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BOOK NOTES LYDIA LIU. TranslingualPractice:Literature, NationalCulture, and TranslatedModernity , China 1919-1937. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1995. ix + 474 pp. Lydia Liu's new book is one ofthe most thoughtful and wide-ranging ofrecent efforts to unravel the complex discourses ofChina's modernity in the light ofcontemporary critical theory. For a specialist in Chinese literature it is a pleasure to read, not least because every few pages Liu delicately skewers one or another piece ofthe field's conventional wisdom. This is also one ofthe few books on modern Chinese literature that will be accessible and rewarding for those more interested in the forms ofmodernity outside Europe and North America than in the specifics ofChinese literary history. Not that Liu is short on specifics. Among the pleasures of the book are die appendices on missionary-Chinese neologisms, Sino-Japanese and Sino-JapaneseEuropean loanwords, and transliterations from European languages in modern Chinese . These reveal China's specific points ofencounterwith European and Japanese modernity: the historical fractures and fissures one will never again fail to notice in die ordinary language oftwentieth-century Chinese family and public life, fiction and memoirs, textbooks and newspapers. Liu focuses on what she calls translingual practice, organizing her readings of some ofthe best-known works ofearly twentieth-century Chinese fiction around the observation that any version ofChinese modernity was necessarily an artifact oftranslation. Her introductory essay, "Language and Cross-Cultural Studies," is a sophisticated discussion ofwhat it meant to translate between Chinese and European languages under late nineteeenth- and early twentieth-century political circumstances . Liu is particularly good at problematizing and giving a sense ofhistorical contingency to western-language analytic categories—individualism, the self —that cultural historians ofChina in the past have often used universalistically and uncritically. Liu offers full, historically situated and intellectually satisfying readings of some major works ofmodem Chinese fiction. She is sensitive both to the political moment ofthe text and to the complexities ofnarrative structure. Her reading ofLu Xun's "True Story ofAh Q," for example, recalls Lu Xun's musings on Bertrand Russell's and Arthur Smith's notions of Chinese national character, and finds that the very presence ofLu Xun's detached and critical narrator quietly belies Russell and Smith. For Liu, Ding Ling's "Diary ofMiss Sophie" and Xiao Hong's Fieldof Life andDeath subtly but unmistakably demonstrate the gendered nature oftwentieth -century Chinese cultural nationalism. Because the readings are so good, I was only mildly disappointed that she has confined herselfmostly to materials that are already well known and widely available in translation. Chapter 8, "The Making ofthe 'Compendium ofModern Chinese Literature," offers a glimpse ofthe creation ofthe modemist May Fourth canon and the history and politics of modern Chinese publishing, topics about which little has been written in English. This and the last chapter, "Rethinking Culture and National Essence ," most clearly show one of the characteristic strengths of Liu's work: her sense that Chinese modernity, far from being a mere "response to the West," was among other things a diverse set of arguments—further complicated by various degrees ofengagement with modern Japanese ideas about culture, literature, and Vol< 21 (1997): 180 THE COMPAKATIST national character among—a particular group of intellectuals in early twentiethcentury China. Mary Scott San Francisco State University MICHAEL CHAPMAN. Southern African Literatures. London and New York: Longman, 1996. xxxi + 533 pp. It is a sad paradox ofour academic life that the more one hears repeated (in an almost incantatory fashion) phrases about the value ofmulticulturalism, the less it seems to be practiced; any kind ofearnest plunge into non-American cultural situations is undertaken reluctantly, with quick disgust I would say. Fortunately there are sometimes others who engage in the work that we should be doing ourselves, and one excellent example is die book at hand. Michael Chapman is a professor ofEnglish and Dean ofHumanities at the University ofNatal in Durban. His book was commissioned as part ofa Longman Series pointedly endowed with the title of"Literature in English" and edited by two professors from Lancaster University; about halfofthe projected books in the series are already in print. The total series will comprise no less than fifty volumes. True, about halfof these are devoted to the traditional and expected topics: "English Poetry ofthe Victorian Period," "English Drama before Shakespeare," and the rest. The other half, however, contains three volumes on criticism and literary theory (in historical sequence), six volumes on "intellectual and cultural context" (also in historical sequence), six volumes on American literature and, most innovatively, eight volumes on other topics: Irish, Scottish, Australian, Indian, Canadian, Caribbean, and "African Literature: East and West," as well as Michael Chapman's book. The latter has an additional distinctive feature: it does not confine itself to writing in English merely, but actually deals with a geographical and historical region. It includes sections on literature in Afrikaans (Boer), on Bushman (San) or Bantu songs and stories, and on literature written in Portuguese. The fact is that Chapman has a voracious understanding ofhis subject-matter: it includes notjust what is nowadays the Republic of South Africa, but also the independent nations ofZambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, and Lesotho with their intellectual and, more generally, historical developments. The result is fascinating, and certainly a major breakthrough in our knowledge ofthe region's literature and culture. I do not hesitate to recommend it as strongly as I can as a textbook and source-book for any class in which this part ofthe world is being studied. Chapman skillfully alternates chapters on the different cultures and languages, weaving a colorful quilt, in which (surprise, surprise!) some coherence can be detected. The remarks on Namibia as the "wild south-west" ofthe colonial imagination are brilliant, the tensions between humanism and censorship in Zambia , Malawi, and particularly Zimbabwe are thoughtfully examined, the key issue ofindividual emancipation versus communitarian resiliency (among African writers ofall races) isjudiciously pointed out. The above-mentioned coherence is achieved at a price: Chapman emphasizes very heavily the sociopolitical as a unifying framework. There is an almost deterVoIi 21 (1997): 181 ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 180-181
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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