youth of China in preparation of deeds to be accomplished, their real-life conduct was bound to prove a disappointment for all parties concerned. The writer and poet Wang Tongzhao (1897–1957), one of the founders of the Literary Research Association along with Zheng Zhenduo and Mao Dun, affords another example of this attitude in an article calling upon Chinese readers to treat literature with the seriousness that, he believed, was especially due to the deeply moving literature coming from Russia. A friend had written to Wang to express his admiration for the novel The Pale Horse, recently translated “by a certain gentleman” in Xiaoshuo yuebao. Wang “had answered immediately”, telling his correspondent: “What a pity that there are so few people with your insight. It is not just that very few Chinese have lived up to the spirit exemplified by The Pale Horse, but far too few have been able even to appreciate it properly . . .”.

186 Zeng Kai disagrees with a statement by Zheng Zhenduo that “it is wrong to blame Chinese youths for only studying literature out of boredom”. His proof is “Mr. Zheng Zhenduo’s good friend, Zhu Qianzhi”, who, coming earlier that year to study literature at Peking University, had personally told our author that he “wanted to rest”. What we know of Zhu Qianzhi (1899–1973) does not sustain the image of a passive reader: by the early 1920s he had earned fame as a proponent of nihilist anarchism, suicide, free love and the doctrine of Max Stirner (a name to which we shall return). With other anarchists at Peking University, he established the “Struggle Society” (Fendou she) in 1923. See Arif Dirlik, Anarchism in the Chinese Revolution, pp. 173, 179. On Zhu, cf. Peter Zarrow, Anarchism and Chinese Political Culture, pp. 211, 230–31.


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What Wang might have meant by “living up” to The Pale Horse is somewhat hard to say. He did go on to list the profound Russian works that, in his opinion, deserved far more attention from Chinese readers: Turgenev’s story “Mumu”, his novella First Love and his novel Fathers and Sons; Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Poor Folks; Andreev’s “The Seven Who Were Hanged” and “Red Laugh”; Artsybashev’s Sanin and Worker Shevyrev, and indeed the recently translated Pale Horse (which, however, Wang attributed to Alexander Kuprin). Anticipating Zeng Kai, Wang Tongzhao wondered why all these foreign masterpieces had failed to inspire Chinese writers to create anything of like intensity, and he too deplored the inadequacy of Chinese “youth”.187 The cumulative effect that Ropshin’s novel did have upon its Chinese readership is, of course, impossible to determine. We could, however, rephrase the question, and ask whether The Pale Horse was more commonly read as “serious revolutionary literature”, from which to draw a lesson (however removed from the original political and literary contexts) about the burning issues of the day, or rather as good entertainment. The answer will hardly come as a surprise: contrary to the didactic aspirations of Mao Dun, and more in line with the lamentations of Zeng Kai and Wang Tongzhao, the main appeal of the book in China did not lie in its ideology—which, with George, was also far from a call to revolutionary action. Huise ma provided a respectable (because presented and sanctioned by the writers of Xiaoshuo yuebao) alternative to the gripping tales of Russian nihilists, promoted by writers of popular fiction in the last decade of the Qing. It satisfied both the traditional requirement that writing should present itself as the reflection of genuine experience, and the growing expectation that the politically conscious writer should “match word with deed” by handling both pen and gun. The novel’s narrative technique conveniently placed it in the line of succession to the diary-form novels first composed by Chinese entertainment writers, under the influence of translated European fiction, in the mid-1910s;188 187 Wang Tongzhao, “Women bu yinggai yi yanzhong de taidu kan wenxue zuopin?” (Should We Not Treat Literary Works Seriously?), in Wang Tongzhao wenji, vol. 6, pp. 416–18. This article is undated, but judging from the context must have been written in late 1922 or 1923. 188 According to Yuan Jin, “The Influence of Translated Fiction on Chinese Romantic Fiction”, in Pollard, Translation and Creation, p. 296, it was the success of Lin Shu’s translation of La Dame aux camélias that inspired the writer Xu Zhenya to integrate

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between these and The Pale Horse, readers would naturally have encountered Lu Xun’s “Diary of a Madman” (1918). Thus Huise ma satisfied contemporary demand for narratives in the confessional style, frequently also in diary form, in which the first-person hero was a misunderstood and self-pitying “intellectual”.189 This now popular “modern” hero was in turn related to the caizi: the unappreciated and sensitive “talented youth” of late Qing and “Butterfly” fiction, whose well-established appeal was not lost even on those budding reformers who found their reading matter in the YMCA library. The switch from the ideological to the popular presentation of early twentieth-century Russian literature between the 1920s and the 1930s will be traced below on the basis of the translations of Mikhail Artsybashev. But much of the same is already observable in two Chinese translations of Boris Savinkov, both now exceedingly rare. In May 1935 a second Chinese version of The Pale Horse was published in Shanghai by the Middle-School Student Press (Zhong xuesheng shuju). The person responsible for this new version, Ye Shufang, is absent from the biographical dictionaries, but entries under his name in Chinese library catalogues reveal a writer on Japanese affairs and on Kuomintang ideology. It would have been plausible, in light of this information, to suggest that Ye had relied on the Japanese Pale Horse; the novel was first translated in Japan in 1919 by the critic who was to become a leading figure of the movement for “proletarian literature” in the 1920s, Aono Suekichi.190

diaries and letters into his novel The Jade Pear Spirit (1914). Rewriting this bestseller as a diary, under the title Tearful Memories of Bygone Days, Xu created the first Chinese novel in diary form. Cf., on Xu Zhenya, Ch. 2 in E. Perry Link, Jr., Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies: Popular Fiction in Early Twentieth-Century Chinese Cities. 189 Chinese stories and novellas in letter and diary form in the period 1922–26 are listed by Ingo Schaefer, “Remarks on the Question of Individuality and Subjectivity in the Literature of the May Fourth Period”, pp. 42–3. On self-pity and self-indulgence in “May Fourth” writing, see McDougall, Fictional Authors, Imaginary Audiences, pp. 49–59. 190 Aono’s translation was reprinted in 1924 parallel to the appearance of still another Japanese version of The Pale Horse (I owe this and some of the following information on Japanese translations to the assistance of Tetsuo Mochizuki, The Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University). As a critic, Aono (1890–1961) was known in China through three essays from his Literature in a Transitional Period, translated by Lu Xun in 1927–28.


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Ye Shufang’s function, however, was defined not by the usual character yi (meaning translator), but by the word bianshu: rather than “translate” the book, he had “recounted” (literally: “edited-narrated”) it for publication. His Pale Horse appeared in a series entitled “Literature masterpieces in popular form”, in which a similarly “recounted” translation of Artsybashev’s Sanin (and another work by Ye Shufang, an abridgement of Knut Hamsun’s novel Hunger) had been published in late 1934.191 The purpose of the series, as expressed in an advertisement placed in the back of the abridged Pale Horse, was to make the best of world fiction available, for only two jiao, to readers who could not spare the expense of one or two yuan, and who preferred to have books “of a hundred to two hundred thousand characters in length” retold to them “in fluent and popular style”, with the number of characters radically reduced to only thirty to forty thousand.192 Other titles in the series, and the obscure names of their “editors”, testify to specialisation in “masterpieces” already available in established Chinese translations; to “recount” Werther, or Fathers and Sons, one would have had to look no further than the translations by Guo Moruo and Geng Jizhi, both published in 1922. Indeed, Ye Shufang’s version of Hunger (as Ji’e) is known to have been an abridgement of a translation published by the Shuimo bookstore (under the single-character title E ) in 1930;193 the change of title may have been done to avoid accusations of plagiarism, though no such precaution was taken with regard to Huise ma. Abridgements apart, whether the late-coming translator should draw only on the foreign work, refusing to consult its previous translations into the same language, is one of the principal questions arising from the phenomenon of repeated translation (below we shall encounter books and stories translated many times over). However, it is not a question peculiar to the history of translation in China. As elsewhere, individual translators answered it in different ways: for

191 The series was entitled Tongsu ben wenxue mingzhu congkan. No further information is available on the translator of the “recounted” Sanin, Qiu Taosheng, who also supplied the book with an introduction. The somewhat better known Ye Shufang may be described as an “occasional” translator, a category to be further discussed in Ch. 5. Contrary to Zheng Zhenduo’s Huise ma, the translations mentioned here saw only one printing each. 192 Publisher’s advertisement in Ye Shufang, trans., Huise ma, copy Shanghai Library. 193 Xie Tianzhen and Zha Mingjian, eds., Zhongguo xiandai fanyi wenxue shi (1898– 1949), hereafter: ZXFW, p. 547.

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example, in postscripts to his translations of Fathers and Sons and of another novel by Turgenev, Ba Jin candidly acknowledged his debt to earlier Chinese versions.194 In March 1936 the Commercial Press published another translation of a book by Ropshin (“Lubuxun”), under the title Heise ma (Black Horse). There was no introduction, no information whatsoever about the author, and the translator only identified himself by his first name, or “style”, Ying Bo.195 This translation of Savinkov’s last novel, Kon’ Voronoi, was not the literary event that the appearance of Kon’ Blednyi had been. Quite the contrary, it passed completely unnoticed, allowing later bibliographers to mistake it for another (third) version of the same book.196 The Commercial Press, which had brought out The Pale Horse (with three prefaces and a postscript) twelve years earlier, was never quite the same after being bombed in the Japanese attack on Shanghai on 28 January 1932. No longer publishing Xiaoshuo yuebao, it did still employ Zheng Zhenduo.197 Yet for reasons to be laid out in the next chapter, by 1936 a translator of Zheng’s standing in the Chinese literary world would no longer associate himself with non-socialist modern Russian fiction. At a time of extreme government suspicion of “revolutionary” Russian literature on the one hand, and of a strong identification of literary intellectuals with “proletarian” and “new Soviet” fiction on the other, it would have been hard to know how to take a novel on political terror by an SR revolutionary who had died in the Soviet prison. In April 1929, the future model peasant writer Zhao Shuli (1906–70) was arrested in his home province of Shanxi after a search of his room by the Kuomintang police had revealed a copy of The Pale Horse in

194 Ba Jin on his translations of Fathers and Sons (fourth Chinese version of the novel) in 1943 and Virgin Soil (third version) in 1944, as quoted by Sun Naixiu, Tugeniefu yu Zhongguo, p. 92, n. 1. 195 Ying Bo does appear once more in the records, as translator of the Soviet satirist Panteleimon Romanov in 1929. Chen Jianhua, 20 shiji Zhong-E wenxue guanxi, p. 362; Zhang Jinglu, Zhongguo jinxiandai chuban shiliao, vol. 4, p. 285. 196 Minguo shiqi zong shumu 1911–1949: waiguo wenxue, p. 271, wrongly presents Ying Bo’s Heise ma as another Chinese translation of The Pale Horse. The copy of Heise ma at Shanghai Library is the only one of which I am aware. 197 See Jean-Pierre Drège, La Commercial Press de Shanghai, 1897–1949, pp. 85–9 on the destruction and gradual re-establishment of the publishing house between 1932 and 1935. In 1936 Zheng Zhenduo edited for the Press the first volume of an Anthology of Russian Short Stories in Translation (Eguo duanpian xiaoshuo yicong); five of the six stories in it were included in Zheng’s own translation.


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Zheng Zhenduo’s translation, next to the special issue on “The study of Russian literature”, published by Xiaoshuo yuebao in 1921.198 In the next chapter, as we discuss the translations into Chinese of Mikhail Artsybashev, this “special issue” will be mentioned again, while wider questions about Russian literature in China of the 1920s and 1930s will be taken up.


Dai Guangzhong, Zhao Shuli zhuan, pp. 63–4.


ARTSYBASHEV AND THE IDEOLOGY OF TRANSLATION I. The author of Sanin and Shevyrev Boris Savinkov had his place in the history books; Leonid Andreev remained, despite decades of bad press, a recognized writer. Of the three writers whose Chinese fortunes we are following here, Mikhail Artsybashev was the one most easily forgotten in his own country. His Collected Works, published in St Petersburg and Moscow in the years before the revolution, comprised ten volumes. Yet the first re-edition of his writings in the Soviet Union after the late 1920s had to await 1990. For the intervening sixty-odd years his name could only be found in the depreciatory entries of Soviet literary dictionaries.1 He was born in 1878 in the Ukraine, the son of impoverished gentry in Dobroslavovka village of Akhtyrka district (not far from Kharkov, where Boris Savinkov would be born only two months later; the parallel is completed by the proximity of the two men’s deaths, respectively in the age of forty-eight and forty-six). Artsybashev’s early love for painting, carried through his entire life, may have left a trace in the frequent occurrence and pictorial quality of nature descriptions in his prose, which remained faithful to the landscape of his native province.2

1 The last selection of short stories by Artsybashev appeared in the Soviet Union in 1928; see Stanislav S. Nikonenko’s preface, “Mikhail Artsybashev”, p. 17, in Teni utra (1990), the first collection since that time. An illustration of the treatment of Artsybashev in Soviet criticism is the brief entry in A. A. Surkov, ed., Kratkaia literaturnaia entsiklopediia (1962), vol. 1, p. 335, where he is accused of naturalism, “eroticism”, “reactionism”, amorality, sexual promiscuity and cynical nihilism. An even more impressive panoply of insults could be found as late as 1990 in P. A. Nikolaev, ed., Russkie pisateli: biobibliograficheskii slovar’ (see entry by V. E. Krasovskii in vol. 1, pp. 48–9). This must count as the last example of its kind, as in 1989 the first volume of Russkie pisateli 1800–1917 (see next note, below) already offered a balanced survey of Artsybashev’s life and writing. 2 Biographical information on Artsybashev is adopted mainly from Nikolaev, Russkie pisateli 1800 –1917, vol. 1, pp. 113–15, and the entry by A. A. Reviakina in A. N. Nikoliukin, ed., Literaturnaia entsiklopediia russkogo zarubezh’ia 1918–1940, pp. 43–5. Artsybashev himself recalled that he spent the royalties, which he earned from his first story, on paint: see Prokopov, “Vozvrashchenie Mikhaila Artsybasheva”, p. 9.


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Fig. 1. Mikhail Artsybashev. Frontispiece of M. Artzibaschew, trans. S. Bugow and André Villard, Revolutionsgeschichten (Munich and Leipzig: Georg Müller, 1909).

A traumatic memory of his adolescent years would accompany Artsybashev throughout his writing career, also finding reflection in his fiction. A suicide attempt in the summer of 1897 left the young man of eighteen severely injured, his health irreparably damaged. The thought of death would be ever-present from then on; few of Artsybashev’s works do not, in one way or another, enquire into the meaning of human existence in relation to the inescapable annihilation that awaits everyone in the end. Rather than attempt to follow the writer’s oeuvre in strict chronological order from his earliest published short stories (we shall return to discuss several of these below in conjunction with their Chinese translations), it will be apposite to begin with Artsybashev’s first novel, the one with which his name remained most firmly associated ever since its first serialised publication in a literary journal in 1907.

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Sanin Sanin was begun by its young author in 1900, and submitted to the prestigious St. Petersburg journal Mir Bozhii (The World of God) in 1903. The dating of the manuscript is important, because even allowing for the text’s subsequent revision it puts in serious doubt the (still commonly repeated) identification of Sanin with the pessimism prevailing among Russian intellectuals in the aftermath of the failed revolution of 1905. Rejected by Mir Bozhii at first, the three-hundred page novel was eventually taken up by the same journal. By that time the journal had changed its name to Sovremennyi mir (The Contemporary World), and Artsybashev was an already established author, who apparently had to be cajoled by editors into letting his novel be published.3 The serialisation of Sanin in Sovremennyi mir in 1907 provoked the most famous literary scandal of the period. The author of Sanin was accused of pornography, the propagation of “free love” and dark nihilist pessimism. At the same time, Sanin was enjoying an immense and unprecedented success with its readers, mainly students and adolescents. Disputes were organized to discuss whether “Sanin was right”; clandestine “leagues of free love” were said to have emerged, and there were rumours that groups of youths calling themselves “Saninists” were imitating the conduct of their hero. Irrespective of whether press reports about these aspects of the readers’ response corresponded to the truth,4 they carried some serious implications for the writer, who found himself banished by local authorities from one city after another (indeed, he was obliged to leave the Crimea soon after writing to his German translator in 1908); threatened with excommunication by the Russian Orthodox Church (1910); finally, tried in a court of law for pornography and profanity. The literary world of Russia between 1907 and 1908 (the year in which Sanin saw three printings in book form, of which the second was banned by court order) spoke practically of nothing else, and in

3 Nikolaev, Russkie pisateli 1800 –1917, vol. 1, p. 114; Nikonenko, “Mikhail Artsybashev”, p. 9. 4 Otto Boele, “ ‘Iz dostatochno kompetentnogo istochnika . . .’ Mif o ligakh svobodnoi liubvi v gody bezvremen’ia (1907–1917)”, and idem, “Introduction”, in Artsybashev, Sanin (trans. Katz), pp. 11–12, argue that they were vastly exaggerated. The best analysis of Sanin’s reception in Russia of its time is Mogil’ner, Mifologiia “podpol’nogo cheloveka”, pp. 121–32.


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the oft-quoted words of one critic, “It seemed in those years not that M. Artsybashev wrote Sanin, but Sanin had written M. Artsybashev”.5 Imitations of Sanin began to appear, giving rise to a new literary trend, the trademarks of which were frank description of the relations between the sexes and marked indifference to the struggle for social change. It was disparagingly baptized artsybashevshchina by the critics.6 One must therefore ask what this controversial novel stood for and whether it sought to express a specific belief. Vladimir Sanin, now in his twenties, has returned to his parents’ home in a small provincial town after several years of absence. He is met by his mother and his younger sister Lida. Roughly at the same time, another hero of the novel returns to town after a spate of revolutionary activity which cost him six months in prison and five years of banishment from the capital:7 Yuri Svarozhich comes back to stay with his father and sister Liudmila (Lialia, as she is known to all her friends). While Lida is courted by Zarudin, an uncouth army officer, and by the bashful and undecided doctor Novikov, Lialia is already engaged to be married with another young physician, Anatolii Riazantsev. The novel’s principal characters also include Lialia’s friend, the beautiful school teacher Zinaida Karsavina. The many lesser characters notwithstanding, it is possible to summarize at least the outward plot of the novel by following the destinies of its two main protagonists. Despite herself, Lida succumbs to the physical strength and masculine charms of Zarudin and eventually becomes pregnant by him. Their relations are severed, and she contemplates suicide, but as she is about to fling herself into the river she is rescued by her brother, who later also manages to save Lida’s standing in society by arranging her marriage to Novikov. Though Lida refuses to see him, Zarudin presents himself in her house along with a profligate friend from the big town, before whom he wishes to

5 Vasilii L’vov-Rogachevskii, as quoted in Nikolaev, Russkie pisateli 1800–1917, vol. 1, p. 114. 6 Writers listed as imitators of Sanin are Avgusta F. Damanskaia, O. Mirtov (pseudonym of Ol’ga Negreskul) and Vladimir Lenskii. See ibid., and esp. E. A. D’iakova, “Belletristy 1900–1910-kh godov: Mikhail Artsybashev, Anatolii Kamenskii, Anastasiia Verbitskaia i dr.”, which considers Sanin superior to its many competitors. 7 We later find out that Yuri had been a member of the Social Democratic Party: see Artsybashev, Nash tretii klad, pp. 445, 522. References in this chapter are given to the Russian text of the novel, as included in the above collection. As has already been mentioned, Sanin is now available in a new English translation by Michael R. Katz.

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flaunt his conquest. Sanin drives both men away while insulting the officer. He refuses Zarudin’s challenge to a duel, but soon thereafter, when Zarudin accosts him on the boulevard and lifts his whip with the intention to provoke him, Sanin deals him a horrible blow to the face which sends Zarudin bleeding to the ground. Unable to suffer this humiliation, the officer kills himself. Yuri Svarozhich spends his days mainly in contemplation. Increasingly, he becomes filled with self-pity, seeing life and all human endeavour as futile and doomed to failure. His discovery that Riazantsev, the gallant fiancé of his sister, is in the habit of visiting brothels, fills Yuri with disgust but also makes him aware of his own lack of virility. Though only twenty-six years old, the unavoidability of the end weighs upon him as he hears of the death from tuberculosis of the student Semenov.8 His mental torments are worsened by the suicides of Zarudin and that of Soloveichik, a lonely weak man who had long tried to find out “the right way to live”, but ended up hanging himself in despair. Yuri is attracted to Karsavina, but when after several months of acquaintance she sets him a rendezvous in a romantic setting outside of town he is unable to satisfy her obvious expectations from him: her question “Do you love me?” evokes anxiety in him at the perspective of marrying Karsavina, and then living on, content with the philistine happiness of a provincial household. In what becomes the climax of the novel, Sanin approaches Karsavina, not long after her humiliating encounter with Yuri, and forces himself upon her in the rowing boat in which the two of them were floating down the river. On the next day Yuri Svarozhich shoots himself—not because he finds out about what had happened between Sanin and Karsavina (he does not), but because he is overcome by his fear of life and cannot bear the shame of having ever to see Karsavina again. At Yuri’s funeral, none of the young people in attendance can think of

8 The dying student, who suffers from the same disease as the author, and is tormented by the same premonition of death, is a figure appearing in a number of Artsybashev’s works. Semenov’s tuberculosis plays a central role in the short novel Smert’ Lande (The Death of Lande, first published 1904). Lande’s story is also told in Sanin, by Sanin himself, who even admits to having once been influenced by Lande’s practice of Tolstoyan non-resistance. See Nash tretii klad, pp. 574–76. With his first name changed from Vasilii to Semen, the consumptive student Semenov is again a central character in Artsybashev’s 1914 play War (where, in act Four, he is accused of having talked of his death for so many years that people had stopped believing his words). We shall return to discuss War in the next chapter.


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appropriate words to say in front of the fresh grave. “What is there to say? One idiot less in the world, that’s all!”9 exclaims Sanin, prompting general condemnation. Sanin leaves the provincial town on that same night, just as he had arrived there five months earlier. Disgusted with the people he finds around him in the train compartment, and leaving his empty suitcase behind, he jumps off the rolling train into an empty field. The sun is about to rise, and standing alone in the field Sanin feels happily relieved as his eyes meet the early rays of morning light. There can be little doubt that the personae of Sanin and Yuri Svarozhich are set in this novel in a preconceived opposition to each other. Obviously disapproving of the latter, the author seems to have embodied his own philosophy of life in the former. There are but two reservations to be made: first, if Sanin does speak here for his author, he represents Artsybashev’s “ideology” at one juncture of his development as a writer (we shall see another outlook on life exhibited in Worker Shevyrev); second, even in this novel, seemingly dominated by its strong-willed hero, Sanin’s way is not necessarily advocated as the path to follow. Sanin is an egoist, who lives by satisfying his desires. Life, he believes, is much simpler and healthier if one obeys one’s own moral code while casting aside the stale conventions prevailing in society, including the taboos society has hypocritically imposed on the relations between men and women. As his words at Yuri’s funeral were meant to show, Sanin would always remain true to himself, and never attempt to dissimulate his opinions when they clash with commonplace expectations. His unshakable self-confidence is combined with great physical strength, a characteristic that on several occasions in the novel blends with the writer’s description of Sanin as a man at ease with nature. In such passages we see him, like a latter-day savage, measuring his strength against the elements, or in an outburst of near-animal joy shouting at the top of his voice amidst claps of thunder.10 Sanin repudiates Christianity as a religion that had made man weak and unfit to fight for his own happiness, leaving him to spend his days in meek acceptance of fate and empty dreams of a future world. While he holds that change may only be brought about by brute force, Sanin’s view of the hopeless

Artsybashev, Nash tretii klad, p. 645. Three important scenes, showing the “organic bound” between Sanin and the natural world, are discussed in Nicholas Luker, “Artsybashev’s Sanin”, p. 67. 9


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stupidity of people trapped in the mire of their everyday lives makes him thoroughly sceptical about any form of human collaboration, to say nothing of a “revolutionary movement”. By showing them through the sharp eyes of Sanin, the novel ridicules the Tolstoyan doctrine of humanitarianism as well as naive attempts at raising, through publicreading sessions, the class consciousness of local workers. Sanin’s solution is a self-reliant gratification of spontaneous desire: unless moved by a sudden decision, such as to arrange the marriage of his sister or visit the humble Soloveichik, Sanin would do nothing for others, but neither would he expect anything in return. Yuri is the intellectual torn between realization of a need to act and a profound, morbid pessimism that finally brings him to a cowardly escape from life. Yuri reaches essentially the same recognition as that on which Sanin’s life of an egoist is based: that there is no higher goal to human existence, no more than a “nothing” at the bottom of it all.11 Rather than chart his own course like Sanin, Yuri finds himself overwhelmed by the need to choose between different paths, none of which he considers sufficient to render his life worth living. If there is a deeply disturbing character in the novel, it is not so much the eponymous hero as the troubled turn-of-the-century Russian intellectual portrayed as Sanin’s counterpart. Sanin should not be misread as a manifesto. Rather, it is a vote of no confidence in manifestos, as well as in shopworn labels of any kind.12 By opting out of society, the main hero also eschews the fixed categories that it imposes on its members. Artsybashev himself spoke in the letter to Villard of his intention to present in Sanin “an apology for individualism”. It was Sanin’s “anarchical individuality” that he emphasized, as, disclaiming the influence of Nietzsche, he pointed to the inspiration of Max Stirner.13 Indeed, the near-automatic identification of Artsybashev’s Sanin as an Übermensch, the most recurrent platitude about the novel, is refuted not only by the author’s own claim (in the same letter to his German translator) that he never took the trouble to read beyond the first pages of Nietzsche’s books. In the third chapter of See Sanin’s reply to Soloveichik in Ch. 32: Artsybashev, Nash tretii klad, p. 575. Notice, already in Ch. 2, the fixed perception of Sanin’s mother: there are intellectuals and non-intellectuals; students are all bound to become revolutionaries; clerks are, by definition, bourgeois; an artist is “a free spirit”, and officers must possess an inflated sense of honour. Ibid., p. 375. 13 “Einleitung”, in Artsybashev, trans. Bugow and Villard, Revolutionsgeschichten, pp. xxi–xxii. 11 12


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the novel, Sanin himself “spits with disgust” at the “bombastic images” of Also sprach Zarathustra.14 As a possible “ideological forefather” of Sanin, Max Stirner (by his real name, Johann Kaspar Schmidt; 1806–56) is indeed a more likely candidate. The “individualist anarchism” associated with this German philosopher became especially influential in Russia with the translation of his most important book, Der Einzige und sein Eigentum (The Ego and His Own, 1844) in 1906.15 Charging Christianity with depriving modern human beings of their links to the natural world, Stirner urged the individual to love “his own self ” above everything else, thereby to become a conscious “egoist”. His political programme urged the dissolution of the State, and its replacement by a “union of free men”. While a portion of Stirner’s ideas may well be reflected in Sanin’s worldview, there is also a basic disparity in their respective outlooks on social transformation: Sanin is as far as can be from any belief in the ability of his fellow men (for whom he feels nothing but contempt) to come together for a noble cause.16 In Russia of the first decade of the twentieth century “individualist anarchism” was itself divided among many factions: the “anarchohumanism” headed by Aleksei Borovoi and proclaiming the principle of egoism; the elitist “mystical anarchism”, a group of St. Petersburg writers and poets gathered around the symbolists Georgii Chulkov and Viacheslav Ivanov; the “associative anarchists” led by Lev Chernyi, who strove to abolish through anarchy all forms of social coercion while working out an elaborate blueprint for the “anarchist society of the future”.17 With so much diversity, the teaching of Max Stirner had become superseded by indigenous interpretation. There were, in addition, such other influential currents of the Russian anarchist movement as anarcho-syndicalism, and the “communist anarchism” identified with Kropotkin. Yet Artsybashev’s hero does not seem to draw on any variety of contemporary Russian anarchism any more than he could be

Artsybashev, Nash tretii klad, p. 385. Shelokhaev, Politicheskie partii Rossii, pp. 35–6. The following information on Russian “individualist anarchism” is drawn from this article. 16 Stirner’s work is compared with Sanin in Luker, “Artsybashev’s Sanin”, pp. 64–6. 17 This list does not include those currents of Russian “individualist anarchism” that would only emerge towards the end of the 1910s: among these, the above entry in Politicheskie partii Rossii mentions “pan-anarchism”, “anarcho-universalism”, “anarchobiocosmism”, “anarcho-humanism”, “Christian anarchism” and “neo-nihilism”. 14 15

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described as a faithful disciple of Stirner.18 The key to Sanin may lie in what he himself says of “Weltanschauungen” in Chapter Twenty-Five of the novel: “a worldview is not a theory of life, but only a person’s state of mind, and even this is constantly changing as long as a man’s soul is still alive . . . Consequently, no fixed worldview can exist. . . .”19 Among the many, who wrote about Sanin in the years immediately following its publication, some felt that the novelist had renounced ideas he had previously expressed in The Death of Lande, a short novel of 1904 which Artsybashev himself considered his best work. Its eponymous hero was to a great extent a self-portrait of the author in the period of his youthful adherence to Tolstoyan faith.20 Yet even here there had been no ready “message”: while Artsybashev exposed Lande’s physical weakness, his naivety in doing good even to those who are cruel to him, and his pitiable awkwardness with women, he also showed the strength of his hero’s moral resolve. Lande, it would seem, had his author’s sympathy as a human, not as a speaker for a doctrine. In Sanin, admiration for the hero’s strength and determination shines through once again, even though spiritual force has become physical prowess and Sanin’s hedonism—the exact opposite of Lande’s puritan morality. Rejection of the capacity of literature to proclaim “absolute truths” was probably the one “truth” to which Artsybashev held fast throughout his literary career. His conception of a writer’s duty was couched in the same terms: to tell a truth, but his own. The sincerity of thoughts and feelings (“constantly changing, as long as a man’s soul is still alive”), rather than the propagation of universally valid ideas, was what he searched for in the books of his colleagues, and proudly avowed to be his own most distinctive mark as a writer. Nowhere was this conviction made more explicit than in the essays that, beginning from 1911, Artsybashev regularly published in the press under the

18 Stirner’s name is never mentioned in the novel. In chapter 38, it is Yuri who suddenly recalls how much he had read in his time “on anarchism, on Marxism, on individualism, on the Übermensch, on the transformed Christian, on mystical anarchism”, only to realize that none of these doctrines ever changed “the way things are”. Artsybashev, Nash tretii klad, p. 609. 19 Ibid., p. 528. Nikonenko, “Mikhail Artsybashev”, p. 11, underlines the importance of this statement. 20 Thus the prominent critic Semen Vengerov despised Sanin, but hailed The Death of Lande as the most powerful portrait of altruism in Russian literature after Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. See his entry on Artsybashev in K. K. Arsen’ev, ed., Novyi entsiklopedicheskii slovar’, vol. 3 (1911), esp. column 940.


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heading “A Writer’s Notes”.21 Of particular value to the understanding of Artsybashev’s credo as a writer are his reflections on the deaths of Chekhov and Tolstoy, and the polemical response he addressed to his opponents after the provocative piece on Tolstoy caused a tumult in the literary world.22 In these three essays, Artsybashev insisted that upon the death of a writer none of his “ideas” survived him; even his published legacy (novels, plays, stories) was destined to be surpassed and ultimately forgotten. Only the memory of an inimitable human life, a gifted person’s passage between birth and death, was what remained in the end. This original concept, little short of heretical in its ideological age, has a surprisingly current ring today. In other important essays, such as “Uchiteli zhizni” (The Teachers of Life) and “Propoved’ i zhizn’ ” (Preaching and Life), Artsybashev repeatedly lashed out at those writers he dubbed “teachers of life” for presuming to offer their readers “life recipes”.23 Far from a consistent philosopher himself, and never having pretended to be one, Artsybashev would confine himself to a restricted circle of problems, looking at them from new perspectives in his later work. Worker Shevyrev Rabochii Shevyrev, a one-hundred page novel, was published in the second issue of the literary anthology Zemlia in 1909.24 There are several reasons for its selection here, together with the famous Sanin, as the second work to represent Artsybashev’s writing. An obvious reason, the importance of Shevyrev in China (it was translated by Lu Xun in 1920), will be discussed below. But in Russia, too, Rabochii

21 Artsybashev’s “Zapiski pisatelia” began appearing in the newspaper Itogi nedeli in 1911, were later continued in Svoboda (May 1917 to May 1918), and were eventually collected in three volumes together with some earlier essays. The writer resumed these “notes” after his emigration to Poland in August 1923; carried by the newspaper Za Svobodu!, they assumed the character of trenchant political commentary on the situation in Bolshevik Russia. A small selection was gathered during the author’s lifetime in 1925, while a first comprehensive collection only appeared, under the same title, in 2006. 22 See “O smerti Chekhova” (On the Death of Chekhov, originally in Trudovoi put’ of 1907); “O Tolstom” (On Tolstoy, 1911) and “Ot ‘malogo’—nichtozhnym” (From the “Minor”—to the Lowly, 1911), in Artsybashev, Nash tretii klad, pp. 655–79. On literary works as a reflection of their authors’ personalities, rather than of their “ideas”, cf. “Roman malen’koi zhenshchiny” (A Little Woman’s Affair, 1911), ibid., pp. 305–6. 23 See Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, pp. 718–60. 24 Artsybashev himself founded and edited the Zemlia anthologies, which became the initial auspices for most of his literary production from 1908 to 1917.

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Shevyrev had made a strong impression. Critics compared the work with V. Ropshin’s Kon’ Blednyi and with the short novel K zhizni (To Life) by V. V. Veresaev, both of which appeared in the same year.25 We may begin by telling the story.26 The fourth floor of a squalid apartment house in St. Petersburg is where most of the novel is set. Here live the proprietress, a povertystricken old woman; Sergei Alad’ev, a young writer; the seamstress Olen’ka; a school teacher with his sickly wife and two children; and an old servant couple who pass their days in mouse-like whisper behind the curtains. In this atmosphere of gloom and darkness, only the strong and energetic Alad’ev seems content and at peace with himself. He enjoys a sense of mission, writing stories from the daily life of peasants and depicting through them all that is good in man. He hopes to see his stories read by the simple folk, not by his fellow intellectuals. On the wall of his room hangs a portrait of Tolstoy. Alad’ev’s peace of mind is disturbed with the arrival at his floor of a person presenting himself as Nikolai Shevyrev, a factory worker. On his first encounter with Alad’ev, the newcomer attacks all of the young writer’s beliefs. According to Shevyrev, there is no goodness in men—had it existed, how could one person tolerate the suffering and poverty of another? As things are, being good to others is a luxury of the rich. Shevyrev willingly admits that he hates mankind, above all for the lies that humans cultivate the better to hide in the guise of morality the egoism, which is the only driving force of their lives. The end of human suffering would only come once people acknowledged their true nature and forgot their chimerical dreams of a future “golden age” of love and justice. If such a rude awakening should entail the extinction of a humanity bereft of hope and faith, so be it. After their first meeting, it is as if each of the two main characters is being purposely challenged in the convictions he holds. Shevyrev can hardly suppress a sense of pity at the sight of unemployed workers begging for jobs at the factory. But the story of another such worker, heard in a tavern, brings up in him a new surge of misanthropic contempt. 25 Nikolaev, Russkie pisateli 1800 –1917, vol. 1, p. 115. The writer and physician Vikentii Veresaev (1867–1945) became famous in 1901 with the publication of his controversial Zapiski vracha (A Doctor’s Notes). Mobilized to the Manchurian front during the Russo-Japanese war, he then denounced the war as an absurd massacre. Much like Savinkov’s and Artsybashev’s works, Veresaev’s K zhizni has been read as a reflection of the “moral crisis” of the Russian intelligentsia. See ibid., p. 425. 26 Rabochii Shevyrev, in Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, pp. 261–361.


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Later he is so filled with rage at the sight of a wealthy gentleman, that he reaches for his gun to shoot him, only changing his mind in the last moment. As to Alad’ev, he finds himself face to face with real misery when the teacher’s family next door is about to be evicted (the teacher was fired for protesting against the bullying of his superior). At the same time, Olen’ka, to whom Alad’ev used to lend books, is forced by the proprietress into marriage with a brutish merchant. Alad’ev, we now learn, was once a member of a revolutionary party, and another challenge to his peaceful life comes when a former comrade asks him to keep a package of explosives and some sensitive papers overnight. Though no longer a believer in armed resistance, Alad’ev reluctantly agrees; he also awkwardly proposes to pay the rent for the dismissed teacher until the time he finds a new job. But he cannot come up with any words to say to Olen’ka when, in her utter despair, she turns to him for help. Now the second fateful confrontation between Alad’ev and Shevyrev takes place. As Shevyrev attacks him for helping the teacher’s family (so many more needy sufferers will never find such a benefactor), and blames him for Olen’ka’s misery (had the writer not beguiled her with the illusion of a better world, she would not be suffering so much now that poverty is compelling her to sell her body to a man who does not love her), Alad’ev’s bright and optimistic outlook on life is dealt an irreparable blow. That same night Shevyrev is beset by dark visions. A woman whom he once loved appears weeping before him, and a dark, ghost-like figure comes to plead to him in the name of his own former love for fellow men. We discover that Shevyrev (Tokarev, by his real name) is a terrorist on the run, whose former comrades in arms had all been captured and killed by the police. All night long Shevyrev stubbornly defends his position while the dark figure speaks ever more eloquently of the patient, gradual progress of generations towards a better world, arguing that in the fight against one evil, evil means should never be employed. The early morning hours bring about a grim denouement. Policemen come to search for Shevyrev, but as they knock on his door the terrorist manages to escape. His pursuers suspect that he is hiding in the neighbouring room. Alad’ev believes the police are after the munitions and documents he had sheltered and chooses to die rather than betray his former friends. In the ensuing gunfight, he kills several of the police-

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men. Before reaching and killing Alad’ev, the bullets fired by the police blast the portrait of Tolstoy off the wall. As Shevyrev is running through the streets of town, almost every man or woman on his way seem either to direct the police after him, or look at him with contempt. Finding refuge in a deserted house, he is overcome with a nauseating hatred for the people he had seen during the day. As he sinks into exhausted sleep, another vision appears before him. He sees a Christ, who stands on the top of a cliff and refuses to push a hideous creature, a monster symbolizing all the evil of the world, over the precipice. Even for the deliverance of mankind, Christ would not commit a moral wrong. Awaking, Shevyrev leaves his hiding. With the police once again at his heels, he runs through the city, rushing into a theatre. Inside, he realizes that he is trapped. He is also stunned by the appearance of the theatre audience: fancily dressed ladies and gentlemen, indifferent to all the misery around them. At last Shevyrev gives vent to his hatred, shooting at random into the crowd. Many die from his bullets, and others perish in the mad scurry for the exit doors before Shevyrev is overcome by the police. What is one to make out of this book, which Artsybashev himself called “a work written with blood and darkness”?27 Perhaps the most singular aspect of Worker Shevyrev is the nearly equal plausibility, with which both of the heroes’ positions are presented to the reader; it would be an unrewarding task to try to determine the standpoint of the author. On the one hand, through the horrid results of Shevyrev’s actions, we are made to see the moral impasse to which his ideology had led him. On the other hand, it is Shevyrev whom the writer repeatedly uses to unmask the self-deceiving hopes which had allowed Alad’ev to lead the untroubled life of an enlightened intellectual. While it is wrong to kill, it is also wrong to rely on a doctrine of love and morality (Artsybashev’s argument with Tolstoy is most evident here), and on the hope of distant “golden days”, for self-granted permission to shut one’s eyes to the continuous human suffering in the present. Like most of Artsybashev’s work, Sanin and Worker Shevyrev are profoundly pessimistic. The impact of a Zeitgeist notwithstanding, the “gloom and despair” attributed to the Russian intelligentsia after the


Nikolaev, Russkie pisateli 1800 –1917, vol. 1, p. 115.


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failure of 1905 is not enough to account for whatever writers like Artsybashev, Savinkov and Andreev had in common. As Artsybashev, reflecting on Tolstoy and Chekhov, would be the first to acknowledge, one must look at the people behind the words. Just as it is impossible to understand Ropshin the pseudonymous writer without relating him to Savinkov the terrorist, it will not be simplistic to suggest that Artsybashev, who was afflicted by tuberculosis and deafness and thus lived under the constant threat of death, would have brought much of this personal preoccupation into his writing.28 Artsybashev’s heightened awareness of life’s fleeting brevity was another cause for his systematic rejection of the “future golden age”; an argument made in both Sanin and Worker Shevyrev, and one to which we shall return. Meanwhile, let us turn to the people in China who enabled his works to reach their unexpected audience in that country. II. Sanin and Shevyrev in China Shaning and individualism The near-simultaneous publication in 1930 of three book-form Chinese translations of Sanin was, in the words of a latter-day critic, “an extremely rare occurrence in the history of literary translation in China, especially considering the novel’s length of several hundred thousand words”.29 Who were the translators, who within the span of five months presented Chinese readers with three different versions of Artsybashev’s major novel? What could have been their motivation, and how if at all did they interpret this book for their readers? All three translators relied on the English Sanine (sic) by Percy Pinkerton, first published in London in 1914, and reprinted many times since.30 Up to its twentieth impression in 1922 (the number certainly confirms Sanin as a best-seller by any standard), the book opened with

28 See the commemorative essay, “M. Artsybashev” (1927), by the writer Petr Pilskii, in Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, p. 770. 29 Hu Congjing, “Shaning shu hua”, p. 272. In both the original and the first English translation, Sanin was approximately three hundred pages long. The translations into Chinese in 1930 proved almost twice as hefty: 544 pages for Wu Guangjian’s volume, 526 for Pan Xun’s and 600 in Zheng Zhenduo’s. 30 Bibliographical data on Sanin in English follow The National Union Catalog: Pre-1956 Imprints, vol. 23, p. 113.

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a preface by the British writer Gilbert Cannan.31 It was with the help of this text that the first of the three Chinese translators introduced the book to readers in January 1930. Wu Guangjian, whose name is rarely remembered outside of China today, did not belong to the generation with which we became acquainted when discussing Zheng Zhenduo’s associates at Xiaoshuo yuebao. Born in Guangdong province in 1866, Wu was among the first Chinese to study in Europe when, at the age of twenty, he was delegated by the Beiyang Naval Academy in Tientsin (Tianjin) to continue his education at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich.32 Like his teacher and later colleague at Beiyang, the far more famous Greenwich graduate Yan Fu, upon his return to China and to Naval Academy in 1891 Wu Guangjian evolved into an author and translator rather than a ship captain. After publishing manuals of physics and chemistry, English textbooks and introductions to Western history, Wu gradually made translation his chief preoccupation. Unlike Yan Fu or Lin Shu, by the 1900s he had become a pioneer in use of the colloquial language. When he died in 1943, Wu left more than 130 published translations, including the best of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English and French literature; along with Gulliver’s Travels and his biggest success, Dumas père’s Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After (published 1907), he had translated Don Quixote and Crime and Punishment. More manuscript translations by Wu Guangjian were discovered and published in 1980.33 Wu’s choice to begin his retranslation of Sanin with the preface by Gilbert Cannan was, more likely than a conscious adoption of the English writer’s interpretation of the novel,34 a simple borrowing of a readily available text. This was convenient for a prolific translator,

31 In China, Gilbert Cannan (1884–1955) was often mistaken for the book’s translator. He did have a part in the translation from the German of Artsybashev’s late short novel Dikie (written in 1917, but first published 1923; English title: The Savage, 1924). Much of Cannan’s other translations from German and French, his own fiction and a study of Samuel Butler, appeared with Martin Secker, also the publisher of Sanine. 32 Biographical entries are in Zhongguo wenxuejia cidian: xiandai, vol. 3, pp. 155–56; CYT, p. 231. The year of Wu’s birth, sometimes indicated as 1867, follows the information given by his son: see Wu Lifu, “Wu Guangjian de fanyi guandian” (article also excerpted in ZFC, p. 594). 33 See the chapter on Wu Guangjian in Zou Zhenhuan, Yilin jiuzong, here p. 134. 34 Hu Congjing, “Shaning shu hua”, p. 272, is too rash to conclude that Wu “must have subscribed to Cannan’s views”. A copy of the second edition of Wu’s Shanning is available at the Fond chinois, Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon, though in a poor state of conservation.


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who probably had much other work on his hands, and who did not consider himself a specialist on Russian literature. At the age of sixtythree, Wu was far from a young performer on the literary stage, intent upon conveying his own interpretation of the translated novel to his readers; nor did he need to draw attention to himself, being known and respected for his competence and professionalism even by readers of the New Literature circles.35 Thus the first book-form presentation of Sanin to Chinese readers, after touching only slightly upon the novel’s connection to “the despair which seized the Intelligenzia of Russia after the last abortive revolution”, concentrated on Sanin as a work of social introspection, and in particular as one advocating a “re-valuation” of male-female relations. Cannan then compared Artsybashev to Thomas Hardy, and commended him for having been more successful than “the unhappy Weininger” in treating that difficult subject. He summed up the book’s message as an apology for women’s right to give birth out of wedlock, and as a call to acknowledge the violence underlining relations between the sexes.36 Cannan’s placing of Sanin within the English literary tradition, as well as his apolitical interpretation of the work, resemble a later preface to Artsybashev’s play War, in which the American translator Thomas Seltzer would speak of a “fundamental kinship” between the exploration of “love and sex” in Sanin and in Samuel Richardson’s Pamela.37 A rather idiosyncratic reading of the novel, Cannan’s short text was nevertheless adopted as an authoritative interpretation in a review of the second edition of Wu Guangjian’s translation. Writing in the first issue of Zhongguo xinshu yuebao (New Chinese Books monthly), a magazine launched in December 1930 by the same Huatong Book Company that had brought out Wu’s Sanin, the author of “Sanin Unexpectedly

In addition to his elegant use of baihua, keeping “ideology” out of his translations helped Wu to gain the respect of the “May Fourth” generation, who continued to read him while growing increasingly suspicious of the ideas expressed in the commented/ edited translations of Yan Fu (see Lin Qiuyun, “Qiuzhen yu yusu: fanyijia Yan Fu yu Wu Guangjian”, p. 34). The chapter on Wu’s translations of Dumas in Zou Zhenhuan, Yingxiang Zhongguo jindai shehui de yi bai zhong yizuo, pp. 220–24, shows that Wu was also favourably contrasted with Lin Shu; Zou cites admiring statements on Wu Guangjian by Hu Shi and Mao Dun, both avid readers of his Three Musketeers in their youth. 36 Cannan, “Preface”, was alluding to Hardy’s Jude the Obscure. The Viennese writer Otto Weininger, who killed himself aged twenty-three in 1903, was best known for his Sex and Character. 37 Seltzer, “Michael Artzibashef ”, p. v. 35

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Reprinted!” quoted large sections of Cannan’s preface. While fully in agreement with “the English translator’s” opinion, Su Sheng made some additional comments of his own. One aimed to clarify the novel’s political orientation: the hero Sanin is a believer in freedom, an anarchist—but certainly not a Marxist. Giving readers a foretaste of the novel, by quoting from the boat scene between Sanin and Karsavina, the reviewer pointed out that the author’s “sensitivity” had prevented him from lapsing into pornography. The final words reflected the competition among the Shanghai publishers, who had offered readers three different versions of Sanin in one year. Referring in admiration to the aesthetic beauty of the novel, Su Sheng asked: “If not the translator’s skills ( yibi, literally “translator’s brush”) of Mr. Wu, who else could have so vividly conveyed it? Should the reader not believe this, let him just look at other people’s translations, those Shaning and Shaning!”38 In his own translation, Shanning, Wu Guangjian made no attempt to address his audience. The mode of introduction, analysis and instructive appeal to the reader, with which we became familiar in Zheng Zhenduo’s translation of The Pale Horse, was again in evidence in the second Shaning, brought out in the very next month (February 1930) by another Shanghai publisher, the Guanghua Book Company. Once again, this version was the work of a young writer. Pan Mohua (1902–34), who had his translation of Sanin published under his pen-name Pan Xun, was a Zhejiang poet.39 In Hangzhou, he attended the Zhejiang First Normal School, a cradle of the New Culture movement in the province as well as the alma mater of future Communists. Yu Pingbo was among his teachers; the poet Wang Jingzhi, whom we have also met in Chapter One, a fellow student. Alongside, notably, Wang Jingzhi and Feng Xuefeng, Pan participated in the anthology Hupan (Lakeside, 1922), which entered the history of

38 Su Sheng, “Shanning juran zai ban le!”. As neither of the two transcriptions which Su offered at this point (see Glossary, respectively Shaning 1 and 2) had actually been used in the titles of Pan Mohua in February or Zheng Zhenduo in May, the reviewer’s aim must have been to alert bookstore customers to the distinctive transcription of the title by Wu Guangjian. 39 See the biographical entry in Zhongguo wenxuejia cidian: xiandai, vol. 2, pp. 979–80. Four early poems by Pan Mohua were translated into Russian by Leonid Cherkasskii and can be found collected, next to poems by other authors mentioned in this book, in his anthology Ognennaia mgla (A Scorching Haze) ( Jerusalem Publishing Centre, 1997), here pp. 87–8. Pan also wrote stories, published in Xiaoshuo yuebao in the early 1920s.


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modern Chinese poetry. In 1927 Pan joined the CCP. Arrested in 1933, he died in Nationalist prison the following year. The translator’s Marxist outlook was mirrored in his analysis of the novel. In Pan’s view, the work which had been a sensation upon its publication in Russia reflected the despair of its time and little more. Looked at from a wider historical perspective encompassing the “proletarian revolution” of 1917, Sanin was “merely a reactionary apology for petty bourgeois individualism”. In Pan’s Introduction, dated April 1929, “individualism” ( geren zhuyi ) carried a distinctly pejorative sense, while Artsybashev’s statement on wanting “to present in Sanin an apology for individualism” led his translator to define the individualism of the writer as the combination of “hedonism and nihilism”. By the end of the Introduction, readers were therefore solemnly enjoined to read this book only from the perspective that the translator had outlined, as otherwise “it is to be feared that we had no right to accept it, considering it [as we did] a piece of literary heritage”.40 But what, one may well ask, could have been the reason to translate (“accept”) such a politically misguided book in the first place? Could the apparent risk involved—who knows how many of the readers would eventually follow the translator’s instructions?—be justified by the oblique identification of Sanin with a general treasury of “world literary heritage”? For what it is worth, Pan Mohua reportedly told a friend that he had translated Sanin in order to “introduce the nineteenthcentury Russian trend for individual liberation, of which Artsybashev was a representative, while using the opportunity to attack the die-hard ethics of Chinese feudal society”.41 There is an interesting twist to the story. Applauding Pan’s Marxist evaluation of the novel in the introduction to his translation of 1930, Hu Congjing in an article of 1986 nevertheless rejected Pan’s rationale. Not that censorship should have been applied; even today “Chinese youths” may do well to acquaint themselves with Sanin, for the book’s hero represents a character that had always existed in China. Pan Mohua, in Hu’s interpretation, must really have intended “not to attack some sort of ethics, but to expose in the character of Sanin those

Pan Xun (i.e. Pan Mohua), “Xu”, quotations from pp. 1, 6. Cf. Hu Congjing, “Shaning shu hua”, pp. 273–74. 41 Hu Congjing (ibid., p. 274) quotes this from Jiang Tianwei, “Suoyi hupan shiren Pan Mohua”. 40

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among the Chinese intellectuals who had degenerated into the Sanin kind following the failure of the Great Revolution”.42 Different putative explanations for the choice of a novel for translation have been brought up here, some more credible than others. It is true that by the late 1920s a Chinese translator, as well as any member of the literary community who was not like Wu Guangjian a retired professor in his sixties, was likely to have been politically conscious. The spread of interest in Marxism among Chinese intellectuals is commonly traced to the aftermath of 30 May 1925, when soldiers in British service opened fire on a demonstration of Chinese workers in Shanghai, unleashing a wave of protest throughout China, which the Chinese Communist Party did its best to orchestrate and to exploit. Chiang Kai-shek’s massacre of Communist activists in Shanghai in April 1927 caused another tilt in the same direction. In March 1930 the poet Pan Mohua assisted at the foundation of the Chinese League of Left-Wing Writers; formed under CCP auspices with the prominent participation of Lu Xun, its aims were to promote, by study, publication and translation, a new literature for “the rising class”, and thus to assist in its political liberation.43 The League may be seen as China’s part in the global trend towards proletarian literature, which in the 1920s developed under the impact of post-war economic depression in Europe, Japan and the United States. The increasingly ideologized approach to literature imposed a strain on translators as well as on writers as the merit of literary works, both foreign and native, needed to be weighed on the shifting scales of Marxist criticism. In 1929, despite the curious denigration of a book about to be offered to the public, at the very end of his Introduction, Pan could still attribute the motive for translating Sanin to its value as a work of fiction, part of a “heritage” worthy of being brought to the Chinese reader. This fitted with the original Marxist thesis on the right of the European proletariat to “inherit” the culture of the bourgeoisie. At a later point, between the book’s publication and the translator’s 42 Ibid. The “Great Revolution” (Da geming) refers to the efforts, begun in the wake of the May 30th movement of 1925, to topple the warlord regimes and enable the unification of China; by 1928 this goal had been partly achieved, but the NationalistCommunist coalition that set out on the Northern Expedition in 1926 had broken up, and the Nationalist Revolution was considered a failure from the Communist perspective. 43 Wang-chi Wong, Politics and Literature in Shanghai: The Chinese League of Left-Wing Writers, 1930 –1936, pp. 63, 88.


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death in 1934, it would become necessary to justify the translation in terms of its concrete relevance to the revolutionary struggle. However, another reading (of the Introduction and of the fact of translation) is possible. Must we believe the young lyrical poet Pan Mohua when he claims he had undertaken to translate a three-hundred page novel even while considering it a reactionary product of petty-bourgeois sensibility? His didactic address to the reader should be taken with a grain of salt as one recalls similar introductions to works of classical Chinese fiction: the moral admonitions to readers of The Dream of the Red Chamber providing one famous precedent. While the translator of Artsybashev’s novel could merely have been paying his dues to a moralizing convention, readers familiar with the purpose to which introductions were written (if not with the concept of “intentional fallacy”) would likely have skipped his altogether. But it is also possible that Pan translated mainly for income,44 and that the choice of Sanin had not been his but the publisher’s. Perhaps the Guanghua Book Company sensed a profitable opportunity in bringing out its own version of an action-packed novel which had already attracted attention in the book market, while maintaining its “progressive” image in so doing. Established in 1925, Guanghua published much modernist foreign literature around 1930, including some of the fin-de-siècle variety. The first edition of Sanin in the translation of “Pan Xun” was packaged appropriately, making stylish display of the Chinese characters of the transcribed title, Shaning. The book appeared in a series of “European literature and art”, edited by Yao Pengzi, Xu Xiacun and Du Heng (a set we shall meet again), featuring Gorky next to Strindberg and Remy de Gourmont. Pan’s Sanin closed with an advertisement, defining the mission of its publisher as “the tireless introduction of new thought and the propagation of new culture”. Quite in the spirit of the movement for New Culture, too, Chinese readers were invited, after making their acquaintance with “the solemn national character of Northern Europe and the lively outlook on life of [people in] Southern Europe”, to realize “the shamefulness of their own corrupt, ghostlike lives”.45

44 The 800 yuan he was paid, and which, according to Jiang Tianwei, “Suoyi hupan shiren Pan Mohua”, p. 42, he eventually shared with comrades on the run from the Nationalist police. In addition to this information, Jiang’s article affords a glimpse of the translator at work: Mohua poring over Artsybashev’s Sanin, in his elder brother’s room in the dormitory of Peking University. 45 See Anon., “Ouluoba wenyi congshu”.

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Such statements were no longer as current among the literary intelligentsia by 1930 as they had been in 1920, and Guanghua may have been trying too hard. Who were Pan’s readers, then? We cannot draw their collective profile, but to try and identify one of them will be better than nothing, and if our guess is correct, it may still give us some indication of the readership that translator and author reached. The copy of the first Guanghua edition of Sanin in the Peking University Library bears the seals of its first owner, who (on the inner page of the back cover, facing the moral admonishments of the series editors) scrupulously noted having acquired it, for nine jiao, at “the Old Bookstore” in Canton, in September 1930. He signed only with his given, or courtesy name, Yiyun,46 information which processed through the usual biographical dictionaries would suggest that his surname could have been Yu—an originate of Shaoxing and former member of the so-called Misa Society. “Misa”, a transcription of “the Muses”, advocated a literature of “inspiration” (the English word was used in the society’s manifesto), free of “isms”, ideologies, and political arguments. A writer named Yu Yiyun contributed to the Misa monthly, published during the society’s main period of activity, in Shanghai from March 1923 to January 1924. Closer to the date when (if indeed it was he) he bought his copy of Sanin, Yu Yiyun had edited and translated a collection of “Love Letters by famous Westerners” for a publisher named the “Only Love Bookseries Society”. But then the first character on his seal looks more like a Ma than like a Yu: he may have been only a namesake, an ordinary anonymous reader rather than a forgotten minor writer. The need for explaining the choice of a text for translation may next be followed with Zheng Zhenduo, whose own Sanin was chronologically the third when it finally appeared in book form at the Commercial Press in May 1930. Zheng had a particularly long-standing interest in the novel, a brief mention of which was already found in his introduction to the translation of The Pale Horse in 1922. Zheng’s Concise History of Russian Literature (Eguo wenxue shilüe), serialised in Xiaoshuo yuebao

46 Artsybashev, trans. Pan Xun, Shaning (Shanghai: Guanghua shuju, 1930), copy Peking University Library, hereafter abbreviated as PKU, shelfmark 883/0739b. Yu Yiyun is mentioned as a member in the entry on Misa in Fan Quan, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue shetuan liupai cidian, at p. 347; on Yu’s origins and contributions to the society’s journal, see CYT, p. 924. The love-letter collection is Taixi mingren qingshu (Shanghai: Wei’ai congshu she, 1929).


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during 1923 and published by the Commercial Press in February 1924, made plain that he had come to consider The Pale Horse and Sanin as expressions of “the same kind of extreme individualism”,47 but also that he was far from considering this a disqualifying feature of both novels. In May 1924 an important article, entitled “Artsybashev and Sanin: An Introduction to a Translation of Sanin”, appeared in Xiaoshuo yuebao under Zheng’s habitual pen-name Xidi.48 Zheng Zhenduo’s Introduction began with an assessment of Sanin as a novel, which had assured its author of an “immortal standing in literature”.49 Zheng then quoted a paragraph on Sanin from Essays on Russian Novelists by William L. Phelps, followed by a lengthy two-page excerpt from Artsybashev’s autobiographical sketch as contained in his letter to André Villard (Zheng used the English version he had found in Pinkerton’s 1915 translation of The Millionaire). Another such excerpt followed, justified by the translator’s opinion that none was better qualified than the writer to introduce his own work. In between, however, Zheng made a statement of purpose which could hardly have been more diametrically opposed to the one by Pan Mohua, which we have examined above. While six years later Pan would use Sanin’s avowed individualism to condemn his author, Zheng concludes his own high praise of the novel with another citation from Artsybashev: “The hero of the novel is a type. In its pure form this type is still new and rare, but its spirit is in every frank, bold and strong representative of the new Russia”.50 “But truly, is such a spirit”, exclaims the Chinese translator, “limited to ‘every frank, bold and strong representative of the new Russia’? In truth, it lives in any frank, bold and strong representative of all humanity. In this aspect, Sanin became the best expression of anarchist individualism (wuzhengfu geren zhuyi ) in literature, and was awarded its

47 Zheng Zhenduo, Eguo wenxue shilüe, in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 15, pp. 513–14. On this occasion Zheng also revealed how little he actually knew about the authors he translated: Ropshin, he said (apparently confusing him with his translator, Zinaida Vengerova), lived for many years in England; before that, he had been a famous terrorist who killed people just like rabbits. Artsybashev, Zheng believed, was arrested and even sentenced to death for his writings during the 1905 revolution, though he was released in time to be able to publish his Sanin. 48 Xidi (in pinyin) stood for C. T., initials of the transliteration “Chen-to” (Zhenduo). 49 The following is a summary of Zheng Zhenduo, “Azhibasuifu yu Shaning: Shaning de yi xu”. Though only published in May 1924, the text dates back to May of the previous year. 50 Zheng quotes these lines in Lu Xun’s translation from Villard’s German, replaced here with the English translation by Pinkerton.

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place among ‘immortal works’. In this lies the reason for Sanin’s capacity to attract world-wide attention; this has also been my own main reason for translating it”. There follows a rather one-sided presentation of the novel’s plot: focused on Sanin’s defiance of the norms of society, it says very little of the novel’s other main character, Yuri Svarozhich, and prudishly avoids any hint of the predominant sexual theme. Instead, much in the manner of his preface to The Pale Horse, Zheng quotes three lyrical descriptions of nature to demonstrate the novel’s aesthetic achievement. Another important claim is made towards the end: even though his Sanin is a fictional, rather than a real-life character, Artsybashev remains in all his works a “purely objective” writer. From this point of view, the introduction of Sanin in China is particularly valuable: no better antidote could be administered to contemporary Chinese literature to cure it of its flood of untruthful, fabricated productions. It is a great pity, Zheng continues (and here one is reminded of Mao Dun’s mention, in November 1923, of the lack of response to Huise ma) that so few readers have noticed the appearance of Worker Shevyrev in Lu Xun’s translation; since practically no single mature work of fiction is to be found in China today, both writers and ordinary readers would do well to pay attention to translations. On the whole, a comparison of Zheng’s introduction to his earlier work reveals a marked increase in the demand for precision both in his own understanding of his task as a translator and in the expectations of his readers as he perceived them. Hence his avowed inadequacy for the task of translating a Russian novel from the English: “my own Russian equals almost to zero. . . . My inability to read Artsybashev’s original would probably cause damage to Sanin’s literary merits. However, I have asked two friends, Mr. Geng Jizhi and Mr. Qu Qiubai, to take upon them the burden of checking my translation against the Russian text. I thus believe that my translation will not be too far from the original”. The high purpose of exactitude is also served by copious footnotes, a bibliography of sources consulted, and an impressive two-page list of Artsybashev’s works available in English translations.51 A special note answers those readers of Huise ma, who had written to the translator 51 Next to Cannan’s Introduction to Sanine, Zheng had read Olgin’s section on Artsybashev in Guide to Russian Literature, though he did not repeat the assertion that Artsybashev “became known as the first to speak of sex passion in the most naked manner” (p. 265). Zheng also mentioned the massive Modern Russian Literature and Thought by Nobori Shomu, on whom see more below.


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reproaching him for neglecting to indicate, in his preface to that novel, the name and address of The Pale Horse’s English publisher. They are now offered not only Martin Secker’s full coordinates in London, but also a list of bookstores selling his publications in Shanghai and Tokyo. Zheng Zhenduo’s Introduction to Sanin provides many leads into the milieu of foreign literature appreciators in Shanghai of the mid-1920s.52 Contrary to Zheng’s previous introductions, such as those he had written for The Pale Horse in 1922 and for Geng Jizhi’s translation of Andreev’s play The Life of Man in 1923 (to be considered below), no mention was made on this occasion of “the Chinese youth” (qingnian). Instead it is the coterie of fellow cognoscenti able to read and to purchase English books that becomes his implied audience.53 The meticulousness of Zheng’s translation, well-evident in the excerpts cited in his Introduction, seems to have evolved towards a form of art very conscious of itself—one taking undisguised pleasure in the scholarly footnote.54 One point is key to Zheng’s Introduction: why should Sanin be translated and read in China? His response was to champion the novel in precisely the same terms as had been used by its Russian author: Sanin offered the Chinese readers “an apology for individualism”. It has been argued before, that individualism as a doctrine did not have more than

52 In Shanghai, Zheng Zhenduo, “Azhibasuifu yu Shaning: Shaning de yi xu”, p. 10, advised readers to order their English copies of Artsybashev at the Commercial Press (on Foochow Road), the Sino-American Bookstore (on Nanking Road), or the Edward Evans Book-room (Yiwensi gongsi, on Kiukiang Road). All these addresses were within walking distance of each other, in the eastern end of the International Settlement. The favourite haunts of Shanghai book lovers in the 1930s have been described by Leo Lee: cf., on the first two establishments, Ch. 4 of Lee, Shanghai Modern. 53 Note the contrast between readers’ mail, as reported here by Zheng Zhenduo, and the “absence of any letters” deplored by Mao Dun in his “Introduction to Huise ma”. Book lovers approaching the translator in quest of a more direct access to The Pale Horse as a work of literature counted less for the former journal editor, who had hoped to rally the political enthusiasm of “the youths of China”. 54 Thus Zheng quotes, in its half-page entirety, Artsybashev’s long laudatory tribute to his former editor Viktor Miroliubov (whom, at the time, he shared with Leonid Andreev). To render comprehensible the English expression “last of the Mohicans”, if indeed Zheng understood what it meant, a ready Chinese idiom would have suggested itself in the four-character formula shuoguo jincun. In his article of 1921 “Yi wenxue shu de san ge wenti” (see Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 15, esp. pp. 69–71) Zheng had, in the interests of fluency, advocated the translation of foreign idioms by native chengyu where such translation did not clash with the cultural environment of the source language. Here, though, he preferred the pedantic transcription zuihou de moxigan, which then allowed him to explain, in a footnote, that Mohicans once inhabited Connecticut and Eastern New York.

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a brief vogue in modern China.55 In the realm of political thought, Yan Fu and Sun Yat-sen (who did not agree on very much else) shared the position that freedom of the state was a far more urgent goal for China than the liberty of the individual, and considered the latter not as a value in itself, but as a means to achieve the former end.56 Lydia Liu has traced the life-span of geren zhuyi, essentially as a rallying cry against the Confucian worldview, from about 1917 to the mid-1920s: challenged by adherents of class-conscious “proletarian fiction”, individualism then came to be regarded as a product of bourgeois ideology.57 Coming from a founding member of the Literary Research Association, Zheng Zhenduo’s acclaim of Sanin’s individualism becomes, in retrospect, an “apology” for voices about to be muted. In a proclamation of his own recent “conversion” to Marxism, published in May 1923, Yu Dafu, for one, had called Sanin an embodiment of class struggle in Russian literature. His contrived interpretation of Sanin’s “cruelty” as an “attack on the bourgeoisie and the ruling class”58 now reads as a particularly lame attempt to place the novel within a radicalizing literary discourse. All the more impressive is the decision taken by Zheng Zhenduo and Mao Dun in 1924 to make Artsybashev’s Sanin a permanent feature of Xiaoshuo yuebao. The very next issue following Zheng’s “Introduction” carried his translation of the novel’s first two chapters. Both below a portrait of Artsybashev on the last page, and in Mao Dun’s regular column, “The last page”, it was announced that the serialisation of Sanin would begin henceforth.

55 See Hsia, A History of Modern Chinese Fiction, pp. 18–9. An important role in the propagation of Western individualism was played by Hu Shi’s article “Ibsenism” in the special Ibsen issue of Xin qingnian in 1918; the first Chinese translation of A Doll’s House appeared in the same year. 56 Schwartz, In Search of Wealth and Power, pp. 172, 221–22, 240. 57 See Ch. 3, “The Discourse of Individualism”, in Liu, Translingual Practice. The achievements of the Proletarian Revolution ( puluo geming) were set in opposition to petty bourgeois individualism in Pan Mohua’s introduction of 1929. 58 See Yu Dafu’s “Class Struggle in Literature”, translated in Denton, Modern Chinese Literary Thought, p. 267. A writer of short stories, an essayist and a translator, Yu Dafu (1896–1945) is best remembered for his first novella “Sinking” (1921), published a month after the Creation Society had been founded in his room in the dormitory of Tokyo University. Though his many writings on social and political questions placed him in the leftist camp, Yu contrary to the other two leaders of the Society, poet Guo Moruo and critic Cheng Fangwu (1897–1984), stopped short of committing himself to Marxism. Yu’s growing unease with the demands of Communist ideology on his freedom as a writer, in combination with personal attacks on him by fellow Creation members, led to his resignation from the Society in Aug. 1927.


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Mao Dun himself may possibly have been responsible for the translation of another Artsybashev work, which many readers of Xiaoshuo yuebao would have read at that time: five issues of the literary supplement Wenxue, from February to March 1924, ran a translation of “Staraia istoriia” (An Old Story, 1908).59 This story told of a young and promising opera singer who had surrendered himself to the love of an older woman, retiring with her to the provinces after their marriage. When an innocent city girl falls in love with the handsome singer during a summer vacation, he rejects her, thereby giving up the promise of a new beginning in his life. As we meet the hero two years later, he has lost the last remnants of his talent, while we discover that his young admirer has killed herself.60 The Chinese translation was abridged to convey little more than the essentials of the story, which can be seen as a reaffirmation of Artsybashev’s familiar belief in the indispensability of sexual vitality for the development of the individual. The Chinese translator identified himself as P.—perhaps (though stronger proof is needed) to stand for P’ing, or Shen Yanbing.61 Now Mao Dun called Artsybashev’s Sanin “an immortal work”, describing it as “a Bible of anarchist individualism”.62 Even more than by these words of praise, the novel was being paid the high tribute of a serial publication which, keeping to the first instalment’s rate of two chapters per issue, would have lasted for more than twenty issues, i.e. for a year and a half. While no further instalments followed the publication of the first two chapters of Zheng’s translation in June 1924,63 we shall see that Zheng was to resume his work later on. 59 The title of Wenxue xunkan, begun in May 1921 as a supplement to the Peking daily Chenbao (Morning Post), was shortened to Wenxue from July 1923 to May 1925. Throughout this period the supplement was identified with the Literary Research Association, and distributed to its members. It later assumed the title Wenxue zhoubao (Literature Weekly). 60 See “Staraia istoriia”, in Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, pp. 547–77. Dating follows Sally O’Dell and N. J. L. Luker, Mikhail Artsybashev: A Comprehensive Bibliography, p. 6. 61 Shen Yanbing’s use of P. sheng (“reader” or “scholar” P.) is not documented in Marián Gálik, “The Names and Pseudonyms Used by Mao Tun”. Shen resorted to it in another translation, published in Funü zazhi (Women’s Journal) in Oct. 1920: see Xu Naixiang and Qin Hong, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue zuozhe biming lu, p. 391. But there is still a difficulty in establishing the possible source of this Artsybashev story, which was not available in English. 62 Mao Dun, “Zuihou yi ye”, Xiaoshuo yuebao, vol. 15 (1924), no. 6, p. 2. 63 Silence was the only reaction in July. In August, Mao Dun’s column invoked lack of space to account for the absence of Sanin instalments, and promised to resume serialisation of the novel by the next issue. In September, though, readers were informed

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In May 1927 Zheng Zhenduo left China for a long sojourn in Europe: spending most of his time in Paris and London, he also visited Austria, Italy and Czechoslovakia. Back only in October the following year, he regained his editorial office in Shanghai in time to edit the first issue of Xiaoshuo yuebao in 1929.64 By that time, however, under the temporary editorship of Zheng’s friend, the writer Ye Shengtao (1894–1988), the journal had provided the stage for a far less favourable perspective on Artsybashev’s novel: in October 1928 it carried a translation by Feng Xuefeng of a lengthy essay by the Marxist critic Vaclav Vorovskii, entitled “Bazarov and Sanin: Two Kinds of Nihilism”. Setting out from an analysis of Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, the novel which in 1861 had first introduced the character of “the nihilist” into Russian literature, Vorovskii condemned Sanin for betraying the moral duties of the Russian intelligentsia.65 As it was given the stamp of approval by one of Artsybashev’s least tolerant critics, Maxim Gorky, this essay of 1909 became standard reference for the rejection of Artsybashev’s entire literary heritage in the Soviet Union.66 Latter-day Communist criticism in the People’s Republic would also resort to Vorovskii, invoking the “extreme individualism” of Sanin to rank its author among “the most notorious representatives of decadent literature”.67

that “the translator of Artsybashev’s Sanin is overcome with work, and for this reason will be temporarily unable to continue his translation”. See Mao Dun, “Zuihou yi ye” in Xiaoshuo yuebao, vol. 15, nos. 8 and 9. 64 Chen Fukang, Zheng Zhenduo zhuan, p. 202. 65 Vorovskii (Fuluofusiji), “Bazhaluofu yu Shaning”. The original, “Bazarov i Sanin: dva nigilizma” (1909), is included in Vorovskii, Literaturnaia kritika, pp. 195–217. Treating the literary protagonists of Turgenev and Artsybashev as representatives of the Russian intelligentsia of their time, Vorovskii found Bazarov’s “nihilism” constructive and Sanin’s purely egoistic. His handling of Artsybashev was, however, less injurious than his deadly essay on Andreev in 1910 (cf. ibid., pp. 261–79). 66 Cf. Nina Malysheva, “Obraz Bazarova v obshchestvenno-politicheskoi polemike 1908–1910 godov”, p. 122. Gorky had formed an extremely derisive opinion of Artsybashev already by early 1907: see Nikolaev, Russkie pisateli 1800 –1917, vol. 2, p. 454. Artsybashev, however, did have his revenge. When in May 1923 the Soviet envoy Vorovskii was assassinated in Lausanne by the former white guard Maurice Conradi, Artsybashev’s spirited defence of the assassin contributed to Conradi’s acquittal by the Swiss court. His essays, charging “the Bolshevik Vorovskii” with all the crimes of the Communist regime, are collected in Artsybashev, Zapiski pisatelia, pp. 179–91. 67 See the 1982 entry “A’erzhibasuifu” by Zhang Jie, in Zhongguo da baike quanshu: waiguo wenxue, vol. 1, p. 12. It is ironic that the editorial board responsible for this volume of the Complete Encyclopaedia included Fudan University professor Wu Lifu, whose father Wu Guangjian had translated Sanin in 1930.


