- The Reception of George Gissing in China
THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN authors who receive more recognition years after their death than in their lifetime. George Gissing is one such author. The Times obituary wisely predicted that his “purity and solidity may win him a better chance of being read a hundred years hence than many writers of greater grace and more deliberately sought charm.”1 Pierre Coustillas’s “Recent Work and Close Prospects in Gissing Studies: A Bibliographical Survey” (1989) and Martin Ryle and Jenny Bourne Taylor’s “Introduction: Gissing’s Critical Context” (2005) are solid proof of the prediction.2 Together they offer a wide-ranging account of Gissing studies from 1930s into the first decade of the twenty-first century. Whereas Ryle and Taylor’s focused on criticism in English-speaking countries, Coustillas surveyed the criticism in Europe as well as in the Far East. The two Eastern countries mentioned are Japan and China. Unfortunately while there was a helpful overview of Japanese achievements, only a couple of lines were devoted to the reception of Gissing in China.3 This provides too sketchy a picture of how Chinese scholars have responded to Gissing. The Chinese reception of Gissing, over ninety years, ought not to be neglected in worldwide Gissing studies. He was introduced to China as early as the 1920s by a group of Chinese scholars who quoted his works in the first issue of the Sunken Bell, an influential literary journal in the 1920s.4 From then on, Gissing’s reputation began to spread in China.
The lack of detail about Gissing in China in Coustillas’s article seems related to his reliance on Zaixiang Yao’s “Gissing in China,” which traces the reception of Gissing from the late 1930s to 1988.5 While Yao should be credited for undertaking this important project, his discussion has limitations. Although he claims the first Chinese translation was by Jiye Li of The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft in 1946 it was in fact 1947, and Li was not the single translator of the book.6 More important, new discoveries reveal that this book is neither the first nor [End Page 209] the only Gissing’s work translated into Chinese in the mid-twentieth century. Besides The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft I have discovered other Chinese translations done in the 1940s. Gissing’s short story “Christopherson” was translated by Fu Yan and published in the journal Art and Life in 1941.7 New Grub Street, Gissing’s masterpiece, was translated by Houkun Zhu and printed in 1946–1947.8 Extracts of The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft were also translated by Xi Lin in volumes 2, 3, and 4 of General Comments in China in 1943 and 1944.9
The narrow account about Chinese Gissing studies in Coustillas’s article and the limitations in Yao’s survey perhaps led to the absence of Chinese criticism in Ryle and Taylor’s introduction. With the fourth International Gissing Conference being held in 2015, it is appropriate to offer a complete account of the reception of Gissing in China. This article endeavors to provide such an account with new discoveries of Chinese translations of and criticism on Gissing’s works before 1988 as a supplement to Yao’s essay as well as those after 1988. It is true that language barriers have played a role in making it difficult for Gisssing scholars outside China. By making available Gissing materials written in Chinese in English (all the articles discussed here are translated from Chinese) the survey-analysis that follows should contribute to non-Chinese readers’ understanding of his reception in China and help reassess Gissing’s international reputation.
Translations of Gissing’s Works: Two Periods
Gissing’s reputation noticeably took off when his words (“And I would like to confirm that like you … I want to work till my death.”) were quoted in the Sunken Bell, a journal initiated by The Sunken Bell Community, one of the most influential literary organizations since the May Fourth New Culture Movement in 1919. The journal was named after Gerhart Hauptman’s play Die versunkene Glocke (1896). The quotation appeared on the page header of...