Translation from NER 36.2
When in our indignation Chinese
becomes pallid and ossified
as in hotels, markets, banks,
computers, going through customs, open-bar parties. . . .
we, benighted, alien students of Borges,
tin-eared impersonators of Rilke’s theism,
victims of the gawky translation of Joseph Brodsky’s verse,
producers of goose eggs out of Barthes’ Writing Degree Zero,
fraudulent drunks who feign lunacy and conceal our spiritual numbness,
we curse English. In New York, Paris,
and all the meat-eating cities, we chase the dollar,
and the endorsement of self-important professors,
and we use antiquated Chinese to represent China.
—translated from the Chinese by Christopher Lupke
Xiao Kaiyu was born in the village of Heping, Zhongjiang County, Sichuan Province, in 1960. Beginning in his youth, he was interested in literature and traditional Chinese culture, although he pursued Chinese medicine in college, graduating with a degree in 1979. After several years of practicing traditional Chinese medicine in Sichuan and writing poetry on the side, he moved to Shanghai in 1993, where he served as an editor, taught at university, and began publishing his poems. He spent several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s in Germany, learning the language and reading widely in European literature. After returning to China, he accepted a position as Professor of Chinese at Henan University in Kaifeng, where he currently works.
Christopher Lupke is professor of Chinese at Washington State University, where he coordinates Asian Languages. He was classically trained in Chinese in Taiwan and at the Middlebury College Chinese School, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Cornell University, where he received his PhD in 1993, writing his dissertation on modernism and the diaspora. His scholarship has focused on modern China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, and he has published books on the notion of ming (“fate, destiny, or life’s allotment”), contemporary Chinese poetry, and the cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien, and articles on a broad range of subjects pertaining to modern Chinese culture. He has steadily published translations of Chinese literature in English but still considers himself “early in his career” (if not young), as he hopes to publish the poetry of Xiao Kaiyu as a book.