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We have already mentioned the Chinese translator of this essay as a member of Pan Mohua’s circle in Hangzhou; just like Pan, Feng Xuefeng (1903–76) joined the Communist Party in 1927. In Lu Xun’s monthly Benliu (The Current) in 1929, he published a translation from the Japanese of an essay by a Soviet-based Hungarian Communist critic, in which European modernism as a whole was condemned as decadent art.68 A close associate of Lu Xun since that year, Feng is credited with bringing Lu Xun into the League of Left-Wing Writers in 1930.69 The period of Zheng Zhenduo’s travel in Europe was marked by other developments in the Chinese literary scene: of these, the famous attack on Lu Xun by Qian Xingcun (“The Bygone Age of Ah Q”, March 1928) was a seminal statement against individualism in modern Chinese literature.70 In the second issue of the new journal The Sun Monthly in February, the pioneer Communist writer and promoter of proletarian fiction Jiang Guangci had treated “revolutionary literature” as a matter of common agreement among all but the most retrograde Chinese writers. He then described literary works as entirely dependent on the class background of their authors, and defined “revolutionary” literature as anti-individualist, with the masses as its heroes, and collectivism as its ideal. “This is the direction of revolution—and in the realm of thought, too, individualist theory has quite obviously disappeared”.71 “The so-called individual”, Jiang said as he outlined the sole 68 Lin Jinghua, Wudu Eluosi, pp. 199–200. Benliu, which specialized in translations, was founded in Shanghai in June 1928 under the joint editorship of Lu Xun and Yu Dafu, but it was Lu Xun who did most of the work. The journal lasted to Dec. 1929. See Wang Yougui, Fanyijia Lu Xun, pp. 258–60. 69 See “Lu Hsün and the Dissolution of The League of Leftist Writers” in T. A. Hsia, The Gate of Darkness; Wong, Politics and Literature in Shanghai, esp. pp. 48–9. A veteran of the Long March, Feng was attacked in the 1950s, and ended his life a victim of the Cultural Revolution. 70 Qian Xingcun, “The Bygone Age of Ah Q”, as trans. in Denton, Modern Chinese Literary Thought, here p. 277, argued (inter alia) that “individualism” had already “become a term of profanity” for the progressive writers of May Fourth. For the original, see “Siqu le de Ah Q shidai”, in Ah Ying quanji, vol. 2, pp. 5–33. Qian Xingcun (pen-name Ah Ying, 1900–77), an important literary historian and bibliographer, was one of the founders of the CCP-sponsored Sun Society, created in Jan. 1928. We shall return to him as a critic of both Artsybashev and Andreev. 71 “Guanyu geming wenxue” (On Revolutionary Literature), in Jiang Guangci wenji, vol. 4, pp. 166–73 (here p. 171). Jiang Guangci (1901–31) was another founding member of the Sun Society. As a student in Bolshevik Russia, between 1921 and 1924, he had learned Russian and written Chinese poetry inspired by Communism and by the sights of Moscow. The Sun Monthly was banned in July 1928, but continued under changing names for another year; in 1930 former Sun Society members entered the

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correct path for new literature in China, “is but an element of society”; for the revolutionary romantic that Jiang remained, such statements ring all the more hollow as he did not follow his own counsel in actual literary practice. In view of the growing demands for engaged, ideologically committed writing, it is an indication of the still greater autonomy of translation work that, in late December 1928, Zheng Zhenduo picked up his volume of Pinkerton’s Sanine where he had left it in 1924, and had his Introduction and first two chapters reprinted. All remaining chapters of the novel were serialised in Xiaoshuo yuebao from January to December 1929. Qu Qiubai’s assistance with Artsybashev’s Russian was apparently no longer forthcoming (indeed, his name was now omitted from the Introduction), but when Zheng’s other good friend Geng Jizhi came back to China from Siberia in the autumn, he proved as invaluable as ever in spotting the inadequacies of the English intermediary. In his postscript to the book-form edition, brought out by the Commercial Press in May 1930, Zheng could therefore be justified in claiming that his version of Sanin was much closer to the original than the two other retranslations, which had appeared some months earlier.72 By not omitting the hero’s “spitting”, in the last sentence of Chapter Three, Zheng also showed that he had changed attitude since The Pale Horse. Chinese partisans of the “individualist” novel were still to be found in these years, notably among those Chinese writers who resisted the dominant political trend. In the same year that Ah Ying attacked Lu Xun and Xiaoshuo yuebao published Vorovskii’s criticism of Sanin, Yu Dafu reprinted an admiring early essay on Max Stirner in his prose collection Bizhou ji (Battered Brooms, 1928).73 The erstwhile romanticist, Yu was Left League, while Jiang himself was expelled from the CCP. See “The Phenomenon of Chiang Kuang-tz’u”, in T. A. Hsia, The Gate of Darkness (p. 84 calls Jiang “the first Chinese Communist who devoted himself to the writing of poetry and fiction”), Ch. 10 in Lee, The Romantic Generation, and most recently John A. Crespi, “Jiang Guangci”, in Thomas Moran, ed., Chinese Fiction Writers, 1900–1949, pp. 66–72. 72 As Geng had helped Zheng to discover, Pinkerton’s translation of Sanin contained two chapters less than the original’s forty-six; for some reason, the English translator had cut out chapter 42, and had merged chapters 41 and 43 into one. See Zheng Zhenduo, “Houji”, in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 19, pp. 523–24. The slightly modified later version of Zheng’s Introduction to Sanin (dated 27 Dec. 1928), and his postscript (dated 24 March 1930), are reprinted in the same volume. 73 The essay, punctuated by exclamations bewailing the tragic fate of the founder of “individual anarchism”, included a translation of the Introduction to Der Einzige und sein Eigentum and announced the intention to translate the rest of the book, it was


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now about to leave the Marxist camp. From his own perspective of an anarchist, Ba Jin saw no reason to adapt his views to those of the “Sun Society”. In France between 1927 and 1928, he translated Stirner (the unrealized ambition of Yu Dafu) and Bakunin, along with Marx and Engels. In memoirs published in 1936, Ba Jin singled out three great writers who, as he put it, had helped him become “a real human being”. These were Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Artsybashev—writers whom Ba Jin ranked higher than Shakespeare, Goethe and Dante.74 At a time when Artsybashev was all but forgotten in Europe and inaccessible to readers in Soviet Russia, it is noteworthy that the appearance of three translations of his main novel in China in the course of 1930 was followed by some lively discussion.75 In late 1933 the example of Sanin was used in a public exchange between the young critics Han Shiheng (1908–87) and Xu Maoyong (1910–77), both of them translators of Russian literature. Han, taking his cue directly from Vorovskii’s unflattering juxtaposition of Sanin and Bazarov, had found Artsybashev’s hero exaggerated, artificial and wholly untrue to real life. Xu opined that stylistic exaggeration was no sin as long as a literary protagonist possessed a firm grounding in reality—which he, too, agreed that Sanin did not. In their ensuing correspondence, Han insisted that Sanin was a failure aesthetically no less than he was unconvincing as a character, whereas Xu became increasingly irritated with Han’s criteria for “artistic” perfection; without any wish to defend Artsybashev, but unwilling to compromise on the primacy of verisimilitude before literary expression he pointed out that Han Shiheng would be left with few authors indeed if he were to judge every writer by the standards of Turgenev.

published in the Creation Society’s weekly Chuangzao zhoubao in June 1923, and later in Yu Dafu, Wenyi lunji (Collected Essays on Literature and Art) in 1926. The earliest version, “Max Stirner de shengya ji qi zhexue” (Stirner’s Life and Philosophy), is now reprinted in Jia Zhifang and Chen Sihe, Zhong-wai wenxue guanxi shi ziliao huibian (1898–1937), vol. 1, pp. 144–50. 74 Lang, Pa Chin and His Writings, pp. 124, 232–33. Lang also provides examples of Ba Jin’s protagonists referring to Artsybashev’s works: a character in Wu (Fog, 1931) is compared with Pasha Afanas’ev of Morning Shadows; both Jia (Family, Ba Jin’s most famous novel of 1931) and the later Qiu (Autumn, 1940) mention Artsybashev’s name; even as late as 1943, the hero of Huo (Fire) quoted Sanin’s criticism of Christianity. 75 Preceding the exchange described below, an essay of 1930 used quotations from Sanin (in the translation of Zheng Zhenduo) and Fathers and Sons (trans. by Geng Jizhi) to illustrate the principles of “nihilism”. See Zhong Zhaolin, “Shenma jiaozuo xuwu zhuyi”, and summary in Li Jin, Sansishi niandai Su-E Hanyi wenxue lun, p. 258.

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In response, Han only grudgingly conceded that the literary qualities of Sanin may have escaped him as he was relying on translations.76 As the argument wore on, Xu Maoyong wrote privately to Lu Xun to ask for his opinion (and to request a reading list in literary theory); reassured in that his senior fellow member of the Left League was on his side and not on that of “the sophist” Han Shiheng, he may have been surprised to realise that Lu Xun thought more highly of Artsybashev’s novel than did he or his opponent.77 The mention of Sanin in a list of the most frequently borrowed Chinese translations of books in all genres, prepared by the staff of the National Library in Peking at the request of the YMCA in January 1934, suggests that Shanghai publishers had not vied over the novel in vain. Tellingly, the library’s readers seem to have favoured the translation of Wu Guangjian.78 An article on Sanin in the journal Wenyi dalu (The Road of Literature and Art) in 1935, also based on a reading of Wu’s translation as its transcription of the novel’s title suggested, offered a most positive analysis, taking the protagonists to represent the Russian youth of their time, and enjoining young Chinese readers interested in literature not to miss this masterpiece.79 In the latter half of 1930s, 76 Part of the correspondence between Han and Xu in the Shenbao newspaper supplement Ziyou tan (Free Discussion) was subsequently published, under the heading “Guanyu xianshi de renshi yu yishu de biaoxian” (Regarding the Knowledge of Reality and Artistic Expression), in Han Shiheng, Cenci ji, pp. 233–65. Xu Maoyong xuanji, vol. 1, also includes such echoes of the debate on Sanin as “Zatan Xiaogui” (On The Little Demon, Sept. 1933), pp. 20–3, and “Guanyu ‘Xianshi de renshi’ ” (Nov. 1933), pp. 56–9. Han Shiheng was the first to translate in full Kropotkin’s Ideals and Realities in Russian Literature, for publication by Beixin in 1930; in Aug. 1932 his translation of Vsevolod Ivanov’s Soviet classic, Armoured Train 14 –69, was published in a series edited by Lu Xun, and in 1934 he translated two works by Gogol. Xu Maoyong’s translation from English of The Little Demon by Fedor Sologub would come out at Shenghuo shudian in Sept. 1936, making China probably the only country in the world, where a translator of Sologub translated a biography of Stalin in the same year. 77 “He [i.e. Han Shiheng] says that Sanin never existed. In fact, there had been such men in Russia, and most certainly in China too, only that [here] they were not called Sanin”. See letter to Xu Maoyong, of 20 Dec. 1933, in LXQJ (2005), vol. 12, pp. 525–28 (quoting p. 525), also interesting as an expression of Lu Xun’s ideas on the relationship between literature and society. Cf. the better-known debate on the “typicality” of Lu Xun’s Ah Q , conducted between critics Hu Feng and Zhou Yang in 1936: Marston Anderson, The Limits of Realism: Chinese Fiction in the Revolutionary Period, pp. 62–4. 78 David W. Lyon, “The Past Decade in Chinese Literature”, p. 63. This source is misrepresented by Ng, The Russian Hero in Modern Chinese Fiction, p. 24, where Sanin is made to come first on the list, followed by other Russian writers. Lyon provided no data on individual ratings, arranging his authors and titles (including two much-read reports by the League of Nations) in simple alphabetical order. 79 Zhou Leshan, “Lun Shanning”.


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three new versions of the novel appeared, thus bringing the number of Sanin translations in the republican period to a total of six. The paucity of information on these last three versions does not afford us a clear enough view of Sanin’s fortune in China of the 1930s, though we know that the novel was not included in the list of literary works banned by the Nationalist regime between 1929 and 1936—a period when an author like Gorky, to give a well-known example, was officially prohibited in China.80 Conversely, the works of émigré writers may have earned the sympathy of Nationalists by virtue of their being banned in Soviet Russia. This hypothesis probably overestimates the erudition of censors liable to ban books critical of Marx as well as books by Chinese authors named Ma, but finds some support in the fact that the fourth Chinese Sanin appeared in 1934 in a “retold” version destined for middle-school reading.81 The untraceable anonymity of the translator, Qiu Taosheng, stands out in comparison with those icons of modern Chinese literature who had undertaken the translation and interpretation of Artsybashev in the 1920s. Such relegation of translation work to more obscure hands in the mid-1930s has already been noticed in connection with Savinkov’s Pale Horse. Leading intellectuals, intent on introducing Russian literature to China, now no longer thought of translating Ropshin or Artsybashev. Instead they either turned to the safe Russian classics or, subverting censorship, to the new Soviet authors. The fifth and sixth versions of Sanin saw light in 1936. This was the year in which Lu Xun died, leaving behind an unfinished translation of Nikolai Gogol’s unfinished novel Dead Souls. In the same year Lin Yutang recalled, as one might a thing of the distant past, the initial period of liberty under Nationalist rule in 1927–30: “Translations from

80 Among Chinese writers, Lu Xun’s work dating from 1927 on was also included in the blacklist of 149 titles, issued in Dec. 1934; this list was, however, modified in the following year. See Lin Yutang, A History of the Press and Public Opinion in China, p. 173. It remains unclear how effective these policies were (they could not be enforced in the foreign concessions). Michel Hockx, Questions of Style: Literary Societies and Literary Journals in Modern China, 1911–1937, pp. 243, 251, maintains that censors were more interested in controlling the daily press and publications in the social sciences than they were in monitoring literary works, and that Chinese literature flourished throughout the 1930s. 81 Lin Yutang, A History of the Press, pp. 163–64 on Marx and Ma. On this, cf. “Jinshu de xiaohua” (Anecdotes about Forbidden Books) in Ye Lingfeng, Dushu suibi, vol. 2, p. 390. The 1934 version of Sanin was reduced to a mere 97 pages; an abridgement of The Pale Horse, by Ye Shufang, would appear in the same series in 1935.

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Russian authors flooded the magazine and book market during these years, before Nanking rubbed its eyes and woke up to the situation”.82 A small mystery attaches to the new Sanin published in May (with the Russian writer’s portrait on the front cover), in a “retelling” ( yishu) by Zhou Zuomin, and reprinted three times by its publisher the Qiming press by 1940. Qiming was a respectable publisher, and the series of “masterpieces of world literature” which included Sanin alongside works by Gorky, Dostoevsky, Turgenev and other established classics of European literature, was all the more so. The mystery lies in the book’s translator being (or so it would seem) a prominent financier, credited with “the development of modern banking practices in north China”.83 As the available sources are unanimous in their silence on any links that Zhou Zuomin (1884–1956) might have entertained with the world of letters, we are most probably dealing with a namesake.84 The book appeared with a brief one-page Introduction, in which the translator emphasized the novel’s success in describing, with an effect similar to Turgenev’s Rudin, the world of Russian intellectuals before the revolution; he then compared “the anarchist” Artsybashev to Gorky, on account of both writers’ interest in the strong individual.85 An abridged translation from an unspecified source, bearing the names of Ling Xiao and Wu Ling, concludes the Sanin saga in republican China. While we cannot conclusively identify the male translator,86

82 Lin, A History of the Press, p. 126. Among his many occupations, Lin Yutang (1895–1976) was the editor of journals, a novelist and humorist, the author of popular English-language books on Chinese traditional culture, and an essayist critical of the modern vernacular (cf. ibid., p. 158) and of Lu Xun’s translation style. 83 Howard L. Boorman, ed., Biographical Dictionary of Republican China, vol. 1, p. 427. 84 The closest study of Zhou Zuomin’s “cosmopolitan” personality is Brett Sheehan, “Urban Identity and Urban Networks in Cosmopolitan Cities: Banks and Bankers in Tianjin, 1900–1937”, in Joseph W. Esherick, ed., Remaking the Chinese City: Modernity and National Identity, 1900 –1950 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999), esp. pp. 49–51, 60. Zhou had studied foreign languages, and worked as translator for a law school in Nanking before 1911, but much better evidence is needed to accept that, as a successful middle-aged banker, he would have turned to translating a lengthy Russian novel. 85 Zhou Zuomin, “Xiao yin”. 86 The pseudonym Ling Xiao served the Zhejiang writer and poet Jiang Tianwei (born 1905), whom we have encountered as a friend of Pan Mohua. But Jiang would have needed a particularly good reason not to mention himself as a later translator of the same novel, whose translation by Pan he described in his memoirs. The Peking journalist, writer and theatre critic Xu Lingxiao (Xu Bin; 1886?–1961) is also a possible candidate. Cf. Xu Naixiang and Qin Hong, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue zuozhe biming lu, pp. 177, 554; conflicting data in CYT, p. 1036.


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his precise identity is less interesting than the fact the fact that his collaborator was a woman, the first we have so far met among our translators. Wu Ling allowed her full name, Wu Xuanling, to appear in other books which she translated together with Ling Xiao: library catalogues list their joint translations of Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and Dumas’s La Dame aux camélias. Working alone, something which Wu Ling never did, Ling Xiao also produced abridgements of Alcott’s Little Women, on the one hand, and of d’Annunzio’s The Triumph of Death, on the other. Like their joint work on Sanin, all these titles (signalled as bianyi, literally “edited translations”) date to the 1930s; like Sanin, too, all of them had figured in the Qiming series of “masterpieces of world literature” before being abridged by Ling Xiao’s and Wu Ling’s publisher, the Jingwei Book Company. The circle begun with Zheng Zhenduo closed with an edition offering a summary of the writer’s biography, but not much else except the information that the Chinese translation was completed in September 1936. The translation of foreign literature was part and parcel of the New Culture movement, and the novels, stories and plays of Russian writers were primarily presented in the 1920s as works of ideas. At that time, the mission of introducing Ropshin, Artsybashev and (as we shall see below) Andreev was undertaken by some of the leading figures in Chinese literature. Changed political circumstances and the identification of new “teachers of life” in the literature of the Soviet Union would mean that, by the 1930s, the translation of the Russian “Silver age” would pass into other hands. Works initially promoted from the pages of Xiaoshuo yuebao as an antidote to the literature dubbed “Butterfly fiction”,87 a decade later owed their survival in the book market to their value as good entertainment, not as rallying cries for an ideological cause. Artsybashev’s major novel is a case in point, and the process of redefinition that it underwent in China was not unlike its fortune in the English-speaking world (where, however, its appeal had been more commercial from the outset): following more than twenty printings at Martin Secker and B. W. Huebsch, and after entering Secker’s New Adelphi Library in 1928 and the prestigious Modern Library series (with a serious new

87 See Zheng Zhenduo’s (1923) presentation of Sanin, above. On the crusade, which the New Literature movement led against entertainment literature in the first half of the 1920s, see Feng Liping, “Democracy and Elitism”, pp. 175–88.

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preface by Ernest Boyd) in 1931,88 starting from 1932 Pinkerton’s translation of Sanine was accompanied by the subtitle A Russian Love Novel. A number of small American firms published it in a new format, without an introduction, but with suggestive illustrations by Cameron Wright.89 The drawing of a nude female figure on the title page of the American edition promised more than the book itself could deliver, and readers looking for pornography would have been justified in demanding a refund, but customers who purchased Sanine in the later 1930s may also have bought (and found a similar kind of liberated, self-affirming individualism in) the books of the Russian-born American writer Ayn Rand. Gongren Suihuilüefu, and Lu Xun as a translator of Artsybashev To illustrate the high standing of early twentieth-century Russian literature in China of the 1920s, one has only to evoke the name of Lu Xun as the principal Chinese translator of Artsybashev. The only parallel to China, both in the sheer number of translations and the names behind them, was Japan: while by 1936 China held the world record in translations of Sanin, Japan followed closely with five different versions of the novel.90 The first to have introduced Artsybashev to Japanese readers, with the translation of his story “Zhena” (Wife, 1904) in May 1910,91 was the outstanding intermediary of Russian literature in Japan, Nobori Shomu (1878–1958), who also translated Sanin and Artsybashev’s stories including “Horror” and “Night”. Nobori’s main critical work, his monograph Modern Currents of Russian Thought and Literature, paid close attention to Artsybashev as well as to Andreev and Sologub, whom he also translated. Appearing in a revised Japanese edition in 1923, this book was translated in full into Chinese

Boyd’s “Preface” to the Modern Library edition was concerned with establishing the context of Artsybashev’s novel in the history of Russian literature, and then with showing how a book, that could still cause a shock at a time when writers were expected to inculcate a “message”, now fitted in well with the interests of the emancipated and individualist age, which Western civilization had entered with the end of the World War. 89 This description refers to Michael Artzibashev, trans. Percy Pinkerton, Sanine: A Russian Love Novel (New York: Illustrated Editions Company, 1932). 90 By striking contrast with the two Sanins in English (1914 and 2001), this novel has by now been translated nine times into Chinese. See Introduction, above. There were at least three Sanins in German. 91 Haishima Wataru, personal communication of 22 Dec. 2006. 88


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Fig. 2. Mikhail Artsybashev. Photograph reproduced in Lu Xun quanji, vol. 11 (Shanghai: Lu Xun quanji chubanshe, 1938).

in 1933. Earlier publications by Nobori in the 1920s were the most important of several Japanese sources to have encouraged the reception of Russian modernism in China during that decade.92 Another distinguished translator of Artsybashev in Japan was the writer Mori Ogai (1862–1922).93 Like Mori Ogai, a medical student at Humboldt University in Berlin from 1885 to 1889, Lu Xun translated Russian literature from the German, a language that he spent many years learning, first at

92 An article by Nobori on “Main Currents in Modern Russian Literature” was included in the special issue of Xiaoshuo yuebao in 1921. His book was translated as Eguo xiandai sichao ji wenxue. Cf. Chen Jianhua, 20 shiji Zhong-E wenxue guanxi, pp. 149–52; for more on Japan as a channel for the introduction of Russian modernist literature, see Lin Jinghua, Wudu Eluosi, pp. 327, 330, 348–49. 93 In 1915 Mori Ogai translated Artsybashev’s story “Smekh” (Laughter, 1905), and another story entitled “Death”, probably short for The Death of Lande.

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the School of Mines and Railroads in Nanking, which he attended from 1899 to the end of 1901, and then as a medical student in Japan from autumn 1904 to autumn 1907. Unlike Mori Ogai, Lu Xun never graduated as a physician; abandoning his medical studies in northern Japan in 1906, he settled in Tokyo, where he continued to improve his German at a language school.94 Artsybashev was not among the Russian writers whom Lu Xun translated at this time. More than a decade after returning to China in 1909, however, only a three weeks’ margin prevented him from becoming Artsybashev’s first translator into Chinese.95 While Lu Xun’s translation of the story “Schast’e” (Happiness, 1907) was published in the December 1920 issue of Xin qingnian (‘La Jeunesse’), another story by Artsybashev had already appeared in a translation by Hu Yuzhi in the journal Dongfang zazhi (‘Eastern Miscellany’) on 10 November.96 It is with the brief, sarcastically titled “Happiness” that we begin our acquaintance with Lu Xun’s translations of Artsybashev, before passing on to what is the most important of the four texts that Lu Xun rendered into Chinese. After a careful study of the translation and interpretation by Lu Xun of Worker Shevyrev, and of its reception in China, two other translations by Lu Xun will be considered in the order of their publication: the story “Doctor” and “The Death of Bashkin”, an essay. The question asked in the following pages will not be “how reading and translating Artsybashev affected Lu Xun’s literary writing”. Rather, drawing on the information which in Lu Xun’s case is more extensive than that available on any other modern Chinese writer, we shall try to identify those themes and ideas important to Lu Xun, which had their parallels in Artsybashev’s fiction, and then to show how these parallels were perceived and articulated by Lu Xun himself.

On Lu Xun’s knowledge of languages, see Wang Yougui, Fanyijia Lu Xun, pp. 14–22. 95 The first known mention of Artsybashev in China dates already to 1913, and was made by the future prominent Chinese Marxist, Li Dazhao (1888–1927). Li named Artsybashev, next to Fedor Sologub and Boris Zaitsev (1881–1972), as writers who during the time of political oppression in Russia turned away from life to praise death. Li’s article “Wenhao” (Literary Giants) is quoted by Ping Baoxing, Wusi yitan yu Eluosi wenxue, p. 65. 96 “Revoliutsioner” (The Revolutionary, 1906), to be discussed in the next chapter. A first critical article on Sanin by Shen Zemin, long antedating any Chinese translations of the novel, was included in the same issue of Dongfang zazhi, and will also be treated below. 94


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“Happiness” is the story of a prostitute called Sashka.97 Penniless and syphilitic, she had been beaten and thrown out on the streets for being unable to pay her rent. On a freezing winter night, she is standing alone on an empty plot of land outside of town. She begins to wish herself dead, when suddenly a man appears, walking along the railway track. Having starved the whole day, Sashka uses all her tricks, desperately trying to get herself a client; eventually, she proposes to amuse the man by sitting down naked in the snow. She would do that for only ten kopeks, but then the man offers her five roubles if she agreed to satisfy him in another way. She is to take off all her clothes, and, standing naked in the cold, silently bear ten blows that he will deal her with his cane. Momentary fear, and perhaps a remnant of human dignity, quickly give way to the survival instinct when Sashka undresses to receive the blows. Once the beating is over, she lies bleeding and almost unconscious. But the five roubles that she grasps in her palm are enough to fill her whole being with “happiness”: as she runs in the direction of the city, where she will find “food, warmth, rest and vodka”, Sashka has already forgotten her pain and humiliation. Lu Xun’s source for translating this ten-page story can now be established with certainty: a comparison of the Chinese with a German translation of “Glück”, published in 1910, reveals that Lu Xun’s few negligible mistakes and omissions all had their antecedents in this intermediary text.98 The two footnotes to “Xingfu” illustrate the translator’s concern with faithfully conveying every nuance of his text.99 Lexically, 97 See “Schast’e”, in Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, pp. 430–37. Written in 1907, this story was included in Artsybashev’s 1910 collection Etiudy (Studies), still to be discussed. 98 Compare “Xingfu”, in LXQJ (1973), vol. 11, pp. 302–14, with “Glück”, in Artsybashev, trans. André Villard and N. Nagel, Aufruhr und andere Novellen, pp. 187–96. Discomfort with Artsybashev’s use of animal imagery is evident here, as well as in Villard’s translations in the collection Revolutionsgeschichten (see below). In the first lines of the Russian “Happiness”, hunger and cold tear into Sashka’s emaciated body “like dogs [devouring] carrion” (“Schast’e”, p. 430). In the Chinese, the prostitute resembles “a half-dead beast” (“Xingfu”, p. 303; following “wie halbverreckte Tiere”, Aufruhr, p. 187). On another instance, the German text toned down Artsybashev’s references to private body parts, as the blows of her client’s cane were redirected to Sashka’s back rather than, as in the original, land on her bare bottom. In the opening sentence of the story, however, it was Lu Xun who had misinterpreted the German, taking “eine faulende Schale” in the sense of “rotten fruit shell” rather than the macabre “rotten scull” of the original. 99 In the Russian story, the prostitute addressed her client with the word “kavaler” (comparable to the French milord ). But Artsybashev has the starving and freezing woman pronounce it as “kava-er”, and renders much of her later speech in the same

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the translation is notable for employing the character yi of the Wu dialect (spoken in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces) to mark the female gender; Lu Xun would still use the same method (including the plural form yimen for the feminine “they”) in his translation of Worker Shevyrev. Written Chinese then employed the same character for both sexes, while the—now standard—feminine ta was introduced, to meet the needs of translation, by the versatile Liu Bannong (a poet, linguist and, as we shall see, translator) in 1917. Zhou Zuoren already endorsed the neologism when translating a story by Strindberg for the Xin qingnian of August 1918, and Hu Shi felt obliged to explain why he had refrained from the same method when publishing the translation of a story by Maupassant in January 1919,100 but Lu Xun took much longer to be convinced. His celebrated collection Call to Arms, published in 1923, still referred to female characters either by yi or the ungendered ta, and he would only adopt the new way of writing with his 1924 story, “New Year’s Sacrifice”.101 In February 1921, Lu Xun’s recently published “Happiness” was commended by Mao Dun in the opening article of that month’s Xiaoshuo yuebao as an example of a successful translation.102 According to Mao Dun, translators of literature had to be familiar both with the culture from which their author came, and with available critical works about him. Considering the “spirit” of a literary work as the main asset for translators to preserve, Mao Dun argued that even a mediated (as opposed to direct) translation could be successful, as long as it adhered to these criteria. Speaking throughout in the name of China’s

way. This particularity was preserved in the German translation; Lu Xun, in his turn, conveys the form of address as daye, explaining in his footnote (“Xingfu”, p. 305) that the woman speaks the way she does on account of the cold. In the absence of letters in Chinese writing, he uses a wave-like typographical sign to denote the omission of certain sounds from Sashka’s pronounced words. Lu Xun’s second footnote (ibid., p. 306) explains that the Russian grivennik equals about ten Chinese wen. 100 See Zhu Jinshun, “Youguan ‘ta’ zi chuangzao de liang jian shiliao”, passim. 101 Liu, Translingual Practice, pp. 36–8. Lu Xun credited Liu Bannong with inventing the feminine ta in the beginning of an obituary, “Yi Liu Bannong jun” (1934), posthumously collected in Qiejieting zawen (Essays from Demi-Concession Studio, 1937); in LXQJ (2005), vol. 6, pp. 73–7 (and cf. editors’ commentary); “In Memory of Liu Bannong”, in Selected Works, vol. 4, pp. 76–9. While the politically loaded Call to Arms has become the best-known title of the collection in English, scholars beginning with C. T. Hsia have argued that Nahan would be more accurately translated as The Outcry. 102 Mao Dun (writing under the pseudonym Lang Sun), “Xin wenxue yanjiuzhe de zeren yu nuli”, pp. 2–5. My translation of this title follows McDougall’s in her Fictional Authors, Imaginary Audiences.


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New Literature movement, Mao Dun’s article defined the double aim of translating foreign literature: to convey the artistic achievements of foreign writers and to introduce modern ideas. The first question requiring the translator’s attention was the problem of choice; one would be wrong, Mao Dun said, to translate Oscar Wilde, whose views on literature are opposed to the modern spirit. At the end of the same issue of the journal, replying in the “Correspondence” section to a letter from Zhou Zuoren, Mao Dun made it known that, though he admired Andreev, he believed that translating his plays Savva and The Black Masks, or his stories “The Wall” and “The Governor”, would only expose today’s “burdened and undecided youth to a great danger: that of negating everything”. Artsybashev, too, was an excellent writer, and Mao Dun hoped to see in Chinese translation his novel The Woman that Stood Between, which he liked, but certainly not the same author’s highly egotistic novel Sanin: in China, a country which “had never known of the existence of society and humanity”, the effects of that book’s translation could not be predicted.103 We may follow Mao Dun and ask what, indeed, could have led Lu Xun to translate Artsybashev’s story. The choice of accessible foreign literature in China of 1920 was limited to begin with, and rather than being able to drink at will from an imagined fountain of world literature most potential translators found their options restricted by the stocks of local bookstores and by their own insufficient knowledge of foreign languages. Lu Xun’s interest in Artsybashev, however, cannot be explained by mere chance. A voracious reader equipped with two languages apart from his own (his Japanese was much better still than his German, which he would attempt to brush up once again in the 1930s), he was also a confirmed bibliophile. Translating a lot, he must have read many times as much. The question why he picked “Happiness” by Artsybashev therefore remains a valid one. Lu Xun’s own Postscript, of the kind he used to attach to all his translations, does not readily furnish such information. He calls here Artsybashev a “pessimist” and a complete subjectivist, from whose every work arises “the flavour of flesh”, yet also a writer who only depicted the

Mao Dun, “Tongxun: Fanyi wenxue shu de taolun”, p. 2. Artsybashev’s Zhenshchina, stoiashchaia posredi (1915) was never translated into Chinese, or into English (where Mao Dun might have read it is anyone’s guess). Its modern edition (Moscow: Rosmen, 2001) is subtitled “An erotic novel”. 103

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reality he saw.104 It is, Lu Xun says, the same reality to which Russian critics of Sanin remained blind, and its portrayal in “Happiness” with only a few masterful strokes is comparable to a carving by Rodin. A typical demarche in the direction of “certain” (Chinese) critics, who declare themselves tired of realistic writing, and towards those who, like the story’s heroine, are quick to forget the suffering endured at the mere sight of “the lights of a teahouse gleaming in the night”, brings the brief Postscript to a conclusion. Lu Xun’s remark on Sashka’s all too swift recovery connects with the debates then raging on the supposed proclivity of the Chinese for forgetting wrongs inflicted upon them; after being banged on the head, Ah Q (in Lu Xun’s famous story of 1921) will, like Sashka, be quick to put the pain behind him as he approached the wine tavern.105 Lu Xun must have noticed the cold-heartedness of authorial disdain for the humble Sashka in this powerful short story, which many would read as merely a non-conventional protest against the institute of prostitution. To speak of the “flavour of flesh” in Artsybashev was not, for Lu Xun, to criticize him: it was Lu Xun who would call for the emergence of a new Chinese literature that, in contradistinction to the deceitful gentility of the old, would “look frankly, keenly and boldly at life, and write about real flesh and blood”.106 The “flavour of flesh” is also an apt image for much of Artsybashev’s writing about women. There is plain, voyeuristic, curiosity in the unfolding of Sashka’s story: just how far will she go for the money? An analogous scene appears in the description of a prostitute in Artsybashev’s short novel of 1908, Milliony (translated into English as The Millionaire, and also mentioned by Mao Dun in 1921); again a woman is flogged in the novel U poslednei cherty (At the Brink, 1910–12; translated as Breaking-Point). Neither of these works reached China. That “Happiness” did, and that it was translated by Lu Xun, should also be considered against the background

104 “ ‘Xingfu’ yizhe fuji” (Additional Notes by the Translator of ‘Happiness’, 1920), in LXQJ (2005), vol. 10, pp. 187–90. Lu Xun’s “subjectivity” may be contrasted with Zheng Zhenduo’s argument on the “objectivity” of Artsybashev, in his Introduction to Sanin in 1924. 105 Cf. the interpretation of this scene by Paul A. Cohen, “Remembering and Forgetting National Humiliation in Twentieth-Century China”, in his China Unbound, esp. p. 170. 106 Lu Xun, “Lun zhengle yan kan” (1925), collected in Fen (The Tomb, 1927), in LXQJ (2005), vol. 1, pp. 251–57, here p. 255; quoting the translation, “On Looking Facts in the Face”, in Lu Xun, Selected Works, vol. 2, pp. 198–204 (at p. 203).


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of a Chinese reformist discourse, which treated prostitution as part of the debate on women’s place in society.107 One need not necessarily adopt the perspective of a feminist critic to observe that some of the men, who were drawn into the discussion of the “women’s question”, whether as writers or translators, preferred to represent their female characters from the outside rather than let them speak in their own voices. Similar debates took place in Russian liberal circles, and indeed Artsybashev was often “sympathetic” to women in his writing; it is not, though, due solely to the biting cold and to the fact that she is a prostitute that Sashka is able to say next to nothing and is identified only by a nickname (the condescending derivative of the grand “Alexandra”).108 The well-maintained distance between the invisible author and his suffering protagonist in this story is reminiscent of the gap that separates the narrator and the poor servant woman in Lu Xun’s own “New Year’s Sacrifice”.109 The comparison suggests no “influence”, much less any conscious “borrowing” on the part of the later author. It does point to an affinity that may have been felt by the translator. As Lu Xun commented on Artsybashev’s writing, he quoted a line that remained unidentified in all the annotated editions of Lu Xun’s works. The quotation appears for the first time in the Postscript to “Xingfu”: “[The story] also portrays to the fullest [how] ‘Not only the so-called happy [people] run wild their whole life through, even the unhappy ones ruin their lives each in his own way’ ”. Not very coherent in English, the statement does not seem to make much more sense in Chinese.110 It is a paraphrased and partial version of the main hero’s retort to the dark apparition that comes to haunt him in Chapter 107 A thoughtful analysis of the treatment of women issues by male entertainment writers in the 1910s may be found in Link, Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies, pp. 173–76, 204–25. 108 Prokopov makes far too much of this sympathy in “Vozvrashchenie Mikhaila Artsybasheva”, p. 19 (where he cites “Happiness”, among other examples). The portrayal of women by Artsybashev will be discussed in greater detail in connection with his Morning Shadows and “Horror”, below, but “a strongly misogynistic streak”, Luker’s comment on Artsybashev’s story collection The Avenger (see his “ ‘Wild Justice’: Mikhail Artsybashev’s Mstitel’ Collection (1913)”, p. 67), is a characteristic amply confirmed by the correspondence in Aspiz, “Pis’ma M. P. Artsybasheva”. 109 Cf. the discussion of this work in Liu, Translingual Practice, pp. 193–97. 110 See “ ‘Xingfu’ yizhe fuji”, p. 188. Lundberg, Lu Xun as a Translator, p. 78 is mistaken in saying that “the quotation is from Artsybashev’s own preface to the German edition which Lu Xun read”. The Aufruhr collection containing the translation of “Schast’e” had no preface at all, nor did “Happiness” figure in the Revolutionsgeschichten volume.

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Ten of Worker Shevyrev: “I would have avenged on your unfortunates just as much as on the fortunate ones, who’ve equally botched up life on both ends, if these unfortunates weren’t so pathetic and didn’t do themselves in”.111 Had another translator been the one to introduce Worker Shevyrev in China, he would surely have based himself on the English collection Tales of the Revolution, in the translation of Percy Pinkerton. Lu Xun possessed some rudiments of English but was unable to read in that language. Thus he would then have made his acquaintance with the novel in someone else’s Chinese. Yet any translation from the mercilessly abridged English version (which cut off the entire nightmare scene of Chapter Ten) would simply not have allowed him to read the phrase that impressed him. In his postscript, “After Translating Worker Shevyrev”, Lu Xun repeated that phrase. He also acknowledged his use of the collection of Artsybashev’s stories in the translation by Bugow and Billard (sic), Revolutionsgeschichten.112 As he cited and retold much of the writer’s autobiographical letter, with which that collection opened, his readers learned interesting details about Artsybashev’s uncommon ethnic descent: in the same letter he called himself “a Tatar by name and extraction”, but avowed having “Russian, French, Georgian, and Polish blood” in his veins, and his pride in being a maternal greatgrandson of the Polish rebel Tadeusz Kosciuszko. Before considering the interpretation of Worker Shevyrev by Lu Xun, not least his adoption, as a striking personal watchword, of Shevyrev’s half-delirious retort to the ghostly visitor in Chapter Ten, let us take a close look at the Chinese translation itself. Among all the translations to be examined in this study, Lu Xun’s Gongren Suihuilüefu is the one that declares most decidedly its fidelity to the foreign source. “Apart from some places in the text where I have been forced to do otherwise, I have translated this word-for-word (zhuzi yi )”, Lu Xun wrote in “After Translating Worker Shevyrev”. He added modestly that the translation of this book would ordinarily have been 111 See Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, p. 327. In the German book that Lu Xun had used, this ran: “Ich hätte mich ebenso an Ihren Unglücklichen, die genauso wie die Glücklichen das Leben am andern Ende verpfuschen, gerächt, wenn diese Unglücklichen nicht so jämmerlich wären und nicht von selbst untergingen . . .”. Artsybashev, trans. Bugow and Villard, Revolutionsgeschichten, p. 95. 112 “Yile Gongren Suihuilüefu zhihou”, in LXQJ (2005), vol. 10, pp. 180–86 (see quotation on p. 183). Lu Xun had misread the Gothic capital V for a B, with the result that his “A. Billard” was first corrected only in the 2005 edition of the Complete Works.


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beyond his powers, but that he had been fortunate to be able to benefit from the help of his friend Qi Zongyi, who gave the manuscript a thorough revision. Contrary to what one might expect, the contribution of Qi Zongyi (1881–1965) did not consist in comparing Lu Xun’s translation against the original Russian; a Germanist and a graduate of Berlin University, Qi was reading with Lu Xun the text of Der Arbeiter Schewyrjow, as included in Revolutionsgeschichten.113 On the translator’s part, such cooperation implied an approach markedly different than the one which Zheng Zhenduo would adopt less than two years later; it will be remembered that, parallel to translating Artsybashev’s novel from Pinkerton’s English, Zheng had appealed for help to his Russianspeaking friends. Lu Xun acted out of a concern for exactitude that probably even surpassed Zheng’s, but (at least with Artsybashev) his quest for the original stopped at the limits of his language, in this case the German he knew. His translation thus operated on the assumption that the intermediate was the only “original” in existence, and he exercised great ingenuity in servicing the text available to him, as though putting an intricate machine into full working order. Lu Xun’s painstaking (sometimes, as we shall see, over-zealous) commentary on his translations also made him a class of his own. The German translation of Worker Shevyrev by Villard and Bugow was, though, while not as high-handed a treatment of the novel as Pinkerton’s, a significantly modified version of Artsybashev’s work. There is irony in the fact that the text, which Lu Xun spared no effort to render into Chinese, down to its very last detail, was produced by translators who had not hesitated to omit lengthy passages of the original, usually for no better reason than economy of space. The translation faithfully reproduced by Lu Xun subjected Artsybashev’s Russian text to what can be conveniently divided into four categories of omission. First, the German translators cut out most of the static scenes (mainly descriptions of nature), which they apparently did not consider essential in advancing the plot. Second, they omitted some utterances by characters within dialogues, or whole portions of

113 Ibid., p. 186, n. 21. Lu Xun and Qi Zongyi cooperated again on their translation from German in 1926 of Little John, a fairy-tale novel by the Dutch writer Frederik van Eeden. Both translators were also colleagues at the Ministry of Education in Peking, a career that nearly came to a shared end as Qi resigned in protest against Lu Xun’s dismissal in Aug. 1925 (Lu Xun was reinstated in the Ministry by the following January). See Bonnie McDougall, Love-Letters and Privacy in Modern China, pp. 39, 41.

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monologues, which they must have judged superfluous. Third, they deleted almost all the adjectives that the Russian author had added after quotations of direct speech. Fourth, to some extent at least, Villard and Bugow suppressed the animal imagery that Artsybashev favoured. To limit ourselves to only a few central examples: at the end of Chapter Three in the Russian text, as he walks back from the factory where he has just witnessed the suffering of unemployed workers, Shevyrev observes with disgust the streets of the capital, pavements teeming with miserable drunkards who resemble beasts more than human beings. An entire page containing these impressions (which both develop and help explain the hero’s feelings of hatred) is absent from the German translation. In the most important dialogue of the novel, the confrontation between Shevyrev and Alad’ev in Chapter One, a memorable illustration of the main hero’s ideology was lost first to the German, then to the Chinese reader, as Revolutionsgeschichten omitted Shevyrev’s arguments for “an end to the existence of the human race”.114 That these examples had to do with demonstrations of Shevyrev’s misanthropy should not mislead us into identifying a grand design on the part of the German translators. Many more instances could be cited, in which the omitted words and sentences have no common denominator, and the overall impression is that Villard and Bugow operated at random, probably attempting to leave room for another story in their collection by reducing the novel’s length. Such must have been the motivation behind their consistently ignoring the author’s descriptions of his characters’ speech, such as (in chapter Seven) the sentence in a dialogue between Alad’ev and Maksimovna, the squalid apartment’s proprietress: “The voice of the old woman, with her white half-blind eyes, expressed a severe, even a stately, sense of pain”.115 Only in the last of their four kinds of omission, some editorial judgement on the part of the translators may be suspected as the reason for the disappearance of such similes as “cat-like bearing” and “penetrating wolf-like eyes” (in Chapter Twelve), or of the writer’s metaphor of “whispering mice” in his references to the old servant couple.

See Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, p. 270; cf. Revolutionsgeschichten, p. 13, and LXQJ (1973), vol. 11, p. 609. 115 Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, p. 309. This sentence is missing from Revolutionsgeschichten, p. 69 and consequently from LXQJ (1973), vol. 11, p. 671. 114


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These elided parts of the original text would probably have appealed to Lu Xun, whose own writing is replete with (far more strongly worded) comparisons of humans to beasts of any conceivable variety. Yet even these omissions are hardly systematic, and on other occasions the animal imagery is still present in the German. Like the English translator of The Pale Horse, Villard and Bugow sacrificed most of the original’s aesthetic devices for the preservation of its basic plot. This sort of omission was all the more regrettable in translating a writer whose painter’s eye delighted in capturing the subtle hues of nature, and who obviously considered these “insignificant” details vital to the fictional worlds he created. Lu Xun’s own meticulous exactitude in dealing with Worker Shevyrev is manifest both in the style of his translation and the many annotations attached to it. His long sentences are balancing acts between West and East; on the verge of collapsing under the heaviness of the task, they nevertheless always manage to bring in the entire load of foreign words, often without so much as disrupting their order. When, later in the 1920s, Lu Xun would come under attack for translating into a so-called Ouhua (“Europeanized language”), he would be content to call his own work “direct”, or even “hard”/“stiff ” translation (zhiyi, or yingyi). Unperturbed by the derision of critics such as Liang Shiqiu, a political rival who called his work “dead translation” (siyi ) and claimed that his “word-for-word” method was unreadable,116 Lu Xun maintained his principles. As he himself explained, his translations displayed complete fidelity to the source text because of his commitment to preserving its “original atmosphere” and his refusal to “sinicize” it by translating into a more “fluent” and idiomatic language. Some of his key statements on the subject are contained in an exchange of letters with Qu Qiubai, a political ally, in December 1931.117 The avoidance

Liang Shiqiu (1902–87) was member of The Crescent Moon Society (Xinyue she; active in Peking, 1923–26, and in Shanghai, 1927–1931), which included such figures as Hu Shi and the poets Xu Zhimo and Wen Yiduo. Like Liang, many of the Society’s members were educated in the Anglo-Saxon world, and their ideas—not only on literature—drew upon this background. In Taiwan after the victory of Communism on the mainland, Liang became famous as a translator of Shakespeare. His “On Mr. Lu Xun’s ‘Stiff Translation’ ” (1929) is available in Chan, Twentieth-Century Chinese Translation Theory, pp. 181–83; to add insult to injury, Liang alluded to the feud between the Zhou brothers by suggesting that the term “dead translation” had “most probably” been coined by Zuoren. 117 “Guanyu fanyi de tongxin” (A Correspondence on Translation), collected in Lu Xun’s Erxin ji (Two Hearts; also known in English as Two Minds, 1932), in LXQJ 116

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of idiomatic constructions, for one, was a feature well in evidence as early as 1921: consider the case of a Russian proverb, which, given a near-equivalent in German, ended up in Lu Xun’s translation of Worker Shevyrev as the wooden “xiaoshan bi waiyi geng qi tieshen” (literally: ‘a shirt sticks closer to the body than an outer garment’).118 While many found Lu Xun’s translations hard to understand at the time of their appearance (we shall yet see that the publication of Gongren Suihuilüefu was also greatly appreciated by some), the same text would probably pose less difficulties for the average reader of Chinese today. For better or worse, written Chinese underwent substantial “Westernization” in the course of the twentieth century, a process on which the translation of Western literature, as practiced and promoted by Lu Xun, made an undeniable impact.119 What kind of “fidelity” to the source language did “hard/direct” translation imply, and what was the ideology behind this method? Distinction should be made between primitive literalism and a concept of literal translation such as advocated by Goethe in the West-Östlicher Divan: preserving the “strangeness” of the original by rendering it into an idiom half-way between that of the author and his own, the translator enriches the target language with a new manner of perceiving the world.120 Lu Xun may have had similar things in mind when he explained his wish to preserve the “foreign air” ( yangqi) in his translation (albeit from the German and the Japanese) of Gogol’s Dead Souls.121 However, for Lu Xun and his followers in the “direct translation” camp, the choice to reproduce the “strangeness” of the foreign text, even the

(2005), vol. 4, pp. 379–98; translation and commentary in Chan, Twentieth-Century Chinese Translation Theory, pp. 151–67. 118 LXQJ (1973), vol. 11, p. 668, translating “das Hemd ist einem näher als der Rock” (the Russian had: “Svoia rubashka k telu blizhe”, which could be approximated in English by “charity begins at home”). 119 Citing examples such as Yu Dafu’s stories and Ye Shengtao’s novel Ni Huanzhi (1929), Edward Gunn, Rewriting Chinese: Style and Innovation in Twentieth-Century Chinese Prose, argues that “all these works rewrote China in a style that would not have been possible without literal translation” (p. 107). The impact of translation on modern poetry is suggested by Hockx, Questions of Style, p. 183. 120 For Goethe’s views, see Steiner, After Babel, pp. 270–73. Steiner illustrates such symbiosis through the “Greek English” of Browning’s translation of Euripides, Chateaubriand’s “English French” in his translation of Paradise Lost, and the translations by Hölderlin (into a “Greek German”) of Homer, Pindar, Sophocles and other Greek classics. 121 “ ‘Ti weiding’ cao” (‘Title Undetermined’, Draft; part two, July 1935), collected in Qiejieting zawen erji (1937), in LXQJ (2005), vol. 6, pp. 364–65.


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word order of the English or German sentence, was far more ideological than aesthetic. As many literary reformers argued, vernacular Chinese needed to be enriched with the capacity for precision that classical Chinese lacked, and European languages possessed. For “the lack of precision in our language proves the lack of precision in our way of thinking—we are muddle-headed”.122 While the process may be painful (Lu Xun acknowledged that readers of his “hard” translations were bound to become “frustrated, disgusted, outraged”), the reader too should admit that the linguistic revolution was being undertaken for his own benefit. As has been suggested, political issues were also involved. Lu Xun’s translations “hardened” in tandem with the radicalization of their contents, and Liang Shiqiu was attacking the ideas of Lunacharskii as well as their Chinese medium. Acutely aware of the imbalance in relations between East and West, Lu Xun undertook translation from a perspective very different from Goethe’s confidence in the assets of his own culture and benevolent willingness to become further enriched by encountering others. Lu Xun’s translation choices by and large ignored the literature of the Western imperialist powers (though he did translate a variety of short texts by West-European writers), while trusting in Japan as his window to the world, encouraging the translation of the literatures of small and oppressed nations (though he did rather little in that field himself ), and reifying Russia. Not a coherent theorist, he seemed through his “hard translation” to be telling readers that the times when China could imagine itself the centre of the world were over: by the effect of alienation that he produced, he signalled that acquaintance with other cultures and with new modes of thought required an effort.123 Behind all these unbending principles, there was Lu Xun himself: with his trademark irony and mixture of public defiance and inner vulnerability. Echoing one of John Donne’s “strong lines”, Lu Xun the translator could have exclaimed: “I sing not, siren-like, to tempt; for I/Am harsh”.124 It is small wonder that many a potential reader 122 Lu Xun, “A reply to Qu Qiubai (1931)”, in Chan, Twentieth-Century Chinese Translation Theory, p. 159. Qu readily espoused this judgement (ibid., pp. 165, 167). 123 This point is argued forcefully in Wang Yougui, Fanyijia Lu Xun, pp. 171–75. 124 Cf. David Pollard, “Translation and Lu Xun”, pp. 10, 14–5. Lu Xun’s words on the frustration, disgust and outrage of the readers are from his reply to Liang Shiqiu, “ ‘Yingyi’ yu ‘wenxue de jiejixing’ ” (1930), in Erxin ji; LXQJ (2005), vol. 4, pp. 199–227; see “ ‘Hard Translation’ and the ‘Class Character of Literature’ ”, in Selected Works, vol. 3, pp. 75–96; “ ‘Stiff Translation’ and the Class Nature of Literature” (abbreviated),

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opted out of the challenge that a Lu Xun translation posed, preferring to it the idiomatic vernacular and sparkling wit of an original Lu Xun story or essay. To return to Goethe’s dictum on the ideal translator, it would be difficult to speak of a “Russian” influence on any language-sensitive Chinese reader of a foreign novel such as the “stiffly” translated Worker Shevyrev. For Lu Xun, as for all but a few of the translators introducing Russian literature in the republican period, the original author stood twice removed as his language was mediated by another. In so far as it reached the translators, the “Russianness” of these works once rendered into Chinese would be limited to their ideas. With Worker Shevyrev, the reader’s path to the Russian novel’s ambiguous “message” was not rendered any smoother by a translator, who made it an article of faith to transmit all bits and pieces of the foreign text while rejecting the possibility of weeding the important out of the trivial. Contrary to Zheng Zhenduo in Huise ma, Lu Xun makes very few mistakes. However his quest for exactitude, combined with an exaggerated respect for his source, causes him not only to translate all annotations by his German predecessors, but sometimes to suspect a hidden reference to a foreign cultural code even where none had been intended.125 This also brings about an array of cumbersome transcriptions, taken over from the German: Lu Xun’s first footnote to Chapter One explains the meaning of the word he had just rendered as samobaer, and he would use the same method with dvornik (yard-keeper). What was, then, the message of Worker Shevyrev in the eyes of its translator, and what had originally attracted him to this book? For to be sure, the language he used was secondary to the texts he chose, and “hard translation” was a means, rather than an end to itself. Beyond

in Chan, Twentieth-Century Chinese Translation Theory, pp. 184–87. Referring to his “literal” translation of Lunacharskii’s Art and Criticism in 1929, Lu Xun wrote: “My answer is: I translate for myself, for a few who consider themselves proletarian critics, and for some readers who want to understand these theories and are not out for ‘pleasure’ or afraid of difficulties” (Selected Works, vol. 3, pp. 91–2). An ideal of harshness, or “strong lines” somewhat akin to yingyi, existed in Elizabethan poetry; Donne’s words are from his poem “To Mr Samuel Brooke”. 125 LXQJ (1973), vol. 11, p. 624, translates Durchgänger as “a traveller” ( youxingzhe), glossing it in a footnote as “a kind of roaming people, who travel through the country seeking work and food”. This explanation is unwarranted by the German text, where the word simply meant “a passer-by”; the Russian original would have been better served by something like “Here’s a person who has seen life!” (Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, p. 281). In another instance (see LXQJ, vol. 11, p. 712), Lu Xun wrongly attached special importance to the exclamation Satan.


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the pedagogical design to train his readers in a Europeanised sentence structure, perceived as enabling precise, unambiguous expression of thought, Lu Xun’s purpose was to bring them as near as he could to books that he considered important.126 In a speech before students of the Peking Women’s Normal College on 22 August 1926, shortly prior to his departure for the southern port town of Xiamen (Amoy), Lu Xun told how Worker Shevyrev had come into his hands.127 During the World War, in March 1917, China had joined the powers in declaring war on Germany and in the wake of the German defeat was allowed its share of the victors’ spoils. These included a German club in Shanghai and its large book collection. As an employee in the Ministry of Education, Lu Xun was among those entrusted with sorting out the library once it had been brought to Peking. That is how he came across the Revolutionsgeschichten volume, the translation of which in 1921 must count as the only veritable fruit of China’s “military triumph”. Speaking of his intention to prepare a second edition of Gongren Suihuilüefu, Lu Xun raised precisely the question of selection, in which we are interested: “There were so many books of fiction in that pile, so why did I then pick up this one out of them all?” He did not make it quite clear whether he had known of that German collection of Artsybashev’s prose before picking it from “the pile”. If he had not, it may be assumed that his attention was drawn to the title, Stories of the Revolution, and probably also to the attractive design of the volume, an aspect of book production that was always important for Lu Xun, and one for which the Munich publisher Georg Müller was justly famous.128

126 To accept this, and to conclude the discussion of “hard translation”, is not to underestimate the pleasure that Lu Xun found in assuming the posture of the stern instructor, and in pointing out mistakes and naiveties in translations by his—usually far less sophisticated—ideological opponents. Apart from the correspondence with Qu Qiubai, Two Hearts also includes the sarcastic “Jitiao ‘shun’ de fanyi” (A Few “Fluent” Translations, Dec. 1931) and “Zai lai yitiao ‘shun’ de fanyi” (A “Fluent” Translation Yet Again, Jan. 1932): see LXQJ (2005), vol. 4, pp. 350–53, 358–60. 127 “Ji tanhua”, collected in Huagaiji xubian (Sequel to Splendid Cover Collection, 1927), in LXQJ (2005), vol. 3, pp. 374–79; trans. as “Record of a Speech” in Lu Xun, Selected Works, vol. 2, pp. 300–05. The move to Xiamen marked the end of Lu Xun’s engagement with the Women’s College, begun in Oct. 1923. On the circumstances of this talk, and reasons for Lu Xun’s departure from Peking, see also McDougall, Love-Letters and Privacy in Modern China, p. 44. 128 On Georg Müller (1877–1917), one of the leading German publishers before the First World War, see most recently Eva von Freeden and Rainer Schmitz, Sein Dämon war das Buch: Der Münchner Verleger Georg Müller.

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He did say that he felt the novel reflected the general predicament of reformers, and of those taking upon themselves the task of acting or speaking for the people.129 Lu Xun proceeds to equate the subservient worldview of the old neighbour woman, who in Chapter Six of Worker Shevyrev blamed the discharged school teacher for failing to bear the insults of his superior in silence, with that of “our literati” (women de wenren, the familiar butt of his attacks). Let us, however, focus on his words about the predicament of reformers, in which the personal note is hard to miss. We may begin with the distinction, perhaps unintended by the speaker, between “reformers” and “representatives”. Two kinds of change-makers were portrayed in the Russian book: those pulling the trigger (Shevyrev of the novel), and those (personified by Alad’ev) who wield the writer’s pen. Lu Xun never belonged to the first kind. A widespread legend in PRC historiography, insisting that he had joined the revolutionary Restoration Society during his student years in Japan, could never be sustained by evidence. His attitude towards acts of political terrorism remained ambiguous or sceptical, even as other Chinese students in Japan whom he had personally known (Zou Rong, Qiu Jin, Xu Xilin) became martyrs of the revolution.130 Nor did he ever comply with what the ancient Chinese idiom expected the scholar to do at a time of national crisis: tou bi cong rong (“throw away the brush and join the army”).131 Instead, he broke off his medical studies

“Ji tanhua”, p. 376. The first book-form edition of Gongren Suihuilüefu was published by the Commercial Press already in 1922; a second would appear in the Weiming congshu (“The Unnamed” translation series), edited by Lu Xun for the Beixin Book Company in June 1927. The cover of the second edition, designed by Lu Xun’s close collaborator the artist Tao Yuanqing (1893–1929), is reproduced in Scott Minick and Jiao Ping, Chinese Graphic Design in the Twentieth Century, p. 29. 130 Pusey, Lu Xun & Evolution, pp. 25–7, weighs the evidence for Lu Xun’s joining the Revolutionary Society. The author of fiery anti-Manchu tracts, Zou Rong died in prison in 1905. Both Xu Xilin and the woman revolutionary Qiu Jin, who counted Sophia Perovskaia among her sources of inspiration, hailed from Lu Xun’s hometown of Shaoxing in Zhejiang province. Their execution in July 1907, after Xu had shot dead the Manchu governor of Anhui, gave rise to popular operas and novels that could be seen as the indigenous parallels of such translated books on Russian terrorists as The Pale Horse and Worker Shevyrev. Cf. Henrietta Harrison, “Martyrs and Militarism in Early Republican China”, pp. 46–7. In “Diary of a Madman”, Lu Xun hinted at the terrible fate of Xu’s body after his execution. Yet Lu Xun was uneasy rather than admiring of Qiu Jin’s sacrifice, saying that her supporters had “applauded her to death”; see Eva Shan Chou, “The Political Martyr in Lu Xun’s Writings”, p. 153. 131 See Pusey, Lu Xun & Evolution, p. 12. This idiom has its origin in the fifth-century Hou Han shu (History of the Latter Han). 129


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in 1906 for the sake of writing, a step that scholars in the People’s Republic would repeatedly celebrate with the four-character formula qi yi cong wen, “give up medicine and turn to literature”—an expression tailored to imply an identity between cong wen and cong rong.132 The dilemma inherent in being a writing-desk revolutionary preoccupied Lu Xun through most of his life, providing an obvious explanation for his interest in a Russian novel that set the two kinds of revolutionaries against each other. He would rightly have rejected the identification of himself with a writer like Artsybashev’s Alad’ev, whose stories were said to describe idealized peasants dying for the sake of truth, and willingly accepting death “as if knowing something that others did not”.133 “The True Story of Ah Q”, published in the same year as Lu Xun’s translation of Worker Shevyrev and culminating with the harrowing scene of the protagonist’s execution, had nothing in common with Alad’ev’s naivety. An earlier brief story of 1920, which will be mentioned below, does suggest, however, that Lu Xun felt the need to make himself the target of Shevyrev’s criticism. Like Shevyrev, Lu Xun attacked naive belief in the advent of a better time, inasmuch as it condoned passive acceptance of suffering and injustice in the present. A second idea of Artsybashev’s that clearly struck a responsive chord with his translator was therefore the rejection of dreams about the future “golden age”. It has so far been assumed that Lu Xun found the idea in Worker Shevyrev.134 Believers in “the golden age”, however, were also subjected to the Russian author’s criticism in some of his other works. If he had read Artsybashev’s major novel before 1920 (and there is every reason to believe that he did, in either German or Japanese, for he referred to this book in postscripts to his translations, beginning with “Happiness”), Lu Xun must have noticed this idea there. The eponymous hero of Sanin had ridiculed “the coming golden age” first as part of his attack on Christianity, and again in his conversation with the tormented Soloveichik. On the first occasion Sanin argued that a “golden age”, promised to people in the distant future, suppressed the Ibid., p. 22. Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, pp. 271–72. In the close of the novel, as Shevyrev is seized and prepares to face death, it is he, not Alad’ev’s imagined peasants, who calmly observes the people he had killed and the guns pointed at him, “as if he saw something, that others could not”. 134 See e.g. Ng, The Russian Hero in Modern Chinese Fiction, p. 238: “Lu Xun clearly owed this concept to Artsybashev’s Shevyrev”. 132 133

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needs of the present. On the second, he said that man’s perception of progress was limited by nature: not having seen the times of Roman slaves or cave-dwellers of the Stone Age, we cannot fully appreciate the benefits of our own culture; by the same token, future denizens of the age that we would now call “golden” will not be aware of living better than their forefathers.135 The rejection of belief in “the golden age” is reiterated by Shevyrev. In Chapter One, it is again the Stone Age man whom the hero invokes in his talk with Alad’ev: if only he could be transported to our present time, he would surely consider it paradise on earth. But Shevyrev’s rage reaches its climax in his final confrontation with the writer in Chapter Nine: “What will you give to ‘these’ people instead of that golden future promised to their descendants? You . . . prophets of the coming mankind . . . damned be it!”136 In Lu Xun’s “The Story of Hair”, first published in October 1920 and best known for its inclusion in Call to Arms in 1923, a similarly irate protagonist attacked the first-person narrator for encouraging young men to cut off their queues, and young women to cut their long hair, actions for which they could be persecuted: Borrowing the words of Artzybashev, let me ask you: you subscribe to a golden age for posterity, but what have you to give these people themselves?137

The “you” of the Russian novel was, as we have seen, the idealist writer Alad’ev. Lu Xun returned to this idea in his speech on the heroine of A Doll’s House in December 1923, “What Happens After Nora Leaves Home?”, now fully espousing Artsybashev’s critique of the “golden age”. Repeating the rhetorical question from “The Story of Hair”,

135 Artsybashev, Nash tretii klad, pp. 517, 575. It is uncertain whether Lu Xun was familiar with Artsybashev’s second long novel U poslednei cherty (English trans. as BreakingPoint), available in three different Japanese translations by 1925. The concept of “future golden days” was once again questioned there by being identified with the weakling student Chizh. Lu Xun did, no doubt, notice Artsybashev’s recurrent criticism of this notion when reading A Writer’s Notes in Japanese in 1926. See the discussion of the essay “Death of Bashkin”, below. 136 Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, p. 320. 137 See “Toufa de gushi”, in LXQJ (2005), vol. 1, p. 488 (the English quotation follows Lu Xun, Call to Arms, p. 139, a bilingual edition). Lu Xun translated the same sentence differently in Gongren Suihuilüefu: see LXQJ (1973), vol. 11, p. 690. See also Eva Shan Chou, “ ‘A Story about Hair’: A Curious Mirror of Lu Xun’s Pre-Republican Years”, an original new study.


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Lu Xun added that, because of the hopes spread by those promising a “golden age”, “people are made more sensitive to the intensity of their misery, are awakened in spirit to see their own putrid corpses”.138 While strikingly reminiscent of the Preface to Call to Arms, the most oft-quoted text of modern Chinese literature which Lu Xun signed on 3 December 1922, the argument is still Artsybashev’s and it comes from an earlier stage in Shevyrev’s dialogue with Alad’ev in Chapter Nine: “I tell you it’s horrible; yes, it is horrible when one digs up corpses to show them their own corruption. I say it is horrible to make of the human soul something pure and costly, only in order that its tortures may be more refined, and its griefs more acute”.139 Lu Xun must have recognized the doubt as to whether or not to “awaken the dead” as very much his own, for he had compared China to an “iron house” (tiewu), whose doomed inmates would be better off suffocating in their sleep than awoken—and made to realise their imminent end—by his writer’s word.140 In March 1927, when Mikhail Artsybashev died in his Warsaw exile, his editor in Za Svobodu! (For Liberty!), the critic and publicist Dmitrii Filosofov wrote that Artsybashev had faced this uncertainty himself, and that he had resolved it along the lines of a fable by the Polish national poet Adam Mickiewicz. Describing the despair of a son, whose mother was lying in coma because the eminent doctors he had summoned to her bed were unable to agree on the proper cure, Mickiewicz called upon Poles to stop saying: “Let Poland sleep imprisoned, lest she awake to the voice of aristocracy!” or “Let her sleep, lest she awake at the will of democracy!”. Thus Artsybashev, who refused to be defined as

The English translation follows Lu Xun, Selected Works, vol. 2, pp. 85–92 (at p. 87). See “Nala zouhou zenyang?”, in Fen; in LXQJ (2005), vol. 1, pp. 165–73, here p. 167. Lundberg, Lu Xun as a Translator, p. 77, notices the similarity between this argument and Lu Xun’s famous metaphor of “the iron house”, but ignores the origin of these words in Worker Shevyrev. 139 Pinkerton’s English is quite accurate here: Sheviriof, in Artsybashev, Tales of the Revolution, p. 77. 140 The “Preface to Call to Arms” opens the four-volume Selected Works, and is reprinted with parallel Chinese text in Lu Xun, Call to Arms, pp. 3–17. Ronen, The Fallacy of the Silver Age, pp. 87–8, discusses the juxtaposition of these two metals, iron and gold, in his analysis of rhetorical references to “the iron” and “the golden” ages of Russian poetry. In Russian prose, “the golden age” to which Artsybashev objected was an ideal put forward in Dostoevsky’s novel An Adolescent (1875), and in a chapter of his Writer’s Diary (1876; see ibid., p. 89). 138

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either “rightist or leftist, a monarchist or a republican”, nonetheless addressed his compatriots with a constant call for action.141 Doubtful both of his people’s capacity for action and of his own aptitude for reviving the nation, Lu Xun had grave misgivings about whether “a call to arms” might at all be raised, and whether he was the one to raise it. Was he (to recall his early essay of 1908, which, among others glorious examples, cited that of Mickiewicz)142 the poet with the “Mara Power”, a warrior as much as a poet, fit to awaken and lead his contemporaries? And where would he have led them, if he could? In an age when it seemed that every second “returned student” had a plan to save China, Lu Xun made a point of proclaiming time and again that he did not know the proper road to a brighter future.143 Artsybashev’s ingrained scepticism was also a hallmark of Lu Xun’s—as he would signal through the title of his second and last collection of short stories (Panghuang, 1926).144 The requirement to subscribe to the Marxist confidence in the future outcome of history weighed heavily on the sceptic in Lu Xun, when in the later 1920s he drew closer to the Communist camp. Coming back to Lu Xun’s lecture at the Peking Women’s College (also the audience before which he had discussed Ibsen’s Nora), it is time to point out that, speaking on the suffering of reformers and representatives of the people he had more than his own example in mind. Five months and ten days before Lu Xun’s lecture, on 18 March 1926, warlord troops had opened fire on a student demonstration in the capital, killing forty-seven and wounding more than two hundred. Two young women from the College that Lu Xun addressed in August were among the dead, including his own student Liu Hezhen, whom the deeply moved writer commemorated in an essay on 1 April. This was, then, the subtext (which could not be spelled out in a public address) of

141 Filosofov, “Primirenie—v neprimirimosti”, p. 707, overstated the impartiality of Artsybashev’s late anti-Bolshevik articles, which included appeals for vengeance and for the assassination of Maxim Gorky. Cf. Zubarev, “Amfiteatrov i russkie v Pol’she (1922– 1932)”, esp. pp. 401–2, on the personal enmity between Artsybashev and Filosofov. His observations on Artsybashev’s instinctive mistrust of pat solutions for Russia’s predicament do apply to Artsybashev’s literary work prior to the emigration. 142 For the text, see Denton, Modern Chinese Literary Thought, pp. 96–109. 143 See, for example, Lin Yü-sheng, The Crisis of Chinese Consciousness, pp. 117–18. 144 David Pollard, The True Story of Lu Xun, p. 215, translates this title as Wavering. It is better known in English as Hesitation, or (as in the translation of Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang) Wandering.


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his words about a fictional Russian revolutionary, spoken to the friends and fellow students of recently fallen Chinese “representatives”. It is all the more illustrative of Lu Xun’s hesitation about “revolution” that, even to such audience, he could only express a guarded appreciation of the literary hero who would have reminded his listeners of Liu Hezhen and the other victim, Yang Dequn.145 Another detail of Lu Xun’s speech needs to be mentioned. Lu Xun took the opportunity to explain that Artsybashev’s writing should not be confounded with present-day Soviet literature; in fact, he added, the author was no longer welcome in his own country. Speaking of his intention of bringing out a second edition of Gongren Suihuilüefu, Lu Xun then added that he had heard the writer had become blind, and was now experiencing much hardship: “so there is surely not much chance that he would send me a rouble . . .”146 One is tempted to identify here a Chinese translator speaking of his author as a living person, contact with whom could theoretically be established through correspondence rather than through second-hand translation. While interest in writers’ private lives was common among the audience of republican-period literature, Boris Savinkov evoked no such curiosity in Zheng Zhenduo when their Pale Horse appeared at the Commercial Press (with the usual caution in English, “All rights reserved”) in 1924—though we shall see that Mikhail Artsybashev later did. Leonid Andreev was unaware that the student Zhou Shuren (the future writer Lu Xun) was translating him in Japan in 1909, much as he could not have known of other Chinese retranslations of his works. It was already a few months too late when Zhou Zuoren published Andreev’s “Ben-Tovit” in Xin qingnian of December 1919, a translation conceived as a tribute to the Russian writer’s memory. Almost deaf and nearly destitute (though not “blind”, as his translator thought he was), Artsybashev had little more than six months to live when Lu Xun was musing about “getting a rouble from him” in front of the girl students in Peking. Had he known of the translation of his 145 On Lu Xun’s hesitation, see also the conclusion of Chou, “The Political Martyr in Lu Xun’s Writings”: an excellent discussion of his essay “Jinian Liu Hezhen jun”, showing that while Lu Xun mourned the dead he did not believe that their deaths had served a purpose. For the original, collected alongside “Record of a Speech” in Huagaiji xubian, see LXQJ (2005), vol. 3, pp. 289–95; cf. “In Memory of Miss Liu Hezhen”, in Lu Xun, Selected Works, vol. 2, pp. 267–72. 146 “Ji tanhua”, in LXQJ (2005), vol. 3, p. 376. The translation in Selected Works, vol. 2, p. 302, runs: “so he can never present me with a single rouble”.

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works in China, he would surely have considered himself the rightful recipient of some Chinese yuan.147 The German translators, Villard and Bugow (though we have no knowledge of their fortunes by 1926), might have shown similar interest. While not insensitive to the ideal of the republic of letters, so eloquently articulated by his brother, Lu Xun was merely alluding to current accusations against left-leaning translators of Russian literature, namely that they were on Soviet pay (“on the rouble dole”).148 His words reflect a peculiar understanding of intellectual property (an issue that never seems to come up in academic research about the translation of foreign literature in republican China), while serving to remind us of the difference between translation undertaken during the life of the writer and after his or her death.149 But then Lu Xun himself consistently refused offers of royalties for the translation of his works into foreign languages. A book lover to the end, the only “payment” he requested, less than three months before his death, from the sinologist Jaroslav Pr%šek who had written to ask for his permission to translate Call to Arms, was a few portraits of old and contemporary Czech writers, or failing that a copy of some Czech classic, “with many illustrations”, as he “had never seen a book written in Czech”.150 Speaking about Shevyrev in Peking, Lu Xun said: “We have not seen such wholly destructive men in China so far; probably they will 147 In a letter to the émigré writer Alexander Amfiteatrov of 20 Oct. 1925, Artsybashev said that, receiving almost no pay for his newspaper work, the rest of royalties received from Italy in the summer would buy him only that day’s lunch; his only “ephemeral hope” now lay in getting money from any other “foreign publisher or entrepreneur”. On 4 Dec. he complained that he could not afford a winter coat. His main livelihood during the past year, he explained on 16 July 1926, came from the translation and staging of his old play Revnost’ ( Jealousy, 1913) in Italy. On 12 Feb. 1927 he reported that his monthly budget had been “reduced by a third”, with the end of the printing of his works in Czechoslovakia. Artsybashev fell gravely ill on the following day and died aged forty-eight (he was less than three years older than Lu Xun), on 3 March. See Zubarev, “Amfiteatrov i russkie v Pol’she (1922–1932)”, pp. 442, 445, 458, 464. 148 Cf. on this Pollard, The True Story of Lu Xun, p. 176. 149 Russian émigré writers in Europe during the 1920s were struggling to survive on royalties from the translations of their books, but commonly found themselves abused by publishers cognizant of the fact that copyright laws were inapplicable to stateless persons. It was only in 1992 that China joined the Berne Convention of 1886, which prevents the unauthorised translation of works by living authors. 150 Letter to Pr%šek of 23 July 1936 in LXQJ (2005), vol. 14, pp. 388–90. Lu Xun wrote: “As regards royalties, I have never accepted them, whatever the country in which my works were translated”. As Artsybashev did, when writing to Villard, Lu Xun enclosed his photograph with this letter. Cf. letter to Harold Isaacs of 17 Oct. 1935, ibid., p. 372; Wang Yougui, Fanyijia Lu Xun, p. 280.


