Pomona Professor Works on Chinese Translation

Pomona College Professor of Asian Studies Allan Barr is currently working with author Yu Hua, one of the major figures in contemporary Chinese literature.Barr is translating Hua’s newest novel-in-progress,

China in Ten Words

. Barr previously translated Yu’s first novel, and his third, entitled

Cries in the Drizzle

.Yu was born in Zhejiang, China and grew up during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. He worked as a dentist before becoming a writer in 1993. Yu came to Pomona College in March of this year, and elaborated on Barr’s suggested topic: “A Writer’s China.”“That presentation made him realize he had a lot to say about writers in China,” Barr said. “It inspired him to write a volume of essays. It’s a non-fictional work; partly auto-biographical…it’s a commentary on social issues in China.”Barr described Yu as “great fun to be with…engaging and unpretentious.”Yu is best known for his novel

To Live

, which was turned into a film by Chinese director Zhang Yimou in 1994.Yu wrote two other novels and has been asked to write for

The New York Times

.“All these [novels] were heavily affected by political turmoil and political movements” Barr said.His novel

Cries in the Drizzle

meditates on the impact of the revolution on China. Another novel,


, focuses on two brothers that experience various traumas during the Cultural Revolution.“He would rather choose to give some telling moments that capture a particular atmosphere and allow the reader to fill in the gaps,” Barr said.Barr described Yu’s writing style as “direct, vivid, economical…quite concise.”“Much Chinese writing has an elevated tone—we might think of as overblown,” Barr said. “This is hard to translate because of the jargon often used. He is straightforward and his writing has a little humor…uses more everyday language [and] does not use the more official terms typical of the establishment idiom.”Although no publication of his novels has been blocked, the nature of censorship in China can be an issue.

China in Ten Words

will not be published in China.“It would be problematic for anyone to publish anything very controversial,” Barr said.Barr has also translated a series of Yu’s short stories,

Boy in the Twilight

, which has not yet been published.

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