Tin Omen Dept.

Ha Jin, the author of Waiting and War Trash, reflects on why he left the Chinese language behind for the sake of English, 20 years post-Tienanmen.

His essay is short (i.e., go read it) and makes his case in plain language. He could have gone back to China and struggled, probably fruitlessly, against the censors and the state — or he could continue to do the work he knew needed to be done, in a language and a society where it would find an easier reception and develop a life of its own, one that much more easily brought back home at the right time.

His line about literature transcending language is something I go back and forth about. Translation is imperfect; in many cases it is treacherous. But it opens a door that was previously shut. Even if that door is now only open by a fraction, sometimes that fraction is all that's needed.

Tags: China translation writing

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