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not appear here and I too do not hope that they do”.151 The Chinese, however, had no reason to be proud of their own method, which was—rather than attempt to bring about a solution—to count one’s losses with resignation, time after time repairing the damage in passive expectation of better days. While Lu Xun still managed to bring his public appearance to an end on an optimistic note, he may have been more frank in the first letters he exchanged in 1925 with Xu Guangping, then his student at the Women’s College and later his common-law wife.152 I suspect that in the golden age of the future, renegades will still be condemned to death, and everyone will still consider it the proper business of a golden age; the problem being that everyone is different [. . .] Anyone who tries to destroy utterly this general trend easily turns into [an] ‘individualist anarchist’ like Shevyrev in The Worker Shevyrev. The destiny of such a character at the present time—though perhaps it’s in the future—is that he wants to save the masses but is persecuted by the masses and ends up a solitary figure; in an excess of fury and frustration, he does an about-turn, regards everyone as his enemy, and opens fire indiscriminately, destroying himself in the process.153

In these anguished lines there was a frustration common to the Russian hero and the Chinese translator (who, in his postscript, unequivocally identified Shevyrev with his author). Lu Xun had read into Artsybashev his own attraction “to the idea of the lone warrior, rejected by the world but continuing to fight”.154 Plausibly, reading The Pale Horse—the gift

151 Lu Xun, “Ji tanhua”, p. 376 (my trans.). A self-declared candidate to the role of Shevyrev did appear in 1926 in the eccentric writer Gao Changhong, who in the same breath compared Lu Xun to Alad’ev. Lu Xun’s reaction from Xiamen is in “ ‘Ah Q zhengzhuan’ de chengyin” (1926), in Huagaiji xubian de xubian (Sequel to the Sequel to Splendid Cover Collection, 1927), in LXQJ (2005), vol. 3, pp. 397–98; trans. as “How The True Story of Ah Q Was Written”, in Lu Xun, Selected Works, vol. 2, pp. 313–20. 152 This letter is also quoted in Lundberg, Lu Xun as a Translator, pp. 76–7. 153 Lu Xun went on to say (like Sanin) that when “this thing called the future” comes, it “will be the then present”. See letter of 18 March 1925, as trans. by Bonnie McDougall in Lu Xun and Xu Guangping, Letters between Two, pp. 29–30. The responsibility of a “preacher” presuming to comfort others with the promise of reward in the afterlife had already been raised by Lu Xun in response to Xu Guangping’s first letter to him in early March (rather than of Artsybashev’s “life teachers”, he was then thinking of a novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz). In her letter of 20 March, Xu quoted back the words about “opening fire indiscriminately”, reflecting on the possibilities for action in the present as opposed to placing one’s hopes in the future; on 17 June she used them again to describe extreme reaction under pressure. See ibid., pp. 23, 32–3, 114. 154 Chinnery, “The Influence of Western Literature on Lu Xun’s ‘Diary of a Madman’ ”, p. 320. Douwe W. Fokkema, “Lu Xun: The Impact of Russian Literature”,

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copy of the novel he had received from Zheng Zhenduo—would have added something to his suspicion that this fight was futile. Such feelings (which T. A. Hsia already explored in his valuable essay on Lu Xun’s “ghosts and shadows”) have long posed a difficulty for scholars in the People’s Republic, who until recently would shun Lu Xun’s despairing side.155 But despair there was: trying to explain why both happy and unhappy people were bound “to ruin their lives through”, Lu Xun saw before him the fleeing Shevyrev, pursued and denounced by the very people whom he had aspired to help.156 It is this hostile indifference, which he seems also to be attributing to himself, that causes Lu Xun to subscribe to Shevyrev’s words as he understood them: to admit that both the lowliest victims of society, and those whom fate had placed in a more fortunate position, are equally powerless to bring about change. On 18 May 1925, he wrote to Xu Guangping: At present I am more and more convinced that those who speak and write are people who serve no function; no matter how reasonably you speak or how much your writing moves people, all is in vain. No matter how unreasonable they are, in real life, however, they will win in the

p. 99, describes Lu Xun’s main heroes as “outcasts and underdogs”. He argues that, before Lu Xun’s acceptance of Marxism, “symbolist” works by writers such as Artsybashev, Andreev and Vsevolod Garshin offered him a model for a general criticism of society that obviated the need to formulate a political “solution”, and that did not expose him to political risk. 155 See “Aspects of the Power of Darkness in Lu Hsün”, in T. A. Hsia, The Gate of Darkness. Cf. Bonnie McDougall, “Lu Xun Hates China, Lu Xun Hates Lu Xun”, p. 390. The stated purpose of a chapter in Han Changjing, Lu Xun yu Eluosi gudian wenxue, pp. 79–112, was to defend Lu Xun from possible accusations in “nihilism” for translating an ultra-reactionary decadent such as Artsybashev. An article of 1982 by Zhang Tierong, recently collected in his Bijiao wenhua yanjiu zhong de Lu Xun, pp. 24–38, came close to admitting that Lu Xun shared Artsybashev’s pessimism, while arguing for the Russian writer’s influence on one of Lu Xun’s darkest stories, “Gudu-zhe” (The Loner, 1925). A chapter in Wang Furen, Lu Xun qianqi xiaoshuo yu Eluosi wenxue, pp. 138–72, presented Artsybashev as less of a “decadent” than claimed by Gorky and Vorovskii, to offer (esp. on pp. 159–65) one of the most thoughtful comparative analyses of Lu Xun and Artsybashev in Chinese. Wang Hui, “Lüe tan ‘huangjin shijie’ de xingzhi”, cautiously approved of Sanin’s and Shevyrev’s attacks on a vision of “the golden age” identified with Tolstoyan idealism, but asserted that Lu Xun would never have sided with Artsybashev in satirizing the splendid future envisioned by Communism. These studies of the 1980s attest to the privileged space that a small number of Artsybashev’s writings came to occupy in the PRC entirely due to the name of Lu Xun; their plots have been retold, and related to Lu Xun’s stories, essays and speeches, many times over since the 1990s. 156 “Yile Gongren Suihuilüefu zhihou” in LXQJ (2005), vol. 10, p. 183. Lu Xun’s first recourse to this quotation was in his Postscript to the translation of Artsybashev’s “Happiness”: see n. 110 above.


chapter two end. And yet surely the world is not really like this? I want to resist, and make a try.157

The increasing acerbity of Lu Xun’s writing in later years, as from the publication of his collection of prose-poems Yecao (Wild Grass) in 1927 to his death in 1936 he almost confined himself to polemical essays, shows further affinity between Xu Guangping’s correspondent and the protagonist of Artsybashev’s novel: though Lu Xun did not take hold of a gun, he made the pen his weapon and “opened fire indiscriminately”. In Wild Grass, there was talk of revenge and of bloodstains, and even a nocturnal dialogue with a shadow (avowing further scepticism about a “future golden world”), which made some readers recall Worker Shevyrev.158 Clearly, the promise of finding relief in vengeance attracted Lu Xun even when the act of “taking revenge” could neither be rationalised by a political doctrine nor define its target. He was no anarchist, but when he wanted total answers which “reason” could not supply, he was likely to turn to Nietzsche’s visions of the superman, with his licence for destruction. In addition to being another possible source of the imagery in Wild Grass, the appeal of Nietzschean individualism might also explain Lu Xun’s exaggerated attention to Artsybashev’s flirtation, through Shevyrev, with the aesthetics of mass murder. Speaking before the pupils of Sun Yat-sen middle-school in Xiamen, shortly

157 Lu Xun and Xu Guangping, Letters between Two, pp. 92–3. This letter continued: “The mention of sacrifice puts me in mind of the case of Feng Xingsan, who was expelled from [Peking University] two or three years ago. He was one of the people involved in the agitation about teaching materials. Afterwards, the teaching material fee was revoked, but not one classmate ever mentioned his name again. At the time I wrote a short piece for The Morning Post Supplement, to the effect that the sacrificial victim prays for a blessing on behalf of the masses, but after the offering to the gods has been made, the masses divide his flesh and distribute the sacrificial meat” (ibid., p. 93). The “short piece” in question, “Jixiao jianda” (From the Little to the Great, Nov. 1922), collected in Refeng (Hot Wind, 1925), Lu Xun quanji (2005), vol. 1, pp. 429–30, is directly related to Lu Xun’s susceptibility to Shevyrev’s protest against the “ingratitude of the masses” in Wang Dehou, “Feng Xingsan he Suihuilüefu”. Young people’s “amnesia about earlier sacrifices made on their behalf ” is a motif which Wang locates in a number of Lu Xun writings; cf. Chou, “ ‘A Story about Hair’ ”, p. 451. Excluded from Beida, Feng Xingsan (1902–24) still had time to study with visiting Esperantist Vasilii Eroshenko, and to translate Pushkin from the Esperanto: see Zhou Zuoren, “Shijieyu duben” (1923); ZXFW, p. 142. 158 See e.g. “The Shadow’s Leave-taking” (Ying de gaobie; Sept. 1924) and “Revenge” (Fuchou; Dec. 1924), in Lu Xun, Wild Grass. For comparison with Worker Shevyrev, and on the idea of “revenge” in Lu Xun and Artsybashev, see Fujii Shōzō, Lu Xun bijiao yanjiu, pp. 112–19; Wen Min, “Lu Xun yu A’erzhibasuifu”, p. 39.

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before leaving town to be reunited with Xu Guangping in Canton, in January 1927, Lu Xun reportedly advised them: “You should take the principles of Mr. Sun Yatsen, and the knowledge derived from other progressive books, forge them into a weapon for revolution, and blast away at all old customs, all old thought, and all old cannibalist systems!”159 In its importance for Chinese literature in the twentieth century, this tension between the gun and the pen, the weapon and the book—the dichotomy, which so preoccupied China’s greatest modern writer—was second to no other.160 We may now ask how Lu Xun’s translation of Worker Shevyrev was received in China. It will be remembered that, in an Introduction to the projected serialisation of his own translation of Sanin in 1924, Zheng Zhenduo regretted that Lu Xun’s Shevyrev had not attracted much attention. The failure to please the general reader may have been due to the challenge posed by Lu Xun’s method of literal translation; that the Beixin Book Company edition of 1927 was soon allowed to go out of print161 may be further evidence of the same. However, we do dispose of a published response to the novel by a young fellow translator, as well as of a letter by a reader comparing the work with another Russian novel, in which we are interested here. Furthermore, there is a remarkable appreciation of Gongren Suihuilüefu by a third reader, on whom the book had left an indelible impression. Hu Zhongchi, who following common practice among members of the literary community signed his review of Lu Xun’s translation with his “style”, Zhongchi, was a frequent contributor to early discussions on Russian and Soviet literature. He is also known as a translator, of stories by Pushkin, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Garshin, Chekhov, Gorky, Kuprin and Andreev. An insider of the publishing world, later mainly a reporter and newspaper editor, in the first half of the 1920s Hu worked for the Commercial Press, writing and translating for its main journals: Dongfang zazhi, where his elder brother Hu Yuzhi was an editor, and the Xiaoshuo yuebao of Mao Dun and Zheng Zhenduo. The natural vehicle Hu chose for his article on Worker Shevyrev in October 1922,

Pollard, The True Story of Lu Xun, p. 112. See, for an extended discussion of the relations between “books” and “weapons”, Gamsa, A Moral Example and Manual of Practice: The Reading of Russian Literature in China, forthcoming. 161 Zhao Jiabi, Zhongguo xin wenxue daxi, vol. 10, p. 369. Censorship could provide another explanation. 159 160


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the Wenxue xunkan (Literature Ten-daily) was an organ of the Literary Research Association, of which Hu was a member.162 Hu’s “Reading Worker Shevyrev” was thus a text with a mission: to draw readers’ attention to Lu Xun’s translation, published by the Commercial Press (in its Literary Research Association Series) in May of the same year. Considering the centre of the novel to be the dispute between love and hate, Hu retold the book’s contents, though errors in his summary are suggestive of a cursory reading.163 He concluded with praise both for Artsybashev’s writing style (the descriptive vividness of which he related to the author’s love of painting) and, the avowed “word-forword” policy notwithstanding, for the fluency of Lu Xun’s Chinese. The final polemical remark is interesting to note: “This translated book is not only a great contribution to the world of letters, but also a powerful testimony to the need of promoting direct translation”.164 We find a completely different approach to the novel, both in tone and perspective, in an article carried by Wenxue xunkan in September. Who hid behind the pseudonym Kong Sheng is now impossible to tell, but the nature of his article makes it clear why he could ill afford to disclose his true identity. Beginning with the tears that came to his eyes upon reading the latest news of the situation in his home province, the author only identified himself as a native of Jiangsu.165 Originally, Kong Sheng went on, he had adhered to a view of literature as “pure art”. However, in today’s bleak and desolate China, the only way to instil hope in readers was by means of literary works of “blood and tears”. He therefore greatly appreciated the translation of Worker Shevyrev by Lu Xun, who had here proved himself as great a translator as he was a writer; as for Lu Xun’s modest denial of ability to translate the book,

162 Note on Hu Zhongchi in LXQJ (2005), vol. 17, p. 173. There are also biographical sketches on Hu Zhongchi and Hu Yuzhi in the modern gazetteer of their native county. The languages mastered by Zhongchi in his lifetime are said in Shangyu xianzhi, p. 816, to include “English, Russian, Japanese, German, Sanskrit and Esperanto”, possibly reflecting the assumption that his translations of literature from all these languages were made from the original texts. At least in the 1920s, they were based on English sources. 163 Hu Zhongchi, “Du Gongren Suihuilüefu”, p. 7. Alad’ev did not ask Shevyrev to read his stories, and Shevyrev was not the one insulted by the factory manager; the creature symbolizing evil in Shevyrev’s nightmare was addressing Christ rather than the dreaming protagonist. 164 Ibid. “Direct” translation here signified the translation method favoured by Lu Xun, rather than a translation directly from the original language. 165 Kong Sheng, “Du Gongren Suihuilüefu hou”, p. 1.

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should this statement not make all present-day Chinese translators die of shame? And yet, it is Kong Sheng’s contention that the time of Shevyrev has passed. This hero is no more than a personification of a time when despair ruled among Russian youths; his engulfment in the mire of hate and love was the main cause of his tragedy. The model for overcoming such emotional entanglements, and for becoming a determined fighter whom nothing could ever distract from his goal, is to be found in The Pale Horse. The author goes on to report that all his friends are asking ask him whether he has read Huise ma, and he in turn poses the same question to all the people he knows. He wishes to thank Mr. Zhenduo for translating this novel, and he can hardly wait until it appears in book form! “Not a year will pass, until the pests of Chinese society find their death by either the revolver or the bomb”.166 This exclamation is followed by advice to young people to become writers (not, as one would expect, terrorists). Rather than merely swell the ranks of useless fiction scribblers, they should base their writing on personal experience. More properly a response to Savinkov’s, rather than to Artsybashev’s novel (the author readily acknowledged that he had actually only read a portion of The Pale Horse so far; indeed, Zheng Zhenduo’s translation was still being published in monthly instalments at the time of Kong Sheng’s writing, August 1922), the text adheres to a view of literature as put forth, once again, by Zheng Zhenduo.167 Within the scheme of a “literature of blood and tears”, Shevyrev was here rejected not on account of his cruelty but because of his indecision, a fault that was obviously not yet manifest in George in the beginning chapters of Huise ma—though we know that Kong Sheng was heading for a disappointment. Another cause for this reader to prefer Ropshin to Artsybashev was that, in portraying terrorists, only the former could rely on personal knowledge. While it would be wrong to make too much of the text at hand, it does reflect the identification of literature with life in the New Literature discourse.168 We conclude our survey of Worker Shevyrev’s reception in China with a letter from Tokyo, published by the journal Yusi (Threads of Talk, also translated as The Spinner of Words) in autumn 1929, under the Ibid., p. 2. On Zheng Zhenduo’s article “A Literature of Blood and Tears” in June 1921, see Chapter One. 168 See, for example, Denton, Modern Chinese Literary Thought, pp. 40–41. 166 167


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title “Words Brought with the Western Wind”.169 Yusi was the literary journal of a society of the same name, founded by Zhou Zuoren and others in Peking in November 1924. Lu Xun, a regular contributor himself, edited Yusi in Shanghai for about a year after its prohibition in Peking in late 1927; the journal survived until March 1930. When Gongren Suihuilüefu appeared, Shao Xian recalled, he was leading “a so-called ‘romantic life’ ” in Peking.170 His encounter with the novel was also the first contact he had ever had with Russian literature; the books he had been reading before all bore titles such as The History of Tears, or Red Roses, conventional products of the Shanghai popular fiction market. Reading Worker Shevyrev caused Shao Xian to change his way of life and break with the friends he had made in his days of debauchery. But we would expect a moralistic conclusion in vain, for young Shao Xian had not amended his ways in order to join the fight for a better China. Instead he felt increasing revulsion towards his school environment, which seemed to him filthy and desolate. With no money to go abroad, or even move to the foreign concessions, he was searching for hope amidst the filth. Shao Xian then lent the book that had so impressed him to a friend, hoping to hear his opinion. The novel was returned to him unread. That is when his loneliness began, engendering a hatred that left him with only two choices: “to escape or to destroy”. The revolutionary impulse arose in him then, for there was nothing more that tied him to the “old capital”. Shao Xian now recalls how his late father had objected to his reading such books as Romance of The Western Chamber and Dream of the Red Chamber. But reading those, even at the cost of becoming a Zhang Junrui or a Jia Baoyu (their celebrated romantic heroes), he would still have remained his father’s son, a son “in the image” of his father. Could his father have so much as imagined his son reading Worker Shevyrev? Soon after this note, the text gives way to a tribute which is worth translating.

See [Li] Shaoxian, “Xifeng chuilai de hua”, part One. “Is it already three or four years ago, that Worker Shevyrev appeared?”—this was how the essay began. However, the second edition of the novel, to which the author must have been referring, was printed in June 1927, i.e. about two years prior to the writing of “Words Brought with the Western Wind”. The “error” is most likely deliberate: placing the events further back in time helped create the impression that the author of the article was by now “three or four”, not merely two years, older. 169 170

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The author of Worker Shevyrev, from what they say, passed out of fashion and is now dead and gone. His empty reputation will now probably vanish as well from the world. But no, certainly not! At least for me, he shall remain at the centre of my admiration. Because he has made me open my eyes, and with courage ride the mad currents of this age. That I am no more tortured to death by any morality, nor crushed flat by any faith, is all due to the strength I have taken from him. Surely, it is in perpetual nothingness that deepest pleasure lies.171

The essay’s second instalment contained Shao Xian’s reflections on Artsybashev as a writer preoccupied with “death and sex” (si yu xing). He did not wish to defend the author from those who had charged him with fixation on these matters (he, too, thought that “death and sex” had been too pessimistically treated in Sanin). But, while Chinese literature had always sought to avoid those very issues, Western literature as exemplified by Artsybashev was striving to confront them squarely, so as to unravel their meaning. The third instalment of “Words Brought with the Western Wind” was a satirical dialogue, mocking those enthusiastic young men in China who encourage people to spill their blood for a better tomorrow—a bright future, which they would construct only once the required sacrifice had been offered by others. The dialogue is directly inspired by Shevyrev’s confrontation with the dark figure in his nightmare, and it transplants Artsybashev’s merciless critique of the advocates of “future golden days” to Chinese ground. Contrary to earlier conjecture,172 the author of “Words Brought with the Western Wind” may be confidently identified as Li Shaoxian. Correspondence with Li is mentioned three times in Lu Xun’s diary in June 1928, and once more in September 1929.173 Writing to his former collaborator in Yusi, Li Xiaofeng, in October 1932, Lu Xun enquired about Shaoxian’s present whereabouts.174 Worker Shevyrev has been discussed here at length because of the visible importance of this short novel to Lu Xun himself, and the response that

171 The text of part One then concluded with the dating and location: “1929.7/27, in the eleventh hour of night, outside Tokyo” (p. 47). 172 Ng, The Russian Hero in Modern Chinese Fiction, p. 70, identified the author with a young woman writer, He Shaoxian. While a daughter would not have been considered “a son in the image of his father”, there is no evidence that a writer named He Shaoxian, either male or female, ever existed. 173 See LXQJ (2005), vol. 16, pp. 84–5, 151. 174 Ibid., vol. 12, p. 334. The editors’ note to this letter also confirms that, at the time of writing for Yusi (he was a frequent contributor from Oct. 1927 to Jan. 1930), Li Shaoxian was studying in Japan.


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Gongren Suihuilüefu in his translation provoked in China—its impression on the young Li Shaoxian being a good illustration of the power of translation. But there is more: a visitor to the Peking University Library today, who orders its copy of Gongren Suihuilüefu in the Beixin edition of 1927, may notice a marginal note in cursive hand, left over from the days when such books, now kept at the library’s storage, could still be borrowed. On the last page, an anonymous reader had carefully underlined the ending of the penultimate sentence of the book, in which Shevyrev (who had just opened fire on a crowd of self-satisfied bourgeois in the city theatre) is described staring at the blood oozing from the bosom of an attractive woman, the very image of “death and sex”. Above this line (a line descending vertically from right to left, as books were still printed in China in the 1920s), our reader (an anarchist? or maybe just a hooligan?) had scribbled the now barely legible words: “That man has really taken revenge. The blood he let flow out of her breast is worth a toast”.175 The next work by Artsybashev that Lu Xun translated had its source in the same German volume of Revolutionsgeschichten, and was published very near to his previous two translations of this writer. It appeared first in the special issue of Xiaoshuo yuebao, dedicated to the study of Russian literature.176 At that time, September 1921, Worker Shevyrev was still being serialised in the same journal. “The Doctor” is as much a part of a bibliographical riddle as a harrowing tale. It was written in 1906, and included in Artsybashev’s 1910 collection Etiudy (Studies)—in all likelihood, this was its first and last appearance in Russian. Its neighbours in the Etiudy volume were ten other texts, among them “Happiness” (1907), a brief essay on the death of Chekhov (dated 1906), and the stories “The Revolutionary” (written in 1905, and published in Etiudy under another title, “On the White Snow”) and “Night” (first published 1909). In Soviet times, Etiudy fell into deepest oblivion, and when in the late 1980s Nicholas Luker discovered a surviving copy in the Lenin Library in Moscow, he described it as a hitherto unknown collection. In his monograph

175 Artsybashev, trans. Lu Xun, Gongren Suihuilüefu (Shanghai: Beixin shuju, 1927), marginal note in PKU Library copy (shelfmark 883/0739), p. 184. 176 Eguo wenxue yanjiu, edited by Mao Dun, also included the translations of two stories by Leonid Andreev; the critical section carried important contributions, to be mentioned below. Lu Xun’s source for “Yisheng”, in LXQJ (1973), vol. 11, pp. 315–46, was “Der Arzt”, in Bugow and Villard, Revolutionsgeschichten, pp. 234–62.

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on Artsybashev, In Defence of A Reputation (1990), Luker argued that six of the eleven stories in Etiudy, including “The Doctor”, had not been published again since 1910. While his assumption that the six texts had also not been included in previous collections was incorrect,177 he was right in that at least two of the Etiudy stories, “Night” and “The Doctor”, are very rare indeed. However, scholars of Artsybashev’s work, in the West as in post-Soviet Russia, have consistently neglected an important aspect of his literary legacy: its translation into other languages. While the Etiudy collection was soon blotted out from memory in the original, its stories were included in several German collections of Artsybashev in the same year of their appearance in Russian.178 One story, “The Doctor”, entered the collection Revolutionsgeschichten a year before the Russian Etiudy came out in St. Petersburg. The phenomenon is essential for an appreciation of Artsybashev’s literary fortune. Translated into German, those of his stories that saw but a limited circulation in Russian were able to reach a larger audience.179

“[W]hy were these six stories not included by Artsybashev in the first or second collections of his tales?” Luker, “Studies in Instability”, p. 100. Golubeva, Literaturnokhudozhestvennye al’manakhi i sborniki, 1900–1911 gody, indicates earlier appearances of three among the six stories singled out by Luker: “V derevne” (In the Village), was first published in 1906 (see item 143); “Noch’ ” (Night) in 1909 (item 329); “Revoliutsioner” (“The Revolutionary”) first appeared under this title in 1906, and again in 1909 (items 146, 357). In addition, Nikonenko, “Primechaniia”, p. 559, cites another publication of “Revoliutsioner” in 1907, when it was collected under one cover with two more stories later reprinted in Etiudy: “Muzhik i barin” (Peasant and Master) and “Odin den’ ” (One Day). “V derevne”, “Revoliutsioner”, “Muzhik i barin” and “Odin den’ ”, also appeared before 1910 in a collection brought out by the future publisher of Etiudy, under the simple title Rasskazy (Stories; St Petersburg: Progress, 1909). This volume (copy Leiden University Library) also included “Krovavoe piatno” (The Bloodstain) and “Uzhas” (Horror). Most importantly, “The Doctor” (the only one of Luker’s six titles for which no earlier Russian publication can be traced) was in 1909 included, in translation, in the second German collection of Artsybashev’s stories, Revolutionsgeschichten. 178 The most obvious example is Aufruhr und andere Novellen, trans. by André Villard and N. Nagel (Munich and Leipzig: Georg Müller, 1910). Five of the Etiudy stories found their way into this German collection, a book that later served as Lu Xun’s source for his translation of “Glück” as “Xingfu”. Two earlier stories, also included in Aufruhr, were “Uzhas” (which gave the collection its title) and “Podpraporshchik Gololobov” (Sub-Ensign Gololobov, 1902). 179 The first collection of Artsybashev’s prose in German, Millionen und andere Novellen (trans. André Villard and S. Bugow; Munich and Leipzig: Georg Müller, 1909) was printed three times in the same year alone; there were at least two printings of Revolutionsgeschichten in 1909, and three of Aufruhr und andere Novellen in 1910 (see Gesamtverzeichnis des deutschsprachigen Schrifttums, 1700–1910). Beginning with Ssanin (trans. André Villard and S. Bugow) in Sept. 1908, all the Artsybashev books published by 177


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The situation takes a dramatic turn when we make one step further, and follow the German translations of these stories on their way into China. From the late 1920s until his “rediscovery” in Russia in 1990, with the sole exception of his trademark novel, Artsybashev was a writer forgotten by readers in any language.180 Translations of his works by the acknowledged “founder of modern Chinese literature”, however, ensured him (beyond the inclusion of his stories in three anthologies and one personal collection between 1922 and 1927)181 a place in the complete editions of Lu Xun in 1938 and 1973. Apart from finding a direct reference to him in the “Story of Hair”, Lu Xun’s many readers repeatedly encountered Artsybashev from the 1920s to the present day: a ten-volume collection of Lu Xun’s translations (Lu Xun yiwen ji) appeared in 1958, while the last eight-volume reprint of the Lu Xun quanji of 1938, containing “Happiness”, Worker Shevyrev, “The Doctor” and “The Death of Bashkin”, came out in Urümqi (capital of Xinjiang province) in 1995.182 A new edition of Lu Xun’s translations in ten volumes is currently forthcoming from Renmin wenxue in Beijing. Still not reprinted and hence inaccessible in Russian in 2008, no better example than “The Doctor” (a story that Luker was right to consider the best in the Etiudy collection)183 can be adduced to illustrate the function of

Georg Müller were marked as “the only authorized German translation”. Nevertheless, “Night” (still a bibliographical rarity in Russian today) appeared in 1910 not only in the Aufruhr volume, but also in Arbeiter Schewyrjow und andere Novellen, trans. by Friedrich Krantz for the Bibliothek Bondy in Berlin—the second German translation of Worker Shevyrev within two years. The translation of “Night” by Nobori Shomu seems to be the only story from Etiudy directly rendered into Japanese, while Mori Ogai’s version of “Zlodei” (The Evil-Doers, 1906) was done from the German. 180 Continued printing of Sanin in the USA in the 1930s has been mentioned above. A “new and complete” translation of Sanin by Jean Leclère, under the title Le Baiser au Néant, was published in Brussels in 1946 and was reissued (with a new introduction by the Belgian anarchist Hem Day) in 1965. 181 Stories by Artsybashev were included in the anthologies Eluosi duanpian jiezuo ji (1921), Xiandai xiaoshuo yicong (1922) and Jindai Eguo xiaoshuo ji (1923), before the appearance of his collection Xuehen (The Bloodstain, 1927). See Annex, and more on these publications below. 182 The overall proportions of the two stories, short novel and essay by Artsybashev within the corpus of Lu Xun’s translations must of course be borne in mind. In the LXQJ of 1973, the last edition to include the translations next to Lu Xun’s own writings, translations accompanied by their introductions, postscripts and editorial commentary filled ten of the twenty volumes. Of these ten, five volumes were dedicated to Russian and Soviet literature. Cf. Lundberg, Lu Xun as a Translator, pp. 174–75. 183 See analysis in Luker, “Studies in Instability”, pp. 121–25. No mention of “The Doctor” can be found in standard Russian-language bibliographies of Artsybashev to this day.

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translation in the preservation of Artsybashev’s work, albeit among an entirely unintended reading audience. Lu Xun’s Postscript to his translation184 even included a reference to the long-lost Etiudy of 1910. “The Doctor” is the story of a pogrom against the Jews in Kiev.185 The hero, a Russian physician, is summoned to the house of a person bearing much of the responsibility for the bloody events that had taken place the previous day: the Chief of the Police, who had sanctioned the killing of Jews by the mob and was then shot in the stomach by Jewish resisters. The doctor finds himself torn between his medical duty, the police officer’s young and beautiful wife who implores him to save her husband, and his loathing for the murderers of innocent women and children, some of whose mutilated corpses he had seen in the hospital earlier that day. As he remembers that, half a year earlier, he had saved the life of a merchant who then became one of the instigators of the pogrom, the doctor takes his decision. Leaving the Chief of the Police’s house, and knowing that no other colleague would arrive to replace him by the patient’s bed, the doctor shouts at the superintendent who tries to stop him: “Let him die! Let him die like a dog! I won’t move a finger to help him”.186 Many important themes of Artsybashev’s writing came together in this story. The “doctor” is a frequent type in his work; struggling as Artsybashev did with the problem of man’s mortality, the study of persons whose profession brought them face to face with the beginning and the end of human life allowed him to tackle these questions. A prime example was the young doctor in “Night”, the opening story of the Etiudy collection. The physician’s dilemma, whether to attend to every patient without distinguishing between the good and the evil, had already been raised in the short novel Teni utra (Morning Shadows, 1905).187 Particularly important in works such as “Uzhas” (Horror, dated 1905), and—among the texts included in Etiudy—the story “V

184 “ ‘Yisheng’ yizhe fuji” (Additional Notes by the Translator of ‘The Doctor’), in LXQJ (2005), vol. 10, pp. 192–93. 185 “Doktor”, in Artsybashev, Etiudy, pp. 227–59. A copy of this, now very rare story collection, from the former library of the Russian sanatorium in Davos, is available at the Schweizerische Osteuropabibliothek, Bern University. 186 From the translation of “The Doctor” by Pinkerton, in Artsybashev, Tales of the Revolution, pp. 267–86, here p. 285. 187 See Ch. 5 of Teni utra, in Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 1, pp. 739–40. Both Morning Shadows and “Horror” will be discussed below in connection with their translations by Shen Zemin.


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derevne” (In the Village, first published 1906), the author’s identification with an act of vengeance is also evident in “The Doctor”, as the hero refuses to treat the police officer whom the Jews had punished for his crimes. More often individual than collective, the idea of vengeance had been key in Artsybashev’s work long before the appearance in 1913 of his next story collection Mstitel’ (The Avenger, after the opening story by the same title): it was at the centre of “Pasha Tumanov” (Artsybashev’s first accomplished story, written in 1901), and of such stories as “Peasant and Master” and “On the White Snow” (also known as: “The Revolutionary”) in Etiudy. It was the driving force of Shevyrev, and would become the refrain of his author’s anti-Bolshevik writings in exile. While we have just seen how it fitted within the general preoccupations of Artsybashev’s work, “The Doctor” was also concerned with an acutely relevant question: the pogroms against Jews in the Russian empire.188 The first large wave of pogroms in Russia took place following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, and the events described were part of the second eruption of violence between 1903 and 1906.189 The explicit reference in “The Doctor” to Podol, the northern part of Kiev on the right bank of the river Dniepr, points to the bloodshed that took place in Kiev from November 1905 to January 1906, when in the course of forty-one pogroms 167 Jews were killed and many hundreds wounded.190 Pogroms proliferated throughout Russia directly after the issuing of the famous “October Manifesto” by Tsar 188 Jews often appeared in Artsybashev’s works, usually in such secondary roles as that of Soloveichik in Sanin. An exception is the story “Evrei” (The Jew), included in the miscellany Shchit (The Shield) in 1915: a product of wartime collaboration between Andreev, Gorky and Sologub, this volume gathered prominent Russian writers and intellectuals firmly opposed to the anti-Jewish violence raging at the time. Artsybashev’s contribution described a battlefield encounter between two Jewish soldiers, one fighting on the Russian and the other on the German side. While his Russian Jew showed himself a true patriot in this story, the writer’s unease with Jewish involvement in Russian politics could be felt already in the character of Dora in Morning Shadows, and it became more outspoken after Oct. 1917. 189 The third and most violent wave erupted in the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution in 1919–21, eliciting a myopic reaction from the author of Zapiski pisatelia; see his “Bol’noi vopros” (A Sensitive Question), ibid., pp. 272–85, and commentary in Zubarev, “Amfiteatrov i russkie v Pol’she (1922–1932)”, p. 405. In the Ukraine alone, ten per cent of the Jewish population perished in the “third wave” pogroms. See Peter Kenez, “Pogroms and White Ideology in the Russian Civil War”, in John D. Klier and Shlomo Lambroza, eds., Pogroms: Anti-Jewish Violence in Modern Russian History, p. 302. 190 Shlomo Lambroza, “The Pogroms of 1903–1906”, ibid., p. 228.

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Nicholas II on 30 (17) October 1905. Attacks on Jews were encouraged by the ultra-monarchist Black Hundreds, who (in a political climate aggravated by Russia’s defeat in its war against Japan) considered them chief agents of the revolution and worst enemies of the Tsar.191 As to the role of the police in colluding with the murderers, it is probable that Artsybashev’s story was inspired by a concrete case. Recently returned from the battle of Mukden, which he was blamed for losing in February 1905, the following October General Baron Alexander Kaulbars allowed, as commander of the Odessa Military District, the killing of eight hundred Jews in his town and the wounding of five thousand more, the bloodiest pogrom of the period. In the following year, when Artsybashev wrote “The Doctor”, Kaulbars was promoted commander of the Kiev District, a position he would use to supply arms to the local branch of the “Union of Russian People”, the extreme right-wing organization whose semi-autonomous arm was the Black Hundreds.192 Jewish resistance to the pogroms occurred in some cities: it proved especially effective in Gomel in 1903, where selfdefence squads were formed in response to the notorious massacre in Kishinev in April that year.193 Though Baron Kaulbars was not shot “by one of a Jewish gang, a secret Self-Defence Society”194 in Kiev, a Jewish-Russian hit squad acting for the Combat Organization of the Party of Socialists-Revolutionaries did make an unsuccessful attempt on his life in Odessa.195 The reader of Artsybashev’s story in the original language would not have needed to make the direct connection to Kaulbars, but would undoubtedly have been able to connect “The Doctor” with the events from which it had arisen. The call for retribution implicit in the doctor’s Ibid., pp. 225–27. Ibid., p. 233; cf. Robert Weinberg, “The Pogrom of 1905 in Odessa: A Case Study”, ibid., pp. 262–72. 193 Lambroza, “The Pogroms of 1903–1906”, ibid., p. 208. Responsibility for the pogrom in Kishinev was widely (wrongly, according to Lambroza, ibid., pp. 203–4) attributed to V. K. von Plehve, and was one of the causes for his assassination by the SR in summer 1904. 194 From “The Doctor”, in Artsybashev, trans. Pinkerton, Tales of the Revolution, p. 268. 195 Savinkov, Vospominaniia terrorista, p. 275. Alexander V. Kaulbars (1844–1929, France) had taken part in the Russian occupation of Manchuria during the Boxer uprising in 1900, and is also known as an explorer of the Tianshan. See the biographical entry in Marina Iu. Sorokina, “Snova vostokovedy . . . materialy dlia biobibliograficheskogo slovaria Rossiiskoe nauchnoe zarubezh’e”. 191 192


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final decision may suggest why (even though the requirement for prepublication censorship had been lifted from the Russian press by the end of 1905) this topical story was not published until several years after it had been written. Grounded, as this analysis has shown, in a historical context as specific as the events behind Savinkov’s Pale Horse, the story would also be bound to pose difficulties for readers entirely unfamiliar with its historical background. Beyond this difficulty, even more intriguing questions surround “The Doctor” as we approach its translation into Chinese. The Introduction by André Villard to the collection of Artsybashev’s stories, Revolutionsgeschichten, discussed five of the six works included therein in considerable detail, but it did not so much as mention “Der Arzt”, and the volume had no table of contents. Hence, readers would have been surprised to come upon this story between pages 234 and 262. Moreover, the translators’ footnotes to the story, barring one exception, are of a technical nature and of no informative value. Lu Xun’s translation reproduced these footnotes, as well as, naturally, the omissions of his predecessors: the reference to Podol, allowing readers of the story to identify Kiev as the scene of the events, had not made it into the German, and neither had the two biblical epigraphs accompanying the Russian text.196 With no available information on the story’s historical background, Lu Xun’s readers obviously could not relate “Yisheng” to its original setting. Nevertheless, they received in the translator’s Postscript what German (and later Anglophone) readers did not: an overview of antiJewish violence in Russia in 1905–6 and even an explanation of the word “pogrom” ( pogelong). Lu Xun condemned the phenomenon in strong terms, going on to say that its causes were “very complicated, though the most important one is that they [the Jews—M. G.] are a foreign people”.197 Perhaps under the influence of translating Worker Shevyrev, a novel in which these motives were much more apparent, he considered the story an expression of Artsybashev’s argument with Tolstoyan non-resistance. Lu Xun’s final words in the Postscript reflected 196 From the Book of Job: “There is no daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both” (9: 33), and “Teach me, and I will hold my peace, and cause me to understand wherein I have erred” (6: 24). Luker, “Studies in Instability”, considers the epigraphs central to the story, as he believes that through them Artsybashev was criticizing the doctor for failing, just as the Chief of Police had done, to show humanity to his fellow man. As in Worker Shevyrev, the authorial position in this story admits of various interpretations. 197 “ ‘Yisheng’ yizhe fuji”, in LXQJ (2005), vol. 10, p. 192.

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the category to which he assigned “The Doctor”: invoking the defeat of the mythological Chi You by the Yellow Emperor of the Han, he regretted that contrary to the traditional records of “pacifying” this or that minority, no works identifying with the plight of weak peoples (ruo minzu) had ever been written in China.198 Lu Xun might have been referring readers to the theme of the next special issue of Xiaoshuo yuebao: in the following month, October 1921, the journal was to dedicate its pages to the “literature of injured peoples”, featuring, among others, Polish, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Czech and Jewish (Yiddish) writers.199 Lu Xun’s own motivation for translating the story should not, however, be too readily attributed to a feeling of solidarity with “injured” or “oppressed” peoples or nations, in this case the Jews. To begin with, the Chinese translator also praised the writer for being ready to denounce “the inhuman conduct of his compatriots”—a position that the author of “Diary of a Madman” would have found congenial. Second, the definition has always been sufficiently vague to make it difficult to set “the literature of oppressed peoples” apart from the “literatures” of independent nations. Chinese translators ideologically engaged with “oppressed peoples” were interested in treatments of anti-Semitism by ethnically Jewish writers, a definition which would have excluded Artsybashev.200 Literary discourse in the republican period blended the terms “oppressed” (bei yapo), “injured” (bei sunhai) and “small and weak” (ruoxiao): the literature of some central European nations (such as Poland and Hungary) fit under all three rubrics, as did Yiddish literature, the literature of Greece and of a number of countries in Asia. India was described by the first two terms (as by the offensive wangguo; a conquered nation), while the third was applied to the countries of Scandinavia. Russian prerevolutionary literature came under the first of these categories in the 1920s, because it represented a country burdened by poverty and tradition while, just like China, engaged in a struggle for

198 Ibid., p. 193. The warrior Chi You was legendary leader of the Li nationality of Hainan Island. 199 Dong Limin, “Xiaoshuo yuebao 1923: bei zhebi de ling yi zhong xiandaixing jiangou—Chongshi Shen Yanbing bei Zheng Zhenduo qudai shijian”, pp. 80, 84–5, describes readers’ complaints about this issue, which proved more difficult to sell than the one on Russian literature. Dong believes that Mao Dun’s insistence on taking an ideological course for the journal hastened his replacement as editor. 200 Irene Eber, Voices from Afar: Modern Chinese Writers on Oppressed Peoples and their Literature, p. 46; cf. p. 51.


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modernity. Japan (because of its aggression against China) was excluded from the last category in the 1930s. By the 1930s, too, both the rhetoric and translation of “oppressed nations’ literature” had been supplanted by the “national literature” of the Kuomintang.201 A widely-cited memoir by Zhou Zuoren of his brother’s and his own literary activity in Tokyo, from 1906 to 1909, mentioned more than once Lu Xun’s interest in what would later be called “the literature of oppressed peoples”. While all the countries below fitted the flexible definition, the following excerpt from Zuoren’s recollections leaves us with the distinct impression of two prodigious young readers in search for the exotic: We checked the contents of English and German-language books, thinking up ways to acquire works from strange [ guguai ] countries, in particular Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Finland, Hungary, Rumania and modern Greece, and as the next priority: Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Holland etc.; as for Spain and Italy, we did not pay much attention to them.202

Far from presenting their intended audience with only tales of woe from the oppressed nations of the world, the two volumes of translated short stories, which the Zhou brothers published in Tokyo in 1909 under the title Yuwai xiaoshuo ji (Stories from Abroad), and all the more so the contributions of Lu Xun thereto, bespeak an aesthetically motivated choice. We shall return to this pioneering anthology in Chapter Four. Despite the call for more sympathy for weak peoples, placed at the end of the translator’s Postscript to “The Doctor”, one may hazard the guess that this story appealed to Lu Xun’s sensibility more because of its outspoken description of cruelty, something that had always fascinated him and which is also a likely reason for his turning to Artsybashev’s “Happiness”.203 Lu Xun’s involvement with this Russian writer in the Song Binghui, “Ruoxiao minzu wenxue de yijie yu Zhongguo wenxue de xiandaixing” (The Translation and Introduction of Literature by Weak and Small Nations, and Chinese Literary Modernity), in idem, Fangfa yu shijian, pp. 106, 113–14. 202 Zhou Zuoren, “Guanyu Lu Xun zhi er” (On Lu Xun, part Two; 1937), in Liu Xuyuan, Kuyuzhai zhu: Mingren bixia de Zhou Zuoren, Zhou Zuoren bixia de mingren, p. 220. 203 Further evidence of this fascination may be found, again in a Jewish setting, in Lu Xun’s translation of the story “In The Desert” (1921) by Lev N. Lunz (1901–24), first published in Beixin in Jan. 1929, and collected in the anthology Zai shamo shang ji qita in September. See “Zai shamo shang”, in LXQJ (1973), vol. 19, pp. 39–49; translator’s commentary in LXQJ (2005), vol. 10, pp. 389–90. Free from either sympathy or “humanitarian” pity, this is the gruesome vision of primeval violence raging among the people of Israel on their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. 201

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short time span between 1920 and 1921 may plausibly be related to his Japanese period in another way. As Zhou Zuoren wrote, Lu Xun, who at that time showed little interest in contemporary Japanese literature, did appreciate the criticism and translations of Mori Ogai.204 In 1921 Lu Xun was more inclined to read Japanese writers, and alongside stories by Akutagawa Ryunosuke and Kikuchi Kan he translated also Mori Ogai’s “Tower of Silence”. If he did absorb some of this writer’s taste for Artsybashev, he chose to translate none of the texts selected by Mori Ogai for his own German-based Japanese translations. Lu Xun’s translations from 1922 to 1926 included many Japanese authors. Translating very little from the German in those years, he for the most part also used Japanese as an intermediary language.205 His last translation from Artsybashev, the essay “Smert’ Bashkina” (The Death of Bashkin, dated 1909), was published in the fortnightly Mangyuan (The Wilderness) in September 1926. After his lecture at the Peking Women’s College (which he had used to tell the student audience about his translation of Worker Shevyrev), Lu Xun went to live and teach in Xiamen. He had taken refuge in the southern city from the old capital, now occupied by the troops of warlord Zhang Zuolin. Meanwhile in Peking, in January 1926 the newly-founded Weiming she (the Unnamed Society—“named” after the translation series edited by Lu Xun for the Beixin Book Company) began publication of a revamped Mangyuan, a new forum for translated literature and criticism.206 “The Death of Bashkin” had been translated into Japanese from the original by Baba Tetsuya (1891–1951), a translator and scholar of Russian literature.207 The brief essay, included in a 1924 Japanese edition

Zhou Zuoren, loc. cit., p. 222, also mentions other names. Exceptions are his translations, via German, of the Dutch authors Multatuli and van Eeden. A handy listing of Lu Xun’s translations is in Fujian shifan daxue zhongwen xi, Lu Xun lun waiguo wenxue, pp. 409–72. Lundberg, Lu Xun as a Translator, pp. 235–65, is the amplified English version of the same, while a more recent list correcting some mistakes in the previous two is available in Findeisen, Lu Xun (1881–1936): Texte, Bilder, Dokumente, Chronik. 206 The translations under Weiming auspices of Andreev’s plays To the Stars and The Black Masks will be discussed in Ch. 4. Beixin Book Company was established in Peking in 1925, moved to Shanghai in 1926, and closed down in 1932. Mangyuan, at first a weekly supplement to Jingbao (The Peking Gazette) from April to Nov. 1925, was relaunched by Weiming as a fortnightly in Jan. 1926; folding in Dec. 1927, it was swiftly replaced by a new fortnightly bearing the title Weiming in Jan. 1928, which would last to April 1930. See Wang Yougui, Fanyijia Lu Xun, pp. 255–57. 207 Commentary in LXQJ (2005), vol. 10, p. 327, credits Baba Tetsuya with the translation of Marxist criticism. While Lu Xun would rely on him again in translating 204 205


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of A Writer’s Notes, describes the death and burial ceremony of the poet and writer Vasilii Bashkin (1880–1909).208 Artsybashev had been a friend and patron of Bashkin during the latter’s short passage in the literary world. His essay, written in Bashkin’s memory, was included in an anthology issued in support of the widow and infant son of the deceased in 1910. It switched between a description of Bashkin’s poorly attended funeral, in the snow-covered village cemetery on a late November day, and the author’s recollections of their last meeting in the hospital, where Bashkin was dying of tuberculosis. Artsybashev asked his friend, whose mild and benevolent outlook on life had often been the reason of arguments between them, whether at his deathbed he now felt that they had moved closer to each other. Looking at him with his “bright and good eyes”, Bashkin said: “We have moved apart. One must love and take pity on all”. Yet it is anger and hatred that overcome the narrator when, walking in the snow behind his fellow writer’s coffin, he reflects upon the competition and ruthless intrigue in literary circles, which had left no chance for the humble and sensitive Bashkin, and upon the cynical world of the city, which he sees towering in the distance. Artsybashev began the essay by comparing his own life to a protracted walk in a funeral cortège, one to be continued until the day when he too would finally reach his lonely destination. In the last lines a sudden image of beauty intervenes in the profoundly tragic scene. When a flock of pigeons suddenly lands on the nearby tombs, the grace of their fluttering wings prompts the narrator to ask: “Perhaps, it is in beauty that the justification of the entire world resides? Perhaps, everything exists only so that there will be beauty?” Dying of the same disease that had plagued Artsybashev since his youth, Bashkin became for him a memento mori. However, in the image Artsybashev gave of him in this essay, the gentle and self-effacing Bashkin was also made into a spokesman for a worldview with which the author of Sanin was in seemingly perpetual confrontation. In his short novel The Death of Lande (was there a conscious parallel in the title of the later essay?) Artsybashev appeared to condemn Ivan Lande’s philosophy of non-resistance by demonstrating his ineptitude for life. Lunacharskii’s “On Art” in 1929, Baba Tetsuya also rendered into Japanese works by Turgenev, Aleksei Remizov and other Russian writers. 208 See Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, pp. 680–84 for the Russian text. On V. V. Bashkin, see Nikolaev, Russkie pisateli 1800–1917, vol. 1, pp. 187–88.

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Yet, the final description of Lande’s death, where his body buried in the forest became “an inalienable part of an immutable natural world that is brimful of both colour and joy”209 suggested that the meek protagonist had possessed a spiritual worth that his failed physical life could neither manifest nor prefigure. He was succeeded in Sanin by the Jew Soloveichik, to whom (in a rare intertextual reference) Vladimir Sanin told of his own early acquaintance, and eventual disappointment, with Ivan Lande. Bashkin of Artsybashev’s memorial essay is again one of the weak and the downtrodden, those who in spite of their own misfortune cling to their last to the belief in compassion and universal love. If there are links between Bashkin and Dostoevsky’s Myshkin, this connection is made most evident in the narrator’s exclamation at the essay’s end. As the writer Bashkin is being laid to rest, like his literary predecessor—enveloped in the beauty of nature, his rememberer paraphrases the aphorism attributed to Prince Myshkin by other characters in The Idiot: “Beauty will save the world”.210 Dated “August 1926”, the translation of this essay211 was done while Lu Xun was still in Peking. Why did he, after an interval of four years, return to Artsybashev? At the time, Lu Xun was preparing a second edition of Worker Shevyrev for the Beixin series. Rereading his old translation may have reawoken his interest in Artsybashev, while translating a new text for publication in Mangyuan could help refresh this author’s name in readers’ minds. Whatever it was that attracted him to “The Death of Bashkin” (did the image of birds, alighting on the lonely tombs, remind him of the dramatic ending of his own story “Medicine”, the same ending that he would later attribute to the influence of Andreev’s “chill”?), Lu Xun was certainly an alert reader of the Japanese Writer’s Notes. The brief essay which he chose to translate was the best in the collection, and one still cited as a key text in Artsybashev’s work.212 That Lu Xun did experience something of a revival of his previous liking for Artsybashev in 1926 is attested by a reference that has 209 The description is Luker’s, in his “The Rejection of Non-Resistance”, p. 105 (see ibid., p. 106, on the connection between Lande and Soloveichik). 210 Luker (ibid., p. 97) recalls these words in connection with Lande, though he does not consider “The Death of Bashkin”. 211 “Bashigeng zhi si”, in LXQJ (1973), vol. 16, pp. 806–13. 212 An analysis of this essay opens the Introduction to the three-volume edition of Artsybashev’s works, published in 1994: see Prokopov, “Zhizni i smerti Mikhaila Artsybasheva”, p. 5.


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Fig. 3. Lu Xun in Peking, 1926. Photograph reproduced in Lu Xun quanji (1938), vol. 3.

remained unidentified until now. Only three months before his translation of “The Death of Bashkin”, Lu Xun published an essay in Mangyuan entitled “Twenty-Four Pictures of Filial Piety”—a part of his reminiscences of childhood and youth, later collected in Zhaohua xishi (Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk, 1928). Replying to a critic’s accusations that he was failing to live up to his own principles, Lu Xun invoked a story that, “as he heard”, had once happened to Artsybashev: “Artsybashev once answered a young woman’s enquiry: ‘Only those who find joy in the mere fact of life should go on living. But those who do not see anything in it, are really better off dead’ ”.213 213 See “Ershi si xiaotu”, in LXQJ (2005), vol. 2, p. 260. The editors’ notes (ibid., p. 266, n. 15) specify the polemical context in accusations levelled at Lu Xun by his

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This, however, was no hearsay, but a word-for-word translation of the concluding lines of “Epidemiia samoubiistv” (An Epidemic of Suicides, 1911),214 an essay that Lu Xun must have found in the same Japanese edition of A Writer’s Notes from which he translated “The Death of Bashkin”. The contents of an angry letter, which Artsybashev received from a reader urging him “to live out his own principles” (namely to commit suicide himself rather than proffer such advice to the young), as well as the writer’s refusal to accept his reader’s logic, are all retold by Lu Xun from the following essay in A Writer’s Notes.215 At a time when Lu Xun was becoming ever more of a polemical writer himself, he was borrowing rhetorical ammunition from the author he was translating.216 Why Lu Xun never translated Artsybashev again after 1926 is, despite this resurgence of interest, not a difficult question to answer. A postscript he wrote for a translation of Alexander Blok’s famous poem “The Twelve” in July that year, expressed his growing belief that the Russian writers who had left their country (he explicitly mentioned Artsybashev and Andreev) were no longer of interest. It is those who had stayed on and, like the symbolist poet Blok, struggled to find meaning in the new reality created by the Revolution, who still mattered and should be introduced to readers in China.217

nemesis in the mid-1920s, the professor of English Chen Xiying (pen-name of Chen Yuan, 1896–1970; inter alia, translator from the English of the second Chinese version of Fathers and Sons in 1930): “talking about revolution, but serving as an official; speaking of the freedom of expression, but burning down a newspaper office”. A freer translation with parallel Chinese text is in Lu Xun, Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk, p. 63. 214 See Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, p. 744. 215 “Po povodu odnogo chastnogo pis’ma” (About a Private Letter, 1911). Ibid., pp. 744–51. 216 The reference to Artsybashev in Zhaohua xishi is considered, though not identified, in Wang Yongsheng, “Lu Xun lun Antelaifu yu A’erzhibasuifu”, p. 78 (the rest of this article employs selective quotation to make Lu Xun condemn both Andreev and Artsybashev as reactionary decadent writers). 217 This second Chinese translation of “The Twelve” appeared in 1926 under the name of Hu Xiao (Hu Chengcai, 1901–43), a recent graduate of the Russian Department at Peking University, who was, though, assisted by many hands at the Unnamed Society and apparently never translated again. As it included Lu Xun’s translation from the Japanese of Trotsky’s essay “Alexander Blok” (Ch. 3 of his Literature and Revolution), the book could not be mentioned in Soviet sinology. See “Shier ge houji”, in LXQJ (2005), vol. 7, pp. 310–16, now partly translated and discussed in A. N. Zhelokhovtsev, “Iz istorii oznakomleniia kitaiskoi obshchestvennosti s sovetskoi literaturoi (20–40-e gody)”, pp. 239–42.


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For the remainder of the year in Xiamen, and during 1927 in Canton and Shanghai (where he and Xu Guangping settled together in October), Lu Xun translated only Japanese authors, with the sole exception of the Japanese travel impressions of Boris Pil’niak (1894–1938). In 1932 he would again translate this Soviet modernist and “fellowtraveller”, who visited Japan and China in 1926.218 A look at Lu Xun’s impressive translation output from mid-1928 to 1932, however, shows a decisive turn: first towards Russian Marxist theoreticians, then to the new Soviet literature. He did translate a story by Evgenii Zamiatin (another “fellow-traveller”, who expired of natural causes in France in 1937 and thus did not share the fate of Pil’niak in becoming a victim of Stalin’s purges), but the more prominent among Lu Xun’s translations of Russian writing, accomplished from the Japanese during these years, were the speeches and essays by Lunacharskii and Plekhanov, Alexander Iakovlev’s short novel October and Fadeev’s novel The Rout. This re-orientation was an expression of the readiness to idealize Soviet Russia that counted among its credulous victims in the same period such distinguished European names as H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw and Romain Rolland. In the Chinese context, it also stemmed from the view of literature as a guide for political action and as a tool in the creation of the nation—the legacy of Liang Qichao,219 to which the romantic in Lu Xun remained attracted even while Lu Xun the cynic missed no occasion to belittle the pretensions of Chinese “revolutionary literature”. Not realizing, or more likely unwilling to admit that Soviet writers were by the late 1920s fully subservient to Party orders, Lu Xun imagined these “new” writers taking an active part in the transformation of their country. By contrast, “old” Russian writers who had left their country were in his opinion devoting themselves to pathetic lamentation and remembrance of times past.220 Even their

During his stay in Shanghai in summer 1926, Pil’niak was accompanied by Jiang Guangci, who in an article for Literature Weekly complained of the lack of attention shown to the prominent young guest by Chinese literary circles. See “Jieshao lai Hua youli zhi Su-E wenxuejia Pinieke” (Introducing the Soviet Writer Pil’niak, Now Arrived in China), in Jiang Guangci wenji, vol. 4, pp. 155–57; vol. 3 opens with a photograph of Pil’niak, flanked by Jiang Guangci and Tian Han. 219 Liang’s famous essay, “On the Relationship Between Fiction and the Government of the People” (originally in Xin xiaoshuo, 1902); trans. in Denton, Modern Chinese Literary Thought, pp. 74–81. 220 See his speech “Literature of a Revolutionary Period” (1927), trans. in Selected Works, vol. 2, pp. 334–41; original, “Geming shidai de wenxue”, collected in Er yi ji (And That’s That, 1928), in LXQJ (2005), vol. 3, pp. 436–43, at p. 440. A similar view 218

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colleagues who had stayed in Russia but did not join the Communist enterprise have been swept off the stage by the mighty current of history.221 In equating political exile with cultural irrelevancy Lu Xun rejected another interpretation: namely, that not unlike Liang Qichao and other prominent Chinese intellectuals at the turn of the century, the Russian writers whom he had once read with such interest chose exile not in an admission of ideological defeat but in order to preserve their lives, as well as their right to express their convictions. On 30 December 1932 Lu Xun signed a programmatic address, “Celebrating Chinese-Russian Literary Ties”. This summed up the course of Chinese acquaintance with Russian fiction from the early days of Lin Shu’s retellings and the Sophia look-a-likes,222 through the “discovery” that Russian literature could be retranslated from English and German, and its ensuing “introduction and spread” by this means despite the criticism of purists disdainful of “retranslations” (chongyi), and the government’s attempts to have Russian books banned. Lu was expressed by Mao Dun, in his article “The Revolutionary Poet of Soviet Russia, Mayakovsky” in 1924: “The poets still remaining from Russia’s imperial period, with the exception of some comfortably settled as rich exiles ( yugong) in Paris and Berlin, can really be said to have completely withered” (quoted in Lin Jinghua, Wudu Eluosi, p. 203). 221 Cf. Lu Xun’s comments on the suicides of poets Sergei Esenin and Andrei Sobol’ in “Some Thoughts on Our New Literature” (May 1929), as trans. in Selected Works, vol. 3, pp. 51–6: “Their dreams have been shattered, so they cannot live on” (p. 53). The original is “Xianjin de xin wenxue de gaiguan”, collected in Sanxian ji; in LXQJ (2005), vol. 4, pp. 136–42, here p. 138. 222 Evidence that the image of Sophia Perovskaia had been successfully assimilated by the New Literature (much as Zheng Zhenduo’s translation of The Pale Horse had monopolised another topos of entertainment fiction, the romance of Russian political terror) is provided in an anthology entitled The Wave of Struggle for Freedom and Other Stories: Seven Tragic Tales from Russia in the Age of Autocracy. Translated from the English by Lu Xun’s fellow townsman Dong Qiufang in 1927, this included (next to the title story by SR leader G. A. Gershuni, mistakenly attributed to Gorky) an anonymous biographical sketch of “Suofeiya”, which Lu Xun praised in his Introduction of Nov. 1926. See “Zheng ziyou de bolang xiaoyin”, in LXQJ (2005), vol. 7, pp. 317–19; cf. Shneider, Russkaia klassika v Kitae, p. 196. An admirer of the Russian populists, Ba Jin recounted the life story of Perovskaia in his book Ten Russian Heroines (Eluosi shi nü jie), in 1930, but meanwhile women writers had bestowed variations of the canonical name on decidedly unrevolutionary heroines in Bai Wei’s play Sufei (1926) and Ding Ling’s sensational Diary of Miss Sophie (Shafei nüshi de riji, 1928). Findeisen, “Anarchist or Saint? On the Spread of ‘Wisdom’ (Sophia) in Modern Chinese Literature”, p. 104, concludes: “At the beginning of Sophia’s way through China, [she] was an anarchist heroicized to the extent that she had become a Saint; then Bai Wei and Ding Ling contributed to the clear shape of a woman seeking her own way, before Sophia became a group tag vaguely associated with Leftist ideas, and finally a fashion that might have persisted simply for reasons of euphony and Western exoticism”.


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Xun must have been describing his own evolution as a reader when he said that, after finding “terror” in the works of Andreev and “despair and decadence” in Artsybashev, “we learned magnanimity from V. Korolenko and resistance from Maxim Gorky”. He was obviously making a political statement rather than writing an essay in literary criticism. But he was probably sincere in concluding that the most salient gains in the introduction of Russian literature had been the translations of new Soviet fiction (Libedinskii’s A Week, Gladkov’s Cement, Fadeev’s The Rout, Serafimovich’s Iron Flood)—works which, by conquering the hearts of Chinese readers, would open their eyes to see the achievements of Soviet society. The words from this essay tirelessly quoted in Soviet and PRC publications are: “Russian literature was our guide and friend”.223 However, in 1933 Lu Xun translated next to nothing; from 1934 up to his death on 19 October 1936 another change of direction, now towards classical Russian literature, manifested itself in a close engagement with Chekhov and especially with Gogol. He also translated a chapter from the nineteen-century satirist Saltykov-Shchedrin, two apolitical works by Gorky, and one by Leonid Panteleev (the only text coming from Communist Russia, even this—a book for the youth). Having long since stopped writing fiction, he remained devoted to his translation work during those two final years in Shanghai, when illness would time and again confine him to bed; in September 1934 he founded, and edited the first three issues, of yet another monthly, Yiwen (Translated Literature). This was the first Chinese literary journal dedicated entirely to translation. Lu Xun’s own last effort, Dead Souls, proved both the most demanding translation project he had ever undertaken, and (though uncompleted) one of the most successful among the many translations he produced.224

223 “Zhu Zhong-E wenzi zhi jiao”, collected in Nanqiang beidiao ji (Mixed Dialects, 1934), in LXQJ (2005), vol. 4, pp. 472–80; translated as “The Ties between Chinese and Russian Literatures” in Lu Xun, Selected Works, vol. 3, pp. 209–13. Cement first came out in a joint translation by Cai Yongshang and her husband Dong Qiusi in 1929. A Week was first translated by Jiang Guangci, and The Rout by Lu Xun himself, both in 1930. Lu Xun was closely involved in the publication of The Iron Flood, translated by Cao Jinghua, in 1932. 224 See Wang Yougui, Fanyijia Lu Xun, pp. 212–18 on Dead Souls; ibid., pp. 263–69, and ZFWS, pp. 208–10, on Yiwen. The journal, closed down in Sept. 1935, was revived for another year from March 1936 to March 1937. A new Yiwen was founded in 1953, to publish much Soviet literature until 1959.

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Between the lure of new Soviet fiction and the renewed appeal of the old masters, early twentieth-century Russian literature had lost most of its interest for Lu Xun. Yet the hefty tomes of the Collected Works would continue to preserve “Happiness”, Worker Shevyrev, “The Doctor” and “The Death of Bashkin” for the benefit of Lu Xun’s readers, who, through their national modern writer, would become well acquainted with the tongue-twisting name of A’erzhibasuifu.225

225 “Reading Lu Xun at middle school, I came across this teeth-breaking name, ‘A’erzhibasuifu’; I read it aloud quite a few times before finally committing to memory [the name of] this Russian writer”. Now a well-known scholar and translator of Russian literature, Liu Wenfei begins with this recollection an Introduction to his translation of Sanin (published in 2002), “A’erzhibasuifu he ta de Saning”.


APPROPRIATION AND DECLINE; THE CHANNELS OF TRANSLATION I. “Bloodstains” from 1905 to 1925, and the rise of Marxist criticism The only Chinese-language collection of Artsybashev’s stories to the present day, Xuehen (The Bloodstain) was published by the Kaiming (Enlightenment) Book Company in March 1927, and reached its seventh edition in August 1933.1 It brought together not only some of Artsybashev’s best work, but also all his main translators: in addition to Lu Xun’s “The Doctor”, two stories, “Pasha Tumanov” and “The Bloodstain”, were contributed by the collection’s editor, Zheng Zhenduo; the story “Nina” and the short novel Morning Shadows were included in translations by Shen Zemin; and the first story by Artsybashev ever to appear in Chinese, Hu Yuzhi’s translation of “The Revolutionary”, was again made available to readers. Zheng Zhenduo began his Introduction, signed in September 1926 (and apparently never reprinted in full since 1933), by naming Artsybashev and Gorky as his favourite Russian writers. He then quickly forgot the latter party to this unlikely couple, however, saying that he could think of no author who equalled Artsybashev in the ability “to so stir our hearts and move our souls; cause us such excitement that we could hardly breathe”. Here we get a new perspective on Zheng’s fidelity to his plan of translating and serially publishing Sanin in Xiaoshuo yuebao, a project which we have seen him begin in 1924 and complete in 1930. Zheng proceeded to inform his readers (thereby repeating an error in his Concise History of Russian Literature of 1923) that for publishing “The Bloodstain” and Morning Shadows Artsybashev was at one point condemned to death by the tsarist government. He continued with a tribute, which, though it was written while the author was still alive,

Kaiming was founded in 1926. Poshek Fu, Passivity, Resistance, and Collaboration: Intellectual Choices in Occupied Shanghai, 1937–1945, pp. 58–9, and Zou Zhenhuan, 20 shiji Shanghai fanyi chuban yu wenhua bianqian, pp. 159–65, provide more information on this important publisher. 1

appropriation and decline; the channels of translation 191 appeared in print in the very month of Artsybashev’s death in exile, March 1927. It sounded as a fitting summary of his critical fortunes in China: His later years were passed in dejection; he had lost his eyesight and his hearing, while his own compatriots treated him as a counterrevolutionary . . . Living abroad with no fame or reputation, he is remembered only by his foreign readers while his own people have long forgotten about him. As to us, however, after reading this volume of his works we shall never be able to forget him and his imperishable art. What he writes about is not just Russia, but the whole of mankind; not only the era of the Russian revolution, but also our own; nay, it is the story of every other nation’s revolutionary era. At this time, in China, how moved will our youths be once they have read this! It seems as if we have written this [book] ourselves, not as if it was something written by the far-away writer Artsybashev.2

This appropriation of Artsybashev’s prose, by means of an implicit transplantation into the Chinese political context (the revolution then being led by a fragile “united front” of Nationalist and Communist forces), and even the return to the hopeful identification of the book’s intended readership with China’s youth, were helped by the choice of the title. “Xuehen” (Bloodstain or Bloodstains, rather than Tales of the Revolution, the title of the collection translated by Percy Pinkerton, from which three of the texts hailed) would have called up the echoes of dramatic recent events—the bloody dispersal of a demonstration on 30 May 1925 that had launched the “May Thirtieth movement” against the foreign powers in Shanghai and Canton, and the shooting of demonstrating Peking students by warlord soldiers in March 1926.3 2 Zheng Zhenduo, “Xu”, pp. i–ii (Zheng had, earlier in his presentation, made it clear that the sympathy of Artsybashev was given to the revolution of 1905 not of 1917). An excerpt from this Introduction is cited also in Nakai Masaki, “Eluosi wenxue yingxiang er ti” (Two Examples of the Influence of Russian Literature), in Yang Yi, Nakai Masaki and Zhang Zhongliang, Ershi shiji Zhongguo wenxue tu zhi, vol. 1, p. 333. Zheng’s translation of “The Bloodstain” was first published in the new half-monthly Guangming, edited by Ye Shengtao, in June 1926. “Pasha Tumanov”, too, probably appeared in a periodical before being collected in March 1927. 3 This hypothesis is supported by the heading and contents of Xuehen, a short-lived anti-imperialist periodical launched in Shanghai in June 1925, two issues of which are available at the INALCO library in Paris. “Bloodstains” appeared in the text of many articles in this journal, and no. 2 (dated 19 June 1925) included a poem under this title, all dedicated to the events of 30 May. In the same month in Shanghai, Zheng Zhenduo published a paper named Gongli ribao (Public Truth Daily), while Qu Qiubai, assisted by Shen Zemin, edited Rexue ribao (Hot-Blooded Daily), the first CCP newspaper. See Chen Fukang, Zheng Zhenduo zhuan, pp. 135–49; Zhong Guisong, Shen


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More traumatic events had been written into the annals of modern China by the time two contributors to the publisher’s monthly Kaiming alerted readers of the third edition of Artsybashev’s collection, published in October 1928. In April 1927 Chiang Kai-shek’s forces had purged the Communists in Shanghai, and in December they crushed also the short-lived Commune of Canton. The author of a poem entitled “On Reading The Bloodstain” was a young revolutionary, who had made the Northern expedition. He concluded a paean to the book in the November 1928 issue of Kaiming by saying that its “bloodstains” were the tear stains in his heart.4 Another article in this journal in January 1929 directly connected The Bloodstain with the time of the revolutionary movement in Shanghai and Canton—recent memories which, for the author, have already become as distant as a dream. He also said that Artsybashev’s book, as a literary work “written with iron and blood”, continued to offer hope and inspire for struggle.5 The centrepiece of the collection edited by Zheng Zhenduo was the short novel Morning Shadows, previously published in three instalments in Xiaoshuo yuebao from January to March 1924. Its translator is mainly remembered today as the younger brother of Mao Dun, and as a prominent early figure in the CCP. Shen Zemin was born in a village of Zhejiang province in June 1900.6 His first writings and translations

Zemin zhuan, pp. 122–25, and Vera Schwarcz, The Chinese Enlightenment: Intellectuals and the Legacy of the May Fourth Movement of 1919, pp. 153–57, 164–65. Schwarcz places the language of these responses to political violence in the context of what she aptly calls “the exhilaration of blood” in 1925–26. The outwardly metaphysical “Amid Pale Bloodstains” (Dandan de xuehen zhong, April 1926) in Lu Xun’s Wild Grass was part of the same discourse, and so was (as shown by Wang Yougui, Fanyijia Zhou Zuoren, pp. 9, 142) Zhou Zuoren’s anthology of Japanese authors, published by Kaiming under the title Liangtiao xuehen (Two Bloodstains) in Oct. 1927. 4 Shi Youheng (signed Youheng), “Du Xuehen”. The author can be identified due to another article, published under the same signature in Aug. 1927; in October it was answered by Lu Xun, who in his concluding line alluded to his own poem in prose, “Amid Pale Bloodstains”. See “Da Youheng xiansheng”, collected in Er yi ji, in LXQJ (2005), vol. 3, pp. 473–80; trans. as “Reply to Mr. Youheng”, in Lu Xun, Selected Works, vol. 2, pp. 346–52. On Shi Youheng (1905–82), cf. CYT, p. 471. 5 Wang Qizhou, “Guanyu Xuehen de zagan”. This author told readers how his own copy of The Bloodstain had survived a fire in which most of his other books had perished; he believed that the reason for this was not only that the book was thick, but that it had a mission. Commenting on “The Doctor”, he said the pogrom it described could be compared with reports in the Chinese daily press. He had heard that Artsybashev was also the author of a novel called Sanin, and hoped to see it, too, translated. 6 The entry in Donald W. Klein and Anne B. Clark, Biographic Dictionary of Chinese Communism 1921–1965, vol. 2, p. 758 wrongly gave Shen’s year of birth as 1898 (and his year of death as 1934). See now Zhong Guisong, Shen Zemin zhuan, on which the following presentation is based.

appropriation and decline; the channels of translation 193 appeared while he was still a student at the Nanking School of Engineering in 1918. In early 1920 he and his school comrade in Nanking, Zhang Wentian, moved to Shanghai, where they found editing work. Together with Zhang, Shen left for half a year of study in Japan in July of the same year, and upon his return joined the Literary Research Association.7 From 1921 Shen was also an active member of the Communist Party, and from 1924—an associate of Jiang Guangci in the promotion of revolutionary literature. The last of Shen’s five translations of Andreev and Artsybashev, Artsybashev’s story “Horror”, dates from 1925. Like all of Shen’s translations from Russian up to that time, it was accomplished through an English intermediary and therefore reproduced the bland “Nina”, with which the English translator had replaced the original title. While Shen Zemin’s choice for his two translations of Artsybashev may be reasonably placed within the context of his involvement with “revolutionary” literature and with women’s liberation,8 it is intriguing to read his earlier article on Sanin (by any account, a non-revolutionary novel),9 the first known Chinese appreciation of Artsybashev’s main work. Surprisingly, Shen’s “Artsybashev and Sanin”, published in November 1920, was also one of the most enthusiastic responses to Sanin in Chinese. The young author’s admiration for the Russian hero was quite undiminished by Sanin’s sceptical attitude to the ideas of collective struggle, and he called Artsybashev “the only real talent” of his time. Next to the novel’s “ideas”, such as the decided rejection of stale (Christian) conventions which should set an example for China, Shen enjoyed a number of scenes in Sanin, and went on to describe them in lively detail.10 It would be fair to suppose that when, some years later,

7 Zhang Wentian will be discussed as a translator of Leonid Andreev, in the next chapter. 8 Zhong Guisong, Shen Zemin zhuan, pp. 73–7, lists his publications on women’s questions; ibid., pp. 102–11, reprints his articles on revolutionary literature from 1924, in which Shen criticised the lack of political consciousness in Zheng Zhenduo’s notion of “a literature of blood and tears”. 9 In Shen Zemin’s own words: a novel disdainful of the very idea of revolution and of the struggle for political freedom. See his “Acaibaxifu yu Shaning”, p. 67. This article was included in the 1923 collection of essays on “Modern Russian Writers”, ed. by Hu Yuzhi, Shen Yanbing and Shen Zemin, Jindai Eguo wenxuejia lun, pp. 46–65. Reprints are available in Shen Zemin wenji, pp. 77–87, and in Jia Zhifang and Chen Sihe, Zhong-wai wenxue guanxi shi ziliao huibian, vol. 1, pp. 365–73. 10 Shen Zemin, “Acaibaxifu yu Shaning”, did single out Andreev, as another worthy representative of contemporary Russian literature. A scene in the novel that in Shen’s


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Shen engaged himself in translating Morning Shadows, he was doing this out of a personal predilection for the author no less than attraction to the book’s revolutionary theme. Artsybashev’s Teni utra (Morning Shadows, 1905) is the tale of two young women, Liza and Dora.11 Under the influence of her neighbour and childhood friend, Pavel (Pasha) Afanas’ev, Liza leaves her parental home in a sleepy provincial town, as well as her presumed local fiancé, the cornet Savinov. Together with Pasha, and the student Dora, Liza moves to Petersburg. The two girls enrol for medical studies at the Institute, while joining in the political activity that makes up student life. The crisis comes by the end of the year. The sickly Pasha Afanas’ev dies, an unfulfilled revolutionary. The beautiful Liza falls for a cold-hearted seducer, the student Korenev, while Dora grows increasingly depressed as she sees herself condemned to a life of mediocrity. Rejection of her work by a literary journal seems to confirm this verdict, putting an end to her hopes of achieving fame through writing. From now on, Dora speaks only of suicide; easily enough, she convinces the weak-willed Liza to join her in death as a demonstration against the futility of life. In the last moment, however, Dora proves unable to pull the trigger; it is only Liza who dies. We meet Dora again a year later. Tormented by what happened, she has been moving about, finally throwing in her lot with a group of (evidently, SR) terrorists. On the eve of a political assassination, in which she had been entrusted with a small part, she feels flattered to be present among brave men who mean to lay down their lives for their ideals (the terrorist circle includes Liza’s lover Korenev, a purehearted revolutionary with the nom de guerre of “Neznamov” and two former students the girls had known in Petersburg: the undecided, pitiful Larionov and the self-assured Andreev). Yet on the following day Dora’s nerves betray her. Instead of giving the preconvened signal to her associates, in her emotional disarray Dora shoots a policeman, is arrested herself and causes the capture of Larionov.

eyes attested to the writer’s talent was Semenov’s monologue on his approaching end; his death of consumption in the hospital ward was also movingly described. Shen’s article owes its particular freshness to its manner of narration; the description on p. 70 of the fateful encounter between Sanin and Zarudin (the officer being knocked down by Sanin the very moment he had raised his whip to hit him) carries the flavour of scenes in the traditional novels Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Outlaws of the Marsh. 11 The Russian text is in Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 1, pp. 714–80.

appropriation and decline; the channels of translation 195 The main characters in Morning Shadows are women. The routes, which Artsybashev assigns to his heroines, were the accepted forms of female participation in Russian society of the time: if not content with being housewives, women could attend medical courses, or (often under a male pseudonym) submit stories to a journal. In Russian literature, female suicide had long been the recourse for women unable to deal with society on the unequal terms that it imposed, as well as for liberal authors aiming to draw women as society’s victims. Artsybashev would obviously have been aware of Karamzin’s late eighteenth-century short novel Poor Liza, in which this literary stereotype was first enacted with all of its force.12 Artsybashev’s Liza squanders away her young life. Dora does not become a terrorist out of political conviction, but in the vain hope of acquiring—in clandestine “revolutionary struggle”—the dignity and self-esteem for which she yearns. The author shows obvious antipathy to women of Dora’s type: she is unattractive to men, which exacerbates her inferiority complex, and she is a Jewish woman at that. Her name and physical description in the novel may allude to Dora Brilliant, one of the most famous women terrorists of the decade, arrested in 1905 for her part in the SR’s assassinations of minister Plehve and Grand Duke Sergei.13 While the author’s respect is mainly given to Andreev, a leader of men voicing some of the convictions of Sanin, he shows the would-be revolutionary’s pathetic detachment from reality in the characters of Pasha and Larionov. The critic Qian Xingcun (Ah Ying), whom we have briefly met as one of the founders of Marxist literary criticism in China, completed a long article on Morning Shadows in early November 1927. It was the first in what would become a series of essays on Artsybashev and Andreev. Qian relied on Shen Zemin’s journal translation of 1924, not yet on

Nikolai Karamzin’s (1766–1826) Liza, a flower-seller, killed herself after being betrayed by the man who had seduced her. Liza was also the name of Shevyrev’s martyred love in Artsybashev’s later short novel. More than with the work of Karamzin, students of modern Chinese literature will be familiar with Jiang Guangci’s borrowing of the title for his novel on the plight of a Russian prostitute in Shanghai, Lisha de aiyuan (The Sorrows of Liza, also translated as Poor Liza, 1929). 13 Savinkov, Vospominaniia terrorista, p. 180, gives the birth date of Dora Brilliant as 1879 or 1880, and tells of her death in prison in 1907; he also mentions her roots in a Jewish merchant’s household in Kherson. Dora of the novel comes from Poltava, also a town in the Ukraine; both fictional and historical characters are described as very short, with dark black hair. Compare ibid., p. 38, and Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 1, pp. 716, 719. 12


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its reprint in the Xuehen collection; the wide gap between his ecstatic praise for the short novel (which he said he was rereading for the third time)14 and his subsequent rejection, on ideological grounds, of the rest of the collection, requires an explanation. The radicalization of his views on literature between 1927 and 1928 offers one reason for the change in his evaluation of Artsybashev, and for his criticism of Andreev and Savinkov. Another reason was that his admiration for Morning Shadows rested on a misreading that, in itself, speaks volumes about the reception of Russian literature in China. It is understandable that Qian virtually fell in love with Liza. But it was the figure of Pasha that he entirely misconstrued. It is not inconceivable that some of Artsybashev’s readers in Russian and English, too, may have shed a tear over the fate of this sickly youngster; they would have been in the minority in failing to notice that his portrait verged on caricature. For Qian, however, as for other readers of Shen Zemin’s translation,15 Liza’s unhappy friend became “the symbol of light”, the ideal qingnian perfectly described, and inevitably the model for Chinese youth. Readers! Poor Pasha died, but he always remains in people’s hearts, he lives in the heart of all Russia. What about our Chinese Pasha, then? Ah! Our Chinese Pasha? What China now needs is just this kind of courageous, self-sacrificing revolutionary, and as I now think of Pasha I cannot help but call back the spirit of China’s Pasha. Return, Pasha. Return, spirit of China! . . .16

Before returning to Qian Xingcun, we must look at a story he liked much less. A woman is again in the centre of the novella “Uzhas” (Horror), dating from the same year as Morning Shadows, and translated by Shen Zemin (as “Nina”) in 1925. A young village teacher returns to her room in the school dormitory after a quiet evening spent in the company of the Ivolgins, an old couple with whom she is acquainted.17

14 “Zhaoying”, included as Ch. 4 of Li de wenxue (The Literature of Strength), published in March 1929. See now Ah Ying quanji, vol. 1, pp. 78–87, here p. 78. This essay collection was emphatically dedicated to “youthful readers”, whom the author wished to provide with a Marxist introduction to world literature (ibid., pp. 43–4). 15 Pasha’s words to Liza are admiringly quoted also in Wang Qizhou, “Guanyu Xuehen de zagan”, p. 371. 16 Ah Ying quanji, vol. 1, p. 87. 17 The Russian text is in Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 1, pp. 550–73. Ol’ga Petrochuk, “Siuzhet o poteriannoi docheri”, is right in calling “Uzhas” one of Artsybashev’s best achievements.

appropriation and decline; the channels of translation 197 The room adjoining hers, normally reserved for “visiting officials”, is currently occupied by three men who had come to investigate a murder case in the neighbouring village; the inspector, the physician and the local police commissioner have been drinking, and will probably continue into the night. The school’s yard-keeper advises Nina to pass the night elsewhere, but the young woman is too innocent to apprehend any harm. Sure enough, when night falls the three drunken men break into Nina’s room, rape her and beat her as she attempts to show resistance. In the morning, her body is found hanging from a collar. As representatives of the law, it is the murderers who are naturally charged with the investigation of the case. At the urging of the cold-blooded commissioner, they put the blame of Nina’s death on the yard-keeper, while ordering the quick burial of the corpse. Meanwhile, led by the old man Ivolgin, resistance to the gross injustice is spreading through the village. A silently menacing assembly gathers in front of the church, where Nina’s coffin lies, and does not allow the burial to take place. An attempt by the police to go on with the proceedings results in an outburst of the people’s wrath; first the commissioner, then other police officials are beaten by the crowd. On the following morning, mounted Cossacks enter the village. Their first assault is successfully repulsed, and as the soldiers retreat under a shower of stones the villagers experience the sensation that justice has prevailed. But their illusion is brief: once reinforcements arrive, the popular mutiny is drowned in blood. The last image we get is a row of corpses, lined up in a shed, their dead eyes still reflecting “a questioning and desperate horror”. One anonymous reader of this story in the Xuehen collection responded with the exclamation “good!” (hao! ) to the description of the villagers’ protest against Nina’s burial, and by the time he (or she) reached the ending was so moved as to jot down: “I cannot help from crying out loud! What a world”.18 Artsybashev’s focus in “Horror” is not so much on the repression of popular sentiment, or the trampling of people’s illusions about justice: the arrival of the Cossacks, at the end of the story, is perceived almost as natural and inevitable. While Artsybashev does protest against

18 Artsybashev, trans. Zheng Zhenduo et al., Xuehen, 2nd ed. (Shanghai: Kaiming shudian, 1927), marginal notes in traditional characters in PKU Library copy (shelfmark W 5993.5/7472.85), pp. 283, 292.


