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Translation Zones in Modern China: Authoritarian Command Versus Gift Exchange By Bonn ...

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Translation Zones in Modern China:


In the autumn of 1980, I arrived in Beijing to work for the Foreign Languages Press (FLP) as a translator and editor. I spent three years on contract and have continued, at long intervals, to carry out casual work for the FLP up to the present. Within a year of my arrival in Beijing, I was also translating poetry and fiction out of office hours, written and published unofficially by a group of young writers often described as dissident.

I was aware at the time of the great gap between my two activities, but it did not occur to me that the circumstances of either or even both were of interest to anyone but me. It took several decades before this period in Chinese history—the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution and the beginning of the reform period—took on the character of a relic of the past, a transitional period that was irrecoverable. All unwittingly, my personal efforts, however insignificant, had become a small part of modern Chinese translation history.

This short book serves as a record of those years in the absence of other primary sources. Most of it is based on my own experiences, along