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the violence sanctioned by the state, it seems that, more than in this amorphous tyranny, he is interested in close psychological study: both of the individual human soul and of the wild avenging power of the masses. The descriptions of mounted Cossacks are nearly uniform throughout Artsybashev’s works, underscoring the author’s view of the government’s primary punitive instrument as an abstract destructive force.19 Perhaps because he felt unable to penetrate the anonymity of organized evil, he does not take to task the faceless perpetrators of mass murder; hence the strictly individual angle, from which he had commented on the atrocity of Jewish pogroms in “The Doctor”. Artsybashev’s “Horror” delves into the human psyche, not into questions of human rights or, for that matter, the status of women in society. What the writer wants to capture is the way lust turns men into beasts, and how their fear of retribution then triumphs over the most fundamental notions of right and wrong. The spontaneous gathering of a human mass, seized by a common sense of indignation, fascinates him as he discovers in the collective (to which he assigns a function like that of a Greek chorus)20 an ability to bring out the distinction between good and evil that so often seems atrophied in the individual. The end of “Horror” sounds belief in the ultimate justice of the people’s retributive vengeance, but it also shows the author’s realization of the danger in collective hubris. Seen in this light, the arrival of Cossacks and cruel restoration of public order become an almost necessary sanction to curb what had begun in the name of a just cause but might get out of hand and take any unpredictable turn. The soldiers’ interference is also necessary because it delivers the writer from the need to imagine or describe the villagers exacting their own (equally savage and indiscriminate) revenge on the local police. As we already know,

The notable exception to this pattern is the story “V derevne” (In the Village, included in the 1910 Etiudy but probably also dating to 1905). While the work strongly resembles “Horror” in its portrayal of rape in a Ukrainian village, the culprit this time is a member of the Cossack squadron, which had occupied the village after quelling a peasant uprising. The cornet Cherkesov is accordingly singled out by the author from the collective body that he represents. 20 The image is used by Luker to characterize an old man in “V derevne”, who bravely attempts to stop the Cossack soldiers (see his “Studies in Instability”, p. 114). Fedor, an old man in Artsybashev’s story of 1911 “Dereviannyi churban” (The Wooden Idol), is another such “chorus figure”; see Luker, “ ‘Wild Justice’ ”, p. 78. In speaking for his community, and leading it to a just revolt, old Ivolgin fulfils the same role in “Horror”. 19

appropriation and decline; the channels of translation 199 Artsybashev would have been the last to imagine a socialist “golden age”, in which the spontaneous will of the masses translated itself into universal harmony; “Horror” shows him as wary of the uncontrollable power of the crowd as he was fascinated by it.21 Artsybashev apparently based his story on a sequence of events in a South Russian village, a criminal case discussed by the Russian and even the foreign press in 1902–3.22 This background in real life renders all the more incongruous such attempts as were made to process Artsybashev’s work through the abstract lens of Marxist class analysis. We have so far encountered this approach in Pan Mohua’s Introduction to his translation of Sanin in 1930. It was also employed in Qian Xingcun’s review of “Nina” and “The Bloodstain”, both stories now part of the Xuehen collection, for Xiaoshuo yuebao in November 1928.23 From the outset, Qian refused to consider Nina as a suffering person: this “petty bourgeois woman” was for him only “a symbol for the fate of the Russian masses”.24 A year we may recall in connection with the same journal’s publication of Vorovskii’s damning article on Artsybashev, 1928 was also the time of a noisy debate within the leftist literary camp over the proper practice of “revolutionary literature”. Artsybashev was not the only writer whom Qian Xingcun then accused of portraying the “petty bourgeoisie”: he had charged Mao Dun with the same, in

21 In Artsybashev’s anti-utopian “Pod solntsem” (Under the Sun, 1919), a sombre commentary on the situation in post-revolutionary Russia, the worldwide spread of mass violence brings about a near extinction of the human race. The study of crowd description in Chinese fiction, undertaken in Anderson, The Limits of Realism, affords an interesting comparison: see esp. on the “dangerous . . ., irrational and easily manipulated” crowds of Lu Xun (p. 182; cf. pp. 79, 83); ibid., Ch. 5, on the switch to an image of “the masses” as a positive force in the 1930s. 22 Villard’s “Einleitung” to Revolutionsgeschichten, p. ix, provides this information, plausibly received in correspondence with the author. The facts of the rape case (“even more terrible than their description in the story”) were, according to Villard, revealed by Prince Trubetskoi (probably, the liberal philosopher Evgenii N. Trubetskoi, 1863–1920), who used the pages of the conservative paper Peterburzhskie vedomosti to protest the reluctance of local authorities to prosecute the guilty parties. 23 Originally published under a common heading, the reviews of “Ningna” and “Xuehen” were included as chapters 5 and 6 in the same author’s Li de wenxue. See Ah Ying quanji, vol. 1, pp. 88–97. 24 Nina is called “petty bourgeois” four times in this review. It was, however, not Ah Ying (and not even Soviet writers, though they did put it to good use) who invented the myth of “Mother Russia”. Liu, Translingual Practice, pp. 199–213, analyses the insistence of Chinese Communist critics on reading the misery of village women in Xiao Hong’s novel The Field of Life and Death (1935) as a metaphor for “the suffering of the Chinese nation”.


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an article dating to the same month.25 Calling the author of “Nina” a nihilist and a defeatist for not showing the triumph of the masses, he still recommended the collection to be read for its “technique”.26 Qian once again victimized the victim in his analysis of the railway-station director Anisimov, the tragic hero of Artsybashev’s “The Bloodstain”. This story of 1906, which in Zheng Zhenduo’s translation provided the title for the collection, was (if not a proper example of revolutionary literature) a real “tale of the revolution”.27 When we see him for the first time, Anisimov is busy directing the trains that carry volunteers to the west. While the word “revolution” is never pronounced, it is understood that in Moscow, the trains’ destination, cataclysmic events are about to take place. Anisimov too is swept by enthusiasm. The feeling of taking part in a just fight, among hundreds of people who all regard him as a comrade, makes him forget the monotonous, unfulfilled life that he had led so far. Yet the euphoria is brief. Already on the same evening news is received that the uprising had been suppressed, and that trains carrying soldiers would arrive at any moment from the opposite direction. Station-master Anisimov then takes charge of setting barricades across the railway track, but in the ensuing battle the rebels suffer a rapid defeat. Most of his comrades are killed, and Anisimov is locked up to await execution. Now begins the essential part of the story: the torments of a man knowing he is about to die. As in Leonid Andreev’s later novella, “The Seven Who Were Hanged”, we see the condemned prisoner as he reconstructs the entire course of his life, is seized by the incomprehensible horror of what awaits him, then writes his last letter (Anisimov’s note to his wife, with whom he had shared a loveless existence, is heart-rending in its brevity and sudden, inarticulate, tenderness). The story ends with Anisimov’s execution by a firing squad, at eight o’clock on the morrow. 25 See Mao Dun’s reply, “On Reading Ni Huanzhi” (1929), trans. in Denton, Modern Chinese Literary Thought, pp. 301–4. 26 This was no mere concession, as his political emphasis notwithstanding Qian paid close attention to what he called the “technique” (jiqiao) of all the writers he analysed. Some of his observations on Artsybashev’s method were also integrated into his admiring study of Gorky: see Li de wenxue, in Ah Ying quanji, vol. 1, pp. 69–70. 27 For a modern edition of this text, see “Krovavoe piatno” in Artsybashev, Nash tretii klad, pp. 257–86. The above-cited Introduction in Artsybashev, Revolutionsgeschichten, p. ix, again furnishes some information on the story’s background in the aftermath of the revolution of 1905.

appropriation and decline; the channels of translation 201 No other example in Chinese illustrates the unacceptability of Artsybashev for a Marxist critic as well as Qian Xingcun’s treatment of “The Bloodstain”. The questioning voice in Artsybashev, his mistrust of slogans and ready-made truths, could not but manifest themselves in the absence of wholehearted revolutionary determination in his hero. It is precisely for this fault that the unhappy Anisimov becomes the object of Qian Xingcun’s attack. Though the story makes it plain that Anisimov was born and lived his life in squalid poverty, Qian reminds us that, just like Nina, the hero belongs to the petty bourgeois class. He then condemns the station-master mainly on the basis of the fear of death, expressed in his thoughts just before the execution. For Qian this is evidence of “unhealthy nihilism”;28 and to show what “nihilism” is (and possibly, to shoot another arrow in the direction of the collection’s editor) he cites five lines from The Pale Horse in the translation of Zheng Zhenduo. The nihilist tag was thereby attached to George as much as to Anisimov and to the teacher Andersen, the main protagonist of “The Revolutionary”, the story which in 1920 had inaugurated a decade of Artsybashev translations in China. Another article, “Overcoming Andreev and Artsybashev Tendencies”, published in May 1930 and collected as a chapter in Qian Xingcun’s book Art and Social Tendencies in the same year, continued that critic’s reviews of 1928. Here the names of Andreev and (to a lesser extent) Artsybashev became labels to hang on a Chinese author, whom Qian castigated for a lack of commitment to the cause of proletarian literature (puluolietaliya wenxue) and the cultivation of humanism at the expense of class analysis.29 Overcoming the baleful influence of such “tendencies” as personified by the two Russians (Andreev stands for “romanticism”; Artsybashev is the tag for “individualism”) was necessary for the progress of literature in China. Interestingly, in a short monograph he devoted to Andreev later in 1930, Qian probably considered his task completed, as he no longer mentioned Chinese literature: instead, he analysed the best-known stories and plays of this Russian writer.

Ah Ying quanji, vol. 1, pp. 95–6. “Anteliefu yu Azhibasuifu qingxiang de kefu”, in Qian Xingcun, Wenyi yu shehui qingxiang, reprinted in Ah Ying quanji, vol. 1, pp. 465–75. The criticized writer is Li Shouzhang (pseudonym of Li Junmin, 1905–93), author of the short story collection Bashe de renmen (The Trekkers). A summary of the article is in Yao Xin, Zuolian cidian, p. 310. 28 29


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Betraying considerable interest in, and usually displaying sound knowledge of Andreev, Qian drew on Soviet and earlier Bolshevik criticism in calling him a “black-winged” reactionary, a writer who “died along with his old Russia”.30 The attack of Chinese Communist critics on early twentieth-century Russian literature, which Ah Ying still kept within the bounds of civility, was brought to a higher pitch in a commentary to a book by Andreev which a Shanghai publisher reprinted in English in June 1929 for the benefit of language students.31 Despite being the target of similar criticism, Artsybashev’s most openly revolutionary story was (obviously, for this reason) also the last by him to survive in China of the 1940s. As it first did in 1927, “The Bloodstain” in Zheng Zhenduo’s translation provided the titles for two subsequent anthologies, in which it was also included: the first composed of works by prerevolutionary, émigré and Soviet authors, and the next, a slimmer reprint of only six stories out of the original eleven. These successive Bloodstains were brought out by the Zhongliu (Midstream) and the Tieliu (Iron Stream, or more precisely Iron Flood) Bookstores in 1941 and 1946.32 “The Revolutionary” is another of those bibliographical riddles surrounding Artsybashev’s work. Dated 1905 in the Etiudy collection of 1910, the story appears there under the title “Na belom snegu” (On

30 Andeliefu pingzhuan (A Critical Biography of Andreev), in Ah Ying quanji, vol. 2, pp. 205–71, quoting pp. 207, 222. The book contrasts Andreev, the “black crow” of defeat, with Gorky the petrel of revolution (as in his trademark “Song on the Petrel” of 1901, celebrated by Lenin). Qian’s analysis of Andreev’s oeuvre as the reflection of events in Russian politics relied mainly on Lunacharskii, the Soviet critic Boris Kogan and the writings on Russian literature by Rosa Luxemburg. Andeliefu pingzhuan brought to completion the series of such previous publications by the author as “Andeliefu yu Hong xiao” (Andreev and ‘The Red Laugh’), Haifeng zhoubao, no. 12 (1929), pp. 20–24. 31 Lin Handa, “Zuozhe zhuanlüe”, said Andreev was best described by the words “Horror and madness” (famous opening of his novella “The Red Laugh” in English translation), and then further reviled him along with those other dead writers of “old Russia”, Chekhov and Turgenev. Next to the language notes in Chinese, these remarks were the only independent contribution of The World Book Co. to its pirated edition of Andreev’s The Seven That Were Hanged and The Red Laugh, originally edited by Thomas Seltzer for the Modern Library in New York. 32 In 1941 Xuehen shared the title of the anthology with Hai (The Sea), after an extract from Alexander Herzen in Ba Jin’s translation. Both anthologies reprinted two old translations by Lu Xun. Between the anthologies of 1941 and 1946, another one entitled Sulian wenxue (Soviet Literature, published in Chongqing in 1943) had copied the contents of Hai/Xuehen (1941), with the exception of the stories by Artsybashev and Kuprin. For details, see Zhongguo xiandai wenxue zong shumu, pp. 808, 843; Minguo shiqi zong shumu, pp. 238–39.

appropriation and decline; the channels of translation 203 the White Snow).33 It had, however, been published as “Revoliutsioner” on three previous occasions (1906, 1907 and 1909); the change of title is difficult to account for. Ludwig Andersen, a village teacher, had not taken any interest in practical matters up to the day when his village was invaded by government soldiers.34 Witnessing, at first, the execution of two men and a boy accused of taking part in a mutiny, Andersen is then disturbed by the public flogging of peasants. That same night he approaches the soldiers’ camp-fire, where he is treated rudely and threatened with violence. We do not know whether this decision had already matured in him when first approaching the camp, but later in the night he returns, now at the head of a force of villagers. Together, they kill all fifteen soldiers and their officer. In the last scene, the teacher Ludwig Andersen is executed. For a reader familiar with Artsybashev, the story’s title is transparently ironic. The poetry-writing, bespectacled Andersen (an anti-hero, whose foreign name underscores his being a stranger in the backwater Russian village) cannot be considered a true “revolutionary” by any criteria, and certainly not by those of Qian Xingcun. Significantly, no shred of information is provided on the background to the events in the story, as if no such details (the cause of the “mutiny” in Andersen’s village, and the form it took) should be allowed to distract our attention from the schematic tale of an inner change taking place in a man’s mind. Because “stories of the revolution” were what Russian literature was expected to provide, however, much of the irony would have been lost on the way to Chinese readers. Six months after Hu Yuzhi’s translation in Dongfang zazhi, another version of this story appeared in Juewu (Awakening), a much-read supplement to the newspaper Minguo ribao; the circumspect translator, who only identified himself by the Latin initials K. M., also changed the story’s title to “The Soldier”. In March 1923, a third translation was published in Xiaoshuo shijie (The Story World), a rather different kind of a weekly, which we shall still discuss. It was signed by an unknown translator styling himself “Jingxuan zhuren” (Master of the Tranquil Studio). By the time his translation of “The Revolutionary” was published in Dongfang zazhi, Hu Yuzhi had already been an editor with that

33 Luker, “Studies in Instability”, pp. 117–19, considers the “snow” motif central to the story, but he is not aware of the story’s former title. 34 “Revoliutsioner”, in Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 2, pp. 560–71.


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prestigious journal for five years. He would remain associated with it even when living abroad, as a student of international law in Paris, from 1928 to the end of 1930.35 Once briefly a pupil of Lu Xun at the Shaoxing Middle School, Hu became editor of Lu Xun’s first Complete Works under wartime conditions in 1938. Alongside his colleagues in the Literary Research Association and the Commercial Press, Mao Dun and Zheng Zhenduo, he would rise to considerable administrative heights in the People’s Republic, serving as vice-minister of culture and member of innumerable committees and official delegations. As early as the mid-1910s, at the Editorial and Translation Department of the Commercial Press, Hu translated articles on science and world affairs for publication in the Eastern Miscellany,36 spending his after-work hours reading the English books he borrowed at the Press’s well-appointed Oriental Library. Having studied English since his teens in Hangzhou, he improved it on the job in Shanghai. He also became one of China’s prominent Esperantists. Most active in the translation of Russian short fiction, starting in 1919, Hu Yuzhi translated stories by many of the famous prerevolutionary writers, and by a number of early Soviet authors. The large majority of these translations were done from the English, and it appears almost certain that Hu (and like him, K. M. and The Master of the Tranquil Studio) had found Artsybashev’s “The Revolutionist” in the highly popular anthology of the Modern Library, Best Russian Short Stories (1917), compiled and edited by Thomas Seltzer (1875–1943).37

35 Dai Wenbao, “Bianji hou”, a postscript to the first collection of Hu Yuzhi’s translations in 1999, emphasizes that Hu’s early work in this field is still very poorly documented, and adds much new information. The translation of Artsybashev’s story is reprinted in this collection: see “Geming dang”, in Hu Yuzhi yiwen ji, vol. 1, pp. 32–41. On Hu as translator of Russian short fiction, see also Ping Baoxing, Wusi yitan yu Eluosi wenxue, pp. 110–18. 36 Cf., on these preoccupations of the journal, Lee, Shanghai Modern, pp. 48–9. 37 Seltzer edited the successful Modern Library series, launched in 1917 by the newly-founded Boni & Liveright in New York. Best Russian Short Stories also included Leonid Andreev’s stories “Lazarus”, “The Seven That Were Hanged” and “The Red Laugh”, all to be repeatedly translated into Chinese. In following issues of The Story World, Jingxuan zhuren translated three more stories from the same anthology: “The Signal” by Garshin (see Xiaoshuo shijie, vol. 1, no. 13), “The Servant” by S. T. Semenov (vol. 2, no. 2) and “Dethroned” by I. N. Potapenko (vol. 2, nos. 12, 13).

appropriation and decline; the channels of translation 205 II. Intermediaries The English and German translators of the three Russian writers were of relatively modest stature; because the authors of texts directly translated into Chinese were Vengerova, Seltzer, Pinkerton, Villard and Bernstein, rather than Savinkov, Artsybashev and Andreev, and because these translators accordingly played an essential mediating part in the transmission of early twentieth-century Russian literature to China, we must try to tear away the veil of their anonymity. The list of Thomas Seltzer’s translations included all our three authors: though Savinkov’s novel What Never Happened never happened to reach China, a glance at the Annex in the end of this book will show that Seltzer was the source of several Chinese translations of Leonid Andreev. He was, in fact, the first to translate this writer into English in 1905.38 Many of the books that carried his name as a translator were accompanied by the precision “translated from the Russian”; born in Russia, he arrived in America at the age of twelve.39 While even Thomas Seltzer, as we shall see, did not necessarily translate by himself all the books on which his name appeared, such linguistic intimacy of the English intermediary with the Russian original should not be taken for granted as we go on to consider the chain of retranslations submerged beneath the surface of other Chinese versions of Artsybashev’s works. Of the twenty-two different translations of Artsybashev in China (referring to fourteen individual titles), eight translations are proven to have been based on the English of Percy Pinkerton. A considerable portion of this Russian writer’s translations into Chinese were thus accomplished from texts twice (and possibly thrice) removed from the original: for to begin with, there is nothing to suggest that the English poet and music-lover Percy E. Pinkerton could read a Russian book.

38 Richard Davies, “Bibliografiia perevodov proizvedenii Leonida Andreeva na angliiskii iazyk” (A Bibliography of the Translations of Works by Leonid Andreev into English), forthcoming in Leonid Andreev: materialy i issledovaniia. 39 Specializing in Russian literature (among many other names: Dostoevsky, Gogol and Gorky), Seltzer also translated from German and occasionally from French and Polish. In 1920 he made an ultimately unrewarded move into independent publishing, to become the first American publisher of D. H. Lawrence. See Alexandra L. Levin and Lawrence L. Levin, “The Seltzers & D. H. Lawrence: A Biographical Narrative”.


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Fig. 1. Percy Pinkerton. Photo-postcard, tipped into Martin Secker’s copy of Sanine. The University of Tulsa, Department of Special Collections, McFarlin Library.

Active as a translator since 1879 (the year following Artsybashev’s birth), Pinkerton divided his interests between the German, French and Italian cultural worlds. During and after the publication of his collections of poetry (Galeazzo: a Venetian Episode, with other Poems, 1886; Adriatica, 1894; At Hazebro’ and other Poems, 1909), he translated a long list of opera libretti and vocal scores of musical works, from MendelssohnBartholdy to Puccini. His most important translation of fiction, in 1895, was Émile Zola’s novel Pot-Bouille.40 His sudden “specialization” in Artsybashev, the only Russian writer he would ever deal with but whose main English translator he would quickly become, began with Sanine in 1914. Not as “sexually explicit” as Pot-Bouille, this too was 40 His translation of Zola (reissued by various publishers until as late as 1986) is also the only work for which Pinkerton has received some scholarly attention, though his biography still remains unknown. Robert Lethbridge, “Percy Pinkerton’s Pot-Bouille”, Bulletin of the Émile Zola Society, no. 21 (March 2000), pp. 14–9, is an entertaining lexical analysis of a translation Lethbridge calls “stilted, cumbersome and clichéd” (p. 19), and which he “modernised” for his own edition of the same novel at the Everyman Library (London, 2000; see “Note on the Text”, p. xxxiii). Denise Merkle, “The Lutetian Society”, TTR, vol. 16, no. 2 (2003), pp. 76, 78, 93–5, mentions Pinkerton as the most elusive member of the secret literary society that set itself the task of publishing unexpurgated editions of Zola’s major novels, previously censored in Great Britain.

appropriation and decline; the channels of translation 207 sensitive reading matter at the time. It must have been the best-selling success of Sanine that inspired its translator to produce two collections of Artsybashev’s shorter fiction on short order: The Millionaire (1915) and Tales of the Revolution (1917)—which were followed by the play War (1918). Sanine was obviously retranslated from the German of Villard and Bugow; the two collections were likewise put together from the same translators’ Millionen and Revolutionsgeschichten (the first and second collections of Artsybashev’s stories published by Georg Müller, Munich, in 1909);41 and when working on War (which had no previous German translation) Pinkerton was seconded by a Russian speaker.42 It is now time to discuss the intermediary on whom Pinkerton himself had relied, Artsybashev’s translator into German André Villard: also the source, it will be remembered, of three of the four translations of Artsybashev by Lu Xun. Who was the translator whose French-sounding name, joined by that of a Russian-speaking collaborator, appeared on the title pages of five of Artsybashev’s German books? Compared to Pinkerton, Villard had a more abiding connection to the world of Russian literature: he also took part in multi-volume German editions of the Collected Works of Pushkin and Gogol, brought out in 1910–11 by the Georg Müller publishing house, whose regular associate he was. That he never translated alone suggests that he may have possessed a limited knowledge of Russian.43 A violent attack on Villard’s best-selling 41 The Millionaire may be proven to be a translation of Millionen und andere Novellen, trans. André Villard and S. Bugow. The idea of retranslation occurred neither to Luker, observing in “The Rejection of Non-Resistance”, p. 108, n. 16, that the English version of Smert’ Lande in Pinkerton’s The Millionaire, “though both resourceful and sensitive . . . contains several omissions and errors”, nor to Katz, commenting in a “Translator’s Note” to the new Sanin in 2001 that Pinkerton’s translation of 1914 was “inaccurate, incomplete, and expurgated”. 42 The co-translator of War was Ivan Ohzol. Less important in the present context (Artsybashev’s second novel was never translated into Chinese), Pinkerton was almost certainly also the translator of U poslednei cherty, which appeared in English as BreakingPoint, with no translator’s name provided, in 1915. Published simultaneously by Martin Secker in London and B. W. Huebsch in New York, the “near-completion” of this translation was announced in an advertisement placed at the end of the fourth UK printing of Sanine in Feb. 1915. Pinkerton’s sources would have been Am letzten Punkt (Munich: Georg Müller, 1911–13; yet another work by André Villard, this time collaborating with A. Kaprolow) as well as the French version by Jacques Povolozky, A l’extrême limite (Paris: Grasset, 1913). Pinkerton’s indebtedness to the German, and possible use also of the French translations (Sanine; same translator and publisher, 1912), were never acknowledged. 43 Gogol’s play The Marriage appeared, as Eine Heiratsgeschichte, in a joint translation by Carl Ritter and André Villard in Nikolaus Gogol, Sämmtliche Werke in 8 Bänden, vol. 5 (1911); vols. 2 and 4 of the same collection also give us another glimpse of S. Bugow,


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translation of Sanin in 1908 by one Prof. Karl Brunner, provocatively reprinted in the sixteenth German edition of the novel in the following year, attests to the translator’s anonymity even within the literary circles of the time. After accusing Villard of promoting cheap sensations for the benefit of his publisher, and of trying to pass himself off as an “expert on Russian life” in an Introduction to the book, Brunner quickly switched to personal grounds: “Es ist wohl kein Zufall, dass sich ein Franzose—als solchen darf ich wohl Herrn A. Villard, den Verfasser des Vorworts, vermuten—so lebhaft zum Propheten des neuen Evangeliums der freien Liebe aufwirft”.44 What Brunner would have said, had he known the “Frenchman’s” real identity, can only be imagined. “André Villard” was a pseudonym invented in the later 1900s, for the sole purpose of signing translations from Russian, by a journalist, political commentator and publicist better known as Werner Daya: contributor in the early 1900s to such “anarchist” periodicals as Der Kampf, Der Freie Arbeiter (both Berlin) and Der Weg (Vienna), and in 1918 author of a monograph on German interests in Russian Central Asia. The identification of Villard as Werner Daya was made, with the purpose of affirming Villard’s exclusive rights for the forthcoming German translation of Artsybashev’s second novel, in a note appended to the Russian edition of Breaking-Point (1910–12), as its first part was published by Georg Müller in Munich.45 here joined by Mario Spiro. See also vol. 5, Novellen, in Alexander Puschkin, Sämmtliche Werke in acht Bänden, ed. and trans. André Villard and Theodor Commichau (1910); as late as 1987 this volume was reprinted (under the title Puschkin, Meistererzählungen) at the prestigious Diogenes Verlag in Zurich. 44 “Surely, it is no coincidence that a Frenchman—for this I must surely assume Mr A. Villard, the author of the Introduction, to be—should so energetically profess himself the prophet of the new Gospel of free love”. See the valuable introductory material, “Der Ssanin und seine Schicksale in Deutschland”, in Artsybashev, Ssanin, here p. xxxvi. After the first German edition of Ssanin was published by Georg Müller in September, a court order in late Nov. 1908 led to the confiscation of all copies at the publisher’s offices in Munich and at his printers’ in Leipzig. An enquiry was opened, at the end of which a committee of seven literary experts had acquitted the novel and its publisher of all charges of offending public morality, and the book’s sale was allowed again on 26 March 1909. The 16th edition came out in the same year, while the pamphlet on “Sanin’s Fate in Germany” was rapidly translated into Russian (as Sud’ba Sanina v Germanii ) to lend support to the writer against his critics on the home front. The 20th German edition of Ssanin (no longer indicating the names of the translators) was printed by Georg Müller’s heirs in 1919. 45 See Artsybashev, U poslednei cherty (Munich: Georg Müller, n. d.), pt. One [1911?], p. 437. The first book-form edition in Russia came out in Moscow only in 1913, while Georg Müller was already following Villard’s translation of this novel with the Russian text of Artsybashev’s new story collection, Mstitel’. Copies of all three Russian editions here mentioned reached the library of the Russian sanatorium in Davos, now at the

appropriation and decline; the channels of translation 209 That single note answers the question: Werner Daya, André Villard, or by his real name Werner Karfunkelstein (1881–?), Artsybashev’s principal German translator was a Berlin-born Jew;46 his unwillingness to reveal his ethnic origin may account for the otherwise uncommented inclusion of “The Doctor”, the story of a pogrom, in the Revolutionsgeschichten volume of 1909. It was expedient for Werner Daya to describe Sanin as “the most important work of present-day Russia”, calling readers’ attention to its forthcoming appearance in German “within a few weeks, by Georg Müller in Munich” in an article published in an academic journal in August 1908,47 and for André Villard to emerge as the translator in September. In contrast to the main translator (rather, retranslator) of Artsybashev into English, and despite the sale-boosting activities undertaken behind an impenetrable pseudonym, there was a political dimension to the motivation of Artsybashev’s translator into German, which may have had some influence on the selection of the works: Der Kampf under Daya’s joint editorship favoured Russian literature with a revolutionary message, though along with stories by Gorky it published translations of Chekhov and Tolstoy. In the Viennese Der Weg, Werner Daya wrote on Russian students during the revolution of 1905,48 and translated Leonid Andreev’s story “Marseillaise”, which was inspired by the same events.49

Schweizerische Osteuropabibliothek (Bern). Other Russian writers beginning from the 1900s published their works in Russian in Germany prior to allowing them into print at home, because this method secured them European copyright under the Berne Convention. Artsybashev used the same strategy in France, where publisher and bookseller Iakov E. Povolotskii (1882–1945) brought out the novel in Russian (“Tous droits réservés . . . s’adresser au représentant de l’auteur M. Povolozky”, as affirmed in pt. One, p. 4 [Paris: “Bibliopolis”, n.d., 1911?], copy National Library, Jerusalem), before having his own translation, A l’extrême limite (see n. 42, above), published by Grasset in 1913. 46 See the entry “Karfunkelstein, Werner (Werner Daya)”, in the anti-Semitic lexicon by Philipp Stauff, Semi-Kürschner oder Literarisches Lexikon der Schriftsteller, Dichter, Bankiers, Geldleute, Ärzte, Schauspieler . . . jüdischer Rasse und Versippung, die von 1813–1913 in Deutschland tätig und bekannt waren (Berlin, 1913), column 202. The role of Jews as cultural intermediaries in the international transmission of Russian literature (as well as in the emergence of comparative literary studies) is well-known, and further attested by several of the translators and critics mentioned in this study: Zinaida Vengerova, Moissaye Olgin, Thomas Seltzer, Herman Bernstein and Serge Persky. 47 Daya, “Die sexuelle Bewegung in Russland”, pp. 498, 501–2. 48 Der Weg, Heft 14 (30 Dec. 1905) and Heft 25 (17 March 1906). 49 Der Weg, Heft 15 ( Jan. 1906). If in this translation, later published also in Der Freie Arbeiter, vol. 4, no. 4 (26 Jan. 1907), the assistance of a Russian speaker was employed, no such information was provided. A Chinese translation of the same story from English is discussed in the next chapter.


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Artsybashev’s main German and English translators enabled him to reach a large readership in the German- and English-speaking countries. Without ever suspecting so themselves, they also facilitated Artsybashev’s introduction to a wholly unintended audience in other corners of the world. Nevertheless, the linguistic barrier that separated Pinkerton and Villard from the original Russian could not but make itself felt in the final product, aggravating a given tendency of each of these translators to cut out bits and pieces of their source text. The emerging pattern, as we follow the chain of translations leading to China of the 1920s, was an impoverishment of the literary works at each station along their convoluted route to the Chinese reader. Of the six texts of Artsybashev included in his collection in Chinese Xuehen, at least four (those translated by Zheng Zhenduo and Shen Zemin) were based on the English versions by Percy Pinkerton. The two translations by Shen, which unlike Zheng’s are still readily available today owing to their previous publication in Xiaoshuo yuebao, clarify the nature of the problem. The Chinese “Nina” (“Horror”) and Morning Shadows are in many respects abridged and modified versions. In “Nina”, omissions begin with section five, which also contains a lengthy passage untraceable to the original text,50 and continue until the story’s end. A reading of the Chinese Zhaoying, compared with the Russian original, its translation into German and retranslation into English, shows Shen Zemin the unwitting victim of mistakes made by his predecessors;51 to these, he naturally added some of his own. While the English often led him astray (some of Pinkerton’s sentences are ambiguous to the point of incoherence, leaving the impression of a job hastily done; sometimes it is Shen who displays an insufficient understanding of the Shen Zemin, trans., “Ningna” (see Annex for publication details), pp. 9–10. Morning Shadows ended with the image of “the midwife Trud”: a mysterious accomplice of the terrorists, she was set as the opposite of Dora, in being a cool and, most likely (so the reader could have deduced from the way in which Trud was first introduced by the lustful Korenev), an attractive young woman: see Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 1, p. 771. Bugow and Villard had caused no damage here, but Pinkerton’s awful translation in Tales of the Revolution first made Korenev say “What I like is our old midwife” (p. 205; my emphasis), and then changed Trud’s exotic surname (literally meaning “labour”—in the sense of work rather than childbirth—in Russian) into a German-sounding first name, while also gaving her another profession: “When the old nurse Trude comes out on the steps, then . . . Trude! What a funny name . . . that doesn’t matter” (p. 213). Probably reassured by the fact that midwives in China were, indeed, more often old women than young (he translated “midwife” by the traditional chanpo), Shen Zemin also reproduced this character’s later transformation, in the closing scene turning Artsybashev’s terrorist into “that fat wet-nurse” (na pangda de naima). 50


appropriation and decline; the channels of translation 211 language), and although he had trouble making sense of the pieces of Russian life still preserved in the intermediate translation,52 and whereas he reproduced cuts made chiefly by the English translator in almost every static description in the novel, nevertheless the Chinese translator may have been guided by his own code of action. Back in May 1921, Shen Zemin responded sceptically to Zheng Zhenduo’s expression of faith in the translatability of literature. As he saw it, the life of a literary work lay in its mood and spirit, and these attributes could no more be conveyed in another language than a photograph (his simile for “straight translation”) could represent living nature. His conclusion was that one should still translate, and try to do one’s best, while paying more attention to art than to form and realizing the limits of what could be achieved.53 Reading through Pinkerton’s versions of “The Blood-Stain” and “Pasha Tumanof ”, later retranslated into Chinese by Zheng Zhenduo, further losses become apparent. In “The Blood-Stain”, for example, the English translator had followed Villard in omitting the author’s imitation of the broken Russian of a German engine-driver, with whom Anisimov is friendly. But the subsequent death of the enginedriver, cut down by the soldiers’ bullets, presages the end of the main protagonist, and it also seems that here, as with Ludwig Andersen in “The Revolutionary”, Artsybashev was interested in depicting persons of foreign descent who joined the struggle of the Russian people only to pay with their lives for that final act of assimilation. The eponymous hero of “Pasha Tumanov” (to give the name and title their modern transcription) is a high-school student who fails an exam and, unable to face the consequences of being thrown out of school, shoots and kills the principal. Artsybashev himself considered this story his first

52 In Shen Zemin, trans. Zhaoying, “ensign” (the lowly rank of poor Savinov in Pinkerton’s Morning Shadows) is first translated as haijun shaowei (no. 1, p. 3), then, within the space of two lines, as lujun dawei and lujun shaowei (no. 2, p. 2), and only a page later—as haijun dawei (no. 2, p. 3). As the English “ensign” reduced Liza’s rejected suitor to a rank even lower than the one he actually held, Pinkerton would have done better to repeat the word “cornet” (used in the original and in the German); the OED explains it as “the fifth grade of commissioned officer in a cavalry troop, who carried the colours”. In Zhaoying, no. 3, p. 5, Shen has “samovar” transcribed (see Glossary, samobaer 2) with no further explanation, but translates “dvornik”, correctly, as saojie fu (no. 3, p. 9). 53 “Yi wenxue shu san wenti de taolun” (A Discussion of Three Problems in the Translation of Literary Works), collected in Shen Zemin wenji, pp. 32–8. Shen modestly described here his own first translations as “very bad” (p. 33).


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mature work (written in 1901, it was censored and only allowed for publication in 1903); a harsh critique of the tsarist education system, it nevertheless stopped short of condoning murder as a response to the inhuman treatment of students by their teachers. The last line in the Russian made Tumanov realize “what a bad, evil and irreparable deed he had committed”,54 but Villard (and, by consequence, Pinkerton and Zheng) omitted the whole final sentence. Were Chinese translators of Russian literature, in the 1920s and beyond, aware of the problem of having to base their work on texts which, on occasion, were not only once but twice removed from the original? We have seen the commitment to fidelity exemplified in Zheng Zhenduo’s engaging the help of Geng Jizhi for a comparison of his Sanin manuscript against the Russian. No available information suggests Zheng could have known that he was reading a retranslation, and his approach seems to have been born out of the (long before articulated) personal conviction that any translation from an intermediate text required subsequent verification against the original as a standard procedure. No such considerations were apparently shared by other Chinese translators of Artsybashev’s main novel from Pinkerton’s English. But Lu Xun, whose own four Chinese translations of Artsybashev were all done from translations into German and Japanese, seems to have been consciously selective in his sources.55 In comparison with Pinkerton’s See “Pasha Tumanov” in Artsybashev, Nash tretii klad, here p. 57. Comparison of this and the previous story with the German and English translations is based on Revolutionsgeschichten (“Der Blutfleck” and “Pascha Tumanow”, pp. 263–359) and Tales of the Revolution (“The Blood-Stain”, pp. 109–46, and “Pasha Tumanof ”, pp. 217–63). It is conceivable that the writer let his German translator know that the ending of “Pasha Tumanov” had been imposed on him by the censors. 55 Though not easily read out of context, a letter by Lu Xun to the translator Yao Ke, dated 20 Feb. 1934, is interesting as it may reveal something of Lu Xun’s approach to the problem. Planning a new translation of Worker Shevyrev, Yao Ke had asked Lu Xun for advice. In reply, Lu Xun provided the full details of Pinkerton’s English version as contained in Tales of the Revolution, asking Yao Ke to send to him in Shanghai “three or four copies” of his new translation. He did not wish, though, to be sent a copy of the English book “as it was probably retranslated from German”. Yao Ke’s (1905–91) translation project never materialized. See LXQJ (2005), vol. 13, pp. 28–30. While Lu Xun himself could not have used Pinkerton to translate Worker Shevyrev in 1921, there is evidence that he was aware of a recent Japanese translation by Nakajima Kiyoshi (1919). If he rejected this version, in the foreign language he knew best, in favour of Revolutionsgeschichten, it must have been because he knew or suspected the former to be a retranslation of the latter: Nakajima (1883–1966), also the first translator of Sanin into Japanese in 1913, was a specialist in German literature, not a scholar of Russian. Lu Xun’s acquaintance with the Japanese Worker Shevyrev is implied in his essay of 1925 “Lun ‘tamade!’ ” (His Mother’s!; in Fen, ibid., vol. 1, here pp. 245–46; trans. in Selected Works, vol. 2, pp. 192–97). 54

appropriation and decline; the channels of translation 213 translation of Worker Shevyrev from the same German intermediary, Lu Xun’s Chinese version (though not aiming for literary fluency) is significantly more exact.56 Like the work of Zheng Zhenduo or Shen Zemin, his translations reflected thought about the form and purpose of translation that may well have been more serious and intensive than the parallel efforts invested by the translators of Artsybashev into European languages. III. A story, essay and play—and their translators Three more texts by Artsybashev also found their way to a Chinese reading audience—though probably a smaller one than did the works previously discussed. The story “Noch’ ” (Night, 1909) was, together with “The Revolutionary”, “The Doctor” and “Happiness”, among the four from the collection Etiudy to have been translated into Chinese; like “The Doctor”, this story has not been reprinted in Russian since the appearance of that collection in 1910. The hero of “Night” is a young doctor. On hospital duty on New Year’s Eve he finds himself oppressed by the kind of thoughts that often assail Artsybashev’s heroes: the emptiness of life, and inevitability of its end.57 In Grebov these thoughts are provoked by the sight of a skeleton that for many years has been standing in a corner of his office. To put an end to the demeaning, passive expectation of death, Grebov prepares to drink prussic acid; just at that very moment, however, he is called to attend a prostitute in childbirth. The success of his mission, a victory of life over death despite the harsh future awaiting the mother

56 Thus, for example, a jocular Russian expression that Shevyrev hears in the tavern in Ch. 4 was approximated by Bugow and Villard as: “He, hat sich der einen Affen gekauft!” (Der Arbeiter Schewyriow, in Revolutionsgeschichten, p. 37). The by now forgotten German idiom simply meant “to get drunk”, but Pinkerton was baffled by it into producing the delightful colloquialism: “What price monkeys?” (Shevyriof, in Tales of the Revolution, p. 41). There had been, of course, no question of monkeys in the original Russian “Vish’, naziuziukalsia!” (Rabochii Shevyrev, in Artsybashev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, p. 287), and Lu Xun realized as much in correctly translating the phrase as Ha, zhe cheng le zui sigui le! (Gongren Suihuilüefu, in LXQJ [1973], vol. 11, p. 635). Only a complete lack of orientation in Russian politics could have allowed Pinkerton to imagine, later in the same chapter, that the ultra-reactionary Black Hundreds would have taken the side of strikers against the government (p. 39). Lu Xun did not fall for the ambiguity of Villard’s German at this point, adding a footnote to explain that the Black Hundreds often assisted the tsarist government in its suppression of revolutionary outbursts (p. 633). 57 “Noch’ ”, in Artsybashev, Etiudy, pp. 7–28.


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and her newborn, makes Grebov forget his gloom. A close relative of Artsybashev’s earlier story “Podpraporshchik Gololobov” (Sub-Ensign Gololobov, 1902), and, in its ending, also of Andreev’s story “V podvale” (In the Basement, 1901), this is another of Artsybashev’s many variations on the themes that preoccupied him most. “Night” was included in an “Anthology of short masterpieces by Russian writers”, published by the Shuimo Bookstore in May 1929.58 It had first been published in February, in the second issue of the monthly Honghei (Red and Black), edited by the writers Hu Yepin, Shen Congwen and Ding Ling. The name behind this translation adds another prominent figure to the list of Artsybashev’s translators in the 1920s. Dai Wangshu (1905–50) belonged to the first symbolist poets in China. He was an admirer and champion of French poetry; poets such as Paul Verlaine and Francis Jammes left their traces in Dai’s own writing.59 An important translator since the second half of the 1920s, arriving in Paris in 1932 and based in Lyons as part-time student at the Institut franco-chinois in 1933–35, he introduced much foreign literature, both poetry and prose, in the pages of Xiandai (‘Les Contemporains’), the home journal of Chinese modernists. This work was also done from Spanish, his other foreign language and a still more uncommon asset in China of that time. The question of intermediary sources must arise when we consider Dai’s list of translations from Russian and Soviet literature.60 The case

This collection should be distinguished from another by the same title, published in the translation of Ye Jinfeng in 1921 and containing the story “Eleazar” (Lazarus) by Andreev; see below. 59 See the discussion in Michelle Loi, Poètes chinois d’écoles françaises, pp. 32–57. The influence of Jammes is demonstrated in Gregory B. Lee, Dai Wangshu: The Life and Poetry of a Chinese Modernist. 60 Dai’s part in the translation of Russian literature is little-studied, and must be reconstituted from a variety of sources. His translations of two early Soviet novels, Iurii Libedinskii’s The Week and Vsevolod Ivanov’s Armored Train 14–69 (both 1922), were published by Xiandai shuju, respectively in 1930 and 1932 (The Week was translated jointly from the French by Dai Wangshu and Du Heng; Armored Train 14–69, copy Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon, Fond chinois, was translated from the French, and checked against Japanese translations). A reference work by the publisher of Xiandai, Zhang Jinglu, Zhongguo jinxiandai chuban shiliao, vol. 4, pp. 286–87, attributes to Dai one of the Chinese translations of Alexander Serafimovich’s The Iron Flood, as well as of Mikhail Sholokhov’s monumental novel And Quiet Flows the Don. Lee, Dai Wangshu, pp. 43–4, discusses his abridged translation in 1936 of Benjamin Goriely, Les poètes dans la révolution russe, and has more on Dai as a translator of French and Spanish literature (ibid., p. 15, points out that all translations of Spanish authors predating Dai’s travel to Europe were done through French). 58

appropriation and decline; the channels of translation 215 of “Night” is intriguing, as the story was only directly translated into German; it was from the German that a Japanese retranslation was made by the writer Mori Ogai. No translations of “Night” are known in French. Before discussing this particular story, however, one wonders what might have led Dai Wangshu to translate Artsybashev. Shuimo Bookstore, publisher of the Anthology of Short Masterpieces by Russian Writers, was founded in Shanghai in early 1928 by a literary society of the same name, the Shuimo she (Froth Society).61 Among the society’s leaders were Dai Wangshu, the writers Shi Zhecun (1905–2003) and Du Heng (Dai Duheng; pseudonym Su Wen, 1907–64). At the time of its creation in 1926, Shuimo (initially known as the Yingluo, or ‘Jade Necklace’ society) appears to have been detached from immediate political concerns, a tendency it maintained until 1929. It may have been the arrival, at this stage, of Feng Xuefeng, that brought about a turn to the left: the Shuimo Bookstore became the publisher of Russian Marxist literary doctrine (notably, the essays of Lunacharskii and Plekhanov translated by Lu Xun), while Dai Wangshu translated from French, and published in summer 1930, a book entitled The Historical Materialist Conception of Literary Theory. Not all the members shared these tendencies to the same extent, and the dispersal of Shuimo in January 1932 might have been provoked not only by the Japanese attack of Shanghai, which began on the 18th, but also by tensions between its original nucleus and the late-coming CCP members. Later in that year, Du Heng drew much angry criticism from the camp of “revolutionary literature” by proposing that writers should be entitled to occupy a “third category”, a position of political independence. He would leave for Taiwan in 1949. Shi Zhecun, who—mainly due to political pressure from the left—would stop writing fiction in 1937, was interested in new Soviet literature in so far as he considered it part of a cross-national, modernist, “avant-garde”.62 Feng Xuefeng translated Vorovskii’s damning essay on Sanin in 1928; meanwhile, another member of Shuimo Society, Pan Mohua, may already have been translating the novel. Dai Wangshu, Du Heng

61 Information on the Shuimo she and its publishing activity is drawn from Lee, Dai Wangshu, and Fan Quan, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue shetuan liupai cidian, pp. 144–46. 62 Su Wen, “Regarding the Literary News and Hu Qiuyuan’s Literary Arguments” (published in Xiandai in July 1932), is translated in Denton, Modern Chinese Literary Thought, pp. 367–75, followed by the response of Qu Qiubai, “Freedom for Literature but Not the Writer”. On Shi Zhecun’s position, see Lee, Shanghai Modern, pp. 134–36.


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Fig. 2. Dai Wangshu. Photograph attached with his enrolment form to the Institut franco-chinois, on 1 October 1933. Fonds d’archives de l’Institut francochinois de Lyon, Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon, Fond chinois.

and later also Feng Xuefeng, all lodged with Shi Zhecun in Shanghai that year. Rarely leaving the house, they spent their time writing and translating—a way of life they called “the literary workshop”. It may have been any one of these fellow Hangzhou townsmen that introduced Dai Wangshu to Artsybashev.63 Along with Pan’s translation (which, as we recall, introduced Sanin with a highly critical tone) and the current

63 See Shi Zhecun’s Introduction to a collection of poetry in Dai’s translation, which he edited in 1983, “Dai Wangshu yishi ji xu”, in Shi Zhecun sanwen xuanji, pp. 422–26 (where he also mentions the difficulty in determining which manuscript translations of poems by Ernest Dowson, made by Dai Wangshu and Du Heng at that time, belonged to each of the two translators). Shi Zhecun’s memoirs of “the literary workshop” appear in an essay on Feng Xuefeng in 1983, quoted by Zou Zhenhuan, 20 shiji Shanghai fanyi chuban yu wenhua bianqian, pp. 167–68. Du Heng and two other Shuimo members, the translators Xu Xiacun (1907–86) and Yao Pengzi (whom we shall meet as a translator of Andreev), were joint editors of the Guanghua series “European literature and art”, in which Pan Mohua’s Sanin appeared in Feb. 1930. The advertisement for the series, placed at the back of that book, listed translations by all four.

appropriation and decline; the channels of translation 217 serialisation of Zheng Zhenduo’s Sanin in Xiaoshuo yuebao, the inclusion of “Night” in the Shuimo Bookstore’s publishing project between 1928 and 193164 was one of the last times that Artsybashev’s fiction was presented in Chinese from within the leftist literary scene. Issued in a single printing of 1500 copies, the Shuimo anthology became a rarity soon after its publication, and was just as soon forgotten.65 In the same anthology, the name of Dai Wangshu was attached not only to Artsybashev, but also to translations from Lermontov, Garshin and Shishkov. When in 1937 the Russian émigré community in Shanghai approached Dai to translate some of Pushkin’s works for the centennial of the poet’s death, he carried out the task through French.66 Within the group of young modernists consisting of Shi Zhecun, Dai Wangshu, Liu Na’ou and Du Heng (all of them former fellow students at the French Aurora University in Shanghai), Shi Zhecun later translated books by Arthur Schnitzler, but he too would use French and English translations for that purpose.67 Shi would have relied on one of these two foreign languages in translating stories by Kuprin and Leskov for the Shuimo Russian anthology in 1929; French translations would probably have been available for these works, and English ones for the three stories contributed to the anthology by Du Heng. But only Liu Na’ou, whose name is not even listed among the contributors, could have translated a story through either a German or a Japanese intermediary.

Eluosi duanpian jiezuo ji was supposed to comprise ten volumes. Only two of them appeared, with Artsybashev’s story included in the first. “Night” was presented here alongside Lermontov, Dostoevsky, Korolenko and Garshin, while contemporary literature was limited to one émigré writer, Alexander Kuprin and the Soviet writer Aleksei Kolosov. Vol. 2, published in June 1929, followed the same trend, offering stories by Chekhov, Pushkin, Garshin, Leskov and Tolstoy, but also introducing Viacheslav Shishkov. Petrov, “Sovetskaia literatura v Kitae v 1928–1930 gg.”, p. 233, documents another ambitious plan by Shuimo: out of the ten titles of Soviet fiction and poetry which it announced in March 1930, only two, Dai’s translations of Libedinskii and Ivanov, were eventually published. 65 Dai Wangshu’s biographer, Gregory B. Lee, was unaware of the collection and of Dai’s part in it while pursuing his research on Dai in Beijing libraries in the early 1980s (personal communication, 23 June 1999). I am indebted to Jean-Louis Boully, for spending much time searching for Eluosi duanpian jiezuo ji, finally to discover it on a shelf of Zhongshan University library. His letter from Guangzhou (6 Dec. 1999) noted that the volume containing Artsybashev’s story had last been consulted in Nov. 1951. 66 Gregory Lee, Dai Wangshu, p. 63. 67 On Shi Zhecun as reader, collector, translator and publisher of foreign literature, see Ch. 4 in Leo Lee, Shanghai Modern; on his interest in Schnitzler, ibid., pp. 166–68. 64


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Hence the actual translator of Artsybashev’s “Night” might not have been Dai Wangshu—under whose name the story had already appeared in its first, journal publication—but Liu Na’ou (also known as Liu Canbo, 1900–39). Born in Taiwan, raised in Japan, and assassinated as a Japanese collaborator in wartime Shanghai,68 this writer and editor at the Shuimo Bookstore could have relied on Mori Ogai’s German-based version of the story. A candidate for translating from the Japanese in 1928 would also have been Dai’s flatmate at the time, Feng Xuefeng. Gregory Lee, interviewing Dai’s room-mate in Lyons, the poet and translator Luo Dagang (1909–98), heard that an anthology of French short stories published under Dai’s name in 1934 had in fact been translated almost entirely by Luo.69 The search we have just carried out for the sources of a single obscure story by Artsybashev is less important in itself than for what it reveals about the presentation of Russian literature at the close of the 1920s, and about translation as a collective enterprise. A writer best known for his prose fiction, Artsybashev also made forays into dramatic writing. His first play Jealousy, written in 1913, proved a pot-boiler with several translations and numerous theatre productions in Russia and abroad,70 but the success of his next works for the theatre was much more modest. Nonetheless, in 1923 three of his dramas were collected in English translation and published in New York under the title Jealousy; Enemies; The Law of the Savage; With an Introductory Essay on Marriage by the Author. The “introductory essay” was written by Artsybashev especially for this collection, shortly before he left Russia in the same year. Contrary to Pinkerton’s translations, the plays in this collection (though they too were retranslated from the German) appeared in English with the full authorization of the writer.71 In 1930, more translations of Artsybashev came out in China than in any previous year—a peak which, as we already know, would be followed by a sharp decline in his respectability in Chinese progressive circles. In March, “Marriage” appeared in the journal Beixin in a translation See entry on Liu Na’ou in CYT, p. 267; Ch. 6 in Lee, Shanghai Modern. Gregory Lee, Dai Wangshu, p. 43. 70 Nikonenko, “Mikhail Artsybashev”, p. 15. Jealousy has been widely performed on theatre stages in post-Soviet Russia. 71 On the circumstances surrounding Artsybashev’s translations into English by the former wife of August Strindberg, see Monica Strauss, Cruel Banquet: The Life and Loves of Frida Strindberg (New York: Harcourt, 2000), pp. 204–5, 212–13. 68 69

appropriation and decline; the channels of translation 219 from Japanese by the Fujian-born writer and poet Yang Sao (1900–57). Reaching China by this circuitous route, this long essay became the only emigration-period text by Artsybashev ever to be translated into Chinese. It was a denunciation of the sanctimonious institution of matrimony, and the expression of hope for a future society, in which it will become possible for men and women to seek either sexual or spiritual union without shackling each other.72 Yang Sao spent another two pages apologizing for translating an essay about love at a time when the questions of revolution were obviously more pressing. He disclosed that he had to give up his ambition to translate from Japanese all three love dramas by Artsybashev, as he realized that no publisher in China would presently be interested in them. He then cautiously suggested that relations between the sexes were important in people’s lives even at the current revolutionary period; indeed, they were an issue that received attention even in Soviet Russia.73 There is more in Yang Sao’s translation than the language of his intermediary text that alerts us to the influence of Japan on the reception of Russian literature in China. Such influence was exerted through the critical essays by Nobori Shomu, mentioned above, as these were translated into Chinese; more directly, a period of study in Japan exposed a Chinese student not only to Japanese culture, but also to the foreign literature available in that country. Yang Sao, in Tokyo from 1920 to 1925, refused to read Japanese literature, but immersed himself in world literature in Japanese translation. Starting out from the extensive reading of Turgenev, he became an admirer of Andreev,74 but he was then especially taken in by Artsybashev, weeping profusely over Breaking-Point, a book he would not have found in Chinese.75 Joining the Left League in the same year in which his translation of Artsybashev’s essay was published, Yang later translated Soviet literature, including The Iron Flood.76 72 “Introduction: Marriage”, in Artsybashev, Jealousy; Enemies; The Law of the Savage, pp. 7–27. 73 Artsybashev, trans. Yang Sao, “Jiehun lun”, Beixin, vol. 4, no. 6 (16 March 1930), pp. 36–7. 74 Yang Sao, “Zuichu he waiguo wenxue jiechu shi zai Riben” (1934), pp. 141–42. 75 Ping Baoxing, Wusi yitan yu Eluosi wenxue, p. 210, quotes a passage by Yang Sao on his reading of Artsybashev and Breaking-Point, presenting it as if it were part of Yang’s above article of 1934; since it is not there, the quotation must come from another of his autobiographical publications. 76 CYT, p. 387; ZFC, pp. 637–38. Cf. the entry in Yao Xin, Zuolian cidian, pp. 106–7.


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The four-act play Voina (War, 1914) is today, like the story “Night”, practically unobtainable in Russian—yet, like so many of Artsybashev’s works, it had a longer life in translation. In English, War was first carried in February 1916 by the Chicago quarterly review The Drama; within the same year, this translation by Thomas Seltzer was published as a book by Alfred A. Knopf in New York.77 A second English version was produced by Percy Pinkerton (with the assistance of Ivan Ohzol) for the London publisher Grant Richards in 1918. In Japan, where a collection of Artsybashev’s plays appeared in 1925, separate book-form editions of War were published (in two different translations) in 1929 and 1931.78 War is the drama of a family.79 In less than a year, within the few months from spring to autumn, a household’s life is shattered by the outbreak of war. Retired colonel Petr Ivanovich and his wife Olga Petrovna have a son, the student Volodia, and an older daughter, Nina, who lives in the same spacious house with her husband, the army officer Vladimir Aleksandrovich. A picture of tranquil domestic happiness is interrupted by the announcement of mobilization, upon which both Vladimir and Volodia leave for the front. In the two men’s absence, their wives are courted by others who had stayed behind: a prince whom Nina had rejected before her marriage pursuits her all the more, now that her husband might not return; the consumptive student Semenov avows his love to Asya, the girl whom Volodia had married just prior to his departure. The inevitable news arrives soon enough. The death of Volodia comes as a terrible shock for Asya and for his elderly parents. Though forced to admit to the prince that she might have accepted his advances, had her husband been killed, in the last act Nina is awaiting the return of

77 A. A. Knopf, founded in 1915, specialised in the introduction of major contemporary foreign writers to the American reading audience. War was the first title in this publisher’s series, “The Borzoi Plays”. 78 The translator of Artsybashev’s collected plays, Hara Hisaichirō, is also the name behind the single-volume publication of War in 1931. 79 The hard-to-find original is in vol. 15 (1914) of Artsybashev’s own literary anthology, Zemlia. The last Russian edition of War to this day is a corporate volume with Zapiski pisatelia, published in Moscow in 1917. The first English translator found the play “worthy of Turgenev; in its cruel exposition of the logic of horrible facts it reaches the loftiness of the Greek tragedy”: Seltzer, “Michael Artzibashef ”, p. xi. Reviewing Pinkerton’s translation of War in the Times Literary Supplement, no. 877 (7 Nov. 1918), p. 532, C. E. Bechhofer was far less enthusiastic, as made evident by his title, “The Decline & Fall of M. Artzibashev”.

appropriation and decline; the channels of translation 221 Vladimir, who she knows had been wounded in action. But as the husband comes back a cripple (like the narrator of Leonid Andreev’s famous novella of 1904, “The Red Laugh”—with both his legs torn off ), Nina faints in horror, falling straight into the outstretched arms of the prince. The familiar theme in War is Artsybashev’s conviction (dating at least from The Death of Lande) that the “call of the flesh” will always triumph over moral principles; as the play ends, Nina will not resist the prince’s advances much longer. Yet there is little here of that selfassured denial of pedestrian morality, which had brought notoriety to the author of Sanin. The sick student Semenov, a major character in The Death of Lande and an important one in War, has by now lost most of his persuasiveness as he continues to argue that approaching death absolves him from obeying the common rules of moral conduct. Rather, he comes to be seen on a par with the prince, and both (however sincere in their feelings) are obviously guilty of wishing their rivals dead. War was an anti-war play, and strong terms were used throughout the text to denounce the military adventure in which Russia was being enmeshed at the time of writing. Nonetheless, like Andreev and other Russian writers who rejected the socialists’ call for the conclusion of a separate peace with Germany, Artsybashev later adhered to the line urging the continuation of war “to the victorious end”.80 No information is available on this play’s first Chinese translator, Qiao Maozhong.81 Preceded by Pinkerton’s Introduction to his English translation (yet another recycling of Artsybashev’s autobiographical letter to André Villard), this book came out in June 1930 with Guanghua, the publisher of Pan Mohua’s Sanin in February; it was reprinted by a small Shanghai publisher in 1936. More interesting was the second translation of War: the last work by this writer to be published in the republican period, and one of only two publications of Artsybashev in Chinese throughout the decade of the 1940s.82 This new version was a posthumous publication: the translator

Nikonenko, “Mikhail Artsybashev”, p. 15. The translator’s name is wrongly given as Qiao Maozhi in Chen Jianhua, 20 shiji Zhong-E wenxue guanxi, p. 338. For its part, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue zong shumu, p. 777, attributes the 1936 edition to the journalist Chen Xingsun. 82 Three, if we count Zhou Zuomin’s version of Sanin, the third and last edition of which dates from Aug. 1940. The translation of War is reprinted in Li Lin yiwen ji, vol. 2, pp. 381–455. 80 81


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Fig. 3. Li Yaolin reading. Wang Zhizheng, ed., Ba Jin de liang ge gege (Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 2005), p. 118.

Li Lin (pen-name of Li Yaolin) died eight months before his work had appeared in print in July 1946. Born in Chengdu in 1903, Li emerged only late in his life as a translator of Russian, English and French literature. His first and ultimately most important achievement, the translation of Ivan Goncharov’s monumental novel The Precipice (1869) in 1940, was accomplished on the basis of the abridged English and the complete French translations. Li relied on the same two languages to translate one of Alexander Kuprin’s best-loved works, the short novel Olesia. An English intermediary served Li in translating Artsybashev’s War, and the play was published at Wenhua shenghuo (Culture and Life) in Shanghai, in a series edited by his younger brother Ba Jin. After the two brothers had left their native Sichuan province in 1923, Li Yaolin studied in Nanking, Soochow (Suzhou) and Peking. He worked as an English teacher at Nankai middle-school in Tientsin from 1929 and was in poor health when he joined Ba Jin in September 1939 in the French concession of “orphan island” Shanghai—the neutral territory that until

appropriation and decline; the channels of translation 223 December 1941 remained immune to the surrounding Japanese forces. Ba Jin left town in 1940, however, and when he returned to liberated Shanghai in 1945, he found Yaolin on his deathbed. Upon his brother’s death of tuberculosis in November, Ba Jin had words from Yaolin’s translation of The Precipice engraved on his tombstone: “Farewell, farewell forever. My heart has found here its real home”.83 Wartime conditions in China could plausibly have turned the attention of a translator to this, now all but forgotten, Russian play. Such speculations are tenuous, however, as so many other works of no immediate political relevancy were also being translated at the time. Moreover, War was closer to pacifist than to “resistance” literature. It may be assumed with greater confidence that Li Yaolin’s choice of Artsybashev had some connection with Ba Jin’s long-standing esteem for that author—which is not to question the independence of his choice, for as Ba Jin put it, his brother “only translated works he liked”.84 Manuscripts left unfinished by Li were passed on by Ba Jin in 1947 to Huang Shang (born 1919)—then a journalist with the unusual experience of service as military interpreter for the American army during the last year of its wartime operations (known as “Flying the Hump”) between India and China, and later a writer of essays on classical Chinese literature and drama as well as a translator of Russian fiction. Huang had learned his English from Li Yaolin at Nankai; the teacher and student met again in Shanghai in the early 1940s. It was Huang who would complete and prepare for publication Li’s translation of The Island of Dr Moreau by H. G. Wells, and Ba Jin who would put together Ida, a small anthology named after a short story by Ivan Bunin. Li Yaolin led a solitary life in the French concession: a tall, bespectacled former teacher whom photographs usually captured in suit and tie. A devoted fan of Western music, he enjoyed concerts and rummaging in

83 Though more often identified by the “style” Li Feigan, Ba Jin’s real name was Li Yaotang. On the brothers’ relations, cf. Lang, Pa Chin, pp. 85, 97, 140. On Li’s work on The Precipice and his epitaph, see Ba Jin, “Wo de gege Li Yaolin” (My Elder Brother, 1983; no. 102 of Random Thoughts), collected in Wang Zhizheng, ed., Ba Jin de liang ge gege, here pp. 137–38, 142. Several memoirists, quoting the words of Li’s epitaph, attribute them to the main hero of The Precipice, Boris Raiskii; rereading the novel in Russian did not help me find this citation there. 84 Ba Jin, “Yida houji” (A Postscript to Ida; 1947), ibid., p. 101. Ba Jin said the same of his own choice of books for translation: see “Yi dian ganxiang” (Some Reflections, 1951), in Wang Shoulan, ed., Dangdai wenxue fanyi baijia tan, p. 88.


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the second-hand bookstores that offered books in English. His home library grew steadily as a result. Once, he made plans to translate Oblomov, and in preparation for this work spent a considerable amount in inflation money on reams of white paper that should have sufficed for the entire length of the novel. Huang Shang helped him lug all this paper back home.85 The unfinished manuscript of Li’s Oblomov was lost, but Huang’s own translation in 1949 of the earliest of Goncharov’s three novels, A Common Story, continued Li’s heritage. With Ba Jin as chief editor, Culture and Life (1935–55) was not coincidentally the only publisher in the 1940s to translate a book by Mikhail Artsybashev. Though, after the outbreak of war in 1937, translated fiction was not doing well in the book market, Culture and Life was determined to remain active in this field.86 The Culture and Life “translation series” ( yiwen congshu) was inaugurated in November 1935 with the book-form edition of Lu Xun’s Dead Souls (part One), which Ba Jin considered the best achievement in the history of Chinese translation. Along with the “Culture and Life series”, in which Artsybashev’s War appeared, the “translation series” offered a choice of world literature, including Flaubert, Maupassant, and Dickens next to Turgenev (whose Fathers and Sons and Virgin Soil were translated from the English by Ba Jin himself ), Tolstoy, Chekhov and Pushkin. The classical orientation of this editorial policy did something to correct the bias towards socialist fiction in Chinese publishing during the 1930s and 1940s.87 In resisting this bias, Ba Jin was not alone: next to a number of journals, typically the outlets of literary societies outside the left-leaning mainstream, the introduction of world literature was also pursued, 85 Huang Shang, “Li Lin xiansheng jinian” (In Memory of Li Lin, 1946), and “Moluo boshi dao yihou ji” (A Postscript to the Translation of The Island of Dr Moreau, 1948), in Wang Zhizheng, Ba Jin de liang ge gege, pp. 115, 117. On the concerts that Li attended, see e.g. Ba Jin, “Jinian wo de gege” (In Memory of my Elder Brother, 1946), ibid., p. 92, and more reminiscences and photographs in this new book on Ba Jin’s brothers Li Yaolin and Li Yaomei (who committed suicide in 1931). 86 See Sun Jing, “Wenhua shenghuo chubanshe dui Zhongguo xiandai fanyi wenxue de gongxian”, pp. 73–5. This article idealizes the motivation of Culture and Life associates, by denying them any commercial interest; obviously, their contribution would lose nothing in importance in our eyes if we acknowledged that most of them depended on translation and editorial work for their living. 87 Li Chunyu, “Wenhua shenghuo chubanshe yu Zhongguo xin wenxue: jianlun Ba Jin de bianji chuban fengge”, p. 64. Another major series by Culture and Life was devoted to new Chinese literature; it included books such as Lao She’s novel Rickshaw and Cao Yu’s play Thunderstorm, later to be acknowledged as classics.

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Fig. 4. Zheng Zhenduo in 1934. Zheng Erkang, Zheng Zhenduo (Shijiazhuang: Hebei jiaoyu chubanshe, 2001).

from May 1935 to July 1936, by the periodical Shijie wenku (Repository of World Literature). It was there that Lu Xun sent the chapters of the first part of his Dead Souls, as he finished translating them. The handsomely published series was edited by Zheng Zhenduo, who thereby furnished another proof of the exceptional breadth of his cultural horizons. Now somewhat more of an antiquarian than a reformer, in his inaugural statement Zheng reiterated his familiar belief in the ability of literature to be “more real than real life itself ”, but then promised to “pay special attention to the classical canon of Greece and Rome” while setting up space in the “repository” also for the classical canon of ancient China. Finally addressing grown-up readers, he said nothing about the “Chinese youths”.88

88 Zheng Zhenduo, “Shijie wenku fakan yuanqi”; cf. ZFWS, pp. 210–12; ZXFW, pp. 107–10. On the publication process of Dead Souls, see chapter by Li Chunli in Chen Shuyu, ed., Lu Xun banben shu hua, vol. 1, pp. 195–204; cf. Li Jin, Sansishi niandai Su-E


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After 1949, the bias for proletarian literature was less easily countered, while others were swiftly suppressed: Ba Jin’s own works were from then on allowed for publication only in expurgated editions, from which references to anarchism had been deleted. As to his ranking of Artsybashev among the three great writers, who had enabled him to become “a real human being”, the 1958 edition of Ba Jin’s Collected Works replaced this, no longer acceptable name, by Turgenev and Émile Zola.89 We have been discussing translations up to 1949. But no translations of Savinkov, or any previously untranslated works by Artsybashev, would appear in Chinese from that year until the present.90 Leonid Andreev, who initially shared the same lot after being last translated in February 1950, was gradually reintroduced to readers beginning from the early 1980s.91 We have examined the Chinese fortunes of two Russian writers, the technique by which they were retranslated into Chinese, and the ideological background to the appearance of their first translations at a time of intense interest in Russian literature among the progressive intellectual circles (the 1920s). We have seen how growing critical discomfiture with non-socialist modern Russian literature lead to its relegation to popular reading (as with The Pale

Hanyi wenxue lun, pp. 212–28, which also has much on Ba Jin as translator and publisher. Zheng Zhenduo had given eloquent expression to his vision of world literature, and China’s place in it, already in his four-volume Wenxue dagang (An Outline of Literature, published in book form in 1926–27), the first study of its kind in Chinese. 89 Lang, Pa Chin, p. 273, was somewhat naïve about Ba Jin’s change of literary taste: “His Russian friends have evidently explained to him that Artzybashev is not such a good writer as he once had thought and should not be mentioned in the same breath with Tolstoy and Dostoevsky”. 90 Zhang Tierong, Bijiao wenhua yanjiu zhong de Lu Xun, pp. 37–8, put it plainly by saying that because Artsybashev was considered an anti-revolutionary émigré writer in the Soviet Union “not only have there not been new translations of his works since the establishment of the People’s Republic, but old translations have not been reprinted; nor have there been any specialist research articles to speak of ”. This chapter of Zhang’s book was in fact written in 1982, yet the first PRC-period translation of Sanin by Wang Zhi (1988) has so far only been followed by competing versions of the same novel. 91 Qian Shanxing, “Qian tan Andelieyefu ji qi yishu fengge”, p. 296, acknowledged “the almost total absence of translations from the establishment of the People’s Republic to the present day [1982]”; cf. remarks in Zhou Qichao, “Lie Andelieyefu de xiaoshuo chuangzuo fengge chutan”, p. 112. A first story collection (now in direct translation from the original) did appear in 1981, followed by two more in 1984: the one comprising seven stories and novellas from the two-volume Soviet edition of Collected Works (the product of Andreev’s centennial in 1971) with the addition of the plays The Life of Man and To the Stars, all translated by Lu Min, and the second—an almost 600-page collection of Andreev’s prose fiction, translated by Jin Ge and others.

appropriation and decline; the channels of translation 227 Horse and Sanin, by the mid-1930s), and then, with few exceptions, to oblivion (the 1940s). A different strategy will be applied below to the translation and interpretation history of a major Russian writer of the 1900s and the 1910s—the single best-known representative of Russian literary modernism in republican China.


ANDREEV AND THE PRACTICE OF TRANSLATION In a hierarchically arranged library of Russian literature the books of Leonid Andreev would occupy a higher shelf than those of Ropshin and Artsybashev. Most other writers of the “Silver Age” had to wait until the 1990s to regain their reading audience in Russia, but Andreev was rehabilitated sooner. Along with the works of such prominent émigrés as the Nobel Prize laureate Ivan Bunin, a first substantial selection from Andreev’s rich literary heritage was allowed into print during the “thaw” that followed Stalin’s death. Scholarly interest in the writer in his country grew steadily during the 1970s. Beginning from the early 1980s, several of his plays were again staged by the main theatres.1 Widely reprinted from the early days of perestroika, his works have remained available in Russian bookstores, even as his fame has been eclipsed by that of his son Daniil (1906–59): a victim of Stalinist terror, whose mystical-philosophical writings have attracted a large following ever since their first posthumous publication in 1989.2 Contrary to the writers discussed in previous chapters, Andreev has not been neglected by Western scholarship.3 Iu. N. Chirva, “O p’esakh Leonida Andreeva”, p. 4. Cf. Iu. V. Babicheva, “Smert’ i vozvrashchenie Leonida Andreeva”, p. 155. Babicheva’s main argument in favour of bringing back Andreev’s work to a Soviet audience in 1981 was still her “deep conviction” that the writer’s death in exile at the age of forty-eight “had resulted from a feeling of irreparable guilt towards his country” (pp. 153–54). 2 Daniil Andreev’s Rose of the World and The Iron Mystery are by now translated into several languages. Andreev’s eldest son Vadim (1902–76) was also a writer and a poet, whose life passed in tsarist Russia, Germany, France, the USA and Switzerland. Interestingly, a search in the Chambers Biographical Dictionary (7th ed., 2002), will reveal an entry on “Leonid Andreyev” but none on his sons; nothing on either Boris Savinkov or Mikhail Artsybashev, but an entry on “Boris Artzybashev, 1899–1965”, defined as a “US artist”. Artsybashev’s only son, who lived in the USA from 1919 to his death, became known as an illustrator of books and journals. At least one of his drawings was reproduced in a Chinese journal, the fortnightly Huanzhou (Mirage): see vol. 1, no. 6 (16 Dec. 1926). 3 Two of the several monographs in English are James B. Woodward, Leonid Andreyev: A Study, and (on the writer’s social environment and struggle with a possible mental illness, rather than on his literature) White, Memoirs and Madness. Avram Brown, “Leonid Nikolaevich Andreev”, in Kalb et al., Russian Writers of the Silver Age, pp. 21–33, is a knowledgeable recent essay. 1

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Fig. 1. Leonid Andreev (on a visit to his hometown Orel, 1910). Courtesy of the Leeds Russian Archive, University of Leeds.

Born in Orel, in central Russia, in 1871, the young Leonid Andreev passed his school years between voracious reading, love affairs culminating in suicide attempts, and a passion for painting that may remind us of Mikhail Artsybashev.4 Graduating from the Law Faculty of Moscow University in 1897, he became a public attorney, but he worked in that capacity for less than three years. By 1900, his decision to devote himself to writing had been made, encouraged by the patronage of Maxim Gorky. The following year already brought the young writer incontestable success with the publication of his first collection of stories. The friendship and eventual bitter rupture with Gorky would leave an imprint on Andreev’s entire literary career. A sympathizer of the

A. V. Bogdanov, “Mezhdu stenoi i bezdnoi”, pp. 7–8. A more committed painter than Artsybashev, Andreev also developed a pioneering interest in colour photography. Richard Davies, Leonid Andreev: Photographs by a Russian Writer, reproduces these together with an authoritative biographical sketch. 4


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revolution, he spent two weeks in prison in February 1905 for lending his apartment to a meeting of the Social Democratic Party, but his treatment of popular revolt (in works dating mainly to the years 1905–7) betrayed sceptical detachment.5 The final parting of ways with Gorky occurred in 1907, and had much to do with Andreev’s unwillingness to lend his pen to a political cause. From the end of 1908, Andreev wrote almost exclusively for the theatre, becoming one of the most innovative dramatists in Russia. A patriotic publicist during the First World War, Andreev hoped that the war would lead to fall of the tsarist regime, and he welcomed with enthusiasm the revolution of February 1917. The October revolution, however, was perceived by Andreev as a tragedy, a national disaster of hitherto unseen amplitude. As on the last day of 1917 (still according to the old Julian calendar) the new Russian government recognized the independence of Finland, until then a province of the tsarist empire, Andreev found himself in emigration: since 1908 he had lived with his large family in a house he had built in the Finnish village Vammelsuu, on the Karelian Isthmus, a short journey from St Petersburg / Petrograd.6 Far from merely a “technical” émigré, however, he would spend the last two years of his life in active denunciation of the Bolshevik regime. In March 1919 his essay “S.O.S.”, a desperate appeal to the peoples of USA, Britain and France not to abandon Russia as it languished under Bolshevik rule, was published in Paris and immediately translated into most European languages (it was never to be translated into Chinese). As his candidacy to the post of “propaganda minister” in the shadow White government was rejected owing to his former “revolutionary” sympathies, he began to plan a lecture trip in the United States with the intention of bolstering his dwindling finances whilst exposing the crimes of Russia’s new masters. The details of the tour were still being elaborated with the help of his American translator, Herman Bernstein,7 5 Cf. Davies, “Léonide Andreïev”, p. 409. Andreev’s part in revolutionary activity in 1905–7 was overemphasized in Soviet-period scholarship, largely in order to justify research on the émigré writer. 6 Most of Finnish Karelia, including Vammelsuu village, was ceded to the Soviet Union at the end of the Soviet-Finnish war of 1939–40, and remains Russian territory today. 7 Herman Bernstein (1876–1935), a Russian-born American translator and journalist, was the principal translator of Andreev into English. Bernstein first met Andreev in 1908, and became an advocate for his works in the United States. Their last meeting took place in Petrograd two years before the writer’s death. Andreev’s letter to Bernstein in July 1919, a request for assistance in planning his lecture tour in America, is among the documents included in Andreev, S.O.S.; see pp. 304–6.

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when Andreev died in Finland from a brain haemorrhage on 12 September 1919. While every new novella or play by Andreev became an important event of the Russian literary scene, each also supplied further evidence of the writer’s isolation from other contemporary currents of Russian literature. Capable of no sustained belief in the potential of social reform or political upheaval—hence his break with Gorky, and with the left-leaning camp of realist writers—he was even less ready to find his solutions in religion, the tendency of many among Russia’s symbolists. Andreev the writer was engaged in a quest for the meaning of life, which he directed inward towards the suffering human soul. His pessimism in describing the inescapable solitude of the individual in a godless world was combined with a painful realization of the powerlessness of human will, on the one hand, and with a refusal to acknowledge it on the other. The drama of man’s revolt against the cross he has to bear, and the failure of the individual’s attempt to reassert himself against the impersonal forces of destiny, are re-enacted in Andreev’s best works. The idiosyncratic quality of Andreev’s writing has often been stressed. Andreev himself complained that the symbolists (who never accepted him as their own) denigrated him as a “realist”, even as realists counted him with the symbolists and the “decadents”.8 With some reservations, Andreev was willing to describe himself as a “mystic”; some of his plays have been related to European expressionism, though an expert on Andreev’s theatre calls him rather “one of the greatest romantics of the early twentieth century”.9 Different works by Andreev fitted several of these definitions, no single one of which can encompass his entire legacy. To the problem of literary designation was added that of political affiliation: in this sense, too, Andreev did not “belong to any party”. “In political terms”, he wrote already in spring 1906, “I am a thing of no significance”.10

8 Bogdanov, “Mezhdu stenoi i bezdnoi”, pp. 17, 32; M. V. Koz’menko, “Neupokoennyi dukh”, p. 5. The most extended treatment of Andreev’s “bordering position” in Russian literature is the recent chapter on him in Keldysh, Russkaia literatura rubezha vekov: see A. V. Tatarinov, “Leonid Andreev”. 9 Chirva, “O p’esakh Leonida Andreeva”, p. 43. On Andreev’s expressionism, see esp. L. K. Shvetsova, “Tvorcheskie printsipy i vzgliady, blizkie k ekspressionizmu”, an article discussing the novella “The Red Laugh”, and the plays The Life of Man, King Hunger, Anathema and The Black Masks. 10 Letter to A. V. Amfiteatrov, in Literaturnoe nasledstvo, vol. 72, Gor’kii i Andreev: Neizdannaia perepiska, p. 518.


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In escaping classification, as in refusing to present the reader with ready-made solutions to the essential questions which their books raised with indefatigable consistency (Savinkov’s questioning, throughout three novels, of the permissibility of killing in the name of a cause; Artsybashev’s elaboration of his vintage themes, the power of the sexual impulse and the inescapability of death), and in the pessimism deriving from the inability to find the answers, Andreev had much in common with the two writers of the “Silver age”, whose translation and reception in China we have studied above. However, it will not be possible here to do critical justice to a body of texts as rich as the thirty-five individual titles by Andreev, which we know were translated into Chinese in the period between 1909 and 1950. Similarly, it will be impossible to enter into a detailed comparative analysis of the Chinese translations vis-à-vis the original and the intermediary texts. But neither is this required. Leonid Andreev is a well-studied writer, whose works are today readily available both in the original and in translations into European languages. We have by now learned something about the methods and techniques of translation in republican China, as about the choice and interpretation of translated texts. Let us, therefore, make the following two chapters a study less of the translations than of the translators. On the basis of available biographical information, this will be an attempt to draw a collective profile of the people behind Andreev’s introduction to Chinese readership. These forty-two translators, we shall see, display remarkable variety in their background and approach to their work. Between them, they naturally do not include all, or even the most important individual translators of Russian literature. But the eight categories, into which the translators of Leonid Andreev have been arranged for the purposes of this and the next chapter, add up to a view of the cultural, political and social contexts of the Chinese translation of Russian literature. What follows is the history of this translation, from its beginnings to the establishment of the People’s Republic. I. The translator as an engaged intellectual Any study of Andreev’s translations in China must begin in Japan: that is where the two Zhou brothers published, in February and June 1909, the two volumes of their pioneering Chinese-language anthology of

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short foreign fiction. The sixteen stories in the two volumes of Yuwai xiaoshuo ji (Stories from Abroad) included seven texts by Russian writers (Chekhov, Andreev, Garshin and Stepniak), three by Sienkiewicz of Poland, two by the Bosnian writer Milena Mrazovic, one each by Wilde and Poe (representing Britain and the United States), one by Maupassant (France) and one by the Finn Juhani Aho. Out of these, Lu Xun translated only Garshin’s “Four Days”, a verse by Mickiewicz quoted in the beginning of Sienkiewicz’s “The Lighthouse Keeper of Aspinwell”, and two stories by Andreev, “The Lie” and “Silence”.11 The first story told of a man who suspected his beloved to be lying. As the suspicion grows into obsession, the narrator kills the woman he loves, but that does not deliver him from perceiving another, metaphysical lie everywhere around him. The second story recounted a tragedy in the family of a priest, whose only daughter had withdrawn into an inexplicable silence, then thrown herself under a passing train. Hit by a stroke, the priest’s wife stops speaking after her daughter’s death, and the oppressive “silence” enveloping the house—akin to the “lie” that permeates the world in the previous story—leaves Father Ignatii with the sensation of loosing his mind.12

11 Titles of works by Andreev are given here in their English translation. See Annex for the Russian and Chinese titles, and for the years of original publication. With the sole exception of the early étude “Love, Faith and Hope”, the Russian texts of all the stories and plays translated into Chinese by 1950 can be found in the six-volume edition of Andreev’s Collected Works. Lu Xun’s translations of “The Lie” (Chinese title: “Man”) and “Silence” (“Mo”), are in LXQJ (1973), vol. 11, pp. 191–214. 12 Lu Xun’s possible sources for these translations have attracted some attention. Vladimir Semanov, Lu Hsün and his Predecessors, p. 138, n. 84, claimed that a textual comparison with all German translations of “The Lie” showed Lu Xun’s Chinese to be based on Die Lüge, Ausgewählte Erzählungen (Dresden, 1902; trans. by Nadja Hornstein). Zhou Zuoren wrote in “Guanyu Lu Xun zhi er” that, while in Tokyo, he and his brother found much material in the affordable “Reclam” series and in literary journals, among which he singled out Aus fremden Zungen (see Liu Xuyuan, Kuyuzhai zhu, here pp. 220–21; cf. Hanan, Chinese Fiction of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, p. 220); Findeisen, Lu Xun (1881–1936), p. 740, indicates two relevant translations in this journal. However, the stories “Lüge”, “Schweigen” (Silence) and “In unbekannte Ferne” (Into the Dark Distance) were also included in Andreev’s Novellen, trans. by Alexis von Krusenstjerna (Leipzig, 1903): a pocket Reclam edition, No. 4480 in the Universal-Bibliothek series. On the transmission of Russian literature with Reclam to Germany, and thence to Japan, see respectively Eberhard Reissner, “Die Universal-Bibliothek als Wegbereiter der russischen Literatur in Deutschland” (on Andreev, p. 130), and Regine Mathias, “Reclam in Japan. Universal-Bibliothek und Iwanami-Bunko”, but the best hint we may have to Lu Xun’s sources is his extensive list of “Books to Buy in German”, compiled in 1906. Covering all fields of knowledge in the sciences and the humanities (not the shopping list of a reader dependent on paperbacks), it mentioned another Andreev


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The commercial failure of the anthology is documented in most standard histories of modern Chinese literature. In Tokyo, the first and second volumes are said to have sold only twenty-one and twenty copies, respectively. In Shanghai they did about as well, the remaining stock perished in a fire, and the project had to be abandoned.13 It is customary to praise the Zhou brothers for having been so much “ahead of their time” in introducing the Western short story to China. Yet the innovative anthology was presented in an archaic Chinese: the guwen inculcated in the translators by their common teacher in 1908, the exiled nationalist and classical philologist Zhang Binglin.14 Stories from Abroad would acquire iconic status in translation history, being read by more literary scholars than ordinary readers. In his brief comments, placed at the end of volume One, Lu Xun had called Andreev’s writing “subtle and deep, a school of its own”, adding that this author’s longer work “The Red Laugh” has been translated worldwide. He had, in fact, begun to translate it himself, announcing its future publication, but he would not continue once Stories from Abroad came to a definite halt, and the manuscript has not been preserved.15 Over a decade after his return from Japan, Lu Xun translated two more stories by Andreev, once again in family cooperation (this time, with both of his brothers), and also as part of a larger translation project, which was not to succeed.

collection, Der Abgrund und andere Novellen (Halle a.d. S., 1905; trans. by Theo Kroczek), in which the above three stories were also contained. See “Nigou Dewen shumu”, in Liu Yunfeng, Lu Xun yiwen quanji, vol. 1, pp. 14–24, here p. 21. 13 The sales figures, which should not be taken as definitive, were announced in Lu Xun’s lively introduction to the amplified reissue of Yuwai xiaoshuo ji in 1921, and commented upon in Zhou Zuoren, “Guanyu Lu Xun zhi er”: see Liu Xuyuan, Kuyuzhai zhu, pp. 219–220. 14 In addition to this oft-mentioned source of influence, Wang Yougui, Fanyijia Lu Xun, p. 35, suggests Buddhist translations and the translations of Yan Fu. In Wang’s opinion, the “devout” literal faithfulness of Stories from Abroad makes it the harbinger of Lu Xun’s zhiyi (“direct translation”) method, which, having failed in 1909, would be revived in 1918, to dominate translation in China from the later 1920s up to the 1940s (p. 48). Less convincingly, Wang sees “the Lu Xun approach” (privileging the translation of Russian literature and especially the literature of “small and weak” countries) lasting, to lamentable consequences, all the way to 1979; ibid., pp. 146–47, 151–54. Wang’s excellent study tends to exaggerate Lu Xun’s overall preoccupation with “oppressed peoples”, and his influence on the course of translation history. 15 Lu Xun evoked this translation in the beginning of “Guanyu ‘Guanyu Hong xiao’ ” (Concerning ‘Concerning The Red Laugh’, 1929), in LXQJ (2005), vol. 7, pp. 125–30.

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The first volume of the Anthology of Translations from Modern Fiction, for which thirty stories in all were translated by Lu Xun, Zhou Zuoren and Zhou Jianren, was published in 1922. This was a follow-up to the reissue of Stories from Abroad (in an edition augmented by the inclusion of twenty-one additional short stories and fables, all translated by Zhou Zuoren) in the previous year. But, apart from an anthology of Japanese stories, which was to come out in June 1923, the first volume of the new Anthology also proved the last.16 Of the nine translations by Lu Xun, we are already familiar with two: the previously published Artsybashev stories, “Happiness” and “The Doctor”. The two new stories by Andreev, which Lu Xun translated for the anthology in September 1921, were “Into the Dark Distance” and “The Book”.17 The first story began with the reluctant homecoming of Nikolai, a long-missed son. Having possibly been involved in revolutionary activity, he cannot accept the atmosphere prevailing in his wealthy bourgeois home. As his dying grandmother urges Nikolai to reconcile with his father and younger sister, he is moved to obey her wish but leaves the house, on his way into “the dark distance”, the following day. Lu Xun’s commentary on this story included what proved to be his most substantial appraisal of Andreev in print: he called Andreev unique among Russian writers in his ability to bridge the gap between inner feeling and outer expression, the “spirit” and the “flesh”; to make use of symbolism without losing touch with reality. While he did not say so, Nikolai’s sense of estrangement from his father’s household may have reminded the translator of difficulties experienced by Chinese “returned students”, as they revisited the unchanged traditional environment of their home towns.18 In its treatment of alienation between family 16 In his Introduction to this volume, Zhou Zuoren recalled Zhang Binglin’s teaching on “oppressed nations”, and (including Russia in that category) explained that the representation of such nations’ literature was the anthology’s main aim. See his “Xiandai xiaoshuo yicong xuyan”. My use of “stories” and “fiction” to translate the same word, xiaoshuo, in the titles of the anthologies of 1909 and 1922, is an attempt to reflect in English the changing nuances of the term. 17 See “Andan de yan’ai li” and “Shuji”, in LXQJ (1973), vol. 11, pp. 235–69; translator’s comments in LXQJ (2005), vol. 10, pp. 201–3. While we have seen that more than one German version of “Into the Dark Distance” would have been available to Lu Xun, no German translations of “The Book” are known. Lu Xun must have found it in Japanese; Fujii Shōzō, Lu Xun bijiao yanjiu, p. 74, mentions two translations of “The Book” published in Japan in 1920. 18 A common theme in Russian literature of the 1900s, the difficult homecoming of the former student/revolutionary furnished the framework for Sanin, and was described in stories by Evgenii Chirikov, such as “Bludnyi syn” (The Prodigal Son,


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members, “Into the Dark Distance” resembled “Silence”, which Lu Xun had translated in Japan. “The Book” is the very short, ironic tale of a mortally ill writer, whose last testament is a manuscript entitled In Defence of the Dispossessed. We see the manuscript as it is being torn apart and divided among the typesetters, young men already the victims of lead poisoning. Following the book to its next station, in what the book historian Robert Darnton has defined as “the communications circuit”,19 we hear the publisher ordering a child worker to carry a heavy heap of the printed volumes to the bookstore. Bursting into tears on his way, the boy drops his burden on the street, attracting the attention of the police. We then learn that, being illiterate, he cannot even read the book’s title. Lu Xun would have appreciated this poignant satire of the pretensions of intellectuals to serve the toiling masses. But he did not choose important or even particularly representative texts by Andreev on this occasion. Perhaps the memory of his inability to attract readers to the symbolist “Silence” and “The Lie” in the anthology of 1909 now caused him to translate stories that would not pose too great a challenge; to show Andreev’s “realist”, rather than “modernist”, side. Though he would facilitate translations by others in the 1920s, Lu Xun would not translate Andreev again. Far too much has been made of his supposed indebtedness to this writer; the most that can be responsibly said is that, among the Russian writers who interested Lu Xun at different stations of his literary path (he also read many others), Artsybashev was probably the most important to him in terms of ideas, while Andreev was one of the sources of influence (alongside Gogol and, possibly, Chekhov) on the style and mood of his early stories. In the year before his death, Lu Xun wrote that the ending of his story “Medicine” (of 1919) “clearly retains the somber chill one associates with Andreyev”. Style, and even technique, being the subtle notions they are, it takes the fine touch of a scholar such as Patrick Hanan to use Lu Xun’s late retrospective statement to point out plausible connections between “Medicine” and “Silence”, or “Diary of a Madman” and

1899) and “Na porukakh” (On Bail, 1904). The latter story, in which the returned son (also called Nikolai) eventually took his own life, was translated in China by Zheng Zhenduo in 1933, and collected in three literary anthologies from 1935 to 1949: see “Yanjia guanshu”, now in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 19. 19 Darnton, “What Is the History of Books?”, in his The Kiss of Lamourette: Reflections in Cultural History.

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“The Red Laugh”.20 Wang Yougui’s recent monograph on Lu Xun as a translator includes a good discussion of “Silence” and “The Lie” as the quintessentially “modern”, psychologized stories, speaking of alienation, loneliness and a feeling of terror. Lu Xun looked for, and found, these themes in the works of many foreign writers, some of whom he then translated. Bringing these preoccupations into his own literary work, he occupied his own place among the modernists.21 Whatever the canonical image of him fashioned by Marxist literary historians, an image to which Lu Xun’s own statements on his motivation for taking up literature and translation certainly contributed, it may be argued that Lu Xun wrote, and translated, for other reasons besides “awakening”, “transforming” and “showing the road to progress”. In his activity as a translator, which (as ever, poised between self-aggrandizement and self-mortification) he compared to the feat of a Prometheus “stealing fire from a foreign country”,22 the sense of a mission to let unheard foreign voices reach readers in his mother tongue was probably as important as the pleasure he derived from translating authors he liked. Translation was for him both an ideology and a way of life: ever since those student days in Tokyo, he was usually paid for his work, and after moving to Shanghai, with no more income from teaching, he counted on translation to support himself and his family.23 Among Chinese translators in the first half of the twentieth century, Lu Xun’s lifetime translation output, of both fiction and non-fiction, 20 Hanan, Chinese Fiction of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, pp. 222–26, presents both similiarities and differences between these stories, mentioning also Andreev’s “Ben Tobit” and “The Seven That Were Hanged”. Lu Xun’s words, from his Introduction to a volume of the Compendium of Modern Chinese Literature in March 1935, are quoted here in Hanan’s translation: see ibid., p. 218. On 16 Nov. 1935 Lu Xun repeated, in a letter to writers Xiao Jun and Xiao Hong, that the concluding part of “Medicine” bore “some [Andreev] influence”: see LXQJ (2005), vol. 13, pp. 583–85, at p. 584. In 1936 Lu Xun used another opportunity to stress what he believed had been Andreev’s “influence” on him, correcting an article by Feng Xuefeng, which had attributed such influence to Tolstoy and Gorky: see Wang Furen, Lu Xun qianqi xiaoshuo yu Eluosi wenxue, p. 102. 21 Wang Yougui, Fanyijia Lu Xun, pp. 55–60 (cf. ibid., p. 65, on these themes in Nietzsche and Artsybashev). 22 Immediately after invoking that central myth of Western humanism, Lu Xun, “ ‘Stiff Translation’ and the Class Nature of Literature (1930)”, as translated in Chan, Twentieth-Century Chinese Translation Theory, p. 186, balanced the image by another: “But I have stolen fire from a foreign country with the intention of cooking my own flesh, in the hope that it would taste good”. 23 Wang Yougui, Fanyijia Lu Xun, pp. 208, 303. Lu Xun’s high royalties may also be mentioned.


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is considered second in volume only to that of Guo Moruo (who lived until 1978). Within Lu Xun’s translations, Russian and Soviet authors made up nearly sixty per cent.24 Not only do translations take up half of Lu Xun’s own future Complete Works, but he also encouraged, edited, and enabled the publication of translations by many young people in his entourage.25 Thus he was the epitome of the engaged Chinese intellectual of his time, one for whom “translation is an act of patriotism”. We first applied this formulation to Zheng Zhenduo, in the chapter devoted to the Chinese translation of The Pale Horse: indeed, this tireless enthusiast of Russian literature and the most prolific contributor to Xiaoshuo yuebao showed an interest in all three of our writers. In July 1924, Zheng published the first three fragments of “The Red Laugh” in his translation (placing a portrait of the author on the last page of the journal),26 though like Lu Xun’s aborted effort, his too was not completed. Of the many translators of Andreev in China, the name of Zhou Zuoren (1885–1967) is one to be listed among those who, like his elder brother, made the popularization of foreign literature a matter of personal conviction. In December 1919 Zhou translated for Xin qingnian the three-page story “Ben-Tovit”: the tale of a Jewish merchant in Jerusalem, who on the day of the Crucifixion was too concerned with an excruciating toothache to be bothered to observe the epoch-making event taking place just below his windows. This is a lightweight piece entirely dependent on the effect of dramatic irony, and it does manage to be amusing; Andreev’s sense of humour, a quality that incidentally sets him sharply apart from a writer like Artsybashev, is wholly ignored by those who classify him only as a prophet of despair. The descriptions of the hero’s toothache were especially convincing because his author was suffering from the same affliction at the time of writing.27

24 Japanese authors accounted for 28.3 per cent, the literature of “small countries” 8.5 per cent, French literature 3.2 per cent and German 0.5 per cent. These data are furnished ibid., pp. 301, 313–14. 25 This last point is one Lu Xun himself made, commenting on a list of his translations in April 1932, and counting, beside his own work, translations he had corrected and published, and those for which he had written introductions: see “Lu Xun yizhu shumu” (List of Translated and Authored Books), concluding his collection Sanxian ji (Three Leisures, 1932), in LXQJ (2005), vol. 4, pp. 181–90. 26 Zheng Zhenduo, trans., “Hong xiao”, is reprinted in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 20, pp. 513–21, but to discover Andreev’s portrait one still needs to leaf through Xiaoshuo yuebao. 27 See a letter by Andreev, quoted in his Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 1, p. 636. W. H. Lowe, the story’s first English translator, called it “a simple little tale containing a graphic

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It is likely that Zhou Zuoren relied on Mori Ogai’s Japanese retranslation of this story from the German. This would also have been the source of his simplified title, “Toothache”. In his substantial article on Andreev, which immediately followed the Chinese text of “Chitong”, Zhou did not discuss the story he had just translated. While his choice of it may have had something to do with his interest in mythology and Christianity, he would have been justified in considering “Ben-Tovit” a trifle.28 His decision to translate a work by Andreev came as a reaction to the news of the writer’s death in Finland in September; the translation and article (signed 30 October 1919) were, therefore, conceived as a tribute and an obituary.29 Quoting mainly from Andreev’s short novel The Yoke of War: The Confessions of a Little Man During Great Days, the tragic close of which appears to have left an indelible impression on Zhou, the article ended with an expression of faith in a brighter future. The identification of Andreev with “Russian literary humanism” would have reminded Zhou Zuoren’s readers of his appeal for “humane literature”, launched in the same journal a year earlier.30

description of toothache”; a “homely picture”, at which the reader would “smile indulgently”. See Lowe, “Introduction”, pp. xx, xxiii. Ben-Tovit means “son of Tobias”. 28 Though it was chosen for translation by W. H. Lowe and Herman Bernstein, “Ben-Tovit” passed virtually unnoticed in Russia and remains ignored by Andreev scholars to this day. Ambiguous evidence suggests that the story may have carried greater significance for Lu Xun. His fellow-townsman, the journal editor Sun Fuyuan (1894–1966), wrote that Lu Xun’s story “Medicine” treated the problem of the indifference of ignorant people to the fate of revolutionaries in a way similar to that of “Ben-Tovit” and of Turgenev’s prose poem “The Workman and the Man with White Hands”. Sun Fuyuan, Lu Xun xiansheng ersan shi, pp. 20–21, did not make entirely clear whether Sun was reporting Lu Xun’s view of these works, or presenting his own, but the earnest readiness to adopt Christ as yet another symbol of the “misunderstood intellectual” is a telling misreading of Andreev’s irony in Chinese context. 29 Zhou Zuoren, trans., “Chitong” (details in the Annex), pp. 68–73, was however misinformed about the date of Andreev’s death (which he reported as 30, instead of 12 Sept.), as he was about the supposed “death of hunger” of Andreev’s older friend, the painter Il’ia Repin (1844–1930), to whom The Yoke of War was dedicated. He qualified as a probable rumour “recent news of the murder of Gorky”, as he did unspecified (apparently, similar) “news” about Kropotkin. This article is discussed by Shneider, Russkaia klassika v Kitae, pp. 156–59, who wrongly assumed that Zhou read The Yoke of War in German translation; he can be proved to have used the trans. by Rochelle S. Townsend, The Confessions of a Little Man During Great Days (London: Duckworth, and Knopf: New York, 1917). 30 See “Humane Literature” (Ren de wenxue, Dec. 1918), as trans. in Denton, Modern Chinese Literary Thought, pp. 151–61; original was collected along with “Ben-Tovit” in Zhou Zuoren, Diandi (1920; see below) and was later included in his Yishu yu shenghuo (1926), pp. 8–17. This seminal article ended with a call “to translate foreign writings in large quantities”.


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He would mention Andreev again, in an important speech entitled “Russia and China in Literature”, delivered in November 1920 to audiences at Peking Normal University and the Medical Union College.31 It was the first time a Chinese scholar had drawn a sustained comparison between these two literatures, and Zhou used Andreev to illustrate, by means of another quotation, the commiseration of Russian writers with those members of society whom Dostoevsky had called “the insulted and the injured”. In the end of another speech, given at Peking Women’s College in May 1922 (a venue we remember for his brother’s farewell talk, partly dedicated to Worker Shevyrev, in 1926), Zhou again turned to Andreev. From Andreev’s letter to his American translator, published as a preface to the book-form edition of “The Seven Who Were Hanged” in 1909, he cited what he considered to be “a succinct definition of the function of literature”. By writing Andreev’s obituary, and even more by referring to him as a person who had lived and died rather than as a mere supplier of texts for translation, Zhou Zuoren himself best exemplified this “definition”, which he had quoted already in his article following the translation of “Ben-Tovit”: “As a writer, I feel what makes literature respectable is its ability to erase all boundaries and distances”.32 Zhou obviously attached special importance to this statement by Andreev, since he also quoted it in another early comparative article, “The Bible and Chinese Literature” (1920; collected in his book Art and Life in 1926).33 In China of the time, these words chimed in particularly well with the aspirations

31 Zhou Zuoren, “Wenxue shang de Eguo yu Zhongguo”, in Eguo wenxue yanjiu (separate pagination), p. 4. The text was published three times before being reprinted in the “special issue” of Xiaoshuo yuebao in Sept. 1921. It is collected in Yishu yu shenghuo, pp. 68–76. Chen Jianhua, 20 shiji Zhong-E wenxue guanxi, pp. 96–9, offers a detailed summary. 32 Zhou Zuoren, “Women and Literature”, as trans. in Denton, Modern Chinese Literary Thought, pp. 228–32 (quoting p. 232; the speech is wrongly dated here to 1920); cf. Zhou Zuoren, trans., “Chitong”, p. 70. Herman Bernstein’s translation of Andreev’s letter, which Zhou would have read in The Seven Who Were Hanged (New York, 1909), p. 11, runs: “Literature, which I have the honor to serve, is dear to me just because the noblest task it sets before itself is that of wiping out boundaries and distances”. Zhou taught European and classical Greek and Roman literatures at Peking University from Sept. 1917; he would become part-time lecturer at Peking Women’s College in Sept. 1922. 33 “Shengshu yu Zhongguo wenxue”, in Zhou Zuoren, Yishu yu shenghuo, pp. 34–45 (at p. 36). This reference to Andreev and its repetition in 1944 are noticed in David Pollard, A Chinese Look at Literature, p. 124.

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of the New Literature movement; in an article of 1920 by Ye Shengtao we find exactly the same idea.34 Zhou Zuoren, however, would return to his favourite quotation many years after May Fourth. When he repeated it for the fourth time, in one of the essays from his late collection Miscellaneous Writings of the Medicine Studio (1944), he was weaving Andreev’s words into a tapestry of quotations from Confucian and Taoist writings.35 David Pollard’s study of Zhou Zuoren’s views on literature, and of their sources in the Chinese tradition, makes it possible to trace Zhou’s appropriation of Andreev to a context very different from the one in which Andreev’s original statement had been made. Zhou believed in the private character of literature, in which the author became engaged in intimate conversation with his readers, and he sought to establish this affinity through writing in his favourite genre, the familiar essay. The rather unrepresentative remark he had singled out in Andreev carries more weight in his own words, elsewhere in the Yaotang zawen, on the great Tang poet Du Fu: “the feeling of compassion in which no distinction is made between oneself and others . . . can be regarded as the highest achievement of literature”.36 For Zhou Zuoren, the world was a community of people sharing the same historical moment. This pre-nationalist, universalist concept aimed at uniting the world of letters with that of living men and women. Translation in Zhou’s eyes became the means for the members of this cosmopolitan community to establish contact, or communicate, with each other.37 In the course of a long life brought to an end by the Cultural Revolution and interrupted by imprisonment because of post-war charges of collaboration during the Japanese occupation of Peking, Zhou Zuoren had translated more than twice as much as his elder brother.38 His contribution to the introduction of Russian literature 34 On the need to break down the barriers separating people from each other, and on the ability of literature and art to achieve this purpose, see essay 26 in the series “Wenyi lun” (On Literature and Art, 1920), in Ye Shengtao ji, vol. 9, at p. 54. 35 “Han wenxue de qiantu” (The Future of Literature in Chinese), in Zhou Zuoren, Yaotang zawen, pp. 25–33, at p. 30. 36 Translated in Pollard, A Chinese Look at Literature, p. 125. Cf. ibid., pp. 33, 41 on the personal character of literature; p. 138 on the essay as the chosen medium of the writer who valued “ ‘the truth of intercourse’ perhaps above everything else”. 37 This vision bears comparison with the poem by Osip Mandelstam, quoted in the Introduction, and the commentary on it by Toporov, “Prostranstvo kul’tury i vstrechi v nem”. 38 Wang Yougui, Fanyijia Lu Xun, p. 301, therefore considers Zhou Zuoren (who supported himself by translation in his late years) the most prolific translator among Chinese writers during the twentieth century. In terms of quantity, Zhou is followed


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can be considered modest only when compared to his major part in acquainting Chinese readers with ancient Greek and modern Japanese literature, which he read in the original. Following up on his first translations in Tokyo, Zhou began to translate more from Russian fiction in 1919.39 Shortly before abandoning Russian literature, a decision due both to a change in literary taste and to his severing relations with Lu Xun in 1923, he translated lectures by Vasilii Eroshenko—that most unusual comet in the skies of Chinese literature in the early 1920s. The blind Ukrainian Esperantist, educator and fairy-tale writer Vasilii Ia. Eroshenko (1890–1952) arrived in China from Tokyo in September 1921. By the end of five years in Japan (interrupted by travels in Siam, Burma and India) he had mastered Japanese to the extent of becoming a writer in that language as well as in Esperanto. Never having written fiction in Russian, he also wrote very little poetry, yet it was as “the blind Russian poet” that he became best known to the Chinese public.40 After the Japanese authorities had banished him to White-controlled Vladivostok for taking part in socialist rallies, he vainly attempted to reach Red Russia before consigning himself to spending September in Harbin.41 By October Eroshenko had moved to Shanghai, and had begun teaching Esperanto there. In February 1922 he accepted an appointment as a teacher of Esperanto at Peking University, where the “universal language” had been taught since 1917. at great distance by Guo Moruo, Ba Jin (who resumed translation work in the 1970s and 1980s), Lu Xun and probably Liang Shiqiu (ibid.). 39 In 1920, Andreev’s “Ben-Tovit” and stories by Leo Tolstoy, Chekhov, Sologub and Kuprin were collected in Zhou Zuoren’s Diandi (Drop by Drop; titled after a line in Lu Xun’s translation of the Prologue to Thus Spake Zarathustra), an anthology reissued in 1928 under the title Kong dagu (The Empty Drum, after the opening fable by Tolstoy, “Rabotnik Emel’ian i pustoi baraban”). His 1920 translation of “Makar’s Dream” by Vladimir Korolenko was published in book form in 1927. On Zhou’s translations from Russian literature, see Ping Baoxing, Wusi yitan yu Eluosi wenxue, pp. 81–98; on his leaving it, Ch. 3, “Zai jian, weida de Eluosi wenxue” (Farewell, the Great Russian Literature), in Wang Yougui, Fanyijia Zhou Zuoren. 40 Eroshenko had previously attended the London Royal College for the Blind. See the biographical entry by I. V. Sotnikova in Nikoliukin, Literaturnaia entsiklopediia russkogo zarubezh’ia 1918–1940, pp. 166–67. Eroshenko, ed. Roman Belousov, Izbrannoe, is still the most complete Russian-language collection of his work, in translations from Japanese, Chinese and Esperanto. 41 While Eroshenko’s stay in the city went unnoticed by the Russian community, a short piece on his daily life in Harbin was translated by Lu Xun from a Japanese paper under the title “Most Recent Traces of the Blind Poet”, and included in a special “Eroshenko issue” of the literary supplement to the Peking Morning Post, the Chenbao fujuan, on 22 Oct. 1921. Lu Xun’s translation of Eroshenko’s “Dream in a Spring Night” occupied the rest of the issue.

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At the invitation of a fellow teacher, Zhou Zuoren, he spent a total of nine months (interrupted by a trip to Finland) as a guest at the Zhou family compound, befriending Zuoren’s elder brother. Eroshenko left a lasting impression on Lu Xun, who described him in his story “The Comedy of the Ducks” (not, this time, a jibe at rivals in the camp of “Mandarin Ducks” literature, but a tribute to Eroshenko’s love for animals),42 and who became the in-house translator of his fables from the Japanese. Eroshenko’s lectures in Esperanto, delivered at the University, were noted down by the listeners in Chinese, published in the press and then gathered in a book, Spirits of the Past. In addition to two texts marked as translated ( yi ) by Zhou Zuoren, this book included Eroshenko’s lectures on the theatre of Leonid Andreev; part of a cycle that was supposed to continue with lectures on the plays of Evgenii Chirikov and Anatolii Lunacharskii. In the event, the lecturer had only shared with his audience his thoughts on Andreev, which he supported by a summary translation of the play Anathema and a full one of the prologue to King Hunger. Geng Mianzhi provided the simultaneous translation (kouyi ) from Eroshenko’s Esperanto, which Li Xiaofeng and Zong Zhenfu then “jointly noted” (heji ).43 Anathema is the devil banished from God’s presence. Like Goethe’s Mephistopheles, he sets out to tempt and ruin a human being, and he fixes his choice on the Jew David Leyzer, an impoverished hawker in a provincial Russian town. Anathema brings Leyzer a fortune, transforming him and his family from a state of near mendicancy to one of unimaginable wealth. As a millionaire, Leyzer is however intent on distributing his money to the poor. Anathema assists him, knowing well that philanthropy is bound to end in failure: not even the richest man could satisfy the needs of all the starving and suffering humanity.

“Ya de xiju”, signed Oct. 1922, was included in Call to Arms in Aug. 1923. See LXQJ (2005), vol. 1, pp. 583–86, and Lu Xun, Call to Arms, pp. 400–9. 43 See “Antelaifu yu qi xiju” (Andreev and His Plays), in Eroshenko, Guoqu de youling ji qita (copy PKU; undated Japanese reprint, copy Bodleian Library), pp. 73–126. Eroshenko gave the highest praise to Andreev as a writer and “revolutionary” (in the artistic rather than the political sense, for he pointed out the mutual animosity between Andreev and the Communists), and as the great explorer of the eternal questions of human existence. To find out about Geng Mianzhi’s part in the Chinese translations, one needs to turn to their first newspaper publications in Chenbao fujuan (see Annex for the details); the book version omits his name except as the translator ( yiji ) of the title speech, “Spirits of the Past”. Cf. the remark on Eroshenko’s lecture on King Hunger in Esperanto, at the end of Zhou Zuoren, “Ailuoxianke jun”. 42


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Indeed, following the poor of nearby towns and villages, all the downtrodden of the world swarm in to lay siege to David Leyzer’s house, believing him to be a saint. His money has long since run out, but now nothing less than the resurrection of dead infants, and the restoration of eyesight to the blind, are demanded from Leyzer. He attempts to escape, but is surrounded and stoned to death by the crowd. Triumphant, Anathema returns to his place of banishment between heaven and earth. Believing he had proved the absence of justice in God’s world, he orders the Guardian (introduced in the first scene of the play) to let him into the heavenly world of truth that lies beyond the pass. But Anathema’s hopes are shattered, and his victory turned hollow, as he discovers that David Leyzer’s humility in doing good for his fellow-men had earned him immortality. Closely related to Anathema, which Eroshenko called Andreev’s best play, King Hunger presented an expressionist image of Hunger as the driving force behind revolts and revolutions. In the prologue, the only part of the play made available in Chinese, the eponymous King Hunger was urging old man Time to toll for the rebellion of all the hungry and the oppressed. Banned by the tsarist censor soon after its book-form publication in 1908, this play was only staged in Russian in 1921.44 At the end of the collection Spirits of the Past, Eroshenko’s translators wrote: “The lecturer had matters requiring him to leave China, and his lectures were therefore stopped; he later returned to China, but again could not complete his lectures—a matter of regret indeed”. One of the persons who enabled Eroshenko’s lectures on Andreev to still reach print in Chinese, Li Xiaofeng (1897–1971) was, before founding the Beixin Book Company in 1925, a member of the Xinchao (New Tide, or “The Renaissance”) society, established at Peking University in 1918; so were Zhou Zuoren and Zong Zhenfu.45 The 44 Andreev, Dramaticheskie proizvedeniia, vol. 2, p. 508. King Hunger was not translated into Japanese, while the only version in English, by Eugene M. Kayden in the journal Poet Lore in 1911, was followed by a single book-form publication (Boston: Richard G. Badger) in the same year. There is an apparent connection between Eroshenko’s choice of this play and his anarchist leanings: Emma Goldman devoted an entire chapter to it in her The Social Significance of the Modern Drama (same publisher, 1914), pp. 302–15. 45 The main study of Xinchao remains Schwarcz, The Chinese Enlightenment. Zong Zhenfu, of whom little else is known, is mentioned in Fan Quan, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue shetuan liupai cidian, pp. 511–14, as editor along with Li Xiaofeng and Sun Fuyuan of the important Xinchao book series, launched in spring 1923; in addition to Eroshenko’s play The Rosy Cloud, in Lu Xun’s translation, it included Lu Xun’s own Call to Arms and Brief History of Chinese Fiction.

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engaged intellectual, translating or commenting on Leonid Andreev in the early 1920s, could thus come from the Peking campus environment, and the still insufficiently studied circle of Chinese Esperantists: while both Zhou Zuoren (who translated from this language) and Lu Xun were sympathizers of the movement at that time, the connection between engagement with Esperanto, socialism and Russian literature comes out most clearly with Hu Yuzhi, another of Eroshenko’s translators, whom we have met as the translator of a “revolutionary” story by Artsybashev.46 As many as six books by Eroshenko were published in China from July 1922 to December 1924, and a seventh came out in 1931. When Eroshenko set out from Peking to attend the 14th Universal Congress of Esperanto in Helsinki, in July 1922, he took the first delegate of the Chinese Esperanto movement with him; and when in April 1923 he finally left Peking for Moscow, he had to say goodbye to many Chinese friends, who would go on wondering about his later fate. Reminiscences of and references to Eroshenko were in print in China throughout the 1920s and beyond.47 We may infer that his many talks with Lu Xun must have touched on Andreev from a hidden reference to Andreev’s most famous story in a newspaper article by Lu Xun in April 1922: elaborating on a “recent visitor’s” impression of Peking as “a desert”, an image he would soon

46 See Hu Yuzhi, “Jieshao mang shiren Ailuoxianke” (Introducing the Blind Poet Eroshenko; originally in Minguo ribao, 14 Oct. 1921), in Hu Yuzhi wenji, vol. 1, pp. 255–57. See also chapter on Hu as an Esperantist in Zhao Yiheng, Dui’an de youhuo, pp. 98–103. 47 Gerald Chan, “China and the Esperanto Movement”, pp. 4–5. The editors of the collection of Eroshenko’s lectures, Guoqu de youling ji qita (first published in March 1923) affirmed in their Introduction that during his stay in China he had become known to “almost every literary-minded person”. The first collection in Chinese, in July 1922, was Ailuoxianke tonghua ji: children stories, translated largely by Lu Xun. It proved the most popular of Eroshenko’s books, reaching the tenth printing by Aug. 1938, and an eleventh in July 1950. Lu Xun also translated the play Taose de yun (The Rosy Cloud), published in 1923. In the same year, another collection with parallel texts in Esperanto and Chinese, entitled La ·emo de unu soleca animo / Yi ge jimo de linghun de shenyin (The Groan of a Lonely Soul), was brought out by the new Esperanto Propaganda Institute in Shanghai. A collection of stories, translated from Esperanto by Hu Yuzhi and the writer Xia Mianzun, came out in April 1924 under the title Kuye zaji: Shanghai shenghuo de yuyan xiaopin (The Tales of a Dried Leaf: Little Fables of Shanghai Life); December saw the appearance of the last batch of Lu Xun’s translations from the Japanese, Shijie de huozai (The Great Fire of the World). Ba Jin edited the last collection of Eroshenko’s stories, Xingfu de chuan (The Boat of Happiness), in March 1931.


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Fig. 2. Group photograph with members of the Esperanto Association in Peking, on 23 May 1922. Seated in the front row: Zhou Zuoren (third from the left), Vasilii Eroshenko (fifth) and Lu Xun (sixth). Courtesy of the Lu Xun Museum, Beijing.

accredit to Eroshenko in “The Comedy of the Ducks”, Lu Xun followed up with the words “no flowers, no songs, no light, no warmth”.48 Only in a later article of January 1926, when, humourously, he would reiterate his “no flowers, no songs” (meiyou hua, meiyou shi ), did Lu Xun identify these as “the words of Andreev”, allowing commentators of the Complete Works to trace them to “The Red Laugh”. This time, however, he would give no hints on the allusion of his opening line: “Though it is said that Peking resembles a large desert…”49

48 “Wei ‘Eguo geju tuan’ ” (For the ‘Russian Opera Troupe’), collected in Refeng, in LXQJ (2005), vol. 1, pp. 403–4, here p. 403. This is Lu Xun’s sardonic commentary on watching the performance of a Russian émigré troupe, arrived in Peking by way of Harbin and Changchun in spring 1922. 49 “Youqu de xiaoxi” (Interesting News), collected in Huagaiji xubian, in LXQJ (2005), vol. 3, pp. 210–19, here p. 210. “Flowers and songs” serve as a refrain in “The Red Laugh”. Richard Davies (personal communication, 1 Sept. 2005) points out that the exact formulation “ni tsvetov, ni pesen” (neither flowers nor songs) appears twice in the end of Fragment 15.

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II. The translator as a political activist For many, interest in Russian literature came hand in hand with a political orientation to the country in which socialism had recently claimed its greatest triumph. The two translators of Leonid Andreev who will be discussed below, Shen Zemin and Zhang Wentian, are far better known today for their political records within the Communist Party than for their part in the introduction of Russian literature in China. We have already met Shen Zemin in the previous chapter, as the translator of a short novel and a story by Artsybashev in 1924–25. Andreev was an earlier interest of Shen’s, and his first translation of a work by this writer appeared under the pseudonym Ming Xin in the May 1920 issue of Dongfang zazhi.50 “Lazarus” begins where the biblical tale ( John 11–12) stops: its ambition is to describe what befell the man, who had been dead for four days (Andreev says, rather, “three days and three nights”), once resurrected and returned to this world. Brought back to life, Andreev’s Lazarus becomes a living symbol of death. On whomever the look in his eyes rests, it severs the ties that bind humans to life and to each other, and initiates a slow process of dying. First his sisters Mary and Martha, then all the people in the land flee him in terror, leaving Lazarus alone in his home, bordering on the desert. A famous sculptor comes from Rome to see him, in search for inspiration, but he too is transformed by the silent glance and upon his return creates a grotesque statue expressing the powerlessness of man before death. Then the Emperor summons Lazarus to his capital; the realization of his empire’s evanescence, and the inexorable annihilation of all his subjects, will forever be present before the eyes of Augustus, which have met those of Lazarus.51 The Emperor has Lazarus blinded, and the resurrected man returns to end his second life in the desert.

50 The pen-name meaning “bright heart” was used by both Shen Zemin and Shen Yanbing (Xu Naixiang and Qin Hong, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue zuozhe biming lu, pp. 306, 391), giving rise to frequent problems of identification. The translation of “Lazarus” is attributed to Mao Dun in Ng, The Russian Hero in Modern Chinese Fiction, pp. 160, 312–13 (Ng also calls “Lazarus” a play). Mao Dun did write a short preface to the story, which however was translated by his brother. Gálik’s discussion of “Ming Xin” in his “The Names and Pseudonyms Used by Mao Tun”, pp. 94–5, elicited Mao Dun’s comment that “My younger brother Shen Tse-min used this pseudonym for his first literary translations: it soon became joint pseudonym” (sic; ibid., p. 95, n. 21); the translation of “Lazarus” is collected, by eds. Zhang Liguo and Zhong Guisong, in Shen Zemin wenji, pp. 337–58. 51 The miracles of Jesus are, of course, believed to have been performed during the rule of Augustus’ successor Tiberius (14–37 AD). It is the confrontation between a very


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When Andreev’s “Lazarus” was completed in 1906, Gorky called it “the best thing ever written about death in world literature”. In the same letter to Andreev from Capri, he also urged him to write against death rather than for it. Marxist critics headed by Andreev’s nemesis Lunacharskii did not mince their words, accusing the author of indifference “to the plight of millions”.52 That a translation of this story appeared in one of the main Chinese journals at the peak of May Fourth should warn us against simplistic generalizations, such as would too readily explain translators’ choices by reference to the “spirit of the age”. Only a few months earlier, the hopeful vision of the future in Zhou Zuoren’s article commemorating the same Russian writer would easily have fitted into the stereotyped frame of “May Fourth optimism”, but such answers to the problems of translation history could only be described as begging the question. It is interesting to read Mao Dun’s comments on the story. In January of the same year he too had written on Andreev’s recent death; contrary to Zhou Zuoren, he had limited himself to a laconic survey of the writer’s main works. Pointing out Andreev’s pessimism, he nevertheless placed him firmly within the humanist tradition characteristic of all Russian literature, and he concluded with the statement: “while Gorky may stand for Russian literary trends from the end of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth, Andreev can represent the particular character of [Russian] literature from that time to the present”.53 Now, in a note to Zemin’s translation, he called “Lazarus” a masterpiece, a symbolic encapsulation of the idea that the most terrifying thing about death was not so much the end of life itself, but the insoluble mystery that lies beyond. The Dongfang zazhi issue of May 1920 was a stepping stone to the introduction of Andreev in China, and the name of Mao Dun (like his brother, soon to become member of the Marxist Research Society, established in August 1920, and of the fledgling Communist Party in

different Lazarus and this Emperor, in Capri rather than in Rome, that is imagined by Eugene O’Neill in his powerful play Lazarus Laughed (1927). 52 See Literaturnoe nasledstvo, vol. 72, Gor’kii i Andreev: Neizdannaia perepiska, p. 286; Andreev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 2, pp. 528–29. The millions are the suffering Russian masses. Lunacharskii called Andreev “the gravest of grave diggers” (the pun is in the Russian) and “an emissary of death”. 53 Mao Dun, “Bianji yutan”, p. 4. His “Andeliefu sihao” (Sad News on the Death of Andreev) is reprinted in Mao Dun quanji, vol. 32, pp. 122–23.

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Shanghai in the following year)54 must be added to those, for whom the translation of a Russian writer was already becoming more than part of an overall commitment to the propagation of world literature—a commitment most clearly stated in the “Proclamation of reform” that opened the new Xiaoshuo yuebao in January 1921. Mao Dun, who wrote that proclamation, used his column “News from the World Literary Scene” in 1921 to report on posthumous publications of Andreev works.55 A prolific translator, Mao Dun devoted less of his efforts to Russian literature than to the literatures of “small nations”: integrating a commitment to this direction in the 1920s with an inclination to translate neglected writers, he became a pioneer in the introduction of Irish, Scandinavian and East-European literature.56 For the May 1920 issue of Dongfang zazhi, Mao Dun translated the chapter on Andreev from Moissaye Olgin’s Guide to Russian Literature; not content with mere translation, he inserted statements of his own into Olgin’s text, and used long notes to express some more independent ideas.57 In a refreshing departure from the usual genuflection to foreign authorities, Mao Dun disagreed with Olgin’s statement that the “cry of despair”, uttered by the eponymous hero of the play Anathema, rang through all of Andreev’s works.58 In Mao Dun’s opinion, Andreev’s plays To the Stars, Savva, The Life of Man and Anathema were all stages in a quest for an answer to the meaning of life; in Anathema, the author’s “despair” had diminished, and a tentative “idealist” answer was reached.

S. A. Smith, A Road is Made: Communism in Shanghai, 1920 –1927, pp. 13, 16–7, 41. See Mao Dun’s (unsigned) “Xiaoshuo yuebao Gaige xuanyan”. Summaries of Satan’s Diary (New York, 1921) and He Who Gets Slapped (first translated in The Dial of March 1921) were given in Mao Dun’s column “Haiwai wentan xiaoxi”, a regular feature of the journal from Jan. 1921 to June 1924; see Xiaoshuo yuebao, vol. 12, no. 1 ( Jan. 1921), p. 2, and no. 6 ( June 1921), p. 7. Reprints of both reviews are available in Mao Dun quanji, vol. 31, pp. 3–4, 74–6. 56 On Mao Dun as translator, see Ye Ziming and Yu Bin, “Bianhou ji”. The twovolume collection, Shen Yanbing yiwen ji, includes stories by Chekhov, Gorky and Kuprin next to texts by Soviet writers and political figures. 57 Olgin, “Andeliefu”, later reprinted as Ch. 3 in Hu Yuzhi et al., Jindai Eguo wenxuejia lun, pp. 31–46. An extraneous passage appears in the midst of the otherwise faithful translation of Olgin, in “Andeliefu”, pp. 67–8: curiously, Olgin is here made to say that Andreev’s unique personality, dominating his entire oeuvre, also caused Russians “to love Andreev, and offer him the crown and the first seat in [the realm of ] literature”. Mao Dun’s comments on Olgin’s chapter are reprinted separately as “ ‘Andeliefu’ fuzhu” (Annotations to “Andreev”) in Mao Dun quanji, vol. 32, pp. 163–67. 58 Olgin, A Guide to Russian Literature (1820 –1917), p. 232. 54 55


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There is, despite this evident interest, little to sustain the more farreaching theories on the place of Andreev in Mao Dun’s work—even though a protagonist in Mao Dun’s novel Three Friends (1930) would explicitly refer to the astronomer from the play To the Stars.59 That passage was adduced by Mau-sang Ng in support of the argument that the “deleterious” influence of Andreev and other reactionary Russian writers was responsible for Mao Dun’s veering away from the “realist” (good) style of character depiction to a “schematized” (bad) one. “When Mao Dun started to write his novels in 1927, he was spellbound by the already popular pessimistic hero-types of Andreyev, the Sanin-like characters of Artzybashev, the George-like characters of Ropshin, and he admits his ‘closeness to Tolstoy’ ”.60 While Mao Dun did “admit his closeness to Tolstoy”,61 all the rest owed too much to the imagination of the literary historian. The connection Ng was able to demonstrate between Ropshin and Ba Jin is more plausible, but many other appeals to “Russian heroes” and sundry foreign masters in republican-period fiction fall into the category of fashionable name-dropping.62 Shen Zemin published an extensive essay on Andreev’s thought in three issues of Xuesheng zazhi (The Students’ Magazine) between May and July 1920, expanding on his brother’s commentary on Olgin’s brief chapter to provide the first systematic introduction to Andreev in Chinese. This essay argued that Andreev’s two essential preoccupations were with death and loneliness, offering a detailed analysis of the author’s attempts to answer these questions in “Lazarus”, “The Seven Who Were Hanged”, and in the plays To the Stars, Savva, The Life of Man and Anathema. Identifying himself as translator rather than author of the essay, on the first page in May, by the time he had reached his last page in July “Ming Xin” untypically tried to pass himself as a critic drawing on a variety of scholarly sources; in fact, his “Outline of Andreev’s Literary Thought” was a translation of Thomas Seltzer’s

59 He then rejected Ternovskii’s philosophy of an immortality of the soul and resolved to take up the fight in this world. See Ng, The Russian Hero in Modern Chinese Fiction, p. 145. 60 Ibid., pp. 177–78. 61 In his well-known essay “From Guling to Tokyo” (1928). See Berninghausen and Huters, Revolutionary Literature in China, pp. 37–43, here p. 37. 62 V. S. Adzhimamudova, Iui Da-fu i literaturnoe obshchestvo “Tvorchestvo”, pp. 148–50, has a good discussion of this phenomenon.

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“Introduction” to the Modern Library volume of The Seven That Were Hanged.63 In July 1920 Shen left for Japan together with Zhang Wentian. Back in China after only six months, he again immersed himself in Russian literature. In April 1921, Xiaoshuo yuebao carried his translation of Chapter One, “Russian National Character as Shown in Russian Fiction”, from Essays on Russian Novelists by William Lyon Phelps. From April to September, Xuesheng zazhi serialised Shen’s new translation of Andreev, on which he had probably worked jointly with his brother.64 As with “Lazarus”, Shen chose one of Andreev’s most memorable works. The heroes of “The Seven Who Were Hanged” are five Russian revolutionaries (three men and two women), a retarded Estonian murderer, and a gypsy thief. All had been condemned to death; the sixty-page story follows their days in prison and their struggle with the knowledge of impending death, culminating in their execution. The connection to “Lazarus”, written two years earlier, is obvious: may humans live on in full realization of the horror that awaits them? But the conclusion of “Lazarus” is reversed, as the revolutionaries and even the thief find in themselves, each in his or her own way, an inner strength enabling them to face their final hour with dignity and courage. Dedicated to Leo Tolstoy, and predating “I Cannot be Silent!”, Tolstoy’s own appeal against the death penalty, by only a few months, Andreev’s story was a dramatic protest against the wave of executions sweeping across Russia at the time, as the regime acted to stem the tide

63 Shen Zemin (signed Ming Xin), “Enteliefu wenxue sixiang gailun”, claimed as his sources the chapter on Andreev in Serge Persky, Contemporary Russian Novelists (the English translation of Maîtres du roman russe contemporain), and three recent books that all had the word “modern” in their titles: Ashley Dukes, Modern Dramatists (London, 1911); Frank W. Chandler, Aspects of Modern Drama (New York, 1914); Helen Thomas Follet and Wilson Follet, Some Modern Novelists (London, 1919). None of the three actually had anything to say about Andreev. “Enteliefu wenxue sixiang gailun” is reprinted (and wrongly considered a translation of the last two sources) in Zhang Liguo and Zhong Guisong, Shen Zemin wenji, pp. 368–94. 64 Gálik, Milestones of Sino-Western Literary Confrontation, p. 79, n. 29, considers “The Seven Who Were Hanged” a joint translation by Shen Yanbing and Shen Zemin. Both names did appear on the first instalment of the story in April; in the next issues only “Ming Xin” was used, here probably as the brothers’ joint pseudonym. The translation is attributed to Shen Zemin in Zhang Jinglu, Zhongguo jinxiandai chuban shiliao, vol. 3, p. 280, and in Zhong Guisong, Shen Zemin zhuan, p. 300, while Mao Dun is considered the translator in Xu Naixiang and Qin Hong, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue zuozhe biming lu, p. 391.


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Fig. 3. Shen Zemin posing in front of his shelves of foreign books in 1920. Reproduced in Zhong Guisong, Shen Zemin zhuan (Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 2003), p. 47.

of terrorist assassinations that claimed its most prominent figures. The story was also an assertion, rare for its author, of belief in the powers of the human spirit; characteristically for Andreev, however, the forces that each of his heroes managed to muster for their confrontation with death came from deeply within. Andreev’s political terrorists (though modelled partly on real persons) never discuss the activity for which they had been tried and condemned, nor do they speak or think of their political convictions.65 In September 1921 (Shen’s engagement with Russian literature during that year can be followed from one month to the next) Shen Zemin was one of the main contributors to the special issue of Xiaoshuo yuebao, edited by his elder brother. He had translated a part of Chapter 65 Because of this absence of a political message, Gorky later expressed severe criticism of this work. See commentary in Andreev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, pp. 633–34.

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Eight, “Political Literature”, from Peter Kropotkin’s Ideals and Realities in Russian Literature (New York, 1901), and written an admiring essay about its author. To this he added translations of articles on Russian peasant folk songs and ballads by English critics, a story by Gorky and another (“The Gentleman from San Francisco”) by Bunin, and a review of Impressions of Russia (1889) by the Danish critic Georg Brandes. The rich and varied “special issue on Russian literature” closed with a “name list of Russian writers and artists” by Ming Xin, a contribution which today is difficult to assign with certainty to either Shen Zemin or Shen Yanbing. This effervescent activity was pursued all the way until December, when Shen Zemin’s translation of the short play by Andreev Neighbourly Love (or: Love of One’s Neighbour) was published in Xiaoshuo yuebao. This last of the three Andreev works that Shen translated had nothing in common with the previous two. The one-act “satirical miniature” (Andreev wrote several others in this genre) describes an international crowd of tourists, assembled beneath a rock from which a man is soon expected to jump to his death. The eagerly anticipated suicide does not take place, however, and the angry spectators discover that they have been hoodwinked by a hotel owner, who had paid the man to climb on top of the rock so as to sell refreshments to the onlookers. Andreev’s satire of the voyeuristic instinct is not too malicious in the end. His play aims to be funny and succeeds.66 It was on this light note that Shen Zemin ended his preoccupation with a writer among whose works he had also translated two vintage novellas on the meaning of life and death.67

66 Andreev’s idea for this play could have come from reading about attractions that hotel owners staged upon rock summits in California (and perhaps also elsewhere in the USA) beginning from the 1880s; cf. Claire Perry, Pacific Arcadia: Images of California, 1600 –1915 (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 130–2. 67 Andreev, trans. Shen Zemin, Linren zhi ai (details in the Annex), p. 49. A note by Shen Yanbing to Zemin’s journal translation of Neighbourly Love in 1921 (see “Linren zhi ai”, p. 67), identified Zemin as “author” of the long essay on Andreev, signed by the pseudonym “Ming Xin” in Xuesheng zazhi in 1920. Yanbing used the occasion to describe Andreev as a writer whose interest in the human condition was more wideranging than that of Tolstoy, Gorky and Chekhov, and to connect Neighbourly Love with “Lazarus” by calling both “symbolist” works. With the transcription of writers’ names updated to current usage, these remarks (but not the note on “Ming Xin”) were copied for the book-form publication in 1925 as if they were written by the translator, Shen Zemin. There followed a four-page matter-of-fact survey of Andreev’s life and work, signed by Shen Yanbing.


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Fig. 4. Shen Zemin in 1923. Zhong Guisong, Shen Zemin zhuan, p. 55.

Shen had relied on English sources in his translations of Russian literature.68 But he would still learn his Russian later, as a student at the Sun Yat-sen University in Moscow from 1926 to 1930. Back in China, Shen Zemin was assigned to a high-ranking position in the Hubei-HenanAnhui Soviet. Only thirty-three years old, he died of tuberculosis in November 1933, on Nationalist-encircled Tiantai Mountain in Hubei province.69 The early years of Zhang Wentian (1900–76) were closely associated with Shen Zemin, his friend and fellow student in China, Japan and Soviet Russia—for which destination they left Shanghai aboard the same ship in October 1925. Shen returned from Moscow in 1930, and Zhang in 1931; both were part of a group long known as “the twenty-eight Bolsheviks”, former students in the USSR who would 68 Here, most likely, on Thomas Seltzer, trans., Love of One’s Neighbor (New York, 1914), reprinted three times by 1921. 69 See Zhong Guisong, Shen Zemin zhuan.

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become the defenders of Stalin’s China policy under the guidance of the Soviet China-hand and Sun Yat-sen University chancellor Pavel Mif.70 Unlike his friend, Zhang survived the 1930s by making the Long March, and in the first decade of the PRC reached the posts of ambassador to the USSR and deputy to Zhou Enlai in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His life in politics came to an abrupt end with the demise of Defence Minister Peng Dehuai in 1959. Much worse lay in store: during the Cultural Revolution Zhang was again attacked, and in 1969 imprisoned, dying in gaol seven years later.71 Zhang Wentian’s translation of the play The Waltz of the Dogs by Leonid Andreev was published at the Commercial Press in December 1923; it is among those few cases of a translator’s choice of text that may be profitably discussed in relation to what we know of the translator’s personal life. When, in January 1921, Zhang and Shen returned to Shanghai from Japan, the former went on to pass three months in a Buddhist temple, by the West Lake in Hangzhou. This retreat allowed Zhang to immerse himself in reading and writing, and to avoid unwelcome reminders of the country wife he had been forced to marry, through a traditional arrangement by his mother, in 1918. In the course of 1921, Zhang’s translations and criticism of Western literature began appearing in Xiaoshuo yuebao. In August he took up the post of an editor at Zhonghua shuju (Chung Hwa Book Company). He shared with Shen Zemin a pronounced interest in Oscar Wilde,72 while being attracted to a wide range of European authors: Bergson and Goethe, and later d’Annunzio and Benavente. Russian literature, too, ranked high on his list. For the special Russian issue of Xiaoshuo

70 The “twenty-eight Bolsheviks” were, as it is now accepted, much less of a homogenous group than previously thought, and never did add up to twenty-eight: see Thomas Kampen, Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and the Evolution of the Chinese Communist Leadership (Copenhagen: NIAS, 2000). 71 Zhongguo wenxuejia cidian: xiandai, vol. 3, p. 281, mentions the posthumous “rehabilitation” of Zhang by Deng Xiaoping, in 1979. This entry gives the year of Zhang’s birth as 1901; 1898 is wrongly indicated by Klein & Clark, Biographic Dictionary of Chinese Communism, following Boorman’s Biographical Dictionary of Republican China. The now accepted date is 30 Aug. 1900, as in Zhang Wentian zaoqi wenji, p. 610. 72 Mao Dun’s unfavourable opinion of Wilde has been mentioned above, but obviously did not disturb his brother; their lack of unanimity on the choice of translation material lends support to the argument that Andreev, too, was more important to Zemin than to Yanbing. On Shen Zemin and Zhang Wentian as translators of Wilde, and the debate on Wilde within the New Culture movement, see McDougall, “The Importance of Being Earnest in China: Early Chinese Attitudes towards Oscar Wilde”, collected in her Fictional Authors, Imaginary Audiences.


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yuebao in September, Zhang presented a summary of “Tolstoy’s views on art”. This and some of his earlier writings in 1921 bespoke his acceptance at the time of the Tolstoyan ideals of love and non-resistance.73 In June 1923, Zhang’s preface to his translation of Korolenko’s short novel The Blind Musician appeared in the journal Shaonian Zhongguo, organ of the socialist Young China Association which he and Shen Zemin had joined in 1919, the year of its foundation. While their life paths would once again converge, between their return from Japan and their trip to the Soviet Union Zhang took some very different decisions from his friend. In August 1922 he sailed for the United States. Finding a translator’s job with a Chinese newspaper in San Francisco, he used his mornings to read at the library of the University of California at Berkeley. It was here (parallel to the less than exhilarating kind of translations that he was expected to do for the Universal Daily) that he translated The Waltz of the Dogs.74 A letter he wrote to Yu Dafu reveals his state of mind in November that year: [My life] in America is so tasteless, so lonely! […] Apart from spending half the day working, I am now sitting in the library and never want to leave it! Because only here do I feel the air warm and benumbing, whereas once I get out of that door I begin to shiver and to feel that I have reached the dead end of human life! […] Dafu, the masses cannot be reformed, they can never be reformed. This I have long since known, but sometimes, when I am happy, I still feel like experimenting, as a scientist does with his insects; life, I believe, is fundamentally boring and the same boredom is reflected in ‘art and in literature’. Therefore were I to make the decision to reform society, this would have been the best way to dispel boredom, but alas I cannot, I don’t have the strength of will for that decision. I am only standing by, watching them (sic) from the side! Actually, if I had the courage to take this decision, I would have long ago killed myself ! Suicide is really the best way to get rid of all frustrations!75

Cf. Lin Jinghua, Wudu Eluosi, pp. 450–51. From the English translation of Herman Bernstein, published by Macmillan earlier in the same year. There is a copy of this book in Berkeley University Library. 75 Zhang’s letter to Yu Dafu of 11 Nov. 1922, published in Chuangzao qikan (Creation Quarterly) on 23 Jan. 1923; reprinted in Zhang Wentian zaoqi wenji, pp. 223–24. Excerpts are also translated in Klein & Clark, Biographic Dictionary of Chinese Communism, vol. 1, p. 62. Another letter, to his friend the translator Wang Fuquan, shows that Zhang’s loneliness and depression lasted at least until January: Zhang Wentian zaoqi wenji, pp. 228–29. 73 74

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Three months and a day after writing these lines, Zhang Wentian signed a translation of a literary work subtitled “a poem of loneliness”, a play in which the main hero, disgusted with the world, puts an end to his life. Henrik Tille, a model bank director in the eyes of colleagues and subordinates, has been abandoned by his fiancée. His vision of future life in the family circle is irreparably ruined, and cannot be replaced by another. Two years later, he fantasizes about stealing a million, and reveals this imaginary plan to the miserable Aleksandrov, the only person whom he needs—as a drinking companion—and before whom he acts out his self-destruction. Another year passes. Tille’s brother Carl, a cynical crook, harbours plans of his own to arrange his rich brother’s murder and thereby to inherit his fortune; he is also the lover of Henrik’s former fiancée, Elizaveta, who secretly visits Henrik’s apartment in his absence. By the time the two men closest to Tille have elaborated their scheme to kill him (Carl colluded with Aleksandrov to have his brother draw a large insurance policy; Aleksandrov falsified a suicide note in Henrik’s handwriting), the utter uselessness of life overcame Henrik Tille himself. Life, he realizes, is nothing but the dance of trained puppies in the circus—just like in the simple tune “The waltz of the dogs”, which he now plays on the piano to accompany himself into death. Andreev seems to have invariably used the word “strange” to describe his own creation.76 The Waltz of the Dogs was one among several of his plays conceived in the genre of the “panpsyche”, which the writer described in the second of his programmatic “Letters on the Theatre” in 1914.77 We shall soon discuss Andreev’s earlier play He Who Gets Slapped, the only other representative of this ambitious attempt to redefine the role of theatre to have been translated in China. In its original form, with the function given to it by the author, Andreev’s ultra-sophisticated psychological drama could hardly have found appreciative Chinese readers or spectators.78 The subtle alternation between

See Andreev, Dramaticheskie proizvedeniia, vol. 2, p. 544. L. A. Iezuitova, “Sobachii val’s Leonida Andreeva: opyt analiza dramy ‘panpsikhe’ ”, pp. 68–70, stresses difficulties in the scenic interpretation of these plays. As a philosophical doctrine, panpsychism is identified in Russia with the teachings of Aleksei A. Kozlov (1831–1901), whose writings of the late 1880s and 1890s described the soul as the most genuine form of reality: see Nikolaev, Russkie pisateli 1800 –1917, vol. 4, p. 591. The OED defines “panpsychism” as a doctrine holding “that everything material, however small, has an element of individual consciousness”. 78 The Waltz of the Dogs was badly understood even in Russia; refused by Moscow 76 77


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farce and tragedy is achieved in The Waltz of the Dogs mainly through ironically stylized language, difficult to recreate not merely because of the usual problems of second-hand translation, but even more owing to the differing expectations of Russian and Chinese audiences. Zhang Wentian translated Andreev’s play, making no effort to adapt it for performance in China (as we shall see below, this would still be attempted by others). But in responding to it at a moment in his life when the Russian play seemed to mirror his own introspection, the Chinese translator proved an unexpected zhi yin (a “soul mate”; literally, one who “knows the sound”) of Andreev’s work. Zhang’s preface to the translation, acknowledging his debt to some foreign sources while dissimulating others, betrayed a degree of emotional involvement superseding any of the introductions to his other translations in 1922–23: We, who are bound by the so-called Confucian teaching and idolatry, unless we take hold of a sharp sword to cut off these things one after the other, shall never achieve freedom, never be able to understand life. Andreev’s works are the sword we need, and we should brandish it about madly so as to destroy everything. However, on what should be done after the destruction, Andreev has not given us an answer.79

On that last point, he went on to quote Vasilii Eroshenko’s recent lecture on Andreev’s theatre, but he then suggested that Andreev’s “answer” was the suicide committed by his hero. Echoing his letter to Yu Dafu, Zhang wrote: “Suicide is not the best way to solve life’s problems. But when such solution is both necessary and [otherwise] unachievable, suicide is the best way!” After his return to China in January 1924, Zhang Wentian published a novel and a play, did a spell teaching English at a Women’s College

theatres during the author’s lifetime, its only staging in the Soviet period was in the year following Andreev’s death. A production I saw in St Petersburg in March 2001, while attesting to renewed interest in Andreev’s theatre, was not well attended and seemed to be struggling with the challenges of the script. See L. N. Ken, “ ‘Poema odinochestva’ Leonida Andreeva”, a reconsideration of the play within the later context of French existentialism: Camus in L’étranger, and Sartre in La nausée. 79 Zhang Wentian, “Yizhe xuyan” (Preface by the Translator), accompanying the reprint of Gou de tiaowu in Zhang Wentian yiwen ji, vol. 1 (here pp. 223–24). Cf. Zhang’s introductions to Korolenko’s The Blind Musician, to the plays La Malquerida and The Evil Doers of Good by the 1922 Nobel prize winner Jacinto Benavente y Martínez, and La Gioconda by Gabriele d’Annunzio, as collected in Zhang Wentian zaoqi wenji, pp. 268–81, 292–94 (note the valorization of suicide that Zhang associates with d’Annunzio on p. 293). The unacknowledged debts in Zhang’s piece on The Waltz of the Dogs are to Phelps, Essays on Russian Novelists, pp. 20, 262, 272–73.

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in Chongqing, then switched exclusively to political activity: joining the CCP immediately after the May Thirtieth events in 1925, he was soon sent to Moscow.80 The despair to which he had been prone in California, and the concern with suicide reflected in his translation of The Waltz of the Dogs as in the other writing he did in America,81 gave way to what certainly appeared as a commitment to “reform the masses”. At the Sun Yat-sen University of the Toilers of China (which shed the name of the Nationalist leader, replacing it with “Communist”, in April 1928) the former translators of European fiction Shen Zemin and Zhang Wentian, who had known no Russian when introducing Andreev to Chinese readership in the early 1920s, finally learned the language of the émigré writer—which by the end of that same decade had become the language of Comintern directives, as well as the means of the totalitarian re-education practiced upon the students of that institution.82 In May 1927 both Zhang and Shen interpreted for Stalin.83 Their Chinese literary pen-names were replaced by Russian party aliases: Zhang became known as Luo Fu, the last two characters (in Chinese reading) of his chosen surname Izmailov. Shen called himself Gudkov. By late 1933, however, Shen Zemin was a martyr of the Chinese Communist Party, and Zhang Wentian a rising force within its ranks. In February 1934 another figure of considerable May Fourth fame

80 The novel Lütu (The Travel) was serialised in Xiaoshuo yuebao in 1924, to appear in book form at the Commercial Press in the following year. 81 Suicide is praised in “Shengming de tiaoyue: duiyu Zhongguo xian wentan de ganxiang” (On Leaping into Life: Thoughts on the Current Chinese Literary Scene; signed in Berkeley on 30 July 1923), in Zhang Wentian zaoqi wenji, pp. 282–91, which also mentioned Shevyrev’s alternative of “taking revenge” on society (see esp. pp. 286–87). For good measure, Zhang then told readers of his article in Shaonian Zhongguo that he most enjoyed dancing the “Fandango” and listening to the “Guitar” (English in the text), and that life really had many enjoyable things (p. 289). The idealised hero of the play that Zhang wrote in Berkeley, Qingchun de meng (A Spring Dream), a self-pitying New Culture intellectual bearing one of the pseudonyms of Shen Zemin, is saddled by an arranged marriage and the traditional expectations of his parents. While Ming Xin contemplates suicide, it is eventually his humiliated wife (and mother of his three-year old daughter) who leaps into the Western Lake. The hero then wastes no time and departs with his new love: a neighbour girl educated at a Nanking Women’s College, singing Shelley and playing the “Violin”; ibid., pp. 325, 368. 82 Brainwashing techniques are highlighted in Klaus-Georg Riegel, “Transplanting the Political Religion of Marxism-Leninism to China: The Case of the Sun Yat-sen University in Moscow (1925–1930)”. Alexander Pantsov, The Bolsheviks and the Chinese Revolution 1919–1927, pp. 163–88, provides a wealth of factual information. 83 Zhong Guisong, Shen Zemin zhuan, pp. 147–48.


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arrived in the Jiangxi Soviet, probably at Zhang’s summons, to serve as Commissar of Education and president of the Soviet University; it was renamed the State Shen Zemin Soviet University soon after his arrival.84 The pioneer of Marxist literary criticism, an early translator of Tolstoy and Gogol and commentator on Zheng Zhenduo’s translation of The Pale Horse, former CCP secretary Qu Qiubai could not join Mao’s retreating forces when they set out on their Long March from Jiangxi in October. In February 1935 his group was encircled by Nationalist troops in Fujian, and during the four months he spent in prison until his execution in June Qu travelled back in mind from the politics he had espoused to the literature he had abandoned.85 We cannot know if anything similar happened to Shen Zemin on Tiantai Mountain or, forty years later, to Zhang Wentian (translator of The Ballad of Reading Gaol ) in his prison cells in Guangdong and Jiangsu. III. Translating, and adapting for the theatre At the end of the previous chapter, Artsybashev’s play War brought up for us, for the first time in this study, the question of translating plays—even though no information has come to light as to whether Artsybashev’s only translated play was ever performed in China. Western “spoken drama” (huaju), initially known as “civilised drama” (wenming ju, or wenming xi ), was first staged in China by returned students from Japan in 1907; the translation of foreign plays began in 1908. Western theatre was promoted by the New Culture movement but took a long time to be noticed by the wider public. In 1935, the theatre critic and bibliographer Song Chunfang put at 300 the number of European and American plays translated in the previous twenty years (of these, 180 were published in book form), and at 230 (of which only 150 appeared in book form, the rest being confined to the pages of journals and newspapers) the number of plays written by Chinese authors during

84 Cf. Paul G. Pickowicz, Marxist Literary Thought in China: The Influence of Ch’ü Ch’iupai, pp. 195–96. Appointed secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in 1927, Qu Qiubai was removed from this post in the same year, in which he also contributed to a new Chinese History of Russian Literature (the second after the 1924 Concise History of Russian Literature by Zheng Zhenduo). He served as the CCP delegate to the Comintern in Moscow from 1928 to 1930. 85 See Qu Qiubai, trans. Jamie Greenbaum, Superfluous Words (Canberra: Pandanus Books, 2006).

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the same period. He lamented the insufficiency reflected in both sets of figures.86 By 1949, 791 individual titles by 333 authors had been translated.87 Of these, plays by Russian and Soviet authors shared pride of place in the number of translations alongside English and French works.88 Yet not all of the translated plays were staged. The motivation for translating plays included, according to a study by Bernd Eberstein, more than the ambition to introduce modern foreign drama into China, where no tradition of the “spoken” play had previously existed. There was also the educational aim of acquainting the audience with the most important names in world theatre, and the idea of treating topics relevant to Chinese life.89 Theatre producers, however, preferred to avoid works which they judged too difficult for the audience. Once the decision to stage a foreign play was taken, adaptation was typically considered the only way to make it accessible to the public.90 While the plays of Leonid Andreev were, indeed, representative of modern Western theatre, their author did not enjoy the standing of a “classic”. Moreover, he addressed his habitual themes of individual alienation and struggle with destiny in a manner that his “realist” critics found contrived and abstruse—a far cry from the broad depiction of human suffering that one might find in a playwright like Gorky. Yet this disadvantage did not prevent Andreev from becoming one of the most widely translated non-English dramatists in China: his eleven plays in Chinese are unable to compete with Chekhov’s twenty-one but almost equal Gorky’s twelve.91 86 Song Chunfang, “Hanyi Oumei juben de tongji” (The Statistics of European and American Plays in Chinese Translation), in idem, Song Chunfang lunju er ji, pp. 68–9. 87 The existence of several Chinese versions for a significant portion of the plays raises the overall number of translations to 1176. These data follow Eberstein, Das chinesische Theater, pp. 67–70. 88 Ibid., pp. 67–8, indicates 139 plays by British dramatists (to be distinguished from other works in English), 135 by Russian and Soviet, and 127 by French authors (again, excluding 15 plays by the Belgian Maurice Maeterlinck). This cultural triumvirate held a clear lead over theatre from other countries: the next in popularity, Japan had only eighty play titles in Chinese translation. 89 Ibid., p. 71. Especially during the 1930s, theatres preferred translated plays to indigenous writing as the former were easier to pass by the censors of the Kuomintang (p. 64). 90 See ibid., pp. 63–4, 73. Thus the prominent translator Geng Jizhi argued against presenting the Chinese audience with such works as “the symbolist plays of Maeterlinck and Ibsen” (p. 71). 91 According to data provided by Eberstein in the “list of plays translated into Chinese prior to 1949”, ibid. (see pp. 370–76 for the Russian section). To Eberstein’s


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Song Chunfang (1892–1938) was probably the first in China to draw attention to Andreev as a dramatist.92 Returning in 1916 from his studies in Geneva, Song later taught at his alma mater, St John’s University in Shanghai, and at other institutions, including Peking and Tsinghua universities. A Francophile of classical persuasion, a devoted (and affluent) collector of books on theatre, he signed with the pen-name “Cormora” (transcribed in Chinese as Hemulu), which he had created from the names of Corneille, Molière and Racine.93 Song was one of the Chinese theatre critics who in the 1920s adhered to the positions of “pure art”, and who set themselves in opposition to the school advocating “realism”.94 The Xinyou theatre troupe in Shanghai, headed by director Zhu Rangcheng, was also primarily interested in theatre as art—a tendency for which Zhu was attacked by other, more politically orientated, theatre people. When choosing The Waltz of the Dogs for Xinyou theatre in 1929, Zhu preferred not to rely on the available translation by Zhang Wentian; instead, he set himself the task of preparing his own.95 Zhu deliberately looked for the more difficult and challenging plays, basing much of the Xinyou repertoire on Russian theatre—including Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya and The Cherry Orchard, which he also translated anew for the stage. Zhu Rangcheng’s translations of these Russian plays did not indulge spectators with “adaptations”. The first theatrical production of a Chekhov play in China, the Uncle Vanya put up by the Xinyou troupe in 1930 was done in strict accordance with the script, which Zhu had retranslated from English.96 Most leading parts in the theatre were performed by the young actor (later dramatist and filmmaker)

nine titles of translated plays by Andreev, I have added The Ocean and Anathema (though not King Hunger, of which only the Prologue appeared in Chinese). Andreev was the author of 21 plays. It is likely that further Chinese translations of plays by Gorky could also be found. 92 Shneider, Russkaia klassika v Kitae, pp. 104, 156, takes his references to Song’s article of 1916 from a secondary source which could not be traced further. Andreev is not discussed in Song’s essays on theatre, subsequently collected in Shanghai in 1923 (Zhonghua shuju) and in 1936 (Shenghuo shudian), under the title Song Chunfang lunju. 93 Entry on Song Chunfang in CYT, pp. 574–75. Cf. Zhao Jingshen, Wo yu wentan, pp. 136–49. 94 Jiao Shangzhi, “Shilun Zhongguo xiandai xiju meixue sixiang de lilun jiangou yu zongti geju”, p. 56. 95 Cf. Eberstein, Das chinesische Theater, p. 92. 96 According to Shneider, Russkaia klassika v Kitae, p. 124, this approach was also characteristic of later Chinese productions of Chekhov plays.

Fig. 5. Yuan Muzhi in the role of Henrik Tille in the Xinyou theatre’s production of Andreev, The Waltz of the Dogs, in 1929. On the left: Tille in Act One; in the middle: Act Two; on the right: Act Three. From Yuan Muzhi, Yanju mantan (Shanghai: Xiandai shuju, 1933).

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Yuan Muzhi (1909–78), known as “the man with a thousand faces” (qianmian ren).97 One of those “faces” was that of Andreev’s Henrik Tille, by the Chinese transcription of his name—Di Hanli. In a chapter devoted to The Waltz of the Dogs in a book on the art of acting, published in 1933,98 Yuan does not describe the performance itself, but provides an extensive analysis of the play’s main hero. He tries to answer such questions as how soon in the play Tille had made up his mind to die; by interpreting the main character’s remarks, he also suggests the motivation behind his actions. If we may wonder, in this connection, why Yuan Muzhi wrote his reminiscences of the Xinyou days at the age of twenty-four, it is because the theatre existed no more. In 1930 Zhu Rangcheng went to study in France, then continued to the Soviet Union. On his way back to China, passing through Xinjiang, the director of Xinyou theatre was murdered, allegedly on the orders of the province’s warlord; his troupe had already dispersed by that time.99 As attested by the many quotations from the script that we find in Yuan Muzhi’s General Thoughts on the Performance of Plays, Zhu Rangcheng’s version of The Waltz of the Dogs remained loyal to the original; if misinterpretation did occur, it would have been due to the objective difficulties of having to grasp the image of a foreign cultural environment through second-hand translation. The director’s insistence on fidelity as opposed to adaptation, a manifestation of the ideology of nanju yundong (literally, “difficult plays movement”) which the Xinyou theatre proclaimed, predictably did not earn it box-office success.100 Educational rather than commercial logic would have led to consideration for local sensibility in 1933, when there is reason to believe that Andreev’s play Neighbourly Love was performed in Dingxian village of Hebei province. The Nationalist government, via the National Association for the Promotion of Mass Education, attempted to create in Dingxian an advanced village that would serve as a model for

97 Entries on Yuan Muzhi in CYT, p. 970; Yingjin Zhang, Encyclopedia of Chinese Film, pp. 385–86. 98 Yuan Muzhi, Yanju mantan, pp. 87–100. 99 Fan Quan, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue shetuan liupai cidian, p. 273. 100 Ibid. A member of the Xinyou circle, writer Ye Lingfeng (1905–75) recalled that the troupe’s “soul” Zhu Rangcheng was a man much older than Yuan Muzhi and himself, a “father of several children” deriving his income from his family’s compradore business in the tea trade. See “Yuan Muzhi yu Xinyou jushe”, in Ye Lingfeng, Dushu suibi, vol. 2, pp. 43–4.

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other areas in China.101 The staging of “spoken drama” was given a role in this enterprise, and entrusted to the indefatigable Xiong Foxi (1900–65). A graduate in drama at Columbia University, a director and a playwright, Xiong strove during his time in Dingxian from 1932 to 1936 to prove that theatre could indeed be used to teach peasants to accept new ideas. Xiong was an author of comedies himself, and he relied mostly on that genre in his village performances.102 Believing that traditional Chinese theatre was too rigid in form to be able to express the ideas of progress, in Dingxian he presented modern Chinese “spoken dramas” along with foreign plays in adaptation, such as the one-act comedies by the Irish dramatist Lady Gregory, The Rising of the Moon and Spreading the News. Chinese versions of most of the foreign plays that Xiong staged already existed, but these had not been intended for stage performance.103 In adapting the works of a long line of world classics, from Shakespeare and Molière to Chekhov and Anatole France, Xiong could rely on the assistance of Chen Zhice (1894–1954), an American-educated specialist and lecturer on Western theatre.104 The circle of Xiong Foxi in Dingxian also included his student Yang Cunbin (1911–89), who between 1931 and 1933 published a series of forty short articles on modern foreign dramatists in the special theatre supplement of the Beiping Morning Post: the seventh of these, under the title “To the Stars”, analysed Andreev’s “Letters on the Theatre”, listing also the English titles of his plays and their available Chinese translations.105 We know that it was Chen Zhice, closely involved in the Dingxian project up to 1935, who adapted Andreev’s miniature Neighbourly Love The following description draws on Eberstein, Das chinesische Theater, pp. 115–20. Cf. entry on Xiong Foxi in Liu Xianbiao, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue shouce, vol. 1, pp. 389–91. 103 On first translations of these two plays by Lady Gregory in the early 1920s, see Eber, Voices from Afar, pp. 122, 126. A popular adaptation of The Rising of the Moon by Chen Zhice was published in 1938. This play had also been performed by the Xinyou theatre, before its turn to such “difficult” plays as The Waltz of the Dogs: see Fan Quan, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue shetuan liupai cidian, p. 272. 104 See Eberstein, Das chinesische Theater, pp. 116, 370, and the entry on Chen Zhice in ZFC. Entries under Chen’s name in Zhongguo xiandai wenxue zong shumu show that his adaptations for the theatre, all published as “popular reading material” by the National Association for the Promotion of Mass Education in 1933–35, were usually based on pre-existing Chinese translations. 105 See Yang Cunbin, “Andeliefu: Wang xing zhong”. The same issue of the supplement also carried two articles on theatre by Chen Zhice. 101 102


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from the 1921 translation by Shen Zemin, giving it the four-character title Ai ren ru ji (Love the Other as Thyself ). Chen’s version was printed by the National Association for the Promotion of Mass Education in 1933, making it very likely that it was staged in Dingxian around that time. Ai ren ru ji could very well have been one of those plays that Dingxian peasants put up themselves, under the guidance of Xiong Foxi and in accordance with his vision of “plays in which peasants act, for peasants to watch”. Surely no trace would have remained of the Kodaks and Baedekers that Andreev had put in the hands of his tourists, assembled beneath the rock; and his female characters would have been played by men. More importantly, Andreev’s irony would have vanished even as his title was turned into a lesson in morality. It is quite probable, though we can only guess, that the “tourists”, transformed into a Chinese crowd, would have been chastised for their eagerness to stare at the suffering of others, which was supposed to be a Chinese quality—the propensity for watching executions, repeatedly denounced by Lu Xun. The outdoor setting of the original play would have fitted perfectly with another of Xiong’s concepts: the “open air stage”, which drew on the tradition of Chinese village theatre while wedding it to modern concerns.106 Studies on Xiong Foxi’s work in Dingxian, however, do not mention a production of Love the Other as Thyself—and the only secondary source that does name this play refers to it, in passing, as one presented by Chen Zhice in Nanking near the time when the Japanese invasion brought the Dingxian experiment to an end in 1937.107 At the National School of Drama in Nanking, this adaptation of Andreev was in 1936 published in the same volume as a translated one-act play by James Barrie, Shall We Join the Ladies?, and an original play by Yu Shangyuan (1897–1970),108 who had studied theatre in the USA with Xiong Foxi and was a fellow member of the Crescent Moon society. Yu founded

Hu Xingliang, “Nongmin huaju: jiqu minjian xiju de chuangzao”, pp. 63–4. Ibid., p. 68. Chen Zhice did make a brief reference to his adaptation ( gaibian) of Andreev’s Love the Other as Thyself in his now rare book Daoyan shu (The Art of Directing) (Chongqing: Jiaoyu bu shehui jiaoyu se, 1945; copy National Library of China), pp. 65–6. Summarizing the contents of Ai ren ru ji, in a chapter on “atmosphere” in theatre, he only said that creating the necessary atmosphere in this play required the cooperation of all actors. 108 An entry for this book, in the collective catalogue of libraries in Taiwan, specifies that all three plays had been performed at the National School of Drama on the occasion of its “third public presentation”. 106 107

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the National School of Drama in late 1935 and must have invited Chen to direct his Dingxian version of Neighbourly Love in Nanking during the following year.109 The lack of detail on these performances of the 1930s is unfortunate. By contrast, our only example from the 1940s is the best-documented performance of any Andreev play on a Chinese stage. Or should one rather say a “free variation” on a theme by Leonid Andreev? For The Big Circus, adapted for the Shanghai theatre by the writer Shi Tuo in 1942, was only loosely based on Andreev’s He Who Gets Slapped. A close look at the original play is in order. It begins as an unknown person arrives at a circus in “one of the big cities of France”, asking to be hired as a clown. Thirty-nine years old and with no knowledge of the profession, he nevertheless wins over the circus manager “Papa” Brikke with his suggestion to perform as “He, the One Who Gets Slapped”. Under the stage name He, the man joins the circus cast. He shares the daily life of Consuella, the beautiful and naive bareback rider; Bezano, her stage partner and suitor; Papa Brikke’s wife, the ravishing lion tamer Zinida (whose attentions the young Bezano turns down), and Jackson the clown. Another character in the play is the colourful and depraved Count Mancini, Consuella’s father, who had sold her to the circus. He’s true identity is unknown, though we are given to understand that he comes from a distinguished background. While being daily slapped on the stage, he attempts to influence the course of events around him. When Mancini schemes to marry off his daughter to a wealthy baron much older than her, He tries to unite Consuella with Bezano, who proves unable to protect her. Avowing his own love to Consuella, He finds himself rejected. Meanwhile, He is pursued by a gentleman from his past: this person has married He’s wife and had a child by her, but is tormented by He’s existence in a foreign land and in the grotesque role of a clown. Vowing never to return to the world he had left, He chases the visitor away. The action accelerates sharply, to reach climax in the final scene: as Consuella is about to leave the circus with the baron, He serves her a poisoned cup of champagne, of

109 Yu also published widely on classical Greek, French and German theatre, but the version of Andreev’s play that was performed in Nanking was certainly the adaptation by Chen Zhice rather than one by Yu; indeed, Ai ren ru ji is not on the comprehensive list of authored and translated works in Yu Shangyuan xiju lunwen ji (Collected Essays on Theatre) (Wuhan: Changjiang wenyi chubanshe, 1986).


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which He drinks half himself. He, who had earlier compared Consuella to Aphrodite, tells the dying woman that she is about to return to the ocean foam, from which she had come. Before He’s own death attains him, news is delivered that the baron, his rival, had just shot himself. As he dies, He vows to continue the fight for Consuella’s love even beyond the grave. Much has been written about this enigmatic work, and many interpretations suggested. One line of argument would see in He a portrait of the playwright himself, and in the slaps that He receives—a metaphor for the treatment meted out to Andreev by his critics. Another explanation draws on the author’s own words: in a letter to the Moscow theatre director prior to the first staging of He Who Gets Slapped in 1915, Andreev described Consuella a “goddess enslaved by reality”, a divine creature held captive by human life.110 A third, polemical reading of the play, relates it to Andreev’s criticism of contemporary writers, whom he charged with reducing the tragic and romantic essence of love to the level of base sexual instinct: a notorious sceptic, Mikhail Artsybashev is believed to have headed the list of Andreev’s adversaries.111 An authoritative study shows that the author of He Who Gets Slapped was engaged in a sophisticated dialogue with the Symbolist and neo-Romantic trends in Russian literature.112 Unlike the Chinese translations of Russian novels and stories, which we have discussed so far, Shi Tuo’s version of Andreev’s play as Da maxi tuan (The Big Circus) was a deliberate rewriting. As we shall now see, it also became a vehicle for creative expression. In the Chinese play, the mysterious He is reduced to a minor role.113 Consuella, renamed Cui Bao, is a girl from Shandong whose father had sold her to the wandering circus troupe on the lower Yangtze. This father, an itinerant quack claiming descent from a gentry family, is the main hero of The Big Circus. He plans to sell his daughter again, this

110 See summary of these points of view in Andreev, Dramaticheskie proizvedeniia, vol. 2, pp. 536–38. 111 Babicheva, “Leonid Andreev v bor’be s ‘Artsybashevshchinoi’ ”. This article is manipulative in its treatment of the enmity between Andreev and Artsybashev, which we mentioned in the Introduction. 112 Andrew Barratt, “Andreyev’s He Who Gets Slapped: Who Gets Slapped?”, esp. pp. 95, 102. 113 This account draws on the summary of the play in Edward M. Gunn, Jr., Unwelcome Muse: Chinese Literature in Shanghai and Peking 1937–1945, pp. 91–5, and the selection of contemporaneous reviews in Liu Zengjie, Shi Tuo yanjiu ziliao, pp. 264–84.

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time as concubine to the son of “Big boss Huang”. It is the Chinese parallel of Bezano who assumes He’s role as Consuella’s unlucky admirer; quite unlike Bezano, but in accordance with Chinese custom, Xiao Chong had also been sold to the troupe as an infant. Contrary once more to the Russian play, Shi Tuo’s artists (as Edward Gunn has pointed out) neither consider their work a refuge from the exterior world, nor draw satisfaction from their art. They are at the mercy of their heartless manager and his virago wife, the tiger tamer; these two in turn show nothing of the original good nature of Papa Brikke, or Zinida’s pathetic quest for love from her lions. Unlike Andreev’s Jackson, Shi Tuo’s clown Hui Hui is equipped with a wife and ten-year-old daughter, who together provide much of the comic relief. Rather than appeal to Consuella’s memories of her supposedly divine origin, Xiao Chong tries to evoke in Cui Bao her childhood souvenirs of the Shandong landscape, as he implores the girl to elope with him there. Once his efforts have come to naught, and Cui Bao is about to leave with the rich man’s son, Xiao Chong offers her a cup of poisoned wine, from which he also drinks. Then, before death takes hold of him, Xiao Chong sets the circus on fire. The tiger tamer runs after him, and together they perish in the flames. Another unexpected death befalls those dreaming about “going home” as the clown’s little daughter, who had secretly run away to the railway station, is hit and killed by a train. Homecoming, and the idea of regaining the simplicity of village life (as opposed to the hectic and corrupt metropolis) was not something that Andreev had been concerned with, but it was a theme important for the Chinese author. Shi Tuo (pseudonym of Wang Changjian, 1910–88) was born in a village in Henan province. Arriving in Peking in 1931, he later spent the years of Japanese occupation in Shanghai. The difficult return from the city to the native place is re-enacted in some of his works of this period.114 It also seems to be reflected in Shi Tuo’s rewriting of the Russian play. Maintaining the motif of the impossible return, the later book-form version of The Big Circus (published in the Culture and Life literary series under Ba Jin’s editorship in 1948)

114 C. T. Hsia, A History of Modern Chinese Fiction, pp. 461–63, and Steven P. Day, “Shi Tuo”, in Moran, Chinese Fiction Writers, 1900 –1949, pp. 206–11, at p. 209. On this theme in modern Chinese literature, cf. Alexandra R. Wagner, Landscapes of the Soul: Essays of Place and Chinese Literary Modernity, 1920 –1945 (PhD dissertation, Yale University 2002), Ch. 4, “Journeys and Visits Home”.


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moved even farther from He Who Gets Slapped: Cui Bao and her father were arrested for swindling the rich Huang family, while Xiao Chong poisoned himself in lonely despair.115 The performance of The Big Circus in Japanese-occupied Shanghai in October 1942 attracted large crowds and ran through the next year.116 In collaboration with the dramatist Ke Ling (1909–2000), Shi Tuo then adapted a second Russian play for the stage director Huang Zuolin. Their version of Gorky’s The Lower Depths, under the title Ye dian (The Night Inn), reaped even greater acclaim and after first being staged in December 1945 was also made into a film.117 Summing up both adaptations, Edward Gunn wrote that “Shi Tuo’s treatment of his sources has drained them of their symbolism, ambiguities, and ironies, replacing them with melodrama”.118 He was certainly right about that, but it is also obvious that the success of Da maxi tuan and Ye dian illustrated the potential of adaptations to reach beyond the still limited circle of educated readers, those able to enjoy foreign literary works in faithful (not to mention “hard”) translations. Reviewers of The Big Circus were unanimous in their praise for the star actor Shi Hui in his role as Cui Bao’s father, a figure which one of them even deemed the second “typical character” in Chinese literature after Lu Xun’s Ah Q.119 That particular reviewer, the translator and editor Xu Diaofu (1900–1981), also praised the successful adaptation (literally, re-editing; gaibian) of the play, whose characters he felt had become Chinese through and through. For our benefit, he then identified the immediate source of the adaptation as a translation of He Who Gets Slapped by one Mai Fu (which, we know, was published by Zhonghua in 1935). He confidently remarked that nobody would by now be able

115 Gunn, Unwelcome Muse, p. 95. The text of Da maxi tuan as published in 1948 is in Shi Tuo quanji, vol. 7, pp. 1–115. 116 Hsia, A History of Modern Chinese Fiction, p. 462, describes Shi Tuo’s adaptation of Andreev as “his big hit” and “thoroughly enjoyable theater”. 117 The British-educated Huang Zuolin (1906–94), much-praised director of The Big Circus, also directed The Night Inn and its subsequent film version in spring 1948. The latter, based on a screenplay by Ke Ling, was more commercially melodramatic than the theatre production. See Paul G. Pickowicz, “Sinifying and Popularizing Foreign Culture: From Maxim Gorky’s The Lower Depths to Huang Zuolin’s Ye dian”, and Shneider, Russkaia klassika v Kitae, pp. 226–29. 118 Gunn, Unwelcome Muse, p. 101. 119 Xu Diaofu, “Da maxi tuan” (1945), in Liu Zengjie, Shi Tuo yanjiu ziliao, p. 281. Others complained that the part of Cui Bao herself looked rather insignificant in comparison: see ibid., pp. 271, 275.

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to identify that source, for “the Russian atmosphere is here completely absent”. While such atmosphere had also been absent from Andreev’s play, with its exotic cast and unspecified “French” location, it is true that most other reviewers, referring to Shi Tuo as “the author”, appeared to be unaware of the play’s foreign origins.120 An important statement in this regard was made by the Paris-educated dramatist and translator, former member of the Literary Research Association and Shi Tuo’s close colleague in Shanghai, Li Jianwu. In an article of 1943 entitled “The Big Circus and Adaptation”, Li (who practiced the method himself) explained that there was a world of difference between the worst variety of taking up foreign plays and the best. The former consisted of putting one’s own name as “author” under a translation of someone else’s work.121 By contrast, to take an aspect of the original work, “whether its structure, temperament, realm [of thought], or philosophy, and then to fill it with one’s own flesh and blood, making it into a thing of both temperament and local character”, was a difficult art, and one masterfully employed by Molière, who too had borrowed the plots of his plays from others. Likewise, Li Jianwu says, Shi Tuo had spent over two months on his “adaptation”, which by rights should instead be called “by a more sacrosanct word, ‘creation’ ”. Thus, he continued, “A great writer of old Russia had supplied the material, and an unknown Chinese who had never been near a stage completed that material’s mission”.122 Here, as later in his article, Li’s thoughts on the “afterlife” of literary texts bring to mind the reflections of Walter Benjamin. Shi Tuo himself, reminiscing about The Big Circus forty years after its first production, said he had thought of Andreev’s play as an allegory;

120 One of these spectators described his own sudden realization of the connection between The Big Circus and Andreev’s He Who Gets Slapped—an indication that this debt had not been advertised by the producers. Zhou Xin, “Da maxi tuan ping” (Review of The Big Circus, 1942), ibid., pp. 267–68. 121 The opening chapter of the satirical novel Fortress Besieged by Qian Zhongshu (also written in occupied Shanghai, and only published in 1947) mentions authors who, having “plagiarized a foreign play”, then publish it with the announcement “ ‘copyright reserved, translation forbidden’ ”. See Fortress Beseiged, trans. Jeanne Kelly and Nathan K. Mao (repr. New York: New Directions, 2004), p. 15. This variety, from which Li Jianwu wished to distinguish the work of Shi Tuo, certainly existed. 122 Li Jianwu, “Da maxi tuan yu gaibian”, in Liu Zengjie, Shi Tuo yanjiu ziliao, pp. 277–78. On Li Jianwu (1906–82), and his adaptations from French theatre, see Gunn, Unwelcome Muse, pp. 102–7, and Ch. 2 in Fu, Passivity, Resistance, and Collaboration. Li also translated plays by Tolstoy, Turgenev and Gorky.


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it had also struck him as “symbolist” in its first half, and “realist” in the second. He adapted the play in order to provide entertainment for the Shanghai public after the Japanese authorities had forbidden the projection of American movies, and also so as to satirize corruption under Nationalist rule. On an earlier occasion, writing in 1978, he explained his adaptation in simpler terms, saying that he had written it “to eat” (wei le chifan). Shi Tuo mentioned the changes he made in The Big Circus, after 1942, to bring it to a happier ending.123 He was aware of at least one other production; indeed, the career of The Big Circus did not end with Shi Tuo and Huang Zuolin. In 1954 Shi Tuo’s adaptation was in turn reworked and given a happy ending by Shi Lin in Hong Kong.124 More recently, The Big Circus was performed at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing (director Bao Qianming) in 1996,125 and it was also presented by the Shanghai Modern Man Theatre Society in 1997. However radically modified, He Who Gets Slapped proved the only one of Andreev’s plays to survive on Chinese stages.126 Somewhat ironically, even Zheng Zhenduo, that staunch promoter of “exact” translation in the 1920s, joined in 1945 the chorus of applause for the same team’s production of a play by Gorky, which was anything 123 Shi Tuo, “Wo weishenme gaixie Da maxi tuan” (Why I Adapted The Big Circus; manuscript of 1983) in Shi Tuo quanji, vol. 8, pp. 325–31. This unpublished piece is interesting in that it reveals the identity of the first reader of The Big Circus, Li Jianwu (see also Shi Tuo’s article on Li of 1987; ibid., pp. 433–39), and the intention of Shi Tuo and Huang Zuolin in 1947 to film The Big Circus for the screen, as they would later do with The Night Inn. They only gave up this plan because they could not find a tiger tamer. In “Cong wo de jiu biji er xiangqi de ji qita” (Thoughts on My Old Notebook, and Other Matters, 1978), ibid., vol. 3, pp. 399–414, Shi Tuo also described how in 1963 he rewrote The Big Circus as the story of class struggle as well as a satire against Chiang Kai-shek, and how during the Cultural Revolution he failed in convincing his persecutors to read the play in that key (pp. 406–7). 124 Zhu Qiu, “Da maxi tuan de tiandi” (The Universe of The Big Circus, 1957), in Liu Zengjie, Shi Tuo yanjiu ziliao, pp. 282–84. 125 Sun Daqing, “ ‘Hei xiazi’ li de xiju: Da maxi tuan sheji chanshu”, describes this performance. The Central Academy of Drama has staged more productions of The Big Circus over the past few years. 126 In this sense the fortune of The Big Circus resembles the adaptations of He Who Gets Slapped in the United States, where it remains Andreev’s single best-known work. The first, by Russian-born psychologist and translator Gregory Zilboorg (1890–1959), was staged to wide acclaim at the Garrick Theater in New York in 1922. The second, by Carey Wilson, was turned into a silent film with Metro-Goldwyn Mayer by director Victor Seastrom in 1924, and remade into a novel by George A. Carlin in 1925. For the third time, now in a translation by Judith Guthrie, the play was performed at the New York Booth Theater in 1946. On further translations and adaptations, up to the production of the play by expatriate Russian clown Yuri Belov in 1997, see Ruth Rischin, “Leonid Andreev 1871–1919”.

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but that: “When I read The Night Inn adapted by Shi Tuo and Ke Ling, I couldn’t help pounding the table in admiration. It has been nearly a dozen years since such liveliness, drawn with mature skill and learning, and pungent dialogue have appeared on stage”.127 The impassioned arguments about fidelity and the translator’s educational mission had, by that time, receded into some distance. A prolific translator of Russian plays, Cai Fangxin (1902–63), better known by his pen-name Fang Xin, had been an actor himself in his younger days in Peking and Shanghai. Returning to Shanghai at the end of two years of study in Japan in 1928, he managed a dance school, while editing and writing for literary journals that propagated the “aesthetic” (Chinese: weimei, “only beauty”) persuasion in literature. As member of the Lüshe (Green Society), a literary circle established to promote these positions in 1933, he closely collaborated with another translator of Andreev, Xia Laidi, whom we shall discuss below as we turn to “decadence” as the background from which a number of stories by Andreev in Chinese translation emerged in the late 1920s. Fang Xin’s own translations included d’Annunzio’s Triumph of Death and The Renaissance by Walter Pater—two of the main statements of European decadence.128 By the time of the Sino-Japanese war, however, this current of Shanghai literary life had dwindled. Instead, the Russian plays that Fang Xin translated in these years from English and Japanese sources firmly belonged to the realist repertoire. He was most active in this field during the “orphan island” period from November 1937 to December 1941, when Shanghai’s International Settlement and French Concession survived as a neutral territory in the midst of the Japanese occupation. Plays translated by Fang Xin for Shijie shuju (The World Book Company, third largest publisher in republican China after the Commercial Press and Zhonghua), where he was then an editor, included—so readers were informed on the last

As cited by Gunn, Unwelcome Muse, p. 102 ( pinyin transcription added). The translation of Pater remained in manuscript. See Xie Zhixi, Mei de pianzhi: Zhongguo xiandai weimei—tuifeizhuyi wenxue sichao yanjiu, pp. 247–49. Cf. entry on the Lüshe in Fan Quan, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue shetuan liupai cidian, p. 464, which focuses on its founder, the translator Zhu Weiji (1904–71). See ibid., pp. 268–70, and Zou Zhenhuan, 20 shiji Shanghai fanyi chuban yu wenhua bianqian, pp. 223–24, on the “Hanglie she” (The Strophe Society), dedicated to the translation of poetry, in which Zhu and Fang Xin were once again active from 1938 to the fall of the “orphan island” (a translation by Fang Xin of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage was among this Society’s unrealized publication plans). For more on Fang Xin, cf. CYT, pp. 1282–83; ZFC, p. 207; ZFWS, p. 307. 127 128


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page of Andreev’s Professor Storitsyn in 1944—Gogol’s The Inspector-General, Turgenev’s A Month in the Country, Alexander Ostrovsky’s The Tempest, Tolstoy’s The Power of Darkness, Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, Gorky’s The Lower Depths, and (the only Soviet-period work of Russian literature on this list, though he also translated others) a play by Valentin Kataev. If that was not enough, in 1940 Fang Xin had launched the translation of a Complete Plays of Ibsen for the former publisher of Shanghai “decadents”, Shao Xunmei.129 Some of these translations would have been staged, and some adapted like He Who Gets Slapped, but there is no such information on Professor Storitsyn. The eponymous hero of Professor Storitsyn is a revered university lecturer, who has passed his life in a search for beauty (was this, perhaps, something that appealed to his translator? It is the kind of question that may only be raised rhetorically). Though betrayed by his wife and robbed by his son, Storitsyn’s quest for “the imperishable values” makes him unable to cope with manifestations of banal, everyday evil. He therefore allows his wife’s lover, a strong insolent man who managed to gain full control over the family’s finances, to drive him out of his own home. To an admiring student, the beautiful princess Liudmila Pavlovna, Storitsyn dares offer no love in return, as he escapes to the house of his friend Telemakhov. This professor of medicine and army general is set as the exact opposite of Storitsyn in entertaining no rosy illusions about humanity. When the wife’s lover follows Storitsyn to Telemakhov’s, the general simply has him beaten. But the shock is too great for Storitsyn, who collapses and dies in the last scene of the play. It is unlikely that Chinese readers would have found this family drama more accessible than the same author’s symbolist and “panpsychic” works: much of it was very specifically Russian. The first performances of Professor Storitsyn in Russian provincial theatres were not treated kindly by the critics, however; one of the many who found Storitsyn ridiculous was Mikhail Artsybashev,130 whose own recent story “The Tale of a Slap in the Face” (1912) had addressed a similar subject from a different perspective. Its introduction in wartime Shanghai may be placed in 129 At least two volumes of this collection were published at Shao’s bookstore, Jinwu shuwu, on which see more in the next chapter. Social contacts between Fang Xin and Shao are suggested by Jonathan Hutt, “La Maison d’or: The Sumptuous World of Shao Xunmei”, p. 128. Professor Storitsyn would have been available to Fang Xin in both Japanese and English translations. 130 See commentary in Andreev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 4, p. 631. Artsybashev’s story was included in his collection The Avenger.

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the context of the remarkable demand for foreign plays, which later in the 1940s brought success to Shi Tuo’s adaptation of another play by Andreev.131 Professor Storitsyn, though, made much less of an impression. Hardly an ideal reader, the stern Catholic convert, writer Su Xuelin (1896–1999) left the only known contemporaneous comment on the Chinese translation: “There is not a normal person in the whole of the book and moral sense is conspicuous by its absence”. Accordingly, she concluded, it was “not to be recommended to anyone”.132 For Fang Xin, whatever aesthetic convictions may have drawn him to Storitsyn’s visceral rejection of banality, translating Andreev would have been secondary to translating plays. These he continued to churn out in quick succession up to the end of the 1950s, a dedicated one-man enterprise. IV. Translation in a collective The creative output of Li Jiye (1904–97) as a writer of fiction and poetry was modest: he is far better known as an academic at Nankai University in Tianjin, as a translator of English literature (Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, transcribed as Jian’ai, literally “Simple love”; and Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) and as one of the talented young men who had sat at Lu Xun’s feet. At nineteen, in spring 1923, Li left his native Anhui province to study in Peking. His first effort at translation, Andreev’s play To the Stars, was completed during the next summer vacation, in July 1924. According to Li’s much later recollections, he had by then read Andreev’s stories in Lu Xun’s translation (he says that he had especially liked “Into the Dark Distance”). An elementary school classmate of Li’s from Yeji in Huoqiu county, then a Peking University student and soon to become a writer, Tai Jingnong (1902–90) had first brought Li the English book, apparently from the University library. Another childhood friend and townsman then passed on the manuscript of Li’s translation to Lu Xun, whose class he was attending at the time. An entry in Lu Xun’s diary of September 1924 records that he read the MS the very next day. Under Lu Xun’s close guidance it would reach print as part

Zou Zhenhuan, 20 shiji Shanghai fanyi chuban yu wenhua bianqian, pp. 220–23, provides a long list of plays translated and adapted. 132 Su Hsueh-lin, Present Day Fiction & Drama in China, in Jos. Schyns et al., 1500 Modern Chinese Novels & Plays, p. 451. 131


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of the translation series of the Unnamed (Weiming) Society, established in the following year.133 To the Stars is set in a secluded mountain observatory in an unknown foreign land. The famous astronomer Ternovskii lives here with his family and two assistants, engrossed in the scientific work which is his life’s cause. Beneath the mountain, a revolution is gathering in strength. For taking part in it, Ternovskii’s son Nikolai is imprisoned and eventually loses his mind in gaol. The astronomer’s daughter, son-in-law, and Nikolai’s fiancée Marusia, are also involved in the struggle. Along with the professor’s Jewish assistant Lunz, a survivor of the pogroms, they mock Ternovskii’s refusal to abandon the observation of heavenly bodies, no matter what events take place on earth. Yet the final say is still that of the scientist, whose belief in the immortality of genius, through the transmission of knowledge from one generation to the next (“did Giordano Bruno really die?”, is Ternovskii’s most memorable question) is a plea for the union of man with the cosmos, and for an eternity above the transience of political strife, wars and revolutions. To the Stars (1906) was Andreev’s first work for the theatre and itself testimony to the impact of translation, indebted as its conception was to Astronomical Evenings (1890) by Hermann Joseph Klein, a book then recently made accessible in Russian. The initial background of the play was a collaborative project between Andreev and Gorky, a project which, however, had soon proved unrealizable because the two authors wished to take it in different directions.134 The affinity between Andreev and Gorky was underlined in an Introduction to the translation of To the Stars (Wang xing zhong), printed beneath a portrait of Andreev in the Unnamed Society’s fortnightly Mangyuan in May 1926.135 In the same month, this Introduction opened

133 This information is compiled from Li Jiye, “Li Jiye zizhuan” (Autobiography), in Wang Shoulan, Dangdai wenxue fanyi baijia tan, pp. 303–9; idem, “Yihou ji (er)” (Second postscript), in Li Jiye wenji, vol. 4, p. 84; and Lu Xun xiansheng yu Weiming she (Lu Xun and the Unnamed Society, originally published 1980; the last of four commemorative books by Li on Lu Xun), ibid., vol. 2, here pp. 192–93. Li said that Tai Jingnong had brought him a copy of To the Stars “from the University” (ibid., p. 192). 134 Gorky and Andreev’s plan to write a play together, centring on the tension between life for pure science and the challenge of social action, was born after both writers had read Hermann Klein. Gorky’s own play Children of the Sun eventually reflected his orientation in favour of revolution. See the commentary in Andreev, Dramaticheskie proizvedeniia, vol. 1, pp. 476–79. 135 See Wei Suyuan, “Xu ‘Wang xing zhong’ ”, p. 406 (reprint available in Wei Suyuan xuanji, pp. 87–90). Reprinting Li’s translation of To the Stars, the posthumous Li Jiye

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the book-form edition of the play; whereas in the journal publication the Russian names were transcribed and the titles were translated, the book supplied them in Cyrillic letters, spelled with unfailing accuracy. The author of the Introduction was, like Tai Jingnong, Li Jiye’s townsman and elementary school comrade. He was also the friend whom Li, in his postscript to the book, thanked for correcting his English-based translation by comparing it to the original Russian.136 Wei Suyuan (1902–32) had returned to China from Moscow in the summer of 1922. The Communist University of the Toilers of the East (founded April 1921), whose initial seven-month course he had attended,137 was a precursor of the Sun Yat-sen University (1925–1930), the laboratory for orthodox Communism which would later attract men like Shen Zemin and Zhang Wentian. Back in China, Wei enrolled in the Peking Special School of Russian Law and Politics: successor to the Russian Language Institute, which had counted among its students Geng Jizhi and Qu Qiubai. From 1925 Wei became actively involved in the translation of Russian literature both as member of the Unnamed Society and (after Lu Xun’s relocation to Xiamen) as editor of Mangyuan. Following the Russian critic L’vov-Rogachevskii, as Wei himself scrupulously pointed out, his Introduction to To the Stars interpreted Andreev’s entire oeuvre as a conflict between “heart and reason”, hope and doubt. Wei’s own preference for the heart and the hope was given a stronger expression in another article, published in the following issue of Mangyuan, and written in poetic language reminiscent of the Russian play: an author named Li Dichen here appealed to readers to resist

wenji, vol. 4, pp. 80–3, wrongly attributes to Li the authorship of this Introduction, by merging it with his “Postscript”. At about the same time in summer 1926 Wei Suyuan was also involved in the translation of Blok’s “The Twelve”, mentioned in Chapter Two: see Lu Xun’s postscript, “Shier ge houji”, in LXQJ (2005), vol. 7, p. 313. 136 Li Jiye, “Houji” (1926), offers a particularly candid description of the genesis of early republican-era translations in the summer vacations of students in Peking. Because Li’s translation was corrected, it is impossible to establish whether he had used the translation of To the Stars by Maurice Magnus (London: C. W. Daniel, 1921), or the less accessible one by Dr A. Goudiss (carried by the Boston journal Poet Lore in winter 1907, and published in book form by R. G. Badger in the same town and year). See Davies, “Bibliografiia perevodov proizvedenii Leonida Andreeva na angliiskii iazyk”, forthcoming in Leonid Andreev: materialy i issledovaniia, and more on the Magnus translations below. 137 Cf. Pantsov, The Bolsheviks and the Chinese Revolution 1919–1927, p. 171. The Communist University of the Toilers of the East continued its work until 1938.


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Fig. 6. Li Jiye (left), Wei Suyuan (middle) and Tai Jingnong (right). Reproduced in Lu Xun huazhuan, 1881–1936 (A Pictorial Biography of Lu Xun) (Beijing: Renmin meishu chubanshe, 1981).

“the abnegation of life”, and to identify with struggle in this world as symbolised in To the Stars by the character of Marusia.138 There were, apparently, other readers on whom the play made an impression, including some who could identify with the dilemma of whether to join the revolution or resist the severe demands that it posed.139 The appearance in book form of The Black Masks, the second translation of Andreev by Li Jiye, was also announced by means of an introduction in Mangyuan. Both plays came out in the Weiming series, which served as vehicle for Lu Xun’s own translations and original work (such as his essay collection The Tomb and his reminiscences of

138 Li Dichen, “Du Wang xing zhong”. A Manchu member of the Communist Party, Li (1899–1933) was a workers’ leader at a munitions factory in Shenyang at the time of posting his review. A biographical sketch by Gai Yicheng, “Dang de youxiu erzi: Li Dichen zhuanlüe”, mentions his membership of the “Chunchao” (Spring Tide) literary society in Shenyang, which according to this source was established in 1922. Fan Quan, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue shetuan liupai cidian, p. 376, dates the foundation of the society to 1926, the year of Li Dichen’s contribution to Mangyuan. 139 Li Jiye, “Yihou (er)”, postscript to a reprint of Wang xing zhong in 1985, now in Li Jiye wenji, vol. 4, p. 85.

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childhood Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk), as well as for translations, poetry and prose by the young society members. The second play thus introduced by Li Jiye to the Chinese reading audience may well count as the most challenging among Andreev’s works for the stage; its few performances in Russian theatres tended to evoke the puzzlement of actors and directors, while failing to win over the majority of the public.140 It is all the more difficult to imagine what a reader as perceptive as Lu Xun was thinking of when, in a letter to Li Jiye on 17 February 1925, he described the play as being “closer to society [than To the Stars—M.G.] and simple in meaning”, expressing his confidence that readers would therefore welcome Li’s translation.141 Lu Xun took much personal interest in Li’s work: correcting the manuscript of Wang xing zhong, he commissioned the book’s cover from illustrator Tao Yuanqing, who would also design the cover for the Beixin edition of Worker Shevyrev in 1927. Later, Lu Xun helped improve the transcription of characters’ names in The Black Masks (Hei jiamian ren).142 Li Jiye recalled his mentor detecting an Andreev influence on his story “The Smiling Face” (written in December 1925), and half-chiding him for it.143 140 Andreev himself referred to The Black Masks as his “most important work” (Woodward, Leonid Andreyev, p. 211), but then he made similar statements about some of his other plays and stories. He also declined to offer explanations for the benefit of critics and spectators: “Not another word do I wish to add for those who do not understand me, and who never will. As to those who understand, further words are . . . unneeded”. Andreev, Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, p. 647. A sympathetic study of the staging and reception of this play is E. Dubnova, “Iz istorii teatra L. Andreeva (1907–1908 gg.)”, in Keldysh and Koz’menko, Leonid Andreev: materialy i issledovaniia, pp. 291–303. 141 See LXQJ (2005), vol. 11, pp. 458–59. 142 See Li Jiye’s Introduction, “Xu Hei jiamian ren”, p. 42. On the artist from Shaoxing, Lu Xun’s own cover designer from 1924, Tao Yuanqing (1893–1929), see Julia F. Andrews, “Commercial Art and China’s Modernization”, p. 196. 143 According to Li, Lu Xun told him that “in writing, one could hardly avoid being influenced by other writers”; the bad thing was to become restrained by them. Andreev’s influence on Li’s story was discernible, in Lu Xun’s opinion, but this “was not necessarily for the worse”. Li Jiye, Lu Xun xiansheng yu Weiming she, in Li Jiye wenji, vol. 2, p. 64; for Lu Xun’s view of “influence”, cf. ibid., p. 107. “Weixiao de lianmian” was one of two stories from Li’s collection Ying (Shadows, 1928) to enter in 1935 the Compendium of Modern Chinese Literature along with works by other Weiming members: see Zhao Jiabi, Zhongguo xin wenxue daxi, vol. 4, pp. 408–17. The first of these, the soppy tale of a rejected suitor entitled “Nen Huanggua” (Tender Cucumbers), hardly deserved that honour. The second was a more unusual reflection on the fate of a soldier, whom the narrator overheard making a goodbye phone call to his family before leaving town with the rest of the troops. The story is entirely apolitical, but its pathos could have reminded Lu Xun of Andreev’s tone in “The Marseillaise”, which Li Jiye translated in the same year. Li did not want to say so when citing Lu Xun’s remark, but the editorial


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The Black Masks is set in a twelfth-century Italian castle; the young and powerful Duke Lorenzo had just invited guests to attend a brilliant banquet. He expects his friends to come wearing masks—but while masked people do arrive, they do not seem to be the friends whom Lorenzo had in mind. These unknown and aggressive guests are later joined by others, whose masks are all black and who greatly frighten even the former arrivals. Lorenzo is assailed by naked manifestations of his own self (the first group of guests identify themselves as his heart, his lies, his death), by a succession of masked figures who all pretend to be his wife, by a Doppelgänger, whom he kills in fury, and finally by the pitch-black creatures of the night come to feast themselves on the fire with which he had ordered to illuminate his castle. His “guests” departed, he still sees only masks in all the people around him: even in his loving wife and loyal servants. In the last scene, the Duke sets fire to his castle, thus cleansing his soul but putting an end to his earthly life. In his Introduction to the translation, Li Jiye explained that the background of the play was the author’s design to construct an abstract dramatic work taking place entirely in thought and the mind.144 Because The Black Masks is a symbolist play, we should pay special attention to the author’s “Mood” and “Symbol” (both words in English). These being difficult to comprehend, the play might have been written in an overly symbolist fashion, as indeed was claimed by its critics in Russia. Li defends Andreev from this charge, however, by quoting the playwright’s words stating that each of his works required a stylistic form of its own, one that would not have been suitable for another. Thus the ultimate question of whether the play succeeded in leaving an impression on the reader could, in the translator’s opinion, only be answered individually. More revealing is the political line Li adopts in

commentary in Li Jiye wenji, vol. 1, p. 750, discloses that “The Smiling Face” was based on an actual encounter Li had had with a soldier while at school in Peking. While this fact would not have prevented Li from imitating Andreev, note the admirable caution exercised about this alleged case of direct “influence” by Shneider, Russkaia klassika v Kitae, p. 176: without access to the story and knowing nothing of its biographical background, he commented that “revealing typological similarities in writers’ work, and even more so establishing the facts of some writers’ influence upon others, is an extremely complex and delicate matter” (on this approach, see also ibid., p. 8). 144 Li Jiye, “Xu Hei jiamian ren”. The beginning of the Introduction, on Andreev’s forming his notion of modern theatre by contrasting the stormy life of sixteenth-century sculptor Benvenuto Cellini with the uneventful biography of Friedrich Nietzsche, is based on section Two of Andreev’s first “Letter on the Theatre”, which Li would have found quoted in the essay by Brusianin, below.

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presenting The Black Masks to his readers: a product of the years of despair following the failed revolution of 1905, this play and the spirit of its author are, Li says, already far behind today’s new Russia. He hopes that the day may yet come when, in a new and better China, the sombre work he had translated could also be cast aside.145 Similarly apologetic, Li remarked in late December 1926 that the translated manuscript of Hei jiamian ren had not yet lost “all of its interest” for him, despite its gathering dust for (almost) two years; indeed, in the last page of the book he dated its translation as February 1925. Identifying the English source that he had used for both the translation and the Introduction,146 Li once again thanked Wei Suyuan for comparing his manuscript with the original. Those who knew Wei at the time remembered an excitable young man, who could speak uninterruptedly about the suffering he had witnessed in civil-war Russia.147 Wei’s engagement with Andreev can be dated back to 1924, when he translated a commemorative chapter by Alexander Blok, part of the first book of reminiscences about Andreev, which fellow writers had compiled after his death. Somewhat misreading the map of group affiliations in Russian literature of the 1900s, in a postscript to his translation Wei wrote that the particular value of Blok’s memoirs lay in the light they shed on the relations between “two great symbolist writers”, and on “the spirit of symbolism”.148 While he 145 There may have been a more personal angle to these words. Many years later, Li explained his unwillingness to allow the reprint of his translation of The Black Masks by quoting Matthew Arnold: “Who saw life steadily, and saw it whole…” (spoken of Sophocles, in Arnold’s “To a Friend”, 1849). Adopting this line as a watchword, Li may have come to think of Andreev’s existential pessimism as too narrow a perspective through which “to see life”. See Lu Xun xiansheng yu Weiming she, in Li Jiye wenji, vol. 2, p. 106. 146 Plays by Leonid Andreyeff: The Black Maskers, The Life of Man, The Sabine Women, trans. from the Russian by Clarence L. Meader and Fred Newton Scott (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, and London: Duckworth, 1915). This volume opened with an essay by Andreev’s secretary, Vasilii V. Brusianin, “The Symbolic Dramas of Andreyeff ”. Li Jiye had first summarized it (under the pen-name Ren Dong) in Chenbao fujuan, on 29–31 Dec. 1924. A later translation of this text, and the preceding “Biographical Note” on Andreev by Meader and Scott, appeared in Xin chenbao in Nov. 1929. 147 Feng Zhi, “Lu Xun yu Chenzhong she”, p. 9. 148 Blok, “Huiyi Anteliefu”, later collected in Wei Suyuan’s anthology Huanghua ji (see below); reprint available in Wei Suyuan xuanji, pp. 237–45. For the original, see Maxim Gorky et al., Kniga o Leonide Andreeve, pp. 55–62. The longest essay in the book, by Gorky himself, was first retranslated from English in Nankai daxue zhoukan, nos. 99, 100 (Dec. 1930; the translator was Yuan Tian, apparently a student at Nankai University); a second translation (by the prominent translator Huang Yuan, 1905–2003) followed in 1937, and a third (by Ru Long) in 1953. The Book about Leonid Andreev is the subject of


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translated Gogol and Chekhov as well, here he may have been pointing at the current in Russian literature that attracted him most. Early in 1929, an anthology of stories and poetry chiefly by Russian writers, compiled by the chronically ill Wei Suyuan from his hospital bed, was published by the Unnamed Society. Huanghua ji (The Yellow Flowers collection) included Andreev’s “The Giant”, a seemingly innocent story told to a small child that reveals its terrible meaning by its end: the “giant” is Death, about to snatch the boy from his mother’s embrace. Wei classified “The Giant”, along with several other short pieces that he had translated over the years (the Andreev story had first appeared in Mangyuan in 1925), as sanwen shi: “a prose poem”, the term which (beginning from their first translator, Liu Bannong) was used in Chinese to denote the lyrical sketches of Ivan Turgenev. Three of these “Senilia” (the “reflections of an old man”, to use the title given to them by the Russian writer) were also gathered in this book, reflecting their popularity in China. The inclusion of two poems by Fedor Sologub attested, in turn, to Wei Suyuan’s long-standing interest in this complex author.149 In June 1931, another anthology of Russian stories in Wei’s translation entitled Zuihou de guangmang (The Last Sunray, after a story by Korolenko),150 carried both the story “The Little Angel” by Andreev (which will be discussed separately below) and another, “Laughter” of 1901. “Laughter” was a tale of a masquerade, notable for the Chinese costume and mask worn by its first-person narrator, and for Andreev’s ability to blend into one, very short story, hilarious laughter and the hint

White, Memoirs and Madness. On Andreev and Blok, cf. Ch. 4 in Bezzubov, Leonid Andreev i traditsii russkogo realizma; and Davies, “Pis’ma L. Tolstogo i A. Bloka Leonidu Andreevu”. 149 He had first translated Sologub in 1924, following up with an article presenting Russian “decadent” poets. See Wei Suyuan, “Eguo de tuifei pai” (modern reprint in Jia Zhifang and Chen Sihe, Zhong-wai wenxue guanxi shi ziliao huibian, vol. 1, pp. 426–29), which as the author readily admitted was indebted to the Russian critic Ivanov-Razumnik. Cf. idem, Russkaia literatura ot semidesiatykh godov do nashikh dnei (Russian Literature from the Seventies to Our Day), 6th revised ed. (Berlin: Skify, 1923), p. 361 ff. 150 This was the story quoted in the closing passage of Lu Xun’s famous essay “On The Power of Mara Poetry” in 1907. Yet another small anthology in Wei’s translation, entitled Xiao tianshi (The Little Angel), was published without a date by Santong shuju in Shanghai, reprinting the title story and “Laughter” by Andreev along with one story each by Gorky and Sologub. Not listed in any bibliography (including the list of publications in Wei Suyuan xuanji ), it can be consulted at Peking University Library. As indicated by Zou Zhenhuan, 20 shiji Shanghai fanyi chuban yu wenhua bianqi, p. 443, Santong shuju was active from 1938 to 1945; further details allow us to date this pocket-sized, posthumous compilation to 1941.

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Fig. 7. Li Jiye in the courtyard of the Weiming Society in Peking, 1928. Courtesy of the Lu Xun Museum, Beijing.

of existential tragedy. So close was Wei’s cooperation with Li Jiye, that the true identity of this story’s translator is now impossible to establish: published in Mangyuan (then still a weekly) under Li’s signature in July 1925, “Laughter” was reprinted in The Last Sunray without any textual changes, but this time bearing Wei’s name. Li’s own preoccupation with Andreev around that time included a translation of the “The Marseillaise”, a short tale of heroism couched in an elevated diction that spoke volumes of Andreev’s admiration for the Russian revolutionaries of 1905. Appearing in Mangyuan in April 1925, it was collected by Li in his anthology of mainly Russian and Polish stories, The Unhappy Ones, published by Weiming in April 1929.151

The anthology is reprinted in Li Jiye wenji, vol. 4. The French national anthem, as Li would have been aware, had been translated into Chinese as “Masaiqu” by Liu Bannong in New Youth, in 1916. Cf. Guo Yanli, Zhongguo jindai fanyi wenxue gailun, pp. 393–94; Hockx, Questions of Style, pp. 167–68. 151


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Translation practice at Mangyuan and the Unnamed Society, especially before Lu Xun had left Peking for the south, resembled a well-organized assembly line. One of the books in the Weiming series, a pioneering translation of Dostoevsky’s Poor Folks by Wei Suyuan’s younger brother Wei Congwu, had been rendered from the English (of Constance Garnett), but was only allowed into print in June 1926 after Lu Xun had checked it against a Japanese translation and Suyuan had compared the manuscript with the original Russian.152 The same three languages were mobilized for another joint project of Li Jiye and Wei Suyuan: in February 1928, just a month before the publication of The Black Masks, their names appeared under a translation of Leon Trotsky’s Literature and Revolution (1924), an undertaking, which, like most of what they did, had begun with Lu Xun’s blessings and was given the floor of Mangyuan in 1926–27. As a consequence, the forces of anti-Soviet warlord Zhang Zuolin raided the Weiming office in April, sending Li to prison for fifty days. He may have been fortunate in that Zhang’s agents rather than those of the CCP got to him first, though the latter would still remind him of the vagaries of youth after 1949.153 Wei Suyuan, bedridden since 1927, was released after only a week. He died, aged thirty, in August 1932; the Unnamed Society

152 See Lu Xun’s Introduction, “Qiong ren xiaoyin”, LXQJ (2005), vol. 7, pp. 105–10. Wei Congwu (1905–78), initially a poet and a writer, went on to retranslate the complete works of Dostoevsky from English, as well as numerous books by Soviet authors. As a sometime KMT functionary, he was blamed for the dissolution of the Weiming Society in PRC publications beginning with the memoirs of Li Jiye. 153 According to Li Jiye, Lu Xun xiansheng yu Weiming she, in Li Jiye wenji, vol. 2, pp. 70–2, Lu Xun was the first to buy a copy of Literature and Revolution in Japanese in Aug. 1925; Wei Suyuan then received the original from Peking University teacher Sergei Tret’iakov, while Li himself obtained the book in an English translation. He claimed here that he and Wei knew nothing at the time of the political situation in Soviet Russia (where Trotsky had been expelled from the Party along with his supporters, and exiled to Central Asia by the end of 1927). Reflecting the hardship of Trotsky’s translator during the Cultural Revolution, these statements stood in obvious contradiction to Li’s words at the end of his lengthy postscript, dated Jan. 1928: “As everybody knows, he [Trotsky, M. G.] is leader of the opposition party to the current government in Soviet Russia, who has now been exiled while suffering from tuberculosis”. Nor was it the writer Tret’iakov (1892–1939), but the sinologist and translator Sergei A. Polevoi (1886–1971), then a teacher at PKU and an émigré in the USA after 1939, whom Li Jiye, “Houji” (1928), pp. 353–54, thanked for his help with the original text. The rare copy of Wenxue yu geming at PKU Library comes from the collection of Xu Zuzheng (1897–1978), a translator from Japanese and contributor to Yusi and Creation Society journals in the 1920s. On Tret’iakov and Polevoi, see entries in Sorokina, “Snova vostokovedy…”.

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had dissolved by that time.154 Li Jiye, now in Tianjin, continued his engagement with Russian literature by retranslating War and Peace —though his completed manuscript, the product of over four years of work, would be lost during the Sino-Japanese war.155 He published translations of stories by Soviet writers in the 1950s, but concentrated on writing up his memoirs of Lu Xun. Already apologetic by 1926, about texts he had translated only two years earlier, much later in his life Li would describe his first translations as work done primarily for income,156 to pay tuition fees or help his family. But this financial need did not detract from the importance attached to these manuscripts by the members of the closely-knit Unnamed Society, beginning with Lu Xun himself. Indeed, translation was an important activity for members of most literary societies, including those holding convictions quite different from Lu Xun’s. The writer Xiang Peiliang157 had joined Lu Xun in founding Mangyuan Society in April 1925 but left it together with the group headed by Gao Changhong in the following year; accordingly, rather than continue from Mangyuan to Weiming along with Li Jiye and the Wei brothers, he entered the radically iconoclastic Kuangbiao (Sturm und Drang) Society, which Gao and his two brothers established after Lu Xun’s departure for Xiamen. It was Xiang who recorded and published Lu Xun’s farewell talk at the Peking Women’s Normal College on 22 August 1926, in which he discussed his translation of Worker Shevyrev; the nihilist first-person narrator of a short novel, which Xiang published in the

154 Of the five young members of the Unnamed Society (Li Jiye, Tai Jingnong, Cao Jinghua, Wei Suyuan and Wei Congwu), Suyuan was particularly close to Lu Xun, who would lament his untimely death. Cf. Lu Xun and Xu Guangping, Letters between Two, pp. 9, 442; Lu Xun, “In Memory of Wei Suyuan” (1934), in Selected Works, vol. 4, pp. 67–73. 155 Li Jiye, Lu Xun xiansheng yu Weiming she, in Li Jiye wenji, vol. 2, pp. 128–29; idem, “Li Jiye zizhuan”, in Wang Shoulan, Dangdai wenxue fanyi baijia tan, pp. 306–7. 156 Ibid., p. 306. 157 CYT, p. 240, gives Xiang’s year of birth as either 1901 or 1905, and year of death as 1961. The commentators of LXQJ (2005), however, give 1905–59. In 1929 Xiang became known as a supporter of the “nationalist literature” promoted by the KMT, and as a speaker for “an art for mankind” (Renlei de yishu, title of his book of 1930): cf. ibid., vol. 17, p. 56. ZXFW, p. 328, names Xiang next to the translator of Artsybashev Yang Sao and his wife Bai Wei (pseudonym of Huang Suru) among writers influenced by Oscar Wilde; ibid., pp. 558, 357, mentions his translations of plays by d’Annunzio in 1929 and O’Neill in 1931.


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same year, would later be associated by Lu Xun with the positions of Shevyrev and Sanin.158 In October 1925 Xiang Peiliang translated from English Andreev’s story “At the Station” for Mangyuan weekly. A psychological study of a lone policeman at an abandoned roadside station, it flirted with the idea that even a tsarist gendarme may be entitled to sympathy as a human being, though to conclude this story without abruptly recasting its hero in the role of an enemy was more than could have been expected of Andreev in 1903. Obviously from the same book of Andreev stories in the translation of W. H. Lowe, for Kuangbiao weekly in November 1926, Xiang translated “The Tocsin”: the harrowing image of fire, seeming to engulf the whole of creation, a mighty fire colouring the skies red, which the tocsin of a burning village church accompanies with its relentless, doom-laden knell. This was Andreev at his most “decadent”; summarized here as an example of translation within literary societies, Xiang Peiliang’s choice of this story is connected with the appeal (to be fully identified in the next chapter) that Andreev’s work held for a segment of modernist Chinese literature in the late 1920s. Translation in republican China, as we have now seen, was less a solitary than a social activity: one frequently carried out within the framework of a literary society (which could often have a nucleus of fellow-provincials), shared with friends and even with family members. While not every joint translation carried more than a single name on the title page (Ling Xiao and Wu Ling, the translators of Sanin, may have been a couple in real life, too), collaboration with a friend, supervision by a greater name or the advice of someone familiar with Russian, were declared in the prefaces and postscripts not only so as to lend greater authority to the translated text, but also because this was how many translations were really done. As to translation in the family, it was a very common phenomenon indeed. Along with the three Zhou brothers (Zhou Jianren, too, was an active translator in the 1920s),159 the brothers Shen Yanbing and Shen 158 “ ‘Zhongguo xin wenxue daxi’ xiaoshuo erji xu” (Introduction to the Compendium of Modern Chinese Literature, Second Collection of Short Fiction, 1935), posthumously collected in Qiejieting zawen erji (1937), in LXQJ (2005), vol. 6, at pp. 261–63. 159 On the intensive collaboration between Lu Xun and Zhou Zuoren, in their translation work in Tokyo from 1906 to 1909 and in Beijing from 1917 to 1923, see Wang Yougui, Fanyijia Lu Xun, pp. 40–44. Ibid., pp. 187–89, discusses a collection of stories for children, by the Austrian writer Hermynia zur Mühlen, jointly translated in 1929 by Lu Xun and his wife Xu Guangping.

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Zemin, Wei Suyuan and Wei Congwu, Hu Yuzhi and Hu Zhongchi,160 we should recall Ba Jin’s brother Li Yaolin and also Ba Jin’s young wife Xiao Shan (1921–72; a translator of Turgenev and Pushkin).161 Zheng Zhenduo’s wife Gao Junzhen (1901–85) was a translator mainly of children’s literature;162 Liu Wenzhen, the wife of Li Jiye, translated as well,163 and another couple to translate Russian and English fiction were Cai Yongshang and her husband Dong Qiusi.164 An early story by the writer Bing Xin presented a literary image of this: in a narrative contrasting two households of returned students in Peking, the picture of the perfect family was conveyed through a description of the husband and wife working in harmony on the translation of an English book.165 Further examples of “translation in the family” (of which the outstanding example, were we to include the translation of Chinese literature into English, would have been Yang Xianyi and his British wife, Gladys Yang) will still arise in our story. To observe the phenomenon in its beginnings, we may turn to the early issues of the “reformed” Xiaoshuo yuebao. A look at the second issue of volume 13 in 1922 will show the second part of Shen Zemin’s translation of Flaubert’s “A Simple Heart” and Shen Yanbing’s “News from the World literary Scene”; Geng Shizhi’s

160 A joint translation by the two Hu brothers of Turgenev’s famous story “Mumu” was published in Dongfang zazhi, vol. 17, nos. 4–6 (Feb. to March 1920). Years later, Hu Zhongchi and a third brother, Hu Xueshu, were mobilized to the team which, under Hu Yuzhi’s supervision, translated Edgar Snow’s Red Star Over China in 1938: see editors’ note to the reprint in Hu Yuzhi yiwen ji, vol. 2, pp. 128–29; Fu, Passivity, Resistance, and Collaboration, p. 61. On the brothers from Fujian, Huang Jiade (1908–92) and Huang Jiayin (1913–60), active translators and publishers in “orphan island” Shanghai, see Zou Zhenhuan, 20 shiji Shanghai fanyi chuban yu wenhua bianqian, pp. 215–20; CYT, p. 1121. Their brother Huang Jiali was a translator as well. 161 The entry on Xiao Shan in ZFC, p. 606, lists among many titles a collection of Turgenev jointly translated with Ba Jin in 1959. Ba Jin’s tribute, “Remembering Xiao Shan”, is included in Random Thoughts, and is translated also by Michael S. Duke in Joseph S. M. Lau and Howard Goldblatt, eds., The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Literature (New York, 1995), pp. 691–702. Cf. Huang Shang, “Xiao Shan de shu” (Xiao Shan’s Books), in Huang Shang wenji, vol. 4, pp. 170–72. 162 Cf. Hockx, Questions of Style, p. 275. Together, Zheng and Gao published at the Commercial Press the story anthology Tian’e (The Swan, 1925), collecting five of Zheng’s translations of Fedor Sologub. 163 Li Jiye, “Li Jiye zizhuan”, in Wang Shoulan, Dangdai wenxue fanyi baijia tan, p. 308. 164 See CYT, pp. 1187 (on Dong Qiusi, 1899–1969), 1283 (on Cai Yongshang, 1901–40). 165 See “Liang ge jiating” (Two Families, Bing Xin’s first published story of 1919), in Bing Xin quanji, vol. 1, pp. 11–9.


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second instalment of Andreev’s play The Ocean and his translation of a story by the obscure Polish writer Helena Zeisinger; and a chapter of Geng Jizhi’s serialised translation of Turgenev’s A Hunter’s Notes. The following issue contained, next to the continuing contributions of the Shen brothers, a translation of Chekhov’s story “Happiness” by Geng Mianzhi (the translator who in the same year interpreted for Vasilii Eroshenko at Peking University), Geng Shizhi’s translation of a story by the modern Polish classic, Boles aw Prus, and the continuation of Geng Jizhi’s Turgenev. All the siblings just mentioned were also members of the same literary society, naturally the Literary Research Association. The members of that Association, though, were not alone in translating Russian literature. As we are about to see in detail below, Russian literature was also translated in China by persons who regarded translation more as a profession than as a mission and who belonged to groups that the Literary Research Association and the Unnamed Society viewed as their foremost ideological opponents.


THE TRANSLATOR’S PROFESSION I. The translation market of the 1910s The translation of Russian literature began in China before the clarion calls of the movement for “New Culture” had sounded. That it also continued after the leading literary reformers of the 1920s had turned their energies to Marxist theory and Soviet socialist realism was something we have already observed and of which we will see further evidence below. Translation in the 1910s, however, had its own special characteristics. Before turning our attention to the earliest translations of Leonid Andreev in China after Lu Xun’s “Silence” and “The Lie” in 1909, we must once again mention the name of the single most distinguished professional translator in this period, who (while he never translated other Russian writers) was one of the very first to acquaint Chinese readers with the novels of Leo Tolstoy.1 Lin Shu may be considered the first professional translator in modern China, a definition that pertains less to the accuracy or quality of translations produced (criteria which have, of course, changed greatly over time) than to translation being a person’s main occupation. Unlike the translators whom we have described as “engaged intellectuals”, the professional translator pursues no overriding cultural or political agenda, and (it is safe to assume) relies on translation for his livelihood. Certainly, Lin Shu’s prefaces to his translations and some of the changes he introduced into them contrary to authorial design, expressed his commitment to Confucian morality on the one hand, and to a patriotic vision of improving society through literature (not a prerogative of “May Fourth”) on the other. But the translated works themselves did not reflect a single, coherent ideology; rather, they provided readers with a

1 The first Chinese collection of Tolstoy stories by Wang Bingkun (1907) is discussed in Chen Jianhua, 20 shiji Zhong-E wenxue guanxi, p. 47. The list of Lin Shu’s translations of Tolstoy, in Yu Jiuhong, “Lin Shu fanyi zuopin kaosuo”, pp. 422–24, comprises ten titles. All these translations were done in collaboration with Chen Jialin, who would read the books aloud to Lin in simultaneous translation from the English: see Han Hongju, “Lin Shu de ‘kouyizhe’ kao”.


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window to a wide range of Western literature, most of which carried no overt political or civic message.2 Another key ingredient to Lin Shu’s professionalism was his ability to secure a place for his translations in the emerging book market: after the triumph of La Dame aux camélias in 1899, “Lin’s translated novels” (Linyi xiaoshuo) were soon taken up for publication by the Commercial Press.3 Lin’s example pointed the way for others—among them the person who signed his translation of Andreev’s novella “Thought”, in the August 1910 issue of the journal Xiaoshuo shibao (Fiction Times), with the pen-name Leng (“Cold”). Like Lin Shu, and as was still customary at that time, Leng translated into the classical rather than the vernacular style. This first work by Andreev ever to be brought before a large reading audience in China was also an important work in its own right. Its first-person hero, a physician, tells his story while facing trial for killing a former schoolmate; this friend had married a woman, to whom the physician had unsuccessfully proposed. Dr Kerzhentsev had carefully planned his revenge: he would simulate a slow process of madness, a series of calculated public displays of his erring mind, which by the time of the murder would guarantee him acquittal on the grounds of insanity. As Kerzhentsev describes his simulation of madness, however, we gradually realize that he did become insane even as he pretended to be so. His Chinese translator, too, reached this conclusion in his astute comments, placed at the end of the (over forty-page) translation: This is the account of Hengdeng as told by himself, the talk of a madman. Let readers judge for themselves whether he really was mad or not. Often in his account, as he was trying to prove his madness, his words did not sound mad, while it was in those places in the account where he 2 Within the Lin translation corpus, Leo Lee, “Lin Shu and His Translations: Western Fiction in Chinese Perspective”, distinguished what he called “the world of sentiment” (represented by La Dame aux camélias), “the world of ethics” (Lin’s many translations of novels by Charles Dickens), and “the world of adventure” (the writer most widely translated by Lin was H. Rider Haggard; he also translated three historical novels by Walter Scott). Cf. Arthur Waley, “Notes on Translation” (1958), p. 162: “though Lin Shu translated chiefly because he liked translating and did not, so far as I know, ever aim consciously at ‘influencing the future course of Chinese literature’, the effect of his prodigious life-work was in fact to revolutionize Chinese fiction”. 3 On “Linyi xiaoshuo” see, in brief, Zou Zhenhuan, Yilin jiuzong, pp. 128–30, and more in Guo Yanli, Zhong-Xi wenhua pengzhuang yu jindai wenxue, pp. 256–86. Lin Shu is discussed as contributor to the prereformed Xiaoshuo yuebao in Denise Gimpel, Lost Voices of Modernity: A Chinese Popular Fiction Magazine in Context, pp. 208–9.

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was trying to prove his sanity that they often did. [ The alternation of ] these two kinds of speech is what the whole story is about, and readers should notice that the most mad-sounding places in the story are also those most in keeping with reason.4

If any readers of the Fiction Times had chanced to see the Zhou brothers’ Stories from Abroad in 1909, this background would in no way have facilitated their identification of the Russian author, presented to them now under the transcription “Hentai”, although a large portrait of Andreev did occupy most of the second page of the translation. By contrast, there would have been no like uncertainty in readers’ minds about the translator’s identity: Leng was short for “Leng Xue” (Cold Blood), the sobriquet of Chen Jinghan (1877–1965). Using this name, beginning from as early as 1903, Chen had published many translations of short stories, chiefly by French, English and Japanese writers, but also by Pushkin, Tolstoy and Chekhov. He could read English, and better than that—Japanese, from which he had probably retranslated Andreev.5 His main specialty were the “nihilist stories” of daring terrorist action, the popularity of which in the 1910s was mentioned in the Introduction. Chen’s translations were carried by the Shanghai journals of popular fiction, including several that he himself edited, such as Xin xin xiaoshuo (Newest fiction, from 1904), and (together with writer and translator Bao Tianxiao, from September 1909) Xiaoshuo shibao, a supplement to Shibao daily.6 The unhelpful transcription of the foreign author’s name should cause no surprise (according to the historian of Chinese translation Guo Yanli, almost a third of Chen’s many translations appeared

Leng, trans., “Xin” (Mind), Xiaoshuo shibao, no. 6 (5 Aug. 1910), pp. 41–2. It was probably through the transfer of their names from Japanese that Andreev had become “Hentai”, and Kerzhentsev “Hengdeng”. The third work by Andreev in Japanese after “The Red Laugh” and “The Little Angel” (both translated in 1908), “Thought” was retranslated from the French of Serge Persky in 1909. See Haishima Wataru, “Leonid Andreev v Iaponii: Bibliografiia perevodov” (Andreev in Japan: A Bibliography of Translations), forthcoming in Leonid Andreev: materialy i issledovaniia. 6 Much of the information here and below is drawn from the chapter on translators Chen Jinghan, Bao Tianxiao and Zhou Shoujuan in Guo Yanli, Zhongguo jindai fanyi wenxue gailun, pp. 336–54. On Xiaoshuo shibao, cf. Link, Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies, p. 249. As a journalist at the Shibao (“The Eastern Times”) in Shanghai, Chen Jinghan receives much attention in Joan Judge, Print and Politics: ‘Shibao’ and the Culture of Reform in Late Qing China (where he is referred to as Chen Leng): “A very private and eccentric man who had already cut off his queue in 1904, he wore Western suits, smoked a pipe, rode a bicycle, and refused to attend social gatherings” (ibid., pp. 207–8). 4 5


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without any clues about their authorship), as we enter the territory of the Shanghai entertainment market of the early 1910s. The translators who made their living and their reputations in this market after Lin Shu’s success had first indicated the extent of the demand for foreign fiction, were also active as writers, journalists and editors. They made few pretensions of instructing their audience, who however admired them for the ability to tell a good story in flowing style, and cared less whether the story was their own or someone else’s. This attitude, very unlike the approach of the translators who published in “progressive” journals in the 1920s, implied no less curiosity about foreign literature on the part of contributors and readers of Xiaoshuo shibao, which in fact dedicated eighty per cent of its pages to translations.7 Chinese translations of Andreev’s celebrated story “The Red Laugh” (1904) began, as we know, with Lu Xun trying his hand at the first fragments in Japan in 1909. Zheng Zhenduo started, but similarly did not finish his translation in 1924. If we add Lu Xun and Zheng Zhenduo to those other translators who accomplished various parts of the text (a novella running to almost ninety pages when translated into English), the roster of those in China who during the first half of the century worked on this brainchild of Andreev’s “nine mad nights”8 becomes truly impressive. It was the “madness and horror” of war (the first words of the story) that Andreev described in “The Red Laugh”, using as a foil the Russo-Japanese war in Manchuria. He had never gone to battle himself, any more than he had been a condemned prisoner awaiting his execution (Andreev’s later novella “The Seven Who Were Hanged”): in his Moscow apartment he took it upon himself to recreate the psychological state of a man who had come back from War, carrying it with him. In a story containing nineteen “fragments” in two parts, the 7 Fan Boqun, “Bao Tianxiao, Zhou Shoujuan, Xu Zhuodai de wenxue fanyi dui xiaoshuo chuangzuo zhi cujin”, p. 172. This article of 1996 mounts a resolute defence, by one of their main researchers, of the popular writers and translators formerly cast as the reactionary opponents of “New Literature”. Highlighting the role of entertainment journals in the translation of foreign literature, Fan sees a close correlation between Zhou Shoujuan’s translation work and his creative output. 8 The time Andreev said he had spent writing “The Red Laugh”: see Woodward, Leonid Andreyev, pp. 98–9. It is probable that the work took him somewhat longer than that: in an interview in Finland in summer 1905 Andreev spoke of “two weeks”. See Ben Hellman, “Retseptsiia tvorchestva L. N. Andreeva v Finliandii” (The Reception of Andreev’s Work in Finland), forthcoming in Leonid Andreev: materialy i issledovaniia.

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first part is told by an officer returned from the front with both his legs amputated; his memories of the war soon drive him insane and hasten his death. The second part is narrated by the officer’s brother, who loses his sanity as well, whilst trying to understand the terrible thing that had claimed his brother’s life. The image of a “red laugh” conveys the “blood-coloured mockery” that War represents to normal reason.9 At the story’s end, the narrator’s mind collapses under the assault of the rows of corpses that, as if spit out by the earth, keep appearing before his eyes: behind the window stands the Red Laugh himself. The first to translate “The Red Laugh” in China was Zhou Shoujuan (1895–1968), like the older Chen Jinghan—a fertile writer and editor of so-called “Mandarin Ducks and Butterfly” fiction. The story was among the fifty works, by forty-seven writers from fourteen countries, included in Zhou Shoujuan’s Oumei mingjia duanpian xiaoshuo congkan (Anthology of Short Stories by Famous European and American Writers). This anthology was published by the Zhonghua Book Company in Shanghai in March 1917.10 Before being collected there, in September 1914 the story had appeared in the journal Youxi zazhi (accompanying English title: The Pastime). The third of Andreev’s Chinese translators after Lu Xun and Chen Jinghan, and the first effectively to introduce Andreev to a Chinese readership during the author’s lifetime, was born in Shanghai to a family with roots in Suzhou in Jiangsu province, the origin of many “butterfly” writers. Living by his pen since his teens, the eighteen year-old Zhou had translated “The Red Laugh” from English, which he had learned to a good level at school and which remained his only foreign language. It will be worthwhile to pause here, in order to sum up other avenues by which Western, including Russian fiction, reached readers in China in the 1910s. One practice, used by those late-Qing and early republican translators who did not study abroad and lacked knowledge of foreign languages, was to engage bilingual assistants as oral interpreters (kouyizhe); this “tandem” method was most familiar from its use by Lin Shu. Another method became associated especially with the name of Bao Tianxiao 9 Woodward, Leonid Andreyev, p. 105. One of the most thoughtful analyses of “The Red Laugh”, pointing out associations with two of the writer’s favourite painters, Goya and Nicholas Roerich, is in L. A. Iezuitova, Tvorchestvo Leonida Andreeva, pp. 151–86. 10 For the full contents of this three-volume anthology, see Zhongguo xiandai wenxue zong shumu, p. 675, and Tarumoto Teruo, Xinbian zengbu Qingmo Minchu xiaoshuo mulu, pp. 526–27. Zhou Shoujuan’s translation of Andreev has been mostly ignored in secondary literature.


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(1876–1973). It consisted of choosing such Japanese translations that resorted as much as possible to kanji (Chinese characters), and relied the less the better on the Japanese kana (phonetic alphabet) and colloquial language. This allowed Chinese translators to glean the basic plot of a story, which they would then proceed (with few creative inhibitions) to tell anew, most typically in literary rather than in vernacular Chinese.11 Let us begin with Zhou Shoujuan’s translation of “The Red Laugh” as it appeared in the Anthology of Short Stories by Famous European and American Writers in 1917, before turning to its original journal publication. As he did with all the other writers in the anthology, Zhou began with a brief presentation of the author in classical Chinese. After describing Andreev’s poverty in his younger years, Zhou insisted that Andreev’s career was launched in 1898 by a story, translated into English as “Was He Mad”; this and “The Red Laugh” supposedly remained Andreev’s most famous works.12 Another case of mistaken identity was the small photograph, allegedly of the Russian author, that headed the same page.13 Zhou concluded his Introduction with the words: “this man is still alive today, and next to Gorky [the previous author in the anthology, M.G.] is considered one of the two great contemporary Russian writers”. The story was then translated into the colloquial language. The Anthology was an instant success. Lu Xun, who handled the copy sent by the publisher to his section in the Ministry of Education, 11 The writer and editor Bao Tianxiao, a stalwart of the “butterfly” school and one of the heroes of Perry Link’s Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies, knew no English or French when he began his career as a translator, acquiring only a limited knowledge of these languages later on. On his free translating and retelling of Western fiction through the Japanese, in which his initial level was also “far from good”, see Guo Yanli, Zhongguo jindai fanyi wenxue gailun, pp. 342–43. One of the earliest translations of Chekhov in China, Bao’s version of the story “Ward No. 6”, published in 1910, is criticized by Li Ding, “Eguo wenxue fanyi zai Zhongguo”, p. 359, but found complete and accurate by Guo Yanli, who compares it with the original Russian and with a later Chinese translation by Ru Long. 12 Zhou Shoujuan, trans., “Hong xiao” [1917], p. 42 (details in the Annex). A reprint, with punctuation added, is in Zhongguo jindai wenxue daxi, 1840–1919, vol. 26, pp. 779–801. The story that earned Andreev first fame in 1898 was “Bargamot and Garaska” (which, he would say, was written in imitation of Dickens), but Zhou must have been referring here to “The Thought”: an unsigned English abbreviation of this story appeared under the title “Was he Mad?” in The Strand Magazine of Jan. 1915. See Davies, “Bibliografiia perevodov proizvedenii Leonida Andreeva na angliiskii iazyk”, forthcoming in Leonid Andreev: materialy i issledovaniia. 13 The photographs, accompanying almost all the writers represented in the anthology in the original three-volume edition of 1917, were not reproduced either in Zhongguo jindai wenxue daxi, or in the one-volume modern re-edition of Oumei mingjia duanpian xiaoshuo (Changsha: Yuelin she, 1987).

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Fig. 1. Zhou Shoujuan’s Introduction to his translation of Andreev, “The Red Laugh” (with wrong photograph of the author), in Oumei mingjia xiaoshuo congkan (Shanghai: Zhonghua shuju, 1917) vol. 3. Zhongshan University Library, Guangzhou.

noticed small defects in the choice and presentation of writers, but on the whole gave the anthology high praise for its pioneering achievement, especially in bringing the literature of continental Europe (which he distinguished from the more frequently translated fiction in English) to the attention of readers in Chinese. At a time when licentious stories of the aiqing or canqing (both meaning “tragic love”) variety passed for literature in China, Zhou’s book was “a ray of light in the darkness of the night, a crane calling out among chickens”.14 Others, including

From Lu Xun’s review in Jiaoyu gongbao (Education Gazette) of 30 Nov. 1917, now collected in LXQJ (2005), vol. 8, pp. 69–70 (Lu Xun elaborates here on a Chinese idiom similar to the English “triton among the minnows”). This review was considered lost until being discovered by Chen Mengxiong in 1963; his Lu Xun quanji zhong de ren he shi, pp. 57–62, provides more information. 14


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Zhou Zuoren in the 1950s, would comment that after the failure of Stories from Abroad Lu Xun must have been encouraged by the new anthology, interpreting it as a call for movement in the direction that he (and his brother) had advocated in 1909. But, Zhou Zuoren also added, Lu Xun was then disappointed to see that Zhou Shoujuan did not go on to contribute to the cause of introducing foreign literature, which consequently had to await the takeover of Xiaoshuo yuebao by the Literary Research Association.15 Indeed, while he continued to translate, Zhou Shoujuan did not join that Association, becoming known to fans as “the giant of tragic love” (aiqing juzi ).16 In the pages of the Association’s Literature Ten-daily, Zheng Zhenduo wondered how “the translator of ‘The Red Laugh’ and The Pillars of Society” could also be the author of the hopelessly traditional stories he had just read in the main rival magazine, the best-selling Libai liu (The Saturday, founded in 1914).17 The legitimacy of the “popular” writing of Zhou Shoujuan (editor as well as prolific contributor to Libai liu from 1921 to its folding in 1923) and his colleagues no longer needs defenders in academic writing today: we already know that—far from staying trapped in old conventions—this literature too changed and evolved. What we may need by now is rather a renewed appreciation of the extent to which, its capacity for innovation notwithstanding, early twentieth-century xiaoshuo still aimed at giving readers entertainment, not anything as grand as “an alternative view of modernity”.18 A comparison between Zhou Shoujuan’s two succeeding versions of “The

Wang Zhiyi, Zhou Shoujuan yanjiu ziliao, pp. 256–57, 319. Zhou Zuoren had mentioned Zhou Shoujuan’s translation of “The Red Laugh” already in the article accompanying his own translation of “Ben-Tovit” in 1919. 16 Fan Boqun, “Bao Tianxiao, Zhou Shoujuan, Xu Zhuodai”, p. 173. Ibid., p. 172, points out that, in the journal Libai liu alone, Zhou Shoujuan published a total of 71 translations by 1923, in addition to 75 pieces of his own creative writing, six “adaptations”, and seven more stories with a foreign setting, the proper status of which as either translation or original remains (as was even more frequently the case with publications by Bao Tianxiao) impossible to determine. Guo Yanli, Zhongguo jindai fanyi wenxue gailun, p. 350, calls Zhou the most successful translator of short stories before May Fourth. 17 Xidi, “Sixiang de fanliu” (An Ideological Countercurrent), originally in Wenxue xunkan of 10 June 1921, reprinted in Wang Zhiyi, Zhou Shoujuan yanjiu ziliao, pp. 310–11. Ibsen’s play The Pillars of Society, to which Zheng refers here, was published in Zhou Shoujuan’s translation in the last issue of the “old” Xiaoshuo yuebao in 1920. 18 Timothy C. Wong warns against such exaggerated claims in the Afterword to his Stories for Saturday: Twentieth-Century Chinese Popular Fiction. 15

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Fig. 2. Cover of the journal Youxi zazhi, no. 10 (Sept. 1914). The first Chinese translation of Leonid Andreev’s novella “The Red Laugh”, by Zhou Shoujuan, was published in this issue. Peking University Library.

Red Laugh” provides some indication of the change as well as of the continuity in his approach to foreign literature from 1914 to 1917.19 The Pastime, published between 1913 and 1915, had a section called yilin (“translation grove”), the third after huaji wen (humour) and shiciqu xuan (selected poetry in the shi, ci, and qu genres), but leafing through the journal’s issue of September 1914 we shall not find “The Red Laugh” there.20 Instead, passing by sections bearing the titles tancong (literally, “collected conversations”), moshu (magic) and xixue jiangyi (approximately, “lectures on the study of drama”), we encounter the story in the “fiction”

19 I owe the discovery of the original journal version of this translation to the indispensable bibliography by Tarumoto Teruo, Xinbian zengbu Qingmo Minchu xiaoshuo mulu, here p. 261. 20 Another discussion of Youxi zazhi, based on its first issue, is Hockx, Questions of Style, pp. 136–43.


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(xiaoshuo) part, classified under the first of the three categories of fiction, which the journal published: shuobu, chuanqi and tanci.21 Such classification did not intend to foist “The Red Laugh” upon the readers as a work of Chinese fiction, with Zhou as its author, for the story was clearly identified as written by a Russian author: transcribed as “Leonidas Andreief ” in Roman letters, his name was creatively transformed into “Li’ennida Anqulaifu” in Chinese. But the placing of the story in this section suggests that editors considered its literary genre (as “a story”) more important to the journal’s readers than its foreign origin (as “a translation”).22 By contrast to that editorial choice, foreignness would of course determine the same text’s inclusion in the anthology of stories by “famous European and American writers” in 1917; in a way that became standard in republican-era translation, by that time Zhou would also give up transcribing the first names of foreign authors (for reasons unclear, however, he modified his transcription of the author’s surname to the even more exotic “Angjuelifu”).23 A more striking difference between the two versions is in the way Zhou chose to introduce his author. In the anthology of 1917 he comes very close to the method that would characterize subsequent “May Fourth” presentation: beginning with information on Andreev’s year and place of birth, he listed the English titles of his main works, concluding with the author’s current standing in the hierarchy of Russian literature. In The Pastime, Zhou had instead preceded the translation by his own informal reflections on the story, on the Russo-Japanese war and on the war that had just erupted in Europe:

21 On the use of shuobu as a category of fiction, cf. Gimpel, Lost Voices of Modernity, p. 153. Chuanqi (“tales of the marvelous”) are mainly associated with the Tang dynasty. The term tanci was used in Butterfly fiction to signify romantic stories modelled on the traditional Suzhou style; see Link, Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies, pp. 60–1, 254–55. The two last sections of this issue of The Pastime, following xiaoshuo, were yuefu (ballads, sub-divided in the journal into kunju, an opera genre associated with Suzhou, and jingju, Beijing opera) and xinju (new theatre). 22 It will be noted that the definition of xiaoshuo in the 1910s encompassed many kinds of texts that would be classified differently in Chinese today; and that, in terms of payment, the authors of fiction (xiaoshuo) were most likely better rewarded than translators. See Hockx, Questions of Style, pp. 161–62. In Xiaoshuo yuebao of the 1910s, the “translations” section ( yicong) was not the stage for translated fiction, but rather for reports on “both serious and amusing” incidents from abroad, gleaned from the English-language press; see Gimpel, Lost Voices of Modernity, p. 37. 23 Lu Xun, in 1909, transcribed Andreev’s name as Antelaifu. Later variations were Andelaifu, Andeliefu, Anteliefu etc., leading to the now accepted Andelieyefu.

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As the European bugle sounds, old war hands become animated. [Yet] as the sound of Japanese trumpets rises from all four corners, Russian soldiers are plunged into melancholy. Reading the history of the world, for thousands of years, not a page is uncontaminated by the blood of wars. Alas! How could wars bring the world happiness? Blood and flesh are sent flying into the sky, liver and brain stain the earth, and the stench spreads for thousands of li. Families [broken up], parents, wives, brothers and sisters aimlessly drift about. Li Hua wrote his Dirge on an Ancient Battlefield, which for eternity has made people shed tears and sigh. Now the shadow of war is over Europe; months have passed and it has not come to an end. Who knows how many have died, and how many families have been separated! Alas! All humane people in the world should mourn this together. The great modern Russian author Leonidas Andreief was moved by his regret over the war between Japan and Russia to write The Red Laugh. His writing, stern and serene, does not stray from the path of the permanent, while his description of the misery of war even surpasses that of Li Hua in Dirge on an Ancient Battlefield. For a time, it was on the lips of readers all over the world, unanimously regarded as one of the modern masterpieces. That is why I translated it: so as to present it to our countrymen, and perhaps also to bring the tidings of world peace. Noted by Shoujuan.24

At the end of the journal translation, there was another statement, beginning as the tradition of commentary had it with the words “Shoujuan says [ yue]”: here he wished to stress the care with which he had rendered the story into Chinese, and to instruct his readers (in a style that we would have more readily associated with the not yet founded New Youth) on the proper way to read it. I have translated this piece very carefully. Whether names or paragraphs, structure or meaning—all follows the original text. I have not dared to cut or add at will. With a real masterpiece, as soon as its true [character] is lost, it becomes worthless. This piece is full of hidden meaning. Readers should approach it earnestly to understand it, and in no case to read it in a careless and negligent manner.25

24 Shoujuan, trans., “Hong xiao”, Youxi zazhi, no. 10 (Sept. 1914), p. 1, begins by opposing two kinds of flutes, which I have converted into a bugle and a trumpet. My translation of the arch opening sentence is, however, a rough approximation. Zhou says the war has been going on for “months”, though it had been declared in August; it may be that the journal came out later than was indicated on its cover. On the Tang writer Li Hua (ca. 715–ca. 774), and his Dirge on an Ancient Battlefield, see entry in William H. Nienhauser Jr., ed., The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature, pp. 537–38 (life dates in vol. 2 of the Indiana Companion, 1998). 25 Shoujuan, trans., “Hong xiao”, p. 20.


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These pledges of fidelity to the “original” were very far from the truth, however, as neither in the journal nor in the anthology did Zhou tell readers that his translation omitted entire pages of the source text, and that proceding by this method of “cutting at will” he had, in fact, reached no farther than the first part of “The Red Laugh”—breaking off after fragment ten, of the original nineteen.26 Like the introductory material in his anthology of 1917, both the preface and postscript accompanying Zhou Shoujuan’s translation in The Pastime were couched in classical Chinese. Beyond the probably accidental omission, in the anthology version, of the story’s famous opening words, “madness and horror”—or rather “horror and madness”, as at the start of the English translation on which Zhou relied,27 comparison of the translations themselves shows that Zhou had found his early translation in need of some lexical updating before it could be collected in the book. While, back in 1914, he had already rendered the text of “The Red Laugh” into vernacular Chinese, three years later he went farther and changed all references to the first person from the ancient wu (in plural, wumen) to the modern wo (women). To translate “as if ” and “like”, the literary wanxiang and wanru were turned into the colloquial haoxiang and sihu; other, similar small changes, usually involving the replacement of two to three characters, gave the anthology version of the story a more modern look (even if the strange transcription of “doctor”, as daketou, remained).28 But changes of this sort certainly did not convey 26 To refer to the now more accessible reprint of the English text that Zhou Shoujuan used, “The Red Laugh”, in Leonid Andreyev, ed. Thomas Seltzer, The Seven That Were Hanged (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1918), the longest of numerous omissions in the Chinese translation correspond to pp. 117–33 (most of fragment 4 and the whole fragment 5) and pp. 147–51 (most of fragment 9). 27 This inversion of the word order provides the first indication that Zhou Shoujuan was using the 1905 translation by Alexandra Linden; further confirmation comes a few lines later, as Andreev’s narrator described the retreat march of the Russian army in a heat of “forty, fifty degrees or more”. For some reason, Linden had converted the temperature into Fahrenheit (“120º, 140º, or more”). Zhou Shoujuan, in both the 1914 and 1917 versions of his translation, repeated these figures in Chinese (so did Zheng Zhenduo, translating the first three fragments of “The Red Laugh” in 1924, and Mei Chuan, in a complete translation of the story in 1929, on which see more below). 28 See, for the inexplicable daketou (used twice along with the standard yisheng): Shoujuan, trans., “Hong xiao”, Youxi zazhi, no. 10 (1914), p. 10; Zhou Shoujuan, trans., Oumei mingjia xiaoshuo congkan, vol. 3 (Shanghai: Zhonghua shuju, 1917), pp. 56–7. As always, one needs to double-check PRC “reprints”: the text of Zhou Shoujuan’s translation in the modern Zhongguo jindai wenxue daxi, 1840–1919, vol. 26, while pretending to be only a punctutated edition of the 1917 version, inserts “corrections” of its own,

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the impression of a translator eager to get as close as possible to his text (“samovar”, for Zhou, was simply “kettle”, shuihu). Nor did Zhou make an ideological point of translating into the vernacular; about two thirds of the stories in his anthology still used the classical language, albeit expressed in a readable and not too ornate a style.29 He did not by 1917 abandon his practice of inserting commentary within brackets, and besides there still remained some English terms for which he could supply no Chinese equivalent. Thus, facing “inspiration” in the end of the original Part One, Zhou in both journal and anthology transcribed the word as yanshipilichun (followed by the English in capital letters), adding the following commentary: “Liang Rengong says: yanshipilichun arises at the moment when feelings in the mind have reached their climax”.30 The source of this explanation by the famous Liang Qichao (alias Rengong) was not adduced, but the grace lent to the translation by his authority was apparently considered greater than any embarrassment caused through the admission of the obstacle posed by a foreign word. Four decades later, as the much maligned former author of “Mandarin Duck and Butterfly” fiction took the opportunity of the “Hundred Flowers” campaign to remind his critics of some of his more positive contributions to Chinese literary history, he naturally evoked his anthology of 1917, and the praise it had then earned from Lu Xun. Zhou Shoujuan modestly admitted that, at the time, he needed to raise money for his wedding; the four hundred yuan he was paid by his publisher came in very handy for just that purpose. He mentioned with affection the now distant names of Bao Tianxiao and Wang Dungen (1888–1950; the founding editor of Youxi zazhi in 1913 and of Libai liu in 1914), who had contributed witty introductions to his anthology. He listed his favourite world writers, recalling how he used to rummage for translations of stories, especially by the “oppressed peoples” of Europe, through “all kinds of English-language magazines”. He concluded, optimistically, by saying that he was thinking of returning to translation.31 giving (on p. 794) the false impression that the anthology had already used the new zixingche for “bicycle”; in fact, Zhou used ziyouche in both 1914 and 1917. 29 This is the assessment of Guo Yanli, Zhongguo jindai fanyi wenxue gailun, p. 352. 30 Compare “The Red Laugh”, in Andreyev, ed. Seltzer, The Seven That Were Hanged, p. 154; Shoujuan, trans., “Hong xiao”, Youxi zazhi, no. 10 (1914), p. 28; idem, trans., Oumei mingjia xiaoshuo congkan, vol. 3, p. 69. 31 Zhou Shoujuan, “Wo fanyi Xifang mingjia duanpian xiaoshuo de huiyi” (My Memories of Translating Short Stories by Famous Western Writers; June 1957), in


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However, even before the “Hundred Flowers” had given way to the Anti-rightist campaign (and that—to the Cultural Revolution which would cost Zhou his life) there were those ready to remind the old editor of Saturday that “no magician could turn a mandarin duck into a soaring goshawk or petrel”.32 Back in 1914, young Zhou Shoujuan was also editor of a new monthly, launched by the same publisher with which most of his later work would be connected. Zhonghua shuju (Chung Hwa Book Company), founded in 1912, was to become the second-largest publisher in China and main competitor of the Commercial Press. Zhou may well have been the one to approve the publication of the second truncated Chinese version of the story “Silence”, by Liu Bannong, in the October 1914 issue of Zhonghua xiaoshuo jie (Chung Hwa Novel Magazine). If it was he, he did not ask the translator to indicate the name of his foreign author.33 Indeed, we see a familiar pattern in the last example that we shall consider from the pages of the Shanghai fiction journals of the 1910s: the identity and origin of the writer were less important than the classification of the story itself as aiqing xiaoshuo (tragic love fiction), the literary category (probably more attractive to readers than “translation”) under which it appeared in Zhonghua xiaoshuo jie. While publishing one’s own fiction was also more lucrative than translating, the person who signed as Bannong on the first page of the story (not calling himself either “author” or “translator”) did not, in the note he appended at the story’s end, pretend to have written it himself: to do so, he could have eliminated the foreign names of the protagonists. Instead, preserving the foreignness of the story, he rewrote it by cutting off the beginning Wang Zhiyi, Zhou Shoujuan yanjiu ziliao, pp. 253–56. The Introduction by Wang Dungen, which Zhou Shoujuan recalled on this occasion, helps explain how the youthful translator might have come to mix up his writers’ portraits: “My friend Shoujuan has been enamoured of novels (here and below: xiaoshuo, M. G.) since childhood: in his room there are a cabinet all full of novels, a desk all full of novels, a bed all full of novels, and what is more these novels pile up in too high stacks; those on top of the bed are known to have come down tumbling in the midst of night, injuring Shoujuan’s foot. Thus Shoujuan has become famous as a novel enthusiast” (reprinted ibid., p. 289). 32 Lin Yan, “Dangxin shuo guotouhua” (Watch What You Say; Dec. 1956), ibid., p. 319. The “petrel” alludes to Gorky’s trademark “Song of the Petrel” (included in Wei Suyuan’s Yellow Flowers in 1929, and later translated into Chinese also by Qu Qiubai and others). Cf. “Fanyi shi hua” (From the History of Translation, 1938), in Ah Ying quanji, vol. 5, p. 784. 33 The first to suspect “Moran” as a translation of Andreev’s “Silence” (a suspicion about to be confirmed here) was Guo Yanli, Zhongguo jindai fanyi wenxue gailun, p. 388.

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and completely changing the end. In Bannong’s story, an explanation (which the original story never supplied) was given for the suicide of the priest’s daughter: inserted between the pages of a Bible, the grieving parents found a parting letter from her. In true Confucian fashion, Vera had chosen death as the only way by which she could admonish her parents for their incessant quarrelling. As we have already seen with Zhou Shoujuan, while a story could be translated into a variety of colloquial Chinese, the translator was expected to express himself in ponderous wenyan. This Bannong did, commenting that the doting parents, who ended up bringing disaster upon their household, reminded him of the conduct of political parties: always claiming to serve the people’s interests, they merely inflicted suffering on the people by their own interminable fighting. “That is what I thought as I translated this piece”.34 Two years after its journal publication, Bannong’s “Silence” was anthologised, unchanged, alongside stories from the fertile brushes of Bao Tianxiao and Zhou Shoujuan, as one of “thirty-nine stories of tragic love” in a large volume edited for Zhonghua by Hu Jichen under the title Xiaoshuo minghua daguan (A Spectacle of Short Fiction and Famous Paintings).35 Mentioned as a poet, a linguistic innovator of baihua and a friend of Lu Xun in Chapter Two, Liu Bannong (1891–1934) was the quintessential “transitional figure”, moving from the world of entertainment fiction, where his career began, into the new reformist literary circles, which he joined in the later 1910s. Between 1914 and 1919, he published about fifty translations, exploiting his knowledge of English and French; a large portion of these appeared in Zhonghua xiaoshuo jie, and some in Libai liu, but in October 1916 Liu began contributing to Xin qingnian. In Peking from summer 1917, by the end of that year he definitively switched to the spoken language in his translations. From then he also displayed zest for scholarly precision, and, entering such new fields as the translation of poetry, signalled his abandonment of “Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies”—a formula which he is believed to have introduced as a derisive label in late 1919, though it had long been in use by the entertainment writers themselves. Following five years’ advanced 34 Bannong, “Moran”, Zhonghua xiaoshuo jie, vol. 1, no. 10 (1914), p. 13. See Annex for the full details of both journal and anthology publications. 35 On the poet and writer Hu Jichen (1886–1938; also known as Hu Huaichen), see Link, Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies, p. 166; Hockx, Questions of Style, p. 216, n. 38.


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study, begun at London’s University College in 1920 and culminating in a doctorate from Paris in 1925, Liu Bannong returned to China and made his name as a member of the new academic establishment peopled by the leaders of the New Literature movement: as a Peking University professor, a scholar of Chinese grammar, folksong and music.36 In retrospect, Liu’s entry into the leading ranks of “May Fourth” seems only natural: had the possibility existed when this brilliant young man had arrived in Shanghai in 1912, he very likely would have skipped his tutelage as a writer for popular magazines.37 We may be entitled, however, to leave this early translator of a story by Leonid Andreev within the milieu he was soon to leave behind, the Shanghai translation market of the mid-1910s. At that time he was a professional handling everything that came his way, including detectives and comics, and he offered the public what he and the journal editors estimated that the public wanted. Contrary to the putative professional translators of highbrow fiction in post-1919 China, to whom we shall now turn, Liu Bannong would not, after joining the camp of New Literature, keep to translation as his main occupation. II. Putative professionals We have passed over in silence an interesting aspect of “The Red Laugh”: its historical background in the Russo-Japanese war had an obvious bearing on China, as that war had been waged on its territor y.38 Andreev himself was little interested in the actual scene of his

36 This summary on Liu as translator draws on Guo Yanli, Zhongguo jindai fanyi wenxue gailun, pp. 388–89. Zhao Yiheng, Dui’an de youhuo, pp. 56–61, is an appreciation of Liu Bannong’s arduous study and intellectual achievement; Hung Chang-tai, Going to the People: Chinese Intellectuals and Folk Literature, 1918–1937, pp. 33–40, describes his work as folklorist. Liu’s “conversion” process is the subject of Ch. 5 in Hockx, Questions of Style, which also discusses Liu’s pioneering translations of Turgenev’s “prose poems”. It is noteworthy that the first of these appeared, as “fiction”, in the Zhonghua xiaoshuo jie of 1915 (ibid., p. 162). 37 In this respect, Liu may be compared with another “May Fourth” icon, Ye Shengtao, who too had begun his writer’s career in Libai liu in 1914, but left it in 1917. 38 This was made explicit in the topical subtitle, added by Andreev’s French translator Serge Persky, Le rire rouge: la guerre en Mandchourie (1905). Cf. David Wells, “The Russo-Japanese War in Russian Literature”, in idem and Sandra Wilson, eds., The Russo-Japanese War in Cultural Perspective, 1904–5 (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1999), esp. pp. 119–22; Barry P. Scherr, “The Russo-Japanese War and the Russian Literary

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symbolic War, nor was the geographical connection noticed by any of his Chinese critics or translators. But the story’s preoccupation with death on the battlefield did remind one reader of a major theme in the Chinese literary tradition—perhaps an association that could shed some light on the appeal of “The Red Laugh” to several Chinese translators. A translation of fragment Eight, published in the supplement to the Peking Chenbao (Morning Post) in November 1920, stands apart from nearly all known references to Savinkov, Artsybashev and Andreev in republican China in that the translator grounded the Russian story within his own culture: in a brief commentary, he cited two lines from a Tang-dynasty poem which, to his mind, conveyed a “flavour” similar to the fragment he had translated. These lines may be traced to the poem “Going West to Gansu” by Chen Tao (803?–879?). They describe the horror of death on a distant battleground through the distress of a wife, not knowing on which riverbank to search for the bones of her husband.39 The poem belongs to the genre of “frontier poetry”, which gained popularity in the Tang as Chinese soldiers were being sent to fight in the far West; both the fear of death without proper burial and the loyal wife setting out to collect her husband’s remains are well-known traditional tropes. Why does this brief excursion into the infinitely rich heritage of classical China (next to Zhou Shoujuan’s evocation of Li Hua, an earlier Tang writer much in the same vein) appear to be the only one undertaken by the many Chinese critics and readers of our three Russian authors? Anglophone critics, we recall, were freely comparing Artsybashev to Hardy and Richardson; by contrast, a Chinese interpreter of Sanin would mention the egoist doctrine of Max Stirner but would not summon up Yang Zhu, the Warring States thinker commonly identified with the hedonist outlook in Chinese culture. Zhou Zuoren made a cryptic late reference to young Lu Xun’s interest in Andreev as “having possibly something to do with his liking for Li Changji, though it would be hard to say this for sure”; Lu Xun himself never made Imagination”, in John Steinberg et al., eds., The Russo-Japanese War in Global Perspective: World War Zero (Leiden: Brill, 2005), at pp. 434–38. 39 Xie Liuyi, trans., “Guilai!” (see Annex) did not identify the poem; its complete text may be found in Quan Tangshi (Complete Poetry of the Tang) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1988), ce 11, juan 745, p. 8492. Chen Tao’s dates follow Zhou Zuzhuan, ed., Zhongguo wenxuejia da cidian, Tang Wudai (Great Dictionary of Chinese Writers: Tang and Five Dynasties) (same publisher, 1992), p. 469, which singles out “Long xi xing” (Going West to Gansu) as the best-known work by this otherwise obscure author.


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this comparison, tantalisingly suggestive of the aesthetic tradition from which his taste for European “decadence” may have sprung.40 While Andreev’s Lazarus remained stubbornly silent on what he had seen during his “three days and nights in the mysterious thraldom of death”, readers of his story in China were equally silent about an association that may well have crossed their minds: Chinese Buddhism offered an abundance of literary descriptions of descent to the netherworld (where King Yama and his administrators made judgement in the cycle of death and rebirth), and even pictorial descriptions of hell by men who claimed to have returned from that journey.41 To say that traditional fiction held no attraction for readers who turned to Andreev instead will be very far from the truth, if we think of such experts as Lu Xun, Zheng Zhenduo and Qian Xingcun (Ah Ying). However, a distinction was drawn between Chinese and Western literatures that discouraged their comparison.42 Blurring this very distinction, the commentary on Andreev offered by translator Xie Liuyi (1898–1945) should be situated within a minority school: it represents the emerging awareness of the possibilities of comparative literary analysis, of which Xie was a pioneer. In an article on “symbolism in literature”, serialised in Xiaoshuo yuebao earlier in the same year, 1920, he had introduced his method: drawing on examples from European literature (including, among the “symbolist” works he cited, Leonid Andreev’s “The Red Laugh”), and on an English-language study which he duly acknowledged, he also employed native imagery to illustrate just what a “symbol” was and how it worked.43 40 See Zhou Zuoren’s “Guanyu Lu Xun zhi er”, in Liu Xuyuan, Kuyuzhai zhu, p. 221. Lu Xun mentioned the Tang poet Li Changji (Li He, 790–816) in comparative context, but did so only ironically, just before quoting Artsybashev in his discussion of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House: see “Nala zouhou zenyang?” in LXQJ (2005), vol. 1, pp. 166–67. Cf. chapter on Li He in Fusheng Wu, The Poetics of Decadence: Chinese Poetry of the Southern Dynasties and Late Tang Periods, pp. 77–116. 41 Cf. Stephen F. Teiser, “ ‘Having Once Died and Returned to Life’: Representations of Hell in Medieval China”, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, vol. 48, no. 2 (Dec. 1988), esp. pp. 439–40, 456. 42 David Pollard’s words are indicative of this: “It was almost indecent to mention Chinese literature except as an afterthought during the May Fourth period”. A Chinese Look at Literature, p. 106. 43 Xie Liuyi, “Wenxue shang de biaoxiang zhuyi shi shenma?” begins with the example of the symbolic association familiar in Chinese culture between meihua (plum blossom) and Dengwei (mountain near Suzhou). The reference to Andreev is in pt. 2, p. 4; the study on which Xie relied was Arthur Symons, The Symbolist Movement in Literature. A recent reprint is in Jia Zhifang and Chen Sihe, Zhong-wai wenxue guanxi shi ziliao huibian, vol. 1, pp. 356–64. For a discussion of this article, and Xie’s argument

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In homage to his native town, Xie had put before his name the characters gu Zhu. He did not, though, post his fragment of “The Red Laugh” from the capital of Guizhou province (Guiyang, also known as Zhu) in southern China, but from Tokyo, where he was then a student. Graduating in April 1922, Xie settled in Shanghai and joined the Literary Research Association; while many other returned students did the same, Xie had been personally persuaded to do so by his friend Zheng Zhenduo. Xie and Zheng would then share a flat together, right until the time of Zheng’s marriage (through Xie’s introduction) to Gao Junzhen.44 By the late 1920s Xie was a well-known translator and commentator especially of Japanese literature: he translated the monumental Tale of Genji.45 Working as an editor for a number of Shanghai periodicals, he also held concurrent teaching posts at several institutions—a common way to make ends meet, which the Chinese idiom captures as “plough with the pen and hoe with the tongue”.46 Xie eventually returned to Guiyang, with his large family in tow, as a refugee from Japanese-occupied Shanghai. Another famous Shanghai friend, Mao Dun later remembered that Xie’s forced homecoming had turned out to be an unhappy one: the town he had left as a young man now depressed him with its provinciality.47 The special issue of Xiaoshuo yuebao in September 1921, to which we have often returned, carried two short stories by Andreev. The first was entitled “An Incident”. It described a family man who on his way home from work had come across a thief on the run from a chasing crowd. An honest citizen, he apprehended the thief and delivered him to the police. But returning to his comfortable life, he could not stop thinking of the unknown person he had robbed of his freedom.

that Chinese literature had to pass through the stage of realism before it could be ready for symbolism, see Yiu-man Ma, “Reception of French Symbolism in China, 1919–25”, pp. 48–9. 44 Zheng Zhenduo, “Yi Liuyi xiansheng” (In Memory of Liuyi), in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 2, p. 594. 45 The fullest list of Xie’s writings and translations is appended to his extensive biography by Qiu Yang, Xie Liuyi pingzhuan, pp. 439–64. More frequently than works of Russian literature, Xie translated essays on Russian writers, including a long article on Turgenev (from Ch. 4 in Kropotkin’s Ideals and Realities in Russian Literature) for the March 1922 issue of Xiaoshuo yuebao. 46 Bigeng shenou, as applied to Xie Liuyi in He Jingwu, “Xie Liuyi xiansheng zhuan”, p. 141. 47 Mao Dun, “Yi Xie Liuyi xiong” (In Memory of Brother Xie Liuyi; Sept. 1947), collected in Xie Liuyi wenji, p. 380.


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The place of this vignette in the early fiction of Leonid Andreev does not bear comparison with the position that its young translator, Geng Jizhi, came to occupy in Chinese translation history. Born in Shanghai in 1898, the eldest son of an impoverished household, Geng was a precocious child who entered school at the age of four. When in 1912 his family moved to Peking, he obtained a scholarship to the Number One middle school. In 1917 he began his studies at the Guoli Ewen zhuanxiu guan, the National Institute of Russian Language, which the Chinese Foreign Ministry had opened in 1912 in a hutong (alleyway) in eastern Peking.48 Among fellow students, Geng was closest with Qu Qiubai.49 Their common friendship with Zheng Zhenduo, a student at the Peking School of Railway Administration, brought the three youngsters together in the year marked by the rallies and demonstrations of May Fourth; their first collaborative effort was in publishing the weekly Xin shehui (New Society), launched on 1 November 1919 and banned on 1 May 1920.50 The Literary Research Association was founded at a meeting at Geng’s home, also in an East Peking hutong, on 4 December 1920. Vasilii Eroshenko, too, lodged there upon arriving in the capital on 24 February 1922, and before moving into the house of Lu Xun and Zhou Zuoren.51 Of all the translators of our three writers in China, the work of Geng Jizhi and of the short-lived Wei Suyuan affords the only two examples of unmediated translation from the original Russian. “An Incident” was the kind of little-known story by a Russian writer that only translators such as these could bring to their audience, as it had

48 The original building of the Ewen guan was at no. 10 (now no. 32), Dong zongbu hutong. Geng Jizhi lived in Wanbaogai (now: Baogai) hutong. 49 See the memoirs of his sister Geng Jiezhi, “Geng Jizhi de qingshaonian shidai”, pp. 138–39. Li Yu-ning and Michael Gasster, “Ch’ü Ch’iu-pai’s Journey to Russia, 1920–1922”, pp. 540–41, cite recollections by a former student of the Russian Language Institute. Qu himself, who left the Institute before graduation, came to consider it a reactionary “prison of the mind”, and in his Journey to the Land of Hunger missed no occasion to criticize the incompetence of the former fellow students, whom he encountered at stations of the Chinese Eastern Railway. The Institute was the republican-era successor of the CER School (Dong-Qing tielu xuetang) in Peking. 50 Zheng Zhenduo, “Geng Jizhi xiansheng zhuan” (A Biography of Geng Jizhi), and “Xiangqi he Jizhi tong zai yi chu de rizi” (Remembering Common Days with Jizhi; both April 1947), in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 2, pp. 575–84; see also Ge Baoquan, Zhong-wai wenxue yinyuan, pp. 357–65. On Xin shehui, see Chen Fukang, Zheng Zhenduo zhuan, pp. 40–46. 51 Geng Jiezhi, “Geng Jizhi de qingshaonian shidai”, p. 139.

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not been translated into English, German or Japanese. The only other translator of Russian literature in the republican period, with whom Geng can be compared, is Cao Jinghua: a member of the Unnamed Society and close associate of Lu Xun, who acquired his knowledge of Russian as a student in the Soviet Union. A prolific translator of Soviet fiction, Cao came closer than anyone else to matching Geng’s remarkable productivity. Contrary to Cao Jinghua, Qu Qiubai or the younger translator and historian of Chinese-Russian literary relations Ge Baoquan, Geng’s commitment to Russian literature was unconnected with support for Communism or the Soviet state. It would be wrong to consider the eventual emergence of direct translations from the Russian in the PRC as the end result of a linear progression. Such translations, by a select group of graduates of the Institute of Russian Language and other persons who had spent time in Russia, already began to appear in the early 1920s. This process ground to a full halt, however, from about 1927 to 1934,52 because very few of the young people trained in Russian turned to translation, and even fewer remained consistently active in the field. Geng’s first volume of translations from the Russian, an anthology published in Peking in July 1920, was the product of teamwork with his fellow students Qu Qiubai and Shen Ying; while Qu later went into politics, Shen Ying (1901–76), a member of the Literary Research Association, translated a great deal until 1926 but abandoned translation thereafter.53 Geng himself left for Russia in 1922. A graduate of the Institute of Russian Language, he had two roads open to him: the Foreign Ministry had offered the students free tuition and stipends in order to see the best of them become, upon graduation, junior diplomats in China’s consulates in Russia. Others were to serve as interpreters and officials on the Chinese Eastern Railway, which since 1903 was jointly operated by Russia and China in Manchuria. Summoned for service by the Foreign Ministry, Geng accepted the offer, though he would probably

This point is made in Li Ding, “Eguo wenxue fanyi zai Zhongguo”, pp. 368–70. Li Ding, ibid., p. 368, considers Eluosi mingjia duanpian xiaoshuo ji, the anthology put together by Geng, Qu, Shen and two other students of Russian, the first book directly translated from Russian into Chinese. Geng’s second collection, ten stories by Tolstoy translated for the Commercial Press in 1921, was also a joint effort with Qu Qiubai (as Zou Zhenhuan, 20 shiji Shanghai fanyi chuban yu wenhua bianqian, p. 108, points out, scholars still disagree about the attribution of the stories to their respective translators). On Shen Ying, a translator of Pushkin, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Korolenko and Chekhov, see refs. in ZXFW. 52 53


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have preferred to spend his life reading and translating Russian literature—an activity which could engross him so completely as to make him entirely unaware of his surroundings.54 As a new member of the diplomatic corps, Geng was stationed in the consulate in Chita until 1925 and the consulate in Irkutsk from 1925 to 1927. After a short term in Leningrad, he fell ill and had to return to convalesce in China. But by 1928 he was back in Chita, to pass there six more years of his service. During his long sojourn abroad, Geng translated copiously from Russian, and to a lesser extent also from English, French, and German literature. Among the works that appeared under his name in China was Andreev’s play The Life of Man, which came out at the Commercial Press in November 1923. It must have been translated at the Chinese consulate in Chita, capital of the Transbaikal district (and, from April 1920 to November 1922, of the ephemeral Far Eastern Republic), where most of Geng’s Russian years were spent.55 The Life of Man follows Man, its symbolic protagonist, from his birth, reported in the first scene, to his death, shown in the last. Throughout, Man is constantly accompanied by a presence visible only to the audience: a figure called Someone in Grey, holding a candle. The candle’s flame symbolises Man’s life: it is high and strong when the child is born but grows ever weaker as the adult turns into an old man. As an unrecognized young architect, Man begins his ascent in poverty, sustained only by his dreams of future success and by his loyal wife. We next see him, now having become one of the richest and most envied persons in town, throwing a ball for his friends and cronies. Years of prosperity and happiness then give way to decline: his work

54 See Geng Jiezhi, “Geng Jizhi de qingshaonian shidai”, p. 139, and the description of Geng’s working habits as a translator, by his wife Qian Fuzhi, below. 55 An interesting angle on the consulate in Chita is provided in Aleksei V. Solov’ev, Trevozhnye budni zabaikal’skoi kontrrazvedki: govoriat arkhivy spetssluzhb Chitinskoi oblasti (The Troubled Days of the Transbaikal Counter-Intelligence: From the Archives of the Special Services of Chita District) (Moscow: Rus’, 2002), pp. 59–78. In Jan. 1925 the commander of the local Department of Counter-Intelligence had this to report on Vice-Consul Geng: “married, with two children; graduated from the University in Peking, speaks good Russian, studies English; supporter of Wu Peifu; nationalist; hates the Japanese” (p. 76). The attention of the Soviet Special Services was mainly drawn to Geng’s superior, Consul Zhang, who had just married a Russian employee. The warlord Wu Peifu, dubbed “the philosopher general”, was defeated by Manchurian warlord Zhang Zuolin in the second clash between the military cliques of Zhili and Fengtian in autumn 1924.

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is no longer in demand, and a random homicide has claimed the life of his only son. With the coming of old age, his wife no longer beside him, Man is left alone. In two key moments of the play, he had attempted in vain to defy the cruel and arbitrary destiny that governs human lives. Now old and destitute, in a dark tavern among drunkards oblivious to each other’s sorrows, he tries to challenge the immaterial force, which had always remained invisible to him, to a final battle. Halfway through his words, Man dies and the weak flame of the candle gutters out in the hands of Someone in Grey. Any discussion of this play within the limits of our study would not do it justice: what we may still ask is how this symbolic interpretation of human passage through life could have been accepted in China. The forced translation of Man as ren took the reader of the translation one step away from the original; here as in his later play Anathema, the author was making deliberate use of the capital letter in a way that could not be replicated in Chinese.56 Yet some aspects of the play brought it closer than any other work by Andreev to the cultural sensibilities of Chinese readers (readers rather than viewers, as there is no indication that The Life of Man was ever produced on a Chinese stage). As the ball scene shows, the fall of Man begins at the very moment when his life had reached its peak.57 Readers of Geng Jizhi’s translation would have intuitively associated this moment with the cyclical conception of time, which in Chinese culture accounted for the rise and fall of dynasties as well as for the flourishing and decline of personal fortunes. The burning candle representing human life, and the extinguished candle standing for death, would have pointed to Buddhist symbolism,58 while a literary work examining the entire life course of its protagonist within a holistic, almost cosmic, framework was also a concept more familiar to a Chinese than to a European audience. Added to the high 56 On the capital’s function in underscoring “the prevalence of the pattern of life” in The Life of Man, see Woodward, Leonid Andreyev, p. 153. More generally, Zhi Liang, “Lun wenxue de minzu jieshou”, in idem, ed., Eguo wenxue yu Zhongguo, p. 24, reminds us that every translation into Chinese from a Western language also involves the transition from letters to characters. 57 Cf. Eberhard Reissner, “Andrejew, Das Leben des Menschen”, pp. 215–16. 58 Shneider, Russkaia klassika v Kitae, p. 162, quotes lines from the poem “Early Death and Old Age”, by the great Tang poet Bai Juyi; there are expressions such as fengzhu cannian (declining years—a candle in the wind) and rensi ru dengmie (a man’s death is like a light put out). The sources of this symbol in Russian literature are discussed in the commentary to Andreev, Dramaticheskie proizvedeniia, vol. 1, p. 503.


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reputation of its translator, these could have been the reasons for the considerable success of The Life of Man: first published in 1923 with an Introduction by Zheng Zhenduo, Renzhi yi sheng reached its sixth printing by 1936, probably the most widely read among Andreev’s works in China.59 In 1935 Geng Jizhi, by then all too well familiar with the sights of Chita, was transferred as vice-consul to Moscow; this gave him the opportunity to interpret for the star actor of classical Chinese theatre Mei Lanfang, who performed in Moscow and Leningrad in March and April.60 If Geng also accompanied Mei to his meeting with the venerable theatre director Vsevolod Meierhold, he may have used the occasion to discuss, with “the Russian Mei”, the stage premiere of The Life of Man, which Meierhold directed in St Petersburg in 1907. In the second half of 1937 poor health put an end to Geng Jizhi’s diplomatic career. During the eight succeeding years, Geng lived in Shanghai, in conditions that biographical dictionaries describe with idioms such as “shutting the door and [devoting oneself to] translating”, “closing the door to lodge in solitude”, or “selling [one’s] writings for a living”.61 Beyond the shut doors was the Japanese army, which occupied 59 Zheng Zhenduo’s Introduction (already his fourth to a translation by Geng Jizhi) focused on the play’s existential pessimism. Addressing once again “the youths of China”, Zheng did not dispute Andreev’s judgment, but recommended casting a beautiful curtain over the “darkness and emptiness outside”. He praised the translator for “not losing the spirit of the original”. See “Renzhi yi sheng” [(Introduction to) The Life of Man], reprinted in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 15, pp. 410–12. Lu Xun was far less enthusiastic and possibly biased in his criticism of a translator who, contrary to his young protégés, was reading Russian literature in the original: “The Life of Man is probably Andreev’s most representative work, but the translation has so many mistakes that it would be better to do it again”, he wrote to Li Jiye on 17 Feb. 1925, in LXQJ (2005), vol. 11, pp. 458–59. In a letter of 21 June 1929 to the beginning translator Chen Junhan (see ibid., vol. 12, p. 188), Lu Xun said: “As everybody knows, Mr Geng Jizhi understands Russian. But reading his translations, I sometimes suspect that he may be relying on the English. Even relying on the original, though, does not necessarily make it good…”. The lexical comparison of Geng’s early translations with the Russian texts, undertaken in Ping Baoxing, Wusi yitan yu Eluosi wenxue, pp. 146–50, does show that he tended to omit what he did not understand. 60 On Geng Jizhi and Mei Lanfang (1894–1961), see the recollections of Geng’s widow, Qian Fuzhi, “Zhuihuai zheju shiqi de Geng Jizhi”, p. 355. Cf. entry on Geng in ZFC, p. 242. 61 Bimen yigao is the expression used by Zhongguo xiandai zuojia da cidian, p. 130, and dumen suoju by the entry in ZFC, p. 243. Geng had to maiwen weisheng according to Zhongguo wenxuejia cidian: xiandai, vol. 3, p. 512. Geng’s friend Wang Tongzhao, editor of the journal Wenxue from 1936, literally “kept the iron gate of his editorial office locked at all times”, and hid under an assumed name after Dec. 1941; see Fu, Passivity,

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Shanghai in November, though until the outbreak of the Pacific War in December 1941 it was to remain out of the International Settlement and the French Concession. During this time Geng opened a small antiquarian bookstore; bringing little or no income, it served as a meeting place for such friends as Zheng Zhenduo and Wang Tongzhao. Though the spirited conversations about Chinese and Russian literature, which must have taken place there, have not reached us, a volume of short stories by Geng, Zheng and Wang did.62 As neither his ventures into original prose, nor the remarkable series of translations that he produced in those years proved enough to make ends meet, in 1946 Geng Jizhi was forced to seek an appointment on the service of the Chinese Eastern Railway in Shenyang (Mukden)—the second of the two options that had been available to him as a young graduate. North-eastern China, then still universally known as Manchuria, was under the occupation of the Soviet Red Army since its defeat of Japan in the last battles of World War Two in August 1945. It is possible that Geng interpreted for the Soviets, who left in the following summer, handing control over Shenyang to the Nationalists. Geng returned to Shanghai for a short time but, finding no work there, travelled back to the Northeast.63 He died in Shenyang in March 1947, leaving a wife and five children who, while he attempted to subsist on royalties, had become accustomed to hunger, and an unparalleled legacy of stories, plays and novels by all the greatest writers of Russian literature.

Resistance, and Collaboration, p. 27 (cf. pp. 49, 59). On bookstores opened by writers under the occupation, see more ibid., pp. 182–83, n. 133; on Geng’s life in wartime Shanghai, his bookstore and contact with Wang Tongzhao and Zheng Zhenduo, ibid., pp. 59–62. 62 Zheng Zhenduo, Wang Tongzhao and Geng Jizhi, Yunhua ji (title after Geng’s bookstore “Yunhua ge”, roughly translatable as the “Essence pavilion”). As Geng is so little known as a writer, it will be worthwhile to give a brief summary of his three stories in this collection. “Gu dasao” (Elder Sister Gu) is about a woman in the old society, exploited first by her father, then by her husband; in “Chongfeng” (The Reunion), a successful film actress in Shanghai meets an old flame who had once abandoned her, but finds out that he is now only interested in her money; in “Baomu” (The Nanny), a woman left alone after the death of her parents is compelled to become a children’s nurse, and being wrongly suspected of theft by her employers prepares to put an end to her own life. Cf., on these stories of 1942–43: Fu, Passivity, Resistance, and Collaboration, p. 186, n. 167. 63 Geng’s brief return to Shanghai, and continuous work on his translations of Dostoevsky and Gorky to his last days in Shenyang, are described by his publisher Zhao Jiabi, “Huainian Geng Jizhi”, p. 368.


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His pronounced favourite was Tolstoy, and having translated works such as Resurrection64 and The Power of Darkness he had plans to take up War and Peace. Apart from Fathers and Sons and A Hunter’s Notes, which we have already mentioned, Geng translated many other works by Turgenev. After his manuscript of Crime and Punishment was destroyed in the Japanese bombardment of the Commercial Press in 1932, he said that to resume work on a book he had already translated would not be interesting enough.65 Instead, in Shanghai from 1937, he translated Dostoevsky’s The Idiot and Notes from the House of the Dead; in his last years he worked hard to complete his translation of The Brothers Karamazov, while also translating Gorky and compiling a Chinese-Russian dictionary. The paradox of Geng’s life was pinpointed in an obituary by his closest friend, Zheng Zhenduo: translation was his beloved pastime throughout his years as student and diplomat, but only declining health forced him to dedicate himself entirely to this activity.66 At a time when independent translation work could not sustain even a translator of his merit, he was a professional malgré lui. Our next name in the category of professional translators brings us one step closer to where this chapter will end: in the anonymity of “forgotten names”, some of whom admittedly made only a small contribution to literary translation. While the contribution of Geng Shizhi was not negligible, the difficulty we now have in finding out anything about him is explained by the marginal status in Chinese literary history of those “May Fourth” translators who rarely combined translation with other forms of writing, and who disappeared from the literary scene by the end of the 1920s. Geng Shizhi’s life dates only appear as (?-?) in the biographical dictionaries.67 In the worse case, compilers of

64 The royalties from Resurrection were used by Geng to fund his wedding reception, as one of the guests (Zheng Zhenduo) would later recall. This had already been the case with Zhou Shoujuan in 1917; interestingly, a protagonist in a story of wartime Chongqing by the writer Xu Xu (1908–80) translated a book for the same purpose, here a treatise on economy by Milton Keynes. See “Lihun” (Divorce), in Xu Xu, Li hun (Departed Soul) (Hefei: Anhui wenyi chubanshe, 1996), p. 4. 65 Xu Diaofu, “Yi Geng Jizhi xiansheng”, p. 276, also listed other manuscripts, by Chinese translators and writers, lost in the bombardment of the Press on 28 Jan. 1932. This piece was one of several commemorative articles on Geng that the journal Wenyi fuxing published in May 1947. 66 Zheng Zhenduo, “Geng Jizhi xiansheng zhuan”, in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 2, p. 577. In 1947 Zheng wrote his last introduction to a translation by Geng Jizhi: the posthumously published, second volume of The Brothers Karamazov. 67 Xu Naixiang and Qin Hong, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue zuozhe biming lu, pp. 524–25.

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entries on Geng Jizhi attribute to the famous translator publications actually due to his near-anonymous brother. It was though Geng Shizhi who in 1922 published a translation of Andreev’s The Yoke of War, and again Shizhi, rather than his older brother Jizhi, who translated the story “Love, Faith and Hope” for Xiaoshuo yuebao in 1927.68 Even less is known about Geng Mianzhi, the youngest of the three brothers, like them a translator of Chekhov, but also of their guest Vasilii Eroshenko, in 1922–23.69 Among Geng Shizhi’s other translations, three Chekhov plays stand out: The Cherry Orchard, Uncle Vanya and Ivanov.70 The peak of Geng’s activity as a translator was in the heyday of the Literary Research Association, when he was a regular participant in the revamped Xiaoshuo yuebao; from May to December 1921 this journal carried his translation of Wilde’s play A Woman of No Importance. English was also the language from which he translated Russian literature,71 such as Andreev’s tragedy The Ocean, serialised in four issues of the journal in 1922. It is within the context of the romanticism characteristic of the first volumes of the “new” Xiaoshuo yuebao that we could tentatively place the appearance of The Ocean in its pages. Often described as Andreev’s “most literary play”, it is set in a fishermen’s village in 1782. A pirate named Haggart and his boatswain Khorre settle in the village after a spell of adventure in the sea. During their stay ashore, the abbot’s daughter Mariet falls in love with Haggart. They marry, and under the abbot’s influence the wilful captain even starts working together with the other fishermen; later, a child is born. But Haggart’s scorn

68 The book is mistakenly listed among Geng Jizhi’s translations in Zhongguo xiandai zuojia da cidian, p. 131; the story is wrongly attributed to him by Zhongguo wenxuejia cidian: xiandai, vol. 3, p. 513, and even by Geng Jizhi’s daughter Geng Jingfen, “Geng Jizhi nianbiao”, p. 142. 69 Zhao Jiabi, “Huainian Geng Jizhi”, p. 361, said that Shizhi and Mianzhi both died young, yet according to Zheng Zhenduo, “Xiangqi he Jizhi tong zai yi chu de rizi”, in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 2, p. 583, it was through the help of Shizhi that Geng Jizhi found a job on the CER in 1946. Some short fiction by Geng Shizhi appeared in Wenxue xunkan in 1922. 70 The plays had many subsequent Chinese versions. Shneider, Russkaia klassika v Kitae, p. 101, also mentions Geng Shizhi’s translations of the Chekhov stories “Ninochka” and “The Fit”. 71 Li Ding, “Eguo wenxue fanyi zai Zhongguo”, p. 368, and Chen Jianhua, 20 shiji Zhong-E wenxue guanxi, p. 69, list Geng Shizhi among the few republican-period translators working directly from the Russian. No evidence could be found to support this claim, while there is proof of his use of English intermediaries. We may speculate that Geng knew some Russian, but not enough to translate literature from that language.


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for settled life, his yearning to confront the boundless ocean which the villagers merely exploit for their living, make him abandon his temporary home, reassemble his crew and once again put out to sea under black sails. Before leaving, Haggart kills Mariet’s former fiancé, while Khorre murders the abbot, her father. With this much cruelty, the “superman’s” right for power is asserted; but it is also indicted, as through Mariet (who curses Haggart after her father’s death) the author pronounces his own judgement on the Nietzschean hero he had created.72 The second work by Andreev, which in Geng Shizhi’s translation was published at the Commercial Press in November of the same year, 1922, was very different from The Ocean: both in treating current events in Russia during the Great War, and in the character of its first-person narrator, Il’ia Petrovich Dement’ev. Anything but a hero, the ordinary accountant and family man whose diary forms the narrative of The Yoke of War: Confessions of a Little Man During Great Days73 expresses his thoughts and fears at war time, while noting down the events of his own “little life”. When Il’ia Petrovich’s notes begin, in the summer of 1914, the idea of war—the deliberate killing of people by each other—is as utterly incomprehensible to him as it had been to the narrators of “The Red Laugh”. But by the time the diary comes to an end in the next autumn, events in the life of Il’ia Petrovich (his wife’s brother’s death in battle; his own little daughter’s succumbing to a disease), the effect of his temporary employment in collecting donations for war victims and his meditation on the daily reports from the front, had brought him to an uneasy solidarity with the plight of Russia and the whole of humanity. The terrible picture with which the short novel ends reminds us, nevertheless, of Andreev’s fundamental perception of War as an act of “madness and horror”.74

See the discussion in Woodward, Leonid Andreyev, pp. 219–20. Following the only translation into English by Rochelle S. Townsend, as The Confessions of a Little Man During Great Days (almost certainly Geng’s source), the Chinese Xiao renwu de chanhui omitted Andreev’s original main title, “Igo voiny”—the “yoke”, or “burden”, of war. 74 Andreev did go a long way, from a complete negation of war in “The Red Laugh”, through his play King, Law and Liberty, written in defence of Belgium in 1914, to the patriotism displayed in The Yoke of War in 1916. The best analysis in Ah Ying’s “critical biography”, Ch. 4 of Andeliefu pingzhuan, was devoted to this change in the writer’s pacifist convictions. The problem is treated by Ben Hellman, in “Leonid Andreev v nachale Pervoi mirovoi voiny. Put’ ot ‘Krasnogo smekha’ k p’ese Korol’, zakon i svoboda”, and “Malen’kii chelovek i velikaia voina: povest’ L. N. Andreeva Igo voiny”. 72


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The three printings, which the book saw in Chinese translation (the last one—eleven years after the first) may indicate greater resonance than the very modest success it had enjoyed in the original language, and they make the Introduction to the first edition by the young Qu Shiying, a member of the group of twelve who founded the Literary Research Association, all the more interesting. This Introduction took the book beyond formal affiliation with the Association’s series, turning it into a vintage product. Resorting to the appellation used among fellow literary men, Qu Shiying noted that “our comrade Shizhi [Shizhi xiong, literally ‘brother’] spent over a month and a half translating this work”. Qu spoke, ecstatically, of Love as the destination of mankind and of War as its ultimate scourge; he praised the book for inspiring pacifism, in the way only literature can do, and concluded with the wish that Chinese writers, nay all the human race, learn to reject war and embrace each other.75 Geng Shizhi’s third and last translation from Andreev in 1927 passed unnoticed. “Love, Faith and Hope” (Geng had found this story in the same English collection, from which he had translated The Ocean) was one of Andreev’s first published stories. The schematic tale of “a man called Max”, and the three phases he goes through (the “life, faith and hope” of the title), sounds badly false from the very beginning, and must be considered a failure. Indeed, Andreev did his best to ensure that the story would not be reprinted in Russian after 1909 and proved successful inasmuch as “Love, Faith and Hope” remained inaccessible to readers in the original language until it was included in the first volume of the complete academic edition of Andreev’s works in 2007.76

75 Qu Shiying, “Xu”, signed in Peking on 28 Aug. 1921. Qu Shiying (1900–76; also known as Qu Junong) was an uncle, as well as a close friend, of Qu Qiubai: though almost two years younger than Qiubai, he was a brother of Qiubai’s father, Qu Shiwei (1875–1932; see Qu Qiubai wenji, vol. 1, pp. 11, 27). In 1926 Qu Shiying obtained an Ed.D. degree from Harvard (information received from Harvard University Archives, 9 June 2006). In 1933 he was in charge of teaching materials for the campaign against illiteracy, launched by the National Association for the Promotion of Mass Education (CYT, p. 1349), and so may have been involved in publishing the adaptation of Andreev’s play Neighbourly Love by Chen Zhice as Love the Other as Thyself; indeed, he already referred to the same Biblical precept in the opening of his Introduction to the translation by Geng Shizhi. 76 Andreev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, vol. 1, pp. 64–8. The story was first published in the Moscow Kur’er in 1898 (ibid., p. 721). In English, “Love, Faith and Hope” appeared next to better-known titles in The Crushed Flower (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1916), a collection of Andreev stories translated by Herman Bernstein as part of Knopf ’s series, The Borzoi Russian Translations.


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Typically, those merging the translator’s profession with other lines of work were employed in publishing and education. Hu Yuzhi (1896–1986), the first Chinese translator of Artsybashev, and Hu Zhongchi (1900–68), whom we met before as a reviewer of Worker Shevyrev, were both editors at the Commercial Press. The elder brother, Hu Yuzhi, was also an early commentator on Andreev: before Shen Zemin had translated “The Seven Who Were Hanged”, Hu compared it to Tolstoy’s “Three Deaths” in notes appended to his first Chinese translation of the latter story in Dongfang zazhi of May 1920.77 Hu Zhongchi’s translation of Andreev’s “The Crushed Flower” (the second version of this story in Chinese) was published in Dongfang zazhi in June 1921, and collected in the same journal’s running anthology, Modern Russian Short Stories, in 1923. Translators like Hu Zhongchi did not waste good copy; a story was first sold to a journal, only then to the publishers of anthologies. At this, as the peregrinations of “The Crushed Flower” attest (from 1929 to 1941, it was included in five more anthologies, three of them identical in content but issued under different titles), Hu Zhongchi was especially adept. These publications also reflected the gradual “museification”, through anthologizing, of Russian literature of the 1900s and 1910s. Another translation of “Lazarus”, published at Shanghai’s Xin shidai shuju (The New Era Book Company) in September 1931, bore the mark of a recycling system that did no greater honour to its practitioners, as the anthology in which it was included once again plundered Thomas Seltzer’s Best Russian Short Stories.78 Reflecting the workings of second-hand translation, this Chinese anthology is however interesting for bearing the pen-name of Li Ni (Guo Anren, 1909–68), soon to become known as a writer of intensely lyrical essays (sanwen), and as a translator of Russian literature. Having left his native Hubei province in his teens, in 1927 Li Ni attended courses at the Shanghai Workers’

77 “In the intensity of terror, are death by killing and death from an illness not the same? Are we not all of us criminals awaiting execution, none being able to escape that final sentence?”—as quoted by Ping Baoxing, Wusi yitan yu Eluosi wenxue, p. 115. See “San si”, collected in Hu Yuzhi yiwen ji, vol. 1. 78 The anthology’s title, Yinying: Luxiya duanpian ji, referred to “The Shades, a Phantasy” by Korolenko (the inscrutable Luxiya, adopted from the Japanese, served as a fanciful transcription of “Rossiia”). The other four stories published with “Lazarus” were also all taken from Best Russian Short Stories: Garshin’s “The Signal”, Tolstoy’s “God Sees the Truth, but Waits”, Sologub’s “Hide and Seek”, and Gorky’s “One Autumn Night”.

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University. The following summer he translated an article on Andreev by Seltzer. His publisher’s journal, Xin shidai yuekan (New Era monthly), printed it at the same time as his anthology.79 The young translator was by then out of town, gone to work as newspaper editor and English teacher in Fujian province. After another stop in Wuhan, he was back in Shanghai with his young family in 1932, joining the League of Left-Wing Writers in 1934. Li Ni’s association with Xin shidai lasted until the following year, when along with Ba Jin he became one of the founders of Wenhua shenghuo. Although he continued to translate English, American and world fiction, he concentrated on Russian literature from that time on. For Wenhua shenghuo he translated Gorky (in 1936), Turgenev (Li Ni’s most important and demanding endeavour were the novels Nest of Gentlefolk in 1937 and On the Eve, published in 1939), and finally three plays by Chekhov in 1946.80 Li Ni had to work on his new Chinese translations of the plays Ivanov, The Seagull and Uncle Vanya twice, because his first manuscripts were destroyed in a Japanese bombardment in 1943 before he could pass them on to Ba Jin in Guilin.81 Li Ni wrote his last sanwen while escaping occupied Shanghai in 1938, at the start of a difficult voyage that would eventually bring him, his wife and their two little daughters to Chongqing. While Li Ni had always lived in poverty as a translator, his even more precarious existence in wartime has been described in expressions which, earlier in this chapter, we have seen applied to Xie Liuyi; like Xie, he too had to “plough with the pen and hoe with the tongue”, combining translation with teaching and with work as military translator for the

79 Seltzer, trans. Li Ni, “Andeliefu lun”, pt. 2, p. 26, was signed “in Jiangwan” (north of Shanghai), on 7 Aug. 1928. The text was Seltzer’s Introduction to The Seven That Were Hanged (the article already translated by Shen Zemin as “Enteliefu wenxue sixiang gailun” in 1920). On Xin shidai, see Hockx, Questions of Style, pp. 201–21, passim. In April 1931 Guo Anren also published, under this name, the second Chinese translation of Kropotkin’s Ideals and Realities in Russian Literature (ZXFW, p. 182). 80 Entries in Zhongguo xiandai wenxue zong shumu, ZXFW and ZFC (see reference to “ploughing with the pen and hoeing with the tongue”, p. 368); biographical information also from Yao Xin, Zuolian cidian, pp. 116–17. Sun Naixiu’s analysis of the affinity between Li Ni and Turgenev, in a book on the latter’s reception in China, has an axe to grind, but does offer evidence of Turgenev’s stylistic and thematic influence (such as the figure of “the superfluous man”) on a number of Li Ni’s lyrical essays of the 1930s. See Tugeniefu yu Zhongguo, pp. 347–59. 81 See Ba Jin, “Comrade Lini” (1979), in Random Thoughts, pp. 80–7; the original text, “Guanyu Li Ni tongzhi”, in Ba Jin, Suixiang lu, pp. 63–9, has been reprinted as an Introduction to Li Ni sanwen xuanji.


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Kuomintang. Li Ni stopped both translating and writing fiction after the establishment of the PRC, occupying instead editorial positions in Wuhan and Beijing, and eventually a teaching job in Guangzhou before perishing in the Cultural Revolution.82 Two books by Andreev, appearing within a month of each other in December 1949 and January 1950, were then to remain the last translations of this writer in the PRC for the duration of more than thirty years. The new version of “The Seven Who Were Hanged” and (a novella not previously available in Chinese) “The Governor” had both been translated from the English by Ru Long, later best known as the translator of Chekhov. Let us look at the work that concluded the 59 translations of 35 titles by Leonid Andreev in China from 1909 to 1950, before discussing the place of this story’s translator in the history of his profession. In “The Governor”, written in 1906, Andreev had addressed recent political assassinations in Russia, most prominent among them that of the governor-general of Moscow and uncle of Nicholas II, the Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich, in February 1905. These were the dramatic events that we have seen narrated, in fictional form, in Boris Savinkov’s novel, The Pale Horse. But whilst that book, published in 1909, would centre entirely on the terrorists, Andreev’s focus was fully on the Governor, and more on his mind than on his conduct. He followed the aged general from the days of his first pangs of conscience about the order he had given to open fire at a workers’ demonstration, through his realization that retribution for his crime was inevitable, and up to his inner acceptance of the death verdict and his courting of it. Roaming the streets of the town on foot, unaccompanied by guards, by the end of the story Andreev’s hero has been transformed into “a dead man searching for his grave”. Primeval justice is executed, and the people’s blood avenged, as the old Governor is struck by three bullets in a deserted square.

82 On Li Ni’s early biography and circumstances of his death, see more in Ba Jin, “Tan Chuntian li de qiutian”; Li Ni’s commitment to the translation of Nest of Gentlefolk in conditions of chronic material deprivation in Shanghai is evoked in the memoirs of his friend, the writer Chen Huangmei (1913–96), “Yi ke qiwang liming de xin”, p. 179, and of his daughter Guo Meini, “Yi baba—Li Ni”, pp. 189–91, all in Li Ni sanwen xuanji. Another collection of Li Ni’s essays, opening with a lengthy Introduction analysing their subject matter and poetic style, came out under the same title in 1992 (ed. Xu Ruqi; Tianjin: Baihua wenyi chubanshe) and was reprinted in 2004.

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Considerations of censorship were not alone in making the author of “The Governor” deviate so completely from historical detail, much as the governor’s improbable search for his “grave” obviously foreshadowed Andreev’s interpretation of the story of Lazarus. With the provision of a political decor reflecting the writer’s current revolutionary sympathies, at the same time his protagonist was made to act out Andreev’s own obsession: the struggle of any living being with the inexorable approach of Death, which was soon to find further literary expression in both The Life of Man and “The Seven Who Were Hanged”. By dint of its outer political framework as well as its preoccupation with the same dilemma, “The Seven” was therefore a natural companion of “The Governor”, though it is clear that the “revolutionary” setting of both stories, not their attempts at psychological introspection, was what determined their publication in Chinese in the first months of the People’s Republic. The translator Ru Long added no commentary of his own to his translations of these stories, part of a “new translation series” edited by Ba Jin for the Pingming (Daybreak) publishing house. Such selfeffacement seems to have been typical of him; instead, he scrupulously indicated on both occasions the texts he had used, Thomas Seltzer’s edition of The Seven That Were Hanged in The Modern Library series and a translation of His Excellency the Governor by Maurice Magnus (1921).83

83 Maurice Magnus, responsible also for the version of To the Stars that was probably used by Li Jiye, is, like Thomas Seltzer, a name recognizable to readers of D. H. Lawrence. Both play and story in Magnus’s translation were published in London by C. W. Daniel some months after the suicide of this US-born entrepreneur and minor writer, who may have been an illegitimate grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany. Lawrence’s Memoir of Maurice Magnus (published 1924), collected in D. H. Lawrence, eds. N. H. Reeve and John Worthen, Introductions and Reviews (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 9–72, is a hostile recollection of their acquaintance in Italy in 1919–20. The circumstances in which Magnus began learning Russian in late 1907 and his impressions of attending Stanislavsky’s production of The Life of Man in Moscow in 1908 are recounted from his unpublished memoirs in Ch. 4 of Louise E. Wright, Maurice Magnus: A Biography (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007). But, as the unsigned translation of “His Excellency the Governor” first appeared in the New York Harper’s Weekly in early 1907 (the fact is established by Davies, “Bibliografiia perevodov proizvedenii Leonida Andreeva na angliiskii iazyk”, forthcoming in Leonid Andreev: materialy i issledovaniia), before Magnus knew any Russian, the text on which Ru Long relied, believing that it was rendered from the original, could not have been that. A comparison conducted by Richard Davies to confirm or refute this suspicion led to the conclusion that Magnus’s To the Stars, at least, was indeed retranslated from the German of 1906.


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Ba Jin’s influence on the career of Ru Long as a translator is evident beyond this insistence on transparency in the use of intermediary sources. Ru Long, like Li Ni, belonged to the circle of “Culture and Life”, and his first book-length translation, of Gorky’s novel The Artamonov Business (notably, a book which Geng Jizhi had translated from the Russian as recently as 1941), came out with this publisher in 1944–6. Born in Suzhou in 1916, he went to school in Peking but did not remain there. Rather he spent most of his time until the first years of the PRC in his native Jiangsu province, where he taught English. These were years when a translator of Russian literature had the opportunity to flourish. Ru Long’s translations from Andreev were followed by several works by Kuprin and more of Gorky (including Gorky’s memoirs of Andreev), but he made his name by translating twenty-seven volumes of Chekhov, published 1950 to 1958. He returned to the translation of Chekhov, his life’s work, at the end of the political storms of the following two decades. Together with Li Ni, Ru Long belonged to a generation whose professional credentials—when not backed by the literary fame of Ba Jin—began to be viewed more critically in the PRC with the emergence of translators able to draw on the Russian originals rather than depend on English intermediaries. Ru Long began learning Russian at the age of forty and later revised his English-based translations. But did Chinese readers, as one might expect, really grow uncomfortable with reading their Chekhov (or, with Li Ni and Ba Jin, their Turgenev; with Wei Congwu, their Dostoevsky) through Constance Garnett? By the time of his death, in a year on which no two biographical entries agree,84 Ru Long’s name appeared to have slid into oblivion. Yet there is a sense in which Chinese and English readers differ: while very few of the latter would now choose to read Russian literature in Garnett’s translations (though done directly from the Russian, these have long been considered inadequate and have been superseded by recent work), for many in China the aesthetic quality of a translator’s style ( yibi ) still counts more than fidelity to a hallowed “original”. 84 It was 1991, rather than 1994 as in Li Mingbin, Zhongguo yu E-Su wenhua jiaoliu zhi, p. 267, or 1995 as in Chen Jianhua, 20 shiji Zhong-E wenxue guanxi, p. 443. The updated (2005) edition of CYT, p. 302, is unaware of Ru Long’s death. The best source is now ZFWS, pp. 295–97, which emphasizes his success in conveying the spirit and style of Chekhov in Chinese. Wei Congwu, Ru Long’s parallel in dedicating his life to a Russian writer, saw his own plans to learn Russian curtailed by political repression in the 1950s (see ibid., p. 303).

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Accordingly, launching a projected fifteen-volume edition of Ru Long’s Collected Translations in 1996, the publisher Anhui wenyi decided to reprint the English-based translations of the 1950s (those of which Ba Jin said that “Ru Long had put into his Chekhov his very body and soul”), rather than their subsequently revised versions, for which this translator went to the primary Russian source. Like Ru Long’s (and more than the Lu Xun-influenced, “direct” translations of Wei Congwu), the translations of Li Ni, too, are still read today. They are prized for the same qualities of style that readers find in his essays—also reissued more than once, since being “rediscovered” in the 1980s. III. Decadents and agents of the modern On 10 July 1928 the Guanghua Book Company brought out in 1500 copies the first edition of what would prove the only Chinese collection of Andreev’s short stories during the republican period.85 A second impression followed in September 1929, while another would have to await 1936: not an unsuccessful book, then, it still would have reached fewer readers than the seven printings of the only story collection by Artsybashev, Xuehen (The Bloodstain, 1927), discussed in Chapter Three. Contrary, again, to the Artsybashev volume compiled by Zheng Zhenduo, the four stories in Andreev’s Xiao tianshi (The Little Angel) were all the work of a single translator. This translator was Yao Pengzi, better known by his pen-name than by his surname. A writer and poet as well, he was associated with the Shuimo Society, which issued his poetry collection Yinling (Silver Bells), in a thousand copies, in 1929.86 Pengzi stopped writing poetry thereafter but did publish collections of prose fiction in 1932 and 1933. Like many Shanghai-based littérateurs, Pengzi held a job as an editor, actually with the publisher of his Andreev collection; we recall that along with Xu Xiacun and Du Heng he was also editor of the Guanghua series in which the translation of Sanin by Pan Mohua appeared in 1930.87 As a translator, he rendered into Chinese, almost 85 The following discussion is based on this first edition, conserved at the library of Institut des Hautes Etudes Chinoises in Paris. 86 See below; q.v. “Shuimo she” in Fan Quan, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue shetuan liupai cidian, p. 145. 87 Earlier in 1929, Pengzi collaborated with Shuimo member Du Heng in translating a collection of August Strindberg. Pengzi, “Women de youpeng Ding Ling”, pp. 4, 6,


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certainly via the English of Aldous Huxley, the novel Un Coeur Virginal by the symbolist Remy de Gourmont (published at Beixin in 1927), the same author’s epistolary novel Le Songe d’une femme (Guanghua, March 1930), and the works of several Russian writers, most notably the first volume of Gorky’s autobiographical trilogy, My Childhood, published by Guanghua in November 1930. In 1931 there was also an anthology of Russian short stories containing works both old and new.88 Imprisoned by the Kuomintang as a Communist and member of the League of Left-Wing Writers in December 1933, Pengzi made a public break with the CCP, and was released in May the following year, going on to serve in a number of posts for the Nationalist regime.89 Another anthology of Russian stories, presenting the Soviet “fellow travellers”, still came out under his name in March 1937 (though with an Introduction dated June 1931).90 With the establishment of a “United Front” between the Communist and the Nationalist parties in the same year, Pengzi joined the All-China Anti-Japanese Writers Federation in Chongqing, assuming the editorship of its journal in 1940.91 This erstwhile propagator of Western literature died in the late 1960s,92 when his son Yao Wenyuan, the literary critic member of the “Gang of Four”, was leading the campaign against all things Western in the frenzied climate of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. For many years the modest literary career of Yao Pengzi could not be discussed in the PRC as the family connection was kept secret, and attests that his close social ties with Du Heng, Shi Zhecun, Xu Xiacun, Dai Wangshu and Liu Na’ou dated back to at least 1928. 88 Ji’e de guangmang comprised stories by Turgenev, Tolstoy, Leskov, Chekhov, Gorky, Sologub, Lydia Seifullina and Mikhail Volkov. The title of Sologub’s story, “Glimmer of Hunger”, was chosen for the anthology, perhaps to connect it with the image of Russia that had been current in China since the travel notes of Qu Qiubai. Short biographical sketches of each author were appended, but in his “Translator’s Postscript” Pengzi regretted having been pressed into publishing; more time would have enabled him to open the anthology with “a rather long introductory essay on the evolution and present state of Russian literature”. Pengzi, “Yihou ji”, p. 1 (copy Fond chinois, Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon). 89 Yao Xin, Zuolian cidian, p. 193. 90 Pengzi, “Yihou zaji”, explained the need to acquaint readers with this group of Soviet writers; his anthology included Boris Pil’niak, Leonid Leonov, Aleksei Tolstoy, Efim Zozulia, Panteleimon Romanov and Gleb Alekseev. He was apologetic about having to retranslate them from the English. 91 Kangzhan wenyi (The War of Resistance Literature and Arts; published 1938–1946). See Ding Wang, Yao Wenyuan Mao Yuanxin pingzhuan, pp. 27–30. 92 CYT, pp. 956–57, is uncertain on Yao’s year of birth, either 1905 or 1906, and year of death, either 1969 or 1970. Presumably the more knowledgeable source, Zhuji xianzhi, p. 990, gives 1905, saying that Yao died of an illness in Feb. 1969.

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mention of Yao Wenyuan’s father was limited to commentary on a humorous poem by his fellow-provincial Lu Xun (“For Yao Pengzi”), which had rhymed its dedicatee with “Tianzi” (Son of Heaven). Soon after the arrest of the Gang of Four, the connection was “discovered” and Yao Wenyuan was attacked as “the son of a traitor”.93 Subsequently, biographers of the son, initially in Hong Kong and more recently also in the People’s Republic, explored his family background from an essentially political perspective. In what context, then, should we put Yao Pengzi’s work as a translator of Leonid Andreev? “The Little Angel”, title story of the Andreev collection and the longest in it, tells of a poor and mistreated child. Sashka (the hero’s diminutive is the same as in Artsybashev’s story “Happiness”, but this time it is given to a boy) has a violent alcoholic for a mother; his father is a man ruined by drink and TB and now terrorized by his wife. The growing boy is a cynic until, at a Christmas party in the house of rich people, he is enchanted by a wax angel hanging from the decorated tree. He implores the lady of the house to give him the toy, and with infinite care brings it back home. Sashka and his father are as if transfigured, when together they study every detail of the little angel. In the son’s heart a feeble glimmer of hope is born, while the father’s thoughts carry him to the woman in the other house, with whom he had once been in love. When the two fall asleep, the hot stove quickly melts the wax angel, extinguishing the sudden ray of happiness which, for a little while, had dispersed the darkness of everyday life. Closely related to “The Little Angel” is the story entitled “In the Basement”. The powerful effect of beauty and innocence upon the denizens of a cruel world is demonstrated here as an inveterate drunkard, living in the basement of a house among other down-and-outs like himself, is suddenly confronted with the sight of a newborn baby, the illegitimate child of a prostitute’s sister. The same theme is pursued in “Kusaka” (known in English as “Snapper”; Pengzi rendered the title as “Koutou chong”, a “click beetle”). Kusaka is a dog, beaten and maltreated for as long as it can remember. Because its experience has

93 Ding Wang, Yao Wenyuan Mao Yuanxin pingzhuan, pp. 9, 23–5. For Lu Xun’s poem, see “Zeng Yao Pengzi” (March 1932), in LXQJ (2005), vol. 7, p. 457. Yao Wenyuan (1931–2005) was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment in 1981 and released in 1996.


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taught it to fear everybody, Kusaka bites everyone it sees. One day the empty country house in which it hides is occupied by a family with children, who begin to play with Kusaka and feed it. The dog’s fears are slowly dissipated and its entire nature transformed. But then at summer’s end the family returns to the city and the dog is left behind, forgotten. The fourth story’s title, “The Friend”, also refers to a dog, but focuses more on its owner—a writer, whose dog was his most loyal companion through his days of anonymity. When fame arrived, the writer neglected the dog, allowing it to die unattended. He only comes to regret the absence of his true friend once the brief days of success are over. The source of the collection was not indicated, though few of Pengzi’s readers would have harboured the illusion that he had perused the Russian original. In fact, he had picked four out of the sixteen stories in the collection of Andreev stories translated by W. H. Lowe, initially published as Silence and other Stories in London in 1910. In 1916 this collection, now under the title The Little Angel and other Stories, was taken over for publication in the Borzoi series of Russian translations by Knopf in New York.94 In places that would have called for greater creativity, Pengzi copied such solutions by Lowe as “Laddie” for the dog’s name in “The Friend”. In Pengzi’s version of “Snapper”, a Chinese-speaking Russian peasant comes up with the emphatic “Garn!” to curse the stray dog who is the story’s hero: a glance at the original reveals that the peasant had merely blurted out a menacing “U-u!”, and it was this ejaculation that Lowe had approximated with the help of Cockney. Facing the usual test for a translator of Russian fiction, Pengzi rendered “samovar” quite plausibly in “The Friend” as a “tea urn” (chagang; the problematic vessel is known in Chinese as chachui, or “tea boiler”, today). He had obviously relied on the American edition, which omitted the many explanatory footnotes originally offered by the scholarly-minded English translator.95 For his part, Pengzi provided neither a preface nor a postscript.

94 The Rev. William Henry Lowe (1848–1917), rector of Brisley, Norfolk, was a linguist and a scholar of Russian, biblical Hebrew and Persian. The American edition, opening with a new Preface, also deleted the footnotes, made changes in the spelling of Russian names, and replaced the story “The Wall” with “The Spy”. 95 Pengzi, trans., Xiao tianshi, pp. 3 (chagang, for “samovar”), 8 (“Laddie”), 51 (“Garn!”). L. N. Andréyev, trans. W. H. Lowe, Silence and other Stories (London: Francis Griffiths, 1910), p. 126, had a three-line footnote that bears quotation: “Samovar is a Russian urn. It has a pipe going up the centre with a little door at the bottom through which the charcoal is lit. The water is boiled in it outside, then an airtight cover is screwed on

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For the cover illustration of Xiao tianshi, printed in uniform purplishred, an unknown artist had drawn a small winged angel in the top right-hand corner. It appears to fly above a sky scudded with vapoury clouds, and rent by a zigzag-shaped lightning that crosses the page diagonally, from the upper left to the lower right corners. The frontispiece presented another, double-page illustration in green, no longer related to the contents of the book. Not identified by the publisher, this last is recognizable as a work by Aubrey Beardsley (1872–98), the major British illustrator of the Art Nouveau school.96 It was not, however, one of the erotic drawings for which this artist is famous: inside a large garden two maidens were portrayed, the one facing the reader wearing a long trailing dress and an elaborate chignon, while the other, only seen from her back, appears to be reading. In the centre of the garden stands a platform with a sundial; the entire picture is framed by an ornamental decor of pears, interlaced with leaves and branches. The same illustration appeared also in the last two pages of the book. Now Beardsley is a clue we may seize on, because this name stood for something in Shanghai of the late 1920s. At that time, through the Shuimo Society members, Pengzi had a close connection to the modernists, the later circle of Xiandai. These writers cultivated an interest in Beardsley, the fin-de-siècle decadent who had first been promoted in China by the playwright Tian Han (1898–1968) and members of the Creation Society, in particular Yu Dafu, in the early 1920s.97 In 1929, even Lu Xun lent his support to the publication of a Beardsley album by the Dawn Blossoms Society, though (in a reversal characteristic of his ambivalent attitude to “decadence”) in an essay of 1931 he would identify the printing of Beardsley illustrations with journals run by renegades from the camp of progressive literature.98 The Lu Xun of 1931 was thinking especially of one of his sources of annoyance, the

it, and it is brought into the room. Tr.”. Today “samovar” appears in standard English dictionaries; unlike Chinese, European languages are able to assimilate foreign words without having to explain their meaning. 96 The interested reader may find a reproduction of this drawing, as ill. 113, in Brian Reade, Aubrey Beardsley (Suffolk: Antique Collectors’ Club, 1987). Beardsley drew this scene, entitled “La Beale Isoud at Joyous Gard”, for his illustrated edition of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur in 1893. 97 Zhou Xiaoyi, “Bi’ercili, Haipai tuifei wenxue yu 30 niandai de shangpin wenhua”, pp. 98–9; Lee, Shanghai Modern, p. 255. 98 Contrast “ ‘Biyacilai huaxuan’ xiaoyin” (A Short Introduction to Selected Drawings by Beardsley), in LXQJ (2005), vol. 7, pp. 356–59, with “Hei’an Zhongguo de wenyijie de xianzhuang” (The Current Situation of the Literature and Arts Scene in Dark China), ibid., vol. 4, pp. 292–97, here p. 294.


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man who styled himself “China’s Beardsley”. This was the writer and illustrator Ye Lingfeng—who, at Xiandai in 1930, had published a short novel entitled The Red Angel.99 Pengzi’s translation of The Little Angel came out already in 1928, and it is difficult to estimate whether, for self-professed Chinese decadents, the “angel” of the title (borrowed from the title of the 1916 American collection of Andreev’s stories) possessed at that time an appeal similar to that of Beardsley illustrations (and book titles with “snake” in them).100 Whether “angel” functioned somewhat in the way that “bloodstains” had done for a leftist Chinese readership in 1925–26 is thus hard to know. Had he wished to emphasize the “decadent” side of Andreev’s early fiction, Pengzi could have chosen different works from The Little Angel and other Stories (though his omission of “Silence”, “The Lie”, “Laughter” and “The Tocsin” may have reflected his knowledge that these stories had already been translated into Chinese). Yet the title story did offer a celebration of artistic beauty that would have struck a chord with many an urban aesthete. There is reason enough to conclude that, detached from the Orthodox Christmas tree on which it had first been made to hang in turn-of-the-century Russia, Andreev’s “little angel” was transplanted in China into the context of fascination with European “decadence”—an interest that his translator shared, even if he was soon to jettison it for another. Although Pengzi did not leave us a record of his interpretation of Andreev, he did make comments revelatory of the evolution in his understanding of literature. In March 1929, in a preface to his only collection of poetry Silver Bells, he described his life in Peking “five or six years ago”: spending all his days in the library, “retracing the steps of such ancient rebels as Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Baudelaire, Poe, Artzibashev [names given in Roman letters, M.G.]”, he would pass his evenings with the shades of “Sanin and Bazarov”. But as he 99 See the recent edition: Ye Lingfeng, Hong de tianshi (Shanghai: Shanghai wenhua chubanshe, 2005), pp. 1–75. On Ye’s absorbing interest in Beardsley, and on this artist’s renown in China, see Ye, Dushu suibi, vol. 2, esp. pp. 295–96. Cf. Song Binghui, “Biyacilai de liang fu Zhongguo miankong: Lu Xun yu Ye Lingfeng de jieshou bijiao” (Beardsley’s Two Chinese Faces: A Comparison between the Receptions of Lu Xun and Ye Lingfeng), in idem, Fangfa yu shijian, pp. 178–86. 100 Zhou Xiaoyi, “Bi’ercili, Haipai tuifei wenxue yu 30 niandai de shangpin wenhua”, p. 100, lists such titles by Feng Zhi (1927), Zhang Kebiao (1929) and Shao Xunmei (1936). “Angel” titles in Chinese cinema of the same period include Little Angel (1935) and Street Angel (a film written and directed by Yuan Muzhi, 1937): see Yingjin Zhang, Encyclopedia of Chinese Film, pp. 248, 321–22, 372.

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was now offering to the public the lyrical fruits of those same years, he wished to distance himself from the poet that he had been before the May Thirtieth Movement of 1925. His Preface, couched in the deterministic language of materialism, amounted to a full rejection of the aesthetics he had formerly espoused. He began by recording the historically inevitable deaths, in the previous year, of both Fedor Sologub and the German novelist and playwright Herman Sudermann, and he concluded with the words: “I would like you, dear readers, to put down this boring little booklet, and take up your weapons of battle”.101 He felt compelled, as one might do to exorcise a ghost, to intone once more the names of the reactionary writers, “the author of Flowers of Evil, Baudelaire, and the author of Sanin, Artsybashev”, in a lengthy Introduction he wrote to a selection of works by his friend, the woman writer Ding Ling, which he edited in December 1933.102 From a literary “decadent” turned Communist agitator and then Nationalist functionary, we may move to a near anonymous translator, and one only infrequently involved with Russian literature. Xia Laidi (1902–73) is identified as a translator by occupation ( fanyi gongzuo zhe) in the editors’ commentary to entries in the diary of Lu Xun. These entries record Xia’s visits to Lu Xun’s home in Shanghai in October and November 1928, and again in June 1933—the first and last time, in the company of Yu Dafu.103 Xia’s translation, also in November 1928, of “The Seven Who Were Hanged”, was one of five Chinese versions of this story to appear up to 1950. It corresponds to the short period when Xia was co-editor with Yu Dafu of the monthly Dazhong wenyi (Mass Literature and Art). Far from the austere outlet for writings on class struggle that its Chinese title may call to mind, under 101 Pengzi, “Zixu” (copy Sinological Institute Library, Leiden University), quotations from pp. 2, 3. His ranging of Artsybashev among the nineteenth-century “ancients”, writers condemned to irrelevancy by the dawning age of Revolution, must be understood in this context. 102 Pengzi, “Women de youpeng Ding Ling”, p. 11. Signed shortly before the author’s own arrest, this essay is striking when read with the benefit of hindsight, as glorifying the martyr’s death in Feb. 1931 of Ding Ling’s lover, the poet Hu Yepin, Pengzi mentions (p. 36) Ding Ling’s refusal to consider an offer Hu had reportedly received from the Kuomintang: to recant, and thereby to save his life. This collection of Ding Ling’s prose was edited by Pengzi at a time when she was widely believed to have met the same fate as Hu Yepin. 103 LXQJ (2005), vol. 16, pp. 97, 99, 102, 120, 384; commentary in vol. 17, p. 191. Entries in Xu Naixiang and Qin Hong, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue zuozhe biming lu, p. 534, and in CYT, p. 988, were unable to provide Xia’s life dates, which the 2005 edition of Lu Xun quanji is the first to supply.


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the editorship of Xia and Yu this journal (handsomely brought out by Xiandai) offered translations of European fiction, seemingly more in tune with its subtitle in Esperanto, “Literaturo por Homaro” (Literature for Humanity).104 Notwithstanding Xia Laidi’s connection with Mass Literature and Art, his translation of Andreev was brought out by a different publisher, signalling its place on the literary map of China at the time. The Jinwu (literally, Gold Chamber) Bookstore was opened in 1928 by the young poet Shao Xunmei (1906–68), who from January 1929 to September 1930 also brought out the monthly Jinwu yuekan (‘La Maison d’or’). Shao has been described as the archetypal “decadent” and “aesthete” in the Shanghai of his time. The journal he created with the help of his considerable fortune was influenced in design by The Yellow Book, the famed (if almost as short-lived) fin-de-siècle British literary magazine featuring illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley. In 1926 Shao had brought back a complete set of The Yellow Book to Shanghai from two years spent at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and a third passed at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.105 Interpreted most probably as a story about the individual’s confrontation with death rather than as a story about revolutionaries, “The Seven Who Were Hanged” in Xia Laidi’s translation was the only work of Russian literature to be published in book form by the overwhelmingly Anglophile circle of Shao Xunmei. In 1927 Xia Laidi also translated Ernest Dowson’s poetry collection Decorations (1899).106 Earlier in the 1920s, he had entered the realm of literature as a young member of

104 On the meaning of the title, devised by Yu Dafu, cf. Anderson, The Limits of Realism, p. 69. In 1929 Xia Laidi translated French, English and American fiction for Dazhong wenyi; his translations from English were also collected in an anthology, Ying Mei mingjia xiaoshuo ji. His first visits to Lu Xun were to collect and pay for the manuscripts of Lu Xun’s translations of Soviet writers Alexander Iakovlev, Mikhail Zoshchenko and Konstantin Fedin, which the journal published. Under new editorship, Dazhong wenyi became an organ of the League of Left-Wing Writers in 1930. 105 See esp. Hutt, “La Maison d’or”. Lee, Shanghai Modern, pp. 241–54, draws on Heinrich Fruehauf, “Urban Exoticism in Modern and Contemporary Chinese Literature”; cf. Zhao Yiheng, Dui’an de youhuo, pp. 32–4, and Xie Zhixi, Mei de pianzhi, pp. 224–39. 106 A rare description of Xia Laidi by Shi Zhecun is quoted in Xie Zhixi, Mei de pianzhi, p. 247, n. 2, and may be repeated for what it is worth: Shi remembered Xia as a close friend of the translator of Professor Storitsyn, Cai Fangxin, and of the translator (e.g. of The Collected Stories of Dowson and of Pater’s “The Child in the House”) Zhu Weiji, but mainly as an admirer and follower of Yu Dafu, who (in 1928, we may infer) spent months living at Yu’s house. According to Shi Zhecun, Xia indulged in decadent behaviour until being shown the door by Yu’s wife, Wang Yingxia.

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“the Muses” (Misa) Society.107 Along with Shao Xunmei, in the 1930s he would move on to the “Green Society” (Lüshe). The Anglophile connection is also in evidence with Guo Zixiong, who translated Andreev’s story “The Sacrifice” in 1936, even though he could not have read this particular work in English.108 Born in Sichuan in 1906, and educated at Shanghai’s Guanghua University, Guo arrived in London in 1929. By that time he had already published a book of poetry at La Maison d’or.109 Equipped with advice from Shao Xunmei and letters of reference from his friend and former teacher Xu Zhimo, the best-known romantic poet in China, he naturally took the train to Cambridge. As he was refused admission to either Shao’s Emmanuel or Xu’s King’s College, he instead went on to read political economy at Oxford in 1931–32. Returning to Oxford in 1933, he became the first Chinese student at New College.110 The story by Andreev in Guo’s translation appeared in Wenyi yuekan (The Literature and Arts monthly), a journal founded by “The Chinese Society for Literature and Arts” in Nanking in 1930 and published until 1941. While its inaugural issue lashed out vehemently against the effects of leftism in literature, Wenyi yuekan would devote less space to political polemics thereafter. It carried much fiction and poetry especially by the Chinese romantics and modernists (the circles of Crescent Moon and Les Contemporains), as well as translations of an impressively varied range of foreign writers, including D. H. Lawrence, T. S. Eliot, Thomas Mann and Stefan Zweig.111 107 This conclusion is based on the list of “Misa” members in Fan Quan, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue shetuan liupai cidian, p. 347, taking Xia Laidi and “Xia Laiti” to be one and the same. 108 How Guo had found his way to a story first published in the newspaper Andreev edited in Petrograd in 1916 and only reprinted by an émigré Russian paper in Paris in 1935, could be subject to a separate investigation. Cf. V. N. Chuvakov, Leonid Nikolaevich Andreev: Bibliografiia, vol. 1, entries 480, 510. 109 Chun xia qiu dong (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) (Shanghai: Jinwu shudian, 1928). 110 See Guo Zixiong, “Wo yu Niujin”. Kuo Tze Hsiung, as his name appears in College records, was awarded a BLitt in 1935 (information received from New College archivist, Jennifer Thorp). His other publications in Chinese and English include more poetry and essays, works on China’s international relations, the opium problem and education, and a recollection of Xu Zhimo (1895–1931)—“a special student” at Cambridge in 1921–22, who remains the Chinese literary figure most closely associated with this town. 111 Information from Tang Yuan, ed., Zhongguo xiandai wenxue qikan mulu huibian. The entry on “Zhongguo wenyi she” in Fan Quan, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue shetuan liupai cidian, pp. 70–72, puts the stress on the society’s intimate ties with the Propaganda Department of the Nationalist Party.


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The mature Andreev based “The Sacrifice” on an idea he had first drafted when he was only just becoming a writer.112 The relations between a widow and her grown-up daughter, sharing a small apartment, deteriorate as the daughter blames her mother for the unbearable dreariness of her own life. Taisia hates her mother’s unperturbed appearance and queen-like bearing, qualities which (though far from attesting to any depth of character) had made her late husband worship her, and now have the same awe-inspiring effect on her daughter’s only suitor. Constantly harassed by Taisia, Elena Dmitrievna decides to make the sacrifice that will give her daughter the prosperous life for which she yearns; after insuring herself for a high amount, the old woman stages a railway accident. Taisia, the only person who knows the death was a suicide, receives the insurance money and marries her unsuspecting suitor—whose respectful admiration for his mother-in-law (the real reason for his courting of Taisia) only grows after her death. In Andreev’s draft of 1899 this story (entitled “Mother”) was another exercise in realist social criticism; by its publication in 1916 it had become a stylized study in cruelty, with touches of the irrational. Often painful for the reader, “The Sacrifice” attests to Andreev’s evolution towards a modernist aesthetics; there are moments in it that bring to mind the early fiction of Vladimir Nabokov. We have no knowledge about how it was read in China. A book-form translation of “The Red Laugh” by Xu Peiren was issued at the newly-founded Shanghai publisher Shangzhi shuwu, in January 1929. The long list of Xu’s output in the Complete Contents of Modern Chinese Literature certainly qualifies him as a professional translator, though he also published two novels of his own in 1929.113 His posthumous obscurity can be explained by his having worked almost exclusively for small firms situated either on the margins of the Shanghai publishing world or in the publishing wilderness beyond it (some of his translations in the late 1920s came out in Xiamen). Xu’s translation of “The Red Laugh” is further proof of the place accorded to Andreev as a European modernist (perhaps as a “decadent”, in the eyes of those who themselves aspired to that honour) at the peak moment of Shanghai’s brief parallel to the British “Aesthetic movement”. In

S. Iu. Iasenskii, “Ob evoliutsii odnogo zamysla Leonida Andreeva”. Zhongguo xiandai wenxue zong shumu, p. 1124. The list of his translations shows Xu Peiren moving to a specialization in children’s literature (such as The Complete Stories of Andersen) from the early 1930s on. 112 113

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1928 Xu collaborated with Xia Laidi on the translation of a play by Romain Rolland, even as he was translating another, Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, for Xia’s publisher, La Maison d’or.114 In 1931 Xu translated Heinrich Mann’s expressionist novel Professor Unrat, preserving the title by which it had become best known, most recently through Josef von Sternberg’s film starring Marlene Dietrich in 1930, The Blue Angel (Lan tianshi). Whereas Xia Laidi mainly translated serious works of literature, Xu Peiren moved between the realms of highbrow and popular fiction; one of his Xiamen-published translations was entitled The Diary of a Filipino Prostitute (1929), while for the Jingwei Book Company in Shanghai he produced in 1935 a guide called How to Get Rid of Bad Habits. He only rarely turned to Russian literature: one such occasion was when the Hongye (Red Leaves) Bookstore in Shanghai published his translation of Chekhov’s “A Dreary Story” in 1930. One may wonder at this point, looking at the chain of “Red Laugh” translations that began with Zhou Shoujuan, if the prominent “red” of Andreev’s story may have helped it attract publishers and translators of both the “red roses” and the “red October” variety.115 The third version (after those by Lu Xun and Liu Bannong) of the short story “Silence”, and the most complete of the three, appeared 114 Rolland’s Le Jeu de l’amour et de la mort, in the joint translation of Xu Peiren and Xia Laidi, was published by the Creation Society. Xu Peiren’s translation of An Ideal Husband is listed among publications by the “aesthetic—decadent” group in Xie Zhixi, Mei de pianzhi, p. 238. Xie is, though, mistaken in ascribing to Xu Peiren also the translation of Wilde’s Salomé at Guanghua in 1927 (ibid., p. 239): this retranslation into Chinese, carrying on its cover one of Beardsley’s famous illustrations for Lord Douglas’s English translation of the play from Wilde’s French, was due to Xu Baoyan. See the chapter on the reception of Salomé (transcribed Shalemei, the last two characters meaning “delighting in beauty”) in Zou Zhenhuan, Yingxiang Zhongguo jindai shehui de yi bai zhong yizuo, pp. 311–15; and, in English, publications by Linda Pui-ling Wong of Hong Kong Baptist University. 115 On the use of “red”, as a sales promoter in the titles of such journals of entertainment fiction as Hong zazhi (English subtitle: The Scarlet Magazine) and its successor from 1924, Hong meigui (Red Roses), see Link, Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies, pp. 91, 259–60; cf. T. C. Wong, Stories for Saturday, pp. 245–46, and on Red Leaves: Hockx, Questions of Style, p. 205. Because references to the same colour (hong, or the more literary chi ) became so popular in the writings of Chinese Communists, Nationalist censors grew suspicious of all “red” works, while revolutionary writer Jiang Guangchi even had to change his pen-name to Guangci to avoid anti-red persecution (see e.g. T. A. Hsia, The Gate of Darkness, p. 56, n. 1). Jiang’s first collection of poetry, Xin meng (New Dreams, 1924), opened with a poem entitled “Hong xiao” (The Red Laugh): an expression of optimism written as the poet was crossing the Urals on his way to Red Moscow, it made no conscious allusion to the story by Leonid Andreev. See Jiang Guangci wenji, vol. 3, pp. 259–60.


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in May 1928 in the second volume of the journal Zhen mei shan. The journal’s title meant “The True, the Beautiful and the Good”. It was published in Shanghai (from November 1927 to July 1931) at a bookstore of the same name, owned and managed by the writer Zeng Pu and his son Zeng Xubai. Along with other stories translated in 1928, “Chenmo” was collected in the anthology Oumei xiaoshuo (Stories from Europe and America), a book appearing under the name of Bing Fu.116 That arch sobriquet, short for Dong Ya Bingfu (“The Sick Man of East Asia”), was a trademark of Zeng Pu (1872–1935), and the name of the narrator of his novel Flower in a Sea of Retribution, which was then being serialised in Zhen mei shan. Yet it was Zeng Xubai (1894–1994) who translated all but one of the stories in the anthology. The Zengs were an unusual pair of literary collaborators at a time when the typical translator of foreign fiction in Shanghai was not likely to maintain more than an irregular correspondence with his parent in rural Zhejiang or Jiangsu, and in those letters to the old home (couched in the literary language) he would be sure to avoid as a subject unsuitable and incomprehensible any mention of his activity in translating foreign xiaoshuo, let alone poetry and fiction of the “decadent” sort.117 Zeng Xubai, by contrast, could turn to his father’s library after first becoming interested as a student in a French writer, whom he would translate into Chinese;118 together, in the way that we have seen siblings and spouses do, father and son sat down to translate a fin-de-siècle French novel, Aphrodite by Pierre Louÿs, giving it the title Flesh and Death (Rou yu si), no less.119 One of the few other examples of the translation 116 Copy PKU Library. Zhongguo xiandai wenxue zong shumu, p. 677, is wrong to claim that Oumei xiaoshuo appeared as early as 1917. 117 There were exceptions: the father of Shen Yanbing and Shen Zemin was a scholar interested in sciences such as mathematics and astronomy; their mother, who raised them after her husband’s early death—a reader of literature old and new. See Zhong Guisong, Shen Zemin zhuan, p. 11. 118 Zeng Xubai, “Xuwen”, p. 1 (the writer, later also translated by Fu Lei, was Prosper Mérimée). 119 Zeng Pu (signed Bing Fu), “Houji”, concluded the book by explaining this choice of a title as an allusion to Gourmont. In a postface scrupulously noting differences between several editions of the novel and identifying “art” with “beauty”, Zeng said that although he and his son had divided the work between them, they had then discussed every line of the complete translation, always seeking the perfect solution (ibid., p. 7). Among the friends, to whom the Zengs sent their warm thanks (“Merci mille et mille fois”, ibid., p. 10), was Shao Xunmei; their title, Rou yu si, does remind of Huo yu rou (Fire and Flesh), a book of Shao’s essays on European writers ( Jinwu shudian, 1928), “the closest thing to a Chinese manifesto of decadence” according to Hutt, “La Maison d’or”, p. 115. The preoccupation with flesh and blood, in republican-period

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of foreign literature as a cross-generational family occupation in republican China is that of Wu Guangjian (translator of Artsybashev’s Sanin in 1930) and his son Wu Lifu, both of whom produced abridgements of Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (Wu junior in 1933, and Wu senior in 1936),120 and must have cooperated in so doing. But while the Wus were probably retranslating Goethe from Thomas Carlyle, Zeng Pu had taught himself enough French to translate a novel by Dumas père from the original (La Reine Margot, his first incomplete translation in 1908) before sending his eldest son to acquire both French and English at St John’s University, from 1912 to 1918.121 The Zengs were thus compulsive consumers of French literature well before Shao Xunmei had even heard the names of Swinburne and Rossetti. But as Shao’s return to Shanghai and founding of La Maison d’or took place almost at the same time as the opening of Zhenmeishan Bookstore, the Zeng and Shao circles found that they had much in common and maintained close contact.122 In the Paris-style “salon” of their house on Rue Massenet in the French concession, Zeng Pu and Zeng Xubai entertained their guests in an atmosphere of cultivated admiration for the French romantics, and were invited in turn to the mansion of Shao Xunmei, where the celebrated names were those of the English decadents and pre-Raphaelites. The microcosm that these men inhabited in the “semicolonial” Shanghai of their day has been the subject of renewed attention, both scholarly and sensationalist, since the 1990s. How their unquenchable thirst for Europe manifested itself in sheer literary work is, though, a question to which less attention has been paid. Zeng Pu’s diligence as the pioneer translator of (first and writing from “Diary of a Madman” through the “literature of blood and tears” to the Shanghai decadents, awaits serious study. 120 ZXFW, p. 482. On the London-educated aesthetician and painter Wu Lifu (1900–92), also the first major translator of Pearl Buck in 1932, cf. ibid., pp. 367–68; entry in CYT, p. 233. Another case of translation involving father and son was that of Li Xianggu, an early translator of Wordsworth, and his son Li Zhihua (b. 1915), who though became famous as a translator of Chinese literature (most notably, Dream of the Red Chamber) into French, alongside his wife, Jacqueline Alézaïs. See ZFC, pp. 366–67, and (on the work of Li Tche-houa) André Lévy, “The Liaozhai zhiyi and Honglou meng in French Translation”, in Leo Tak-hung Chan, ed., One into Many: Translation and the Dissemination of Classical Chinese Literature, pp. 83–96. 121 Xubai’s teacher of French at St John’s was the scholar of Western theatre, Song Chunfang. 122 On these contacts, and on Shao Xunmei’s publications in Zhen mei shan, see Hutt, “La Maison d’or”, pp. 129–30.


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Fig. 3. Pierre Louÿs, trans. by Zeng Pu and Zeng Xubai, Rou yu si (Shanghai: Zhenmeishan shudian, 1929). Title page in French, and dedication, with seals of both translators: “Presented by Dong to Miss Chen Xuezhao. 1 June 1929, Bingfu, Xubai”. Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon, Fond chinois, CH 6335. “Dong” was short for Dong Ya Bingfu, the pen-name of Zeng Pu. The writer and translator Chen Xuezhao (1906–91) studied in France, obtaining a doctorate from the University of Clermont-Ferrand in 1934.

foremost) Victor Hugo and a whole series of other French writers was nothing short of staggering; in addition to being the unrivalled expert on French literature in China of his time, he was one of the first to translate into the colloquial language.123 Zeng Xubai, in 1928 alone, handsomely published at Zhenmeishan not only the anthology Stories from Europe and America (which, following the opening story by Andreev, presented a story each by Chekhov, Hardy, H. G. Wells, James Stephens, Theodore Dreiser, Poe, O. Henry, Sudermann, the Spanish Leopoldo

123 As often with translation outside of the New Literature network, the only significant treatment of Zeng Pu as translator from the French is in Guo Yanli, Zhongguo jindai fanyi wenxue gailun, pp. 325–35. This lists his translations, as well as biographical and critical essays on French writers; on his collection of French books, cf. ibid., pp. 330, 335.

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Alas, the Hungarian Karoly Kisfaludy and the Yiddish writer Sholem Asch), but also his translations of story collections by Oscar Wilde and Prosper Mérimée.124 While Zeng Xubai’s anthology showed no special predilection for decadence (its second part being more indicative of an interest in “the literature of small nations”), his journal did carry Théophile Gautier and Remy de Gourmont, the latter translated by Zeng himself, and Aphrodite was decadence pure and simple.125 Contrary to translators of the Maison d’or—who, however, left us no record of their understanding of this writer—Zeng appears to have interpreted Andreev in the symbolist, rather than the decadent key, writing in his presentation of “Silence”: “[Andreev’s] works are often filled with a sense of loneliness, which however is far from casting the reader into listless distress. As I read his story ‘Stillness’ in English translation, I only felt that, behind a sky overcast with dark clouds, the force of a sun in flame was concealed; and this evoked in me feelings that cannot be put into words. I fear but that my translation skills should not prove able to transmit this kind of mystery well enough for it to resonate for the reader”.126 That last remark was no mere protestation of self-deprecation: rather, it encapsulated the theory that Zeng Xubai was then developing about the essence of translation, and which was soon to define the task of the translator as transmitting to his reader the spirit of the text—as that spirit had first “resonated”, subjectively, within the translator himself.127

Poe’s “Eleonora” and Dreiser’s “The Lost Phoebe” were the only stories “from America” in the anthology, reflecting Zeng Xubai’s obvious attraction to the literature of Europe. The stories by Wilde, collected under the title Gui (Ghost) were “The Young King”, “The Devoted Friend”, “The Birthday of the Infanta” and “The Canterville Ghost” (whence the title). Translating Mérimée’s novellas “La Vénus d’Ille” and “Les âmes du purgatoire” from the original French, under the title Shenmi de lianshen (The Mysterious Enamoured Goddess), Zeng Xubai anachronistically attributed to this writer an interpretation of love as the assertion of “Ego”. He explained his translation by the influence that Mérimée’s views of love and of life have come to exert upon him. See Zeng Xubai, “Xuwen”, pp. 3–5. 125 The “decadent” taste of the Zhenmeishan group is emphasized by Xie Zhixi, Mei de pianzhi, pp. 243–46. 126 Andreev, trans. Zeng Xubai, “Chenmo”, Zhen mei shan, vol. 2, no. 1 (1928), p. 1. The story and this Introduction were reprinted unchanged in Oumei xiaoshuo, including the reference to the title as “Stillness” (Chenji). 127 Zeng Xubai’s views on translation, expressed partly in an exchange with Chen Xiying in the years 1928–30, have now been “rediscovered”: Zhu Zhiyu, “Zhongguo chuantong fanyi sixiang: ‘shenhua shuo’ (qianqi)”, pp. 7–8, singles out Zeng’s as the sounder voice within the early incoherent discourse on the duty of translation to reproduce the “spirit” of the original; Li Linbo, “Zai tupo yu chuangli zhi jian: Zeng 124


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Through his activities as publisher and journal editor, Zeng Xubai created forums for translated literature, participated in the discourse on translation, and left behind translations of his own that contributed to acquainting readers of Chinese with the best of what European literature had to offer. So did the opium-smoking Qing-dinasty wenren and Francophile romantic Zeng Pu,128 and even Shao Xunmei (“a true exoticist; no great poet, but indubitably the most eccentric urban dandy alive in late-1920s Shanghai”).129 That these persons conspicuously enjoyed acting out their roles as cultural ambassadors of France and Britain should not distract us from noticing their achievement. The careers of Zeng Xubai and Shao Xunmei in translation and publishing were also all too brief; here, once more, we face the discontinuity that is the hallmark of modern Chinese literary as well as translation history. After serving a prison sentence for attempting to reach Hong Kong in 1957, Shao Xunmei died in poverty in Shanghai in the third year of the Cultural Revolution. Zeng Xubai, who had taken up a new career in journalism in 1933, followed the Nationalist government’s Department of International Propaganda to Nanking, Wuhan and Chongqing during the Sino-Japanese war, and left mainland China in 1949. Rather than translate French and English literature, he continued on Taiwan as a radio reporter and lecturer on journalism. There he published on political economy, journalism and the “three people’s principles” of Sun Yat-sen; served in numerous official capacities that brought him to different parts of the world, though not apparently to Paris (which his father had never seen either); became an admired public figure,130 and lived to a hundred.

Xubai fanyi guandian jiexi”, considers Zeng the forerunner of “reception aesthetics”. Both studies bring Zeng firmly back into the history of Chinese translation thought. The section on the approach to translation as “spiritual resonance” in Chan, TwentiethCentury Chinese Translation Theory, pp. 91–101, includes Zeng’s essay of 1929, “Spirit and Fluency in Translation”. 128 See Catherine Vance Yeh, “The Life-style of Four Wenren in Late Qing Shanghai”, p. 455, on the opium addiction, to which Zeng’s sobriquet alluded. 129 Fruehauf, “Urban Exoticism in Modern and Contemporary Chinese Literature”, p. 148. Zhao Yiheng, Dui’an de youhuo, pp. 33–4, remembers the accomplished translations of Shelley, which Shao Xunmei produced out of material need in the PRC during the 1950s, as the best introduction he himself had found in his youth to that challenging poetry; he compares Shao to the translator of English romantic poets, as well as of Pushkin and Tiutchev, Zha Liangzheng (pseud. Mu Dan, 1918–77), on whom see more ibid., pp. 70–5. On Shao’s efforts in publishing, cf. Hutt, “La Maison d’or”, 134–38. 130 Chen Xinmeng, “Xubai xiansheng nianpu”.

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IV. Occasional translators, and forgotten names In January 1929 a scandal erupted in the pages of the Chinese periodical press. Its details can serve to illuminate the practice of translation from some hitherto unexamined perspectives, while shedding light also on the lesser-known people engaged in translation work. In that month Xiaoshuo yuebao carried a translation of Andreev’s story “The Red Laugh”, signed with the pseudonym Mei Chuan. The translation was by Wang Fangren (1904–46), a native of Zhejiang who had been a student of Lu Xun in Xiamen University and had later followed his mentor to Canton and Shanghai.131 Or was it? The younger poet and, as we shall see, translator Cheng Kansheng (1908–99) thought otherwise. Using his “style” He Xi, he accused Mei Chuan of stealing his work in a lengthy statement, which extended over no fewer than three April issues of a supplement to the Peking newspaper Huabei ribao (North China Daily). According to He Xi, Mei Chuan had slightly modified and passed off as his own a Chinese version of “The Red Laugh”, which He Xi himself had translated in cooperation with Jun Xiang (possibly Zhang Junxiang, who later became known as a cinema director)132 “in the course of more than one week of the summer vacation”, and which he and his friend had submitted for publication to Beixin Book Company. He Xi’s “J’accuse” was given more publicity than it deserved, when Lu Xun himself used the pages of Yusi to debunk it within the same month. Lu Xun had some past experience with being suspected of plagiarizing, and he may have considered such suspicions against his student as casting aspersions on himself.133 His article, entitled “Concerning 131 As with Xia Laidi, the life dates may be found in the new LXQJ (2005), here vol. 17, p. 15. In Aug. 1928 Mei Chuan had translated essays on Ibsen for the special issue of Benliu commemorating this writer’s hundredth anniversary (without Mei Chuan’s participation, Benliu would use the same occasion to celebrate Tolstoy in December). In 1929 he published in this journal poems by Johannes V. Jensen (future Danish laureate of the Nobel prize). Russian literature and the literature of “small nations”, all handled via English-language sources, remained his field throughout his brief career as a translator. For another summary of the affair below, cf. Findeisen, Lu Xun, pp. 92–3. 132 Zhang Junxiang (1910–96) graduated from the Faculty of Foreign Languages at Tsinghua University in Peking in 1931. He went on to study drama at Yale from 1936 to 1939, and later translated a number of plays. See CYT, p. 632 (information corrected with the help of Yale University Archives); Yingjin Zhang, Encyclopedia of Chinese Film, pp. 387–88. 133 In Jan. 1926 Chen Yuan charged Lu Xun with having copied his Brief History of Chinese Fiction (1923–24) from Shina bungaku gairon kôwa (Lectures on An Outline History


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‘Concerning The Red Laugh’ ”, quoted extensively from the original letter by He Xi, only to refute each of its arguments. He Xi’s theory rested on the fact that his and Jun Xiang’s translation, already sent to Beixin in the summer of the previous year, had only recently been returned to them by the publisher. During the long time in which the manuscript was lying in the Beixin office in Shanghai, so the reasoning went, Mei Chuan would have had every chance to peruse it.134 In turn, Lu Xun told the translation’s long story: how, in the same summer, Mei Chuan had approached him with a request for assistance in the publication of his manuscript, and how he (Lu Xun) had corrected “twenty or thirty” mistakes in the text after comparing it with the Japanese translation by Futabatei Shimei.135 As to the other manuscript, which He Xi claimed had been kept at the Beixin office through all that time, Lu Xun did not have an inkling of its existence and Mei Chuan, “in his village seven or eight-hundred li away from Shanghai” would have been even less likely to have had any knowledge of it. A later note by Lu Xun to his article attests to the uniqueness of the dispute: according to him, this was “the first time in the Chinese translation world” that one translator had accused another of plagiarism.136 Mei Chuan himself did not wait long to retaliate to He Xi’s accusations. His “Preface to ‘The Red Laugh’ ”, published in Yusi in September, began with some independent observations on the Russian writer. Andreev’s stories, to give one example, were according to the Chinese translator far superior to his plays; yet even this part of his work has become out of date in today’s Russia because of the writer’s nihilistic outlook.137 Mei Chuan’s counter-attack against “the despicable” He Xi furnishes valuable information on the translation process. The idea to translate “The Red Laugh” had preoccupied him already since autumn 1927. We must infer that Mei Chuan had been familiar with the story (would he have read it in Zhou Shoujuan’s anthology of 1917?), for he says that his buying the English volume, in which both “The of Chinese Literature) by the Japanese scholar Shionoya On. Subsequent research found this accusation unjustified. 134 As quoted in Lu Xun, “Guanyu ‘Guanyu Hong xiao’ ”, in LXQJ (2005), vol. 7, pp. 125–26. 135 Ibid., p.127. Futabatei Shimei (1864–1909), a celebrated novelist and pioneering translator of Russian fiction from the original language, published his “Red Laugh” in 1908. This was one of the first translations of Andreev into Japanese. 136 Lu Xun, “Guanyu ‘Guanyu Hong xiao’ ”, p. 129. 137 Wang Fangren (signed Mei Chuan), “ ‘Hong de xiao’ yinyan”, p. 7. The translator’s own political standpoint was made clear by his identification of Andreev’s work with “the darkness and tragedy of the petty bourgeoisie” (ibid.).

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Red Laugh” and “The Seven That Were Hanged” were contained, was the result of (rather than the trigger for) his decision to translate the former. Mocking He Xi’s one-week quickness, Mei Chuan presented his own work as the outcome of a long and conscientious effort. As he had reached the conclusion that the volume in the Boni & Liveright Modern Library series had too many “misprints” (the English word, rather misprinted itself, was used here), Mei Chuan acquired another English translation (by Alexandra Linden); having finished his work with these two sources, he then had his Chinese translation checked against the Japanese by Lu Xun.138 At this point Mei Chuan directed his argument with He Xi to the level of linguistic competence, as he contrasted his own Chinese versions of selected sentences from the English intermediary with what he called “He Xi’s dead translation” (siyi ). The competition between different versions of the same foreign work may have been taken to undue extremity in this particular case, but should be seen as a byproduct of the demand for foreign literature (three versions of Sanin would appear within five months in the following year). Wang Fangren’s presentation of his translation put forward the premise, probably shared by his readers, that in the absence of direct access to the original, maximal approximation could be achieved through comparison with several intermediary texts. This, we remember, was the method favoured by Lu Xun. It is, though, difficult to take “Mei Chuan” at his word, right though he was that the English translation of “The Red Laugh”, as included in the small, brown leather-bound volume issued by the Modern Library under the title The Seven That Were Hanged in 1918, did contain an unusual number of typographical errors.139 But had the diligent Chinese translator really compared that translation (which he assumed to be by Thomas Seltzer, author of the Introduction that opened the book) with the 1905 translation by Alexandra Linden, he would have found them—misprints apart—to be one and the same.140

Ibid., p. 8. These begin from the Contents page (where the left end of the type was erased, losing the T in “The Red Laugh”), and continue in the text of the story with such examples as “companious” (i.e. “companions”) on p. 117; “a criplle” on p. 155; “the resembled” (instead of “they resembled”), p. 165; “yon” (for “you”), p. 175. 140 Taking care not to call himself “translator”, but certainly giving that impression to every reader who encountered only his name, next to that of the Russian author, on the title page of The Seven That Were Hanged, Seltzer had in fact recycled the translation of “The Red Laugh” by Alexandra Linden, as first published by T. Fisher Unwin in London in 1905 (and as reissued by the same firm, together with Duffield in New York, 138 139


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Lu Xun, who could not read English, must have trusted Mei Chuan to have worked as hard as the young translators of the Unnamed Society had, while for his part he did no doubt compare the end result of Mei Chuan’s work with the extant translation into Japanese. As his translation of “The Red Laugh” was rejected by Beixin in Shanghai, He Xi (Cheng Kansheng) had it printed in March 1929 in Nanking, a move from China’s uncontested publishing capital to the new capital of the Nationalist government where, at the time, almost no translated literature appeared. Mei Chuan’s (Wang Fangren’s) translation of the same novella accomplished, a year and a half later, the usual route from Xiaoshuo yuebao to the Commercial Press, which published it together with Lu Xun’s defence of the translator and the translator’s defence of himself. Sensitivity to misprints in English books had not prevented the publisher from calling the author “Anderev” and itself “The Cmmercial Press” on the back cover. As to the front cover, it presented an unusually bold image of dripping blood next to an advertisement of “The Red Laugh” as “the story of war—war with the mask off, war as it is waged today . . .”. There was indeed bloodletting in China in 1930: due to Chiang Kai-shek’s battles against the northern warlords, to his military forces’ continued persecution of the Communists, and to the internecine struggles among the latter. But Chinese readers were not notified that the cover and advertisement (which we have just quoted in its original English) had been lifted straight from the second British edition of the translation of The Red Laugh by Alexandra Linden, and that, back in 1915, both image and accompanying text had referred to the Great War in Europe. By the time his book was finally published, Wang Fangren (Mei Chuan) had gone to study in Germany.141 Cheng Kansheng (He Xi)

in 1915). Whether he was responsible for the translation of “The Seven” is doubtful, and whether he was the person behind the first English translation of “Lazarus” (reprinted numerous times since its first appearance in the New York journal Current Literature in 1907) is, while more likely, not yet proved. Neither is it clear which of the other texts included in the successive editions of Best Russian Short Stories (1917, 1918, 1925), an anthology advertised as “compiled and edited by Thomas Seltzer”, were in fact translated by Seltzer himself. I am most grateful to Richard Davies for bringing these points to my attention. 141 Fan Quan, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue shetuan liupai cidian, p. 502, lists Wang Fangren next to the later martyred writer Rou Shi (1902–1931) among members of Zhaohua (Dawn Blossoms) literary society, founded by Lu Xun and his followers in Shanghai, in Nov. 1928. Zhaohua published a weekly, then a ten-daily by the same name from Dec. 1928 to Sept. 1929. Wang contributed translations of poems by Petofi ˝ Sándor (the Hungarian poet, an old favourite of Lu Xun’s), and by Swinburne and Tennyson;

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Fig. 4. Title page of Leonid Andreev, trans. Mei Chuan, Hong de xiao (Shanghai: The Commercial Press, 1930). First edition. Peking University Library.

used royalties received for another manuscript, his translation of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass which Beixin did publish in April 1929, to enrol in the Agricultural Institute of Peking University. He continued to write for himself, and occasionally to translate from the English, but two stories by Knut Hamsun; two by Gorky (collected in April 1929 in the society’s anthology entitled The Magic Sword and Other Stories; see Zhongguo xiandai wenxue zong shumu, p. 714; further data from ZXFW), and one by Dimitur Ivanov. In 1929 Wang also translated a story by Sigrid Undset (Nobel prize of 1928) for Yusi, while the Dawn Blossoms dispersed by the end of the same year due to financial difficulties, which Xu Guangping (as quoted by Fan Quan) associated with Wang’s loss of interest in translation and the society’s dependence on his elder brother for printing facilities and bookselling. On Wang’s departure for Berlin in summer 1930, see LXQJ (2005), vol. 16, pp. 199, 210. He did retain at least his interest in Scandinavian winners of the Nobel prize, reacting to the (posthumous) award to Erik Axel Karlfeldt in 1931 with a translation of a poem for the December issue of Xiaoshuo yuebao.


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made his name as an agronomist in Yunnan province; in an essay written over sixty years later, he attributed his choice of profession to his brief “pen war” with Lu Xun, thanking the master for saving him from the illusions of a literary career.142 Curiously, none of the three participants in this translators’ feud mentioned two other Chinese translations of “The Red Laugh”: the one, in Zhou Shoujuan’s anthology of 1917, long antedating their own efforts, and another appearing quietly just as their quarrel was about to begin: the above-mentioned translation by Xu Peiren, published like Mei Chuan’s in January 1929. As distinct from the professional translators and translators-cumwriters, whom we have met earlier in this chapter, was there room in republican China for the “gentleman translator”, a person deriving his income from elsewhere while enjoying foreign literature—mostly as reader, but sometimes also in the capacity of a translator? Wang Tiran (1906–88), who included Andreev’s “The Lie” among the thirteen foreign short stories that he translated mostly in 1929 and gathered in a book in 1933, may be said to have belonged to this category. Indeed, in his Introduction he stated that the chosen thirteen amounted only to a fraction of the “over one thousand” stories he had read in English (“not counting stories in British and American journals”). He had selected texts that he thought were representative of the work of a particular author (Wang mentioned “The Lie” among these), and those by which he wished to represent “the literature of weak and small peoples” (he had included a story by the Czech Karel Čapek and one by the Bulgarian Dimitur Ivanov, and had titled the collection after another short story by the Pole Boles aw Prus, “The Human Telegraph”). With this much erudition, and the insertion of some strong words on the current state of Chinese letters, Wang Tiran still wished to stress that reading and translating were only his “hobby” (shihao).143

142 “Bu xing de shugao” (Unfortunate Book Manuscripts, originally publ. in 1992) is posthumously collected along with Cheng Kansheng’s other writings, including poetry, essays, memoirs and samples of his translations, in He Xi wenji, pp. 203–6. He Xi did not mention here his collaborator, Jun Xiang, and, rather than indicate his Nationalist Nanking publisher, he gave readers the impression that his book was published in Peking. The royalties for Through the Looking-Glass had amounted to 170 yuan (see ibid., pp. 3–4). A translation by He Xi of a classical essay on Goncharov’s novel Oblomov, by the critic Nikolai Dobroliubov, may be found in Xiaoshuo yuebao of Aug. 1930. 143 Wang Tiran, “Qianyan”, here p. 1. The brief and on the whole critical comments on Andreev in idem, Eguo wenxue ABC, pp. 89–90, attest to Wang’s preference for that writer’s early short fiction.

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Of prominent descent, Wang was raised in Hangzhou, graduated from the English Department at Shanghai’s Datong University in 1926, and remained in town to teach English at a number of institutions. In 1931 Wang was invited by Zeng Xubai to join the staff of the new Shanghai daily Da wanbao, and he went on to serve in editorial positions with this paper until the new regime closed it down, as an organ associated with the Nationalists, in 1949. Unlike Zeng Xubai, he did not leave for Taiwan at that key juncture in the history of modern China, but accepted a position of superintendent for cultural relics at Shanghai municipality. He was still translating from English in the after-work hours, as his son recalls, and published three volumes of Galsworthy and some Dickens in the 1950s; but by the early 1960s he thought it best to stop, so as not to endanger himself and his family.144 Wang’s translation of Andreev, the second Chinese version of “The Lie” after Lu Xun’s in Stories from Abroad, was the only work by a Russian writer in The Human Telegraph—an inadequate reflection of the extent of Wang Tiran’s involvement with Russian fiction. In 1929, the year to which his translation of Andreev dates, he had also published an ABC of Russian Literature and a Life of Tolstoy. The former book belonged to a popular series aimed at providing readable introductions for students on a wide variety of subjects in the humanities and the social sciences (Wang Tiran did a volume on Greek mythology for this series in the same year). His writing on Russian literature expressed a view of its strengths and deficiencies in a style that differed markedly from the reverent approach of left-wing Chinese critics. Not only was Wang perfunctory on the literature of “new Russia”, saying (in 1929) that real “proletarian literature” was still a thing of the future. In a chapter on the Russian “Naturalist” school (in which he included all realist writers from the 1840s to the death of Chekhov in 1904), Wang argued that Russian writers did well in the portrayal of individual personalities but achieved far less in the matter of literary style (“therefore the style of Gogol cannot be considered good”). A still more serious deficiency was the demand of Russian critics that writers must use literature as vehicle for progressive ideas on politics and society. As a result, social problems were exaggerated at the expense of This paragraph condenses the information on Wang Tiran in Zhongguo wenxuejia cidian: xiandai, vol. 3, pp. 303–5, and the oral reminiscences of his son, Wang Zhicheng, in an interview of 2002: see Larisa P. Chernikova and Bei Wenli, “Bogatstvo Van Chzhichena”. The now retired Professor Wang Zhicheng (b. 1940) is an expert on the history of the Russian emigration in Shanghai. 144


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truth, with a false emphasis on the dark sides of life—ailments which, Wang believed, were fully inherited by Chinese imitators of Russian literature. While Russian literature was also most famous for its idealism, “humanism and universal love”, these qualities were, in turn, bound up with “the absence of freedom of expression” in the country and the tendency of writers to “turn fiction into a tool for the voicing of opinion, and into an arena for debate”. A reader of Wang’s book at Peking University Library underlined all the words cited between inverted commas in the previous sentence, adding a sensible marginal comment of his own: “Are such ideals not also [spread] in our China today?”145 Also in 1929, Beixin Book Company published a version of “The Seven Who Were Hanged” by Yuan Jiahua (1903–1980). The book included Andreev’s letter to his American translator, Herman Bernstein, and an Introduction in which Yuan presented Andreev as “the greatest Russian writer”, on a par with Dostoevsky, Turgenev and Tolstoy. The name of Yuan Jiahua was mentioned by He Xi in connection with his own unfortunate dealings with Beixin; he was an editor at this well-known publisher. In what amounted to a repetition of Mei Chuan’s strategy for bolstering the quality of his work, Yuan too said he had been dissatisfied with the incompleteness of what he assumed was Thomas Seltzer’s translation in the Modern Library series; while he regretted not knowing Russian, he believed that the authorized translation by Bernstein, which he finally chose, was certainly the best.146 In this he was right, as of 1929 (Anglophone readers today are privileged to have at their disposal a translation far superior to either of its predecessors).147 Yuan occasionally put his knowledge of English to use to translate other works of literature, mainly for publication by Beixin. These included a story by Turgenev in July 1930.148 145 Wang Tiran, Eguo wenxue ABC (copy PKU Library, shelfmark 880/3122 [434045]), pp. 29–31 (marginal note in traditional characters on p. 30), p. 101. Lin Jinghua, Wudu Eluosi, pp. 143–44, points out the originality and rarity of Wang’s statements; ibid., p. 291, n. 1, suggests that Wang’s use of the term “baiyin shidai” (the Silver age) in this book may have been the first in China. I have not seen Wang Tiran, Tuo’ersitai shenghuo (Life of Tolstoy; Shanghai: Shijie shuju, 1929). 146 Yuan Jiahua, “Xu”, p. 2. 147 “The Seven Who Were Hanged”, in Nicholas Luker, ed. and trans., An Anthology of Russian Neo-Realism: The ‘Znanie’ School of Maxim Gorky (Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1982), pp. 29–88. 148 Sun Naixiu, Tugeniefu yu Zhongguo, p. 69. Yuan Jiahua also translated The Twelve Sisters, a children’s story by the eighteenth-century Danish writer Johannes Ewald, in

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“The Seven Who Were Hanged”, Yuan wrote in his Introduction, had succeeded in “opening the eyes of the whole world to the terror and darkness of the revolutionary era in Russia”. Indeed, this was the reason why he wanted to present the novella to Chinese readers: “looking at our own China today, it is not at all difficult to find similar situations, but it is unfortunately impossible to find similar literary works”.149 The allusion to the recent executions of Communists by the forces of Chiang Kai-shek could hardly have been clearer, and may partly account for the upsurge of interest in “The Seven Who Were Hanged”: while Shen Zemin’s translation of 1921 had been forgotten between the pages of Xuesheng zazhi,150 three new Chinese versions were produced from April 1928 to June 1929. The first of these, a translation of the Modern Library edition, was the work of Ji Jie (of whom nothing is known), published by the Cold Smoke Society (the Hanyan she, no further trace of which survives). The last page of this rare book in the collection of Yenching University Library, now at Peking University, has an extensive commentary in cursive hand, left by an anonymous reader who through his (or her) violation of the library code recorded an intensely personal view of Leonid Andreev. It was a sophisticated reader, sensitive to the book’s achievement, but also one searching for a message of the kind that Andreev was unable to offer: I have read Le Dernier jour d’un condamné by Hugo, as well as Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, but the more tragic is this, The Seven Who Were Hanged by Adreev [sic]. To die while striving for the rights of life is the most sublime tragedy in bourgeois society, but under the pen of this pessimist writer it makes one lose faith in the future, in brightness, and in a life of beauty. I would that a writer may write a book able both shock the reader through unearthing in its most minute detail the psychology of men facing death, and at the

1929; poetry by Christina Rossetti to mark the hundredth anniversary of her birth in Xiandai wenxue in 1930; and another book of children’s stories in 1935 (Zhongguo xiandai wenxue zong shumu; ZXFW). A sometime member of the Creation Society, Yuan graduated from the PKU English Department in 1930, went to Oxford in 1937, and was later a well-known PRC linguist. See CYT, p. 972. 149 Yuan Jiahua, “Xu”, p. 2. 150 In an article in Mangyuan in 1925, an otherwise unknown author expressed great admiration for this story, which he had read in Seltzer’s Modern Library edition and found more moving than Dream of the Red Chamber or Outlaws of the Marsh. Balancing his accolades for Andreev with stern criticism of current Chinese literature, he regretted his own inability to translate “The Seven Who Were Hanged” (which, he said, had not been translated into Chinese so far) and hoped that someone else would undertake that task. Liang Shuying, “Du Andeliefu de ‘Qi ge jiaosi de ren’ ”.


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Fig. 5. Title page of Leonid Andreev, trans. Ji Jie, Qi ge jiaosha zhe (Nanjing: Huapailou shudian; and Shanghai: Nanhua shudian, 1928), and a reader’s commentary. Peking University Library.

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same time make executioners tremble at the realization of their bestiality; and that it would also cause the successors [of the victims] plunge themselves ever more fearlessly into the sea of brightness that is the future.151

Little biographical, though more bibliographical evidence is available on Ye Jinfeng. The second (after Shen Zemin’s) Chinese version of the story “Lazarus” was included among the “Short Russian Masterpieces”, which Ye translated for the Gongmin Book Company in 1921. Best Russian Short Stories would be a more appropriate way to render back into English the title of Eluosi duanpian jiezuo ji, a projected two-volume replication of the Modern Library anthology of 1917, possibly on the basis of its retranslation into Japanese in 1919.152 The cumbersome transcriptions Ye used for the names of his authors bring to mind Zhou Shoujuan’s anthology. This feature, in combination with the absence of introductory material, indicates that the translation originated outside the then emerging “New Literature” network. Rather than join this network, in January 1923 Ye became the first editor of the weekly Xiaoshuo shijie (English title: The Story World), which would run to December 1929, and which writers of New Literature denounced as a “Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies” venture to create a low-taste alternative to Xiaoshuo yuebao. A forum mainly for entertainment fiction and for writing in traditional genres, Xiaoshuo shijie was published by the same Commercial Press that in 1921 had turned Xiaoshuo yuebao into the flagship journal of the literary reformers (the new periodical duly carried advertisements for the older), and which did not want to lose its less reform-minded readers. Mao Dun could not stand it, and must have made his attitude too obvious to his superiors in the Press—which was one reason why the editorship of The Short Story Magazine was passed over to Zheng Zhenduo.153 Hand-written note in traditional characters in Andreev, trans. Ji Jie, Qi ge jiaosha zhe (Nanjing and Shanghai, 1928), p. 148, copy PKU (shelfmark 5993.5/3215.28); see Fig. 5. The “sea of brightness” may allude to a line from a poem that Musya, one of the revolutionaries, recalls on the execution ground: “The shores of life cannot contain my love, wide as the sea” (in Luker’s translation, p. 85). 152 See the entry for “Lazarus”, included in the Anthology of Sixteen Russian Writers ( Japanese translation of Thomas Seltzer’s Best Russian Short Stories), in Honyaku bungaku mokuroku, p. 19. 153 On the launching of Xiaoshuo shijie and parallel replacement of Mao Dun, see Dong Limin, “Xiaoshuo yuebao 1923: bei zhebi de ling yi zhong xiandaixing jiangou”, pp. 83–4. While Lu Xun’s stand in “Guanyu Xiaoshuo shijie” (Concerning The Story World, 1923), in LXQJ (2005), vol. 8, pp. 137–40, may be described as aloof contempt, the newly appointed Zheng Zhenduo took pleasure in ridiculing the weekly and especially 151


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In the first volume of Xiaoshuo shijie stories by Ye Jinfeng, and by his future replacement in the post of the journal’s editor, Hu Jichen, were still accompanied by the work of Lin Shu, who along with his own writings sent in a translation of Tolstoy’s “Three Deaths”, a story previously translated by such leading figures of “May Fourth” as Hu Yuzhi and Geng Jizhi. It was published in January 1924. Lin, who fell gravely ill in June, died in October, but his manuscripts continued to appear in the journal until the end of the following year. Like Wu Guangjian, the veteran translator of Sanin, who contributed to almost no other journal, Lin Shu made The Story World the main vehicle for his translations.154 The journal published numerous other translations and adaptations, notably of cinema scripts. In December 1925 the journal’s section “the world of the silver screen” featured a full-page portrait of the actress Norma Shearer, starring in the role of “Consuelo” (next to Lon Chaney, as He) in Victor Seastrom’s silent film of 1924, “He Who Gets Slapped”.155 Russian literature, present mainly in the early issues, included Chekhov, Tolstoy (a story translated by Ye Jinfeng) and Turgenev, though there was always more French and American popular fiction (the work of E. R. Burroughs, author of the Tarzan stories, became a permanent feature); later issues saw much Dickens, and the return of Chekhov. Jingxuan zhuren, an active employee on the staff of Xiaoshuo shijie in its first year, translated all the three Russian authors mentioned, as well as Artsybashev’s “The Revolutionary” and other stories from the Seltzer anthology. In addition, this translator, only known to us by his sobriquet meaning Master of the Tranquil Studio, published poems and stories, one of them signed jointly with Jingying nüshi (Miss Tranquil

its “muddle-headed editor”—e.g. for claiming, in the face of reason, that the current year should be celebrated as the six-hundredth anniversary of Dante’s death. It was, in fact, the six-hundredth and second. See “Zagan” (Occasional Thoughts, 1923) in Zheng Zhenduo quanji, vol. 15, pp. 185–86. For his part, Wang Tongzhao submitted a story to one of the first issues of Xiaoshuo shijie, and after its publication promptly addressed open letters to the leaders of “progressive literature” so as to atone for his error, and to deny crossing over to the camp of “mandarin ducks and butterflies”: Liu Zengren and Feng Guanglian, “Wang Tongzhao nianpu jianbian” (A Concise Chronological Biography), in Wang Tongzhao wenji, vol. 6, p. 605. 154 These and the following data are drawn from Tang Yuan, ed., Zhongguo xiandai wenxue qikan mulu huibian. The journals Xiaoshuo shijie and Tianxia are available at PKU library. 155 Xiaoshuo shijie, vol. 12, no. 13 (25 Dec. 1925), p. 2.

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Image). That contributor to the journal also wrote short fiction of her own while translating four stories by Chekhov. A historian of Chinese translation has recently estimated that the “popular” translations in Xiaoshuo shijie reached more readers than did any others, including those by the school of Lu Xun and Xiaoshuo yuebao.156 Twenty years later, Ye Jinfeng resurfaced all too briefly in occupied Shanghai, as editor of another fortnightly journal, the Tianxia (All Under Heaven), six issues of which came out from November 1943 to January 1944. He seems to have been one of those grey workers of the literary world, noticed only by a small public and never attracting the attention of literary historians. A brief contact with Lu Xun allows us to identify the second and last woman (next to Wu Ling, mentioned in Chapter Two) among the translators of our three Russian writers in China of the first half of the twentieth century. A native of Jiangsu, Shen Lin was a student in the Chinese literature department of Peking Women’s College in 1925, graduating from the Peking Normal College in 1928.157 As early as 1922, the Commercial Press published her translation from the English of the play King, Law and Liberty (the original title, referring to the words “Le roi, la loi, la liberté” from the national anthem of Belgium, had been changed into The Sorrows of Belgium in the translation by Herman Bernstein, on which Shen Lin relied). Like most Europeans at the time, Andreev was shocked by the brutal fate of Belgium in the first days of the World War. He reacted to the neutral country’s occupation in a number of his works in 1914, and returned to it two years later in The Yoke of War. In King, Law and Liberty, the aged national poet Grelieu (in whom Andreev apparently wished to represent Maurice Maeterlinck, though critics would also associate this character with Émile Verhaeren) goes to the front to join the battle. He is injured and his son is killed. Back in his villa, he is visited by a Count, whom spectators should have had no difficulty in recognizing as King Albert I. The King has come to seek moral authorization, from 156 Wang Yougui, Fanyijia Lu Xun, pp. 141–42, 145, notes the protracted neglect of what he calls the “popular literature approach” to translation. He considers this the most modern and relevant of five ideologies of translation in China in the first half of the twentieth century, the other four being: the approach of Lin Shu; the approach of Lu Xun; the “West-oriented approach” of Hu Shi (with Liang Shiqiu and Xu Zhimo); and the “Classics-oriented approach” of the Xueheng (Critical Review) circle, identified with Wu Mi. 157 Editors’ commentary in LXQJ (2005), vol. 17, pp. 110–11.


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the great writer whom he regards as the personification of his nation’s spirit and conscience, for the only measure still likely to halt the advance of the enemy: the flooding of the lowlands by breaching the dykes. As the plan is executed, panicked German officers are portrayed fleeing from the approaching tide, and the play ends on a highly patriotic note while the poet and his family are being evacuated to Antwerp. To a Chinese reading audience, King, Law and Liberty presented the plight of a small nation invaded by a ruthless enemy. Its translation in 1922 was consonant with solidarity with “weak and oppressed” peoples, though the translator herself set her expectations higher: the publication of the book in Chinese, she hoped, would not only allow readers to appreciate the suffering of the Belgians but also arouse universal antiwar feeling, and by preventing future wars help forge a better world (Shen Lin was less confident about the quality of her translation, a first experiment carried out in the after-school hours, for which she begged the readers’ indulgence).158 While geographical proportions were reversed with Japan’s invasion of Northeast China in 1931, one could well imagine an implied allegory behind the reprinting of Shen Lin’s translation in July 1934 (another translation dating to 1922, Andreev’s The Yoke of War by Geng Shizhi, was likewise reprinted in 1934, possibly for the same reason). In between, the only extended discussion of King, Law and Liberty in Chinese, a most enthusiastic article by a pseudonymous contributor to Xin chenbao in August 1929, did relate the play to Andreev’s concern for “weak peoples”, a concern which the author believed was illustrated by Andreev’s essay of 1915 on the collective guilt of the Russian people towards the Jews.159 From what the author himself conceded was his weakest play,160 we must now return, at the end of this study of the passage of his works

158 Shen Lin, “Xuyan” (signed in Peking, 15 Feb. 1922). The book included also the English translator’s Introduction, a biographical sketch of Andreev, and a list of his works. 159 See Lu Dun, “Leonid Andreev”, esp. end of pt. 2, and beginning of pt. 3. Providing the only discussion in Chinese of Andreev’s essay “Pervaia stupen’ ” (The First Step), from the miscellany Shchit, the impenetrable “Lu Dun” (literally, “Stupid”) was the only commentator apart from the hostile Ah Ying to refer to Andreev’s antiBolshevik writings in the last year of his life. The absence of any mention of Chinese translations of Andreev’s works suggests the indebtedness of this text to Englishlanguage sources. 160 See Woodward, Leonid Andreyev, p. 245. A merciless exposition of Andreev’s confusion on every possible detail of Belgian history and geography is Raymond Detrez, “Muki Bel’gii i Leonid Andreev”.

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to China, to one of Andreev’s theatrical masterpieces. But the Chinese translation of Anathema, brought out by the little-known Shanghai publisher Xin wenhua (New Culture) in early 1923, presents us with more questions than answers. While details of the book are being copied from one bibliography to the other, the compilers of Minguo shiqi zong shumu admit that they did not see it.161 And though a copy does survive in the former collection of Yenching University Library, the name of the translator Guo Xiebang defies attempts at further identification. There are only these few clues: his publisher had placed “Tianjin” (Tientsin) before his name, while Guo himself thanked “fellow students” (he did not say at which institution) for their help in retranslating the play from the English of Herman Bernstein. We have seen Anathema analysed by the Shen brothers on the basis of English sources already in 1920, and then translated and summarized by Vasilii Eroshenko for his audience at Peking University in 1922. There is though no indication that Guo Xiebang knew about Eroshenko’s lectures, nor any cause to assume a particular interest on his part in Leonid Andreev.162 As far as can be known, he never translated again. The only complete Chinese version available, his Annasima did pass through the hands of many readers—as the borrowing slip in the back of the PKU Library copy still attests by its long list of lending dates, from 1930 to 1956. And who now, probably in summer 1921, translated for the special “Russian literature” issue of Xiaoshuo yuebao a bittersweet short story by Andreev, signed with the common first name Shuheng? Within that widely read volume, which also dedicated some space to “stories from Red Russia”, this text may have been the choice of a decidedly apolitical translator: for in “The Crushed Flower” Andreev had adopted the perspective of a six-year-old child, discovering that his mother was having an affair behind his father’s back. The boy’s realization that he has become an unwitting accomplice is described with much sympathy, and the story ends with the hero falling asleep in his mother’s arms. But who hid behind “Shu Heng” we do not know, and are unlikely to find 161 The entry in Minguo shiqi zong shumu (p. 225) gives the year of publication as “before 1929”. A fuller reference is in Zhongguo xiandai wenxue zong shumu, p. 689. 162 In his Introduction, Guo referred readers to the critical essay on Anathema and survey of Andreev’s life which he had retranslated from the English edition. Instead, his own “Yizhe zixu” offered some confused ideas on the relationship between plays, the spirit of the nation and the betterment of society. Guo concluded by dedicating his translation of the Russian play to “the artists of China”.


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out.163 Nor is information available on a number of other translators of Andreev’s stories and plays in China, works that have been discussed above in connection with their treatment by more famous hands.164 Earlier, we concluded a discussion of the reception and interpretation in China of works by Mikhail Artsybashev with a consideration of the different stages in the translation of that writer into Chinese. Let us bring to an end this enquiry into the people behind the Chinese translations of Leonid Andreev by asserting that the dissemination of interest for Russian literature in China during the first half of the twentieth century should not be seen only as the achievement of “May Fourth” intellectuals, the well-known literary figures with whom the previous chapter began. Translation in republican China was in part the enterprise of those for whom Russia, through its literature, projected the hope of political change. Others, through either adaptation or painstaking recreation, brought Russian drama onto the stage of Chinese theatres. For many, translating was a profession or an important occupation alongside editorial and journalistic work and creative writing. Finally, there were those who only seldom set themselves the translator’s task or never returned to it after trying their hand at a single story or play, perhaps merely with the aim of improving their reading ability in a foreign language during their studies at high school or at university. All, even the people of whom little else has reached us beyond the names and pseudonyms with which they signed their

163 The proximity of the special issue of Xiaoshuo yuebao in Sept. 1921 to the First Congress of the Chinese Communist Party that gathered in Shanghai in July makes it tempting to investigate the connection between the Shu Heng of “The Crushed Flower” and one of the two representatives of Hunan province at the Congress—these two having been Mao Zedong and He Shuheng (1876–1935). The oldest man to attend the Congress, He attracted some attention as a Qing-dynasty xiucai (licentiate, literally “flourishing talent”; the county-level degree awarded by the examination system that had been abolished in 1905) conspicuously more at home in the Chinese classics than in Marxist theory; he would have had neither the inclination nor the English to read Leonid Andreev through Herman Bernstein. He Shuheng would take on Russian after enrolling, in 1928, for a two-year course at the Sun Yat-sen University in Moscow. His difficulties with the language are mentioned by a biographer: see Yang Qing, He Shuheng (Shijiazhuang: Hebei renmin chubanshe, 1997), pp. 142–43. 164 These are, in chronological order: Fen Tian (The Waltz of the Dogs, 1924), a suspect translation only listed in the table of translated plays in Eberstein, Das chinesische Theater, p. 370; the above-mentioned Ji Jie (“The Seven Who Were Hanged”, 1928); Guo Xiang (a version of “Lazarus” in 1933); Mai Fu (He Who Gets Slapped, 1935); Chai Shi (a version of Neighbourly Love, published by Dongfang zazhi in 1935); Yu Cunquan (an intriguing late translation of “The Red Laugh”, published in wartime in 1938). Most of these names were pseudonyms, now impossible to identify.

the translator’s profession


publications, had a part in the small miracle of which translation is capable: the bestowal of new, and always unpredictable, life upon a work of art in another land. These Chinese translators were much indebted to intermediaries, whose function in the transmission of Russian literature to the Far East has also been highlighted here. But what conclusions may be drawn from the selection of certain literary works by a writer and the neglect of others? How closely is choice related to interpretation: does translation result from prior approval of a work and, conversely, is the absence of a specific text in Chinese translation likely to attest that it had been consciously “rejected”? Works that were given a different emphasis in China than in Russia include Andreev’s “The Crushed Flower”, a story translated twice, but which (though also successful in French and English) had been ignored in the original; the “miniature” Neighbourly Love (not even mentioned by such Western commentators on Andreev as Persky or Phelps) also enjoyed a degree of attention hardly commensurate with its modest place in the oeuvre. The same may be said of “Ben-Tovit”, translated by Zhou Zuoren and (if we accept the testimony of Sun Fuyuan) solemnly commented upon by Lu Xun, but practically unnoticed in Russia. By